Friday, April 04, 2008

Gasta News: Craigslist, Thats how to do it!

The website devouring the classified industry could hit $100 million in revenue in 2009 with a couple of minor changes, with the old-line newspaper industry helplessly watching from the sidelines.

Craig Newmark's story is inspiring. He took a little email project and turned it into a multi-million dollar headache for the newspaper industry. Even after all the success, craigslist remains humble, simple, and end-user focused. There's a lesson in there somewhere, right?

Craigslist looks like what it is, a site launched years ago as a personal project that never forgot its users, though the powers that be at Craigslist, founder and customer service rep Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster, aren't commenting on the story from industry analysts Classified Intelligence (CI), they are pulling in an appreciable amount of money on the famously minimalist site. They could do even better.

CI said in its report on Craigslist that the implementation of its $25 job listing fee in three more locations could boost the company's revenue into nine-digit territory. Through assessment of Craigslist postings in January and March, CI pegs 2008 revenue for Craigslist at $81 million.

Take the job recruiting fee of $25 Craigslist charges in a handful of major metropolitan areas. Kick it up to $75 across the board (that's the price in San Francisco), and revenue for 2009 should climb to $150 million for a company based in a Victorian-style house that looks like it saw much better days a half-century ago.

The customer service credo of Craigslist, and its modest appointments both in headquarters and in site design, stand in stark contrast to the glassy offices of the newspapers that bore the brunt of the no frills, no fee approach to classifieds that are a hallmark of the site. Craigslist looks like what it is, a site launched years ago as a personal project that never forgot its users.

Some feel like Craigslist should do more, namely the bombastic VP and general manager of eBay's classifieds competitor, Kijiji, Jacob Aqraou. He doesn't care for the dated look of Craigslist, or the English-only listings that have only branched out into other languages in recent months.

As CI noted, the sniping comes across as odd, since eBay happens to own a 25 percent stake in Craigslist. The competition is real, however, with Kijiji, Freecycle, and the Village Voice's Backpage all trying to present themselves as a better classifieds option.

Although some may dispute Craigslist real impact on newspaper classified revenue, one publishing professional cited by CI called Craigslist a catalyst that forced newspapers to reconsider their business models.

There isn't one cause for newspaper fortunes to be in decline. Craigslist is a popular target, especially since CI said in 2004 that San Francisco newspapers lost as much as $65 million in recruitment ad revenue alone due to the site.

Craigslist simply found a niche where demand existed, and they make as much money as they care to earn. One can imagine how much they would make if they tossed an AdSense ad unit into their templates. But to Newmark and company, such a prospect looks unfathomable.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business