The Craigslist Conundrum

Jun 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Commentary

paidContent and The New York Times today have interesting articles looking at Craigslist’s growing revenue.

According to the Times:

The Internet classified ads company, which promotes its “relatively noncommercial nature” and “service mission” on its site, is projected to bring in more than $100 million in revenue this year, according to a new study from Classified Intelligence Report, a publication of the AIM Group.

That is a 23 percent jump over the revenue the firm estimated for 2008 and a huge increase since 2004, when the site was projected to bring in just $9 million.

“This is a down-market for just about everyone else but Craigslist,” said Jim Townsend, editorial director of AIM Group. The firm counted the number of paid ads on the site for a month and extrapolated an annual figure. It said its projections were conservative.

Meanwhile, paidContent notes that Craigslist’s revenue is nowhere near matching the decline in newspaper classified ad revenue:

Is that estimated $100 million in revenue for Craigslist responsible for the steep decline in newspaper classified revenue?

Glennco Consulting Group estimates 2009 newspaper help-wanted advertising will decline about 50 percent to roughly $1 billion, which is in line with many analyst forecasts. That would mean that even if Craigslist went from $0 in 2008 revenue to $100 million in 2009 revenue on the strength of its paid job listings, it would only account for about 10 percent of the decline in newspaper help-wanted advertising during that period.

So – where did the other $900 million in classified ads revenue go?

paidContent attributes the lost revenue to the economic downturn and to other sites like Hotjobs and

There’s more to it than that, though – something that old media and new media types alike don’t want to address.

Internet media has dramatically lowered the cost of publishing…..and it’s devalued publishing, as a result.

Sites like Craigslist can let you publish an ad for free, so the value of publishing it in the paper is gone.

Based on AIM Group’s numbers, Craigslist and other classified ad sites have blown away 90% of the value of publishing classifieds.

That’s a sobering trend, for old media and new media publishers alike.

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