By Steve Outing
Craigslist added another 100 cities this week, bringing the total coverage for the free-classifieds company to around 300 cities. Craig & company are, in the U.S., getting down to smaller communities now.
This means that a new wave of newspaper publishers now get to freak out about the Craigslist threat to their classifieds business model. I got a call from a reporter at the Roanoke (Virginia) Times today, wondering what might happen now that Craigslist has arrived there. I was impressed that the Times was willing to assign a story about Craigslist’s local entry; some newspapers prefer not to give Craig any publicity.
As I told the reporter, a new Craigslist in a community will take some time to build a user base, so immediate panic isn’t called for. But if and when Craigslist does catch on, then the local newspapers need to adapt. More free ads for certain categories is an obvious logical reaction, with money coming from premium upsells to free ads and contextual paid advertising surrounding the free classifieds.
Thinking of my own behavior, I told the reporter, “Newspaper classifieds are now dead to me.” That is, when I have something to sell or buy (up to and including cars), I no longer even think about my local newspaper classifieds. Craigslist in my market (Denver-Boulder, Colorado) is so widely used and works so well — at least, it has for me, multiple times — that I no longer need newspaper classifieds. They’ve been replaced by something that works better.