Does Free Cost Too Much?

A bunch of bankers got knocked for a loop when they heard from Jim Buckmaster, of Craigslist:


Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, caused lots of head-scratching Thursday as he tried to explain to a bunch of Wall Street types why his company is not interested in “monetizing” his ridiculously popular Web operation. Appearing at the UBS global media conference in New York, Mr. Buckmaster took questions from the bemused audience, which apparently could not get its collective mind around the notion that Craigslist exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money.

Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a “a culture clash of near-epic proportions.” She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn’t, Mr. Buckmaster replied (perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). “That definitely is not part of the equation,” he said, according to MediaPost. “It’s not part of the goal.”

Whoa! Money isn’t the essence of business? Wow.

I’m just as greedy as the next guy (maybe more so). This is such a foreign concept. Craigslist sounds like a throwback to the days of mainstream socialism.

I’ve never used the site. I have looked. I know lots of people do use it… actually millions use it.

It’s become a vacuum cleaner, sucking money from newspapers. Classified ads were a huge source of income.

I’m all for competitions, but what if removing this revenue makes the newspapers lose their financial viability?

From Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News:

The American newspaper is being assassinated by “a lone nut.”

And we’re going to tell you the name of that lone nut:

Craig Newmark of Craigslist (not pictured above) — a man whose altruistic vision of running a business to NOT maximize profits is now threatening the livelihood of thousands of working men and women across this country, your neighbors who work at and publish your local newspaper, jobs that were once supported by the classified ads that have migrated to the most free (or low-cost) Craigslist.

Will Craigslist inadvertently stop the presses? I don’t want the physical newspaper to disappear from my life. As strange as it seems, it’s totally possible.

I’m all for the Internet and progress through technology… but I’m also all for the newspaper. I have no idea where to stand on this.

4 thoughts on “Does Free Cost Too Much?”

  1. before the internet become commercialized, it was almost entirely like Craigslist, including sites like Yahoo – it’s nice to see he’s still sticking to his guns. The big question is how long can he hold out? Someone will offer him an amount that he won’t be able to refuse, it’s just a matter of time, I’m guessing.

  2. He’s not a ‘nut.’

    He’s quite bright actually… You see, he’s waiting for all of his competition to go away so he can start charging $500 per ad!

    It’s a refreshing change to see someone offer something that should be free to the public. …and that’s coming from someone who sells fonts to people!

  3. Where I live hardly anyone uses Craigslist so I am not sure how much it’s affected local newspapers. There also seems to be a great deal of advertising and classifieds in the local ‘shoppers’.

    I know that most of our papers around here use their Internet editions to tease stories and make you buy the paper. I’ve done that quite a bit where I wouldn’t normally buy the paper during the week and then I run out to get one because there is an article or coupon I need. Or….there is a cut in on the local radio station that promos what’s in that paper that day. I know this cross media approach works because I run into people at the truck stop right after the cut in who are also buying the paper on their way home from work cause they heard something on the radio. Maybe I should be a good academic and do some reseach on this.

    I do know that additional revenue is generated by selling photos of High School sports or other local events so this might help replace income that would be lost by something like Craigslist.

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