I Want Media: Craig Newmark: Craigslist Isn’t a Media Menace — The king of free online classified advertising insists that Craigslist is not a threat to the newspaper industry. “It’s just a simple platform where people help each other out,” he says. “In a way, anyone can do what we do.”
Q: Is Craigslist a threat to newspapers, as people say?
Newmark: Not in a significant way. We do drain some revenue from some papers that rely on ads. But I have spoken to the industry analysts, and there is a bigger threat from the niche sites and niche papers. Sites like Monster are more of a threat because they suck away a lot more job ads. An even bigger threat is the pressure from Wall Street to get like 10 or 20 percent profit margins.
Maybe papers should focus on better Web sites, delivering the news better through the Net. Paper is just an expensive media. It’s expensive to buy the ink, print the paper and deliver it.
Q: How is journalism changing?
Newmark: I see professional and citizen journalism blurring together. The model of professional journalism involves writing, editing and fact checking. The stereotypical model of citizen journalism — blogging — involves publishing and then maybe having other people fact check. I see these blurring together. The result is going to be a much more serious kind of journalism with an increasing amount of trust in articles.
Q: Any advice for newspaper publishers?
Newmark: I shouldn’t be the person giving advice. But I would say philosophically they should perceive themselves as community services, not profit centers. If you’re under pressure from Wall Street to make a 20 percent profit margin, you’re following the wrong path.
Q: Is online the future of news?
Newmark: Paper is so expensive. Maybe you will have your software running on the Net, collecting the news that you are interested in — hopefully throwing in something at random — and then you print out a small amount of stuff to read. And that is what you take with you to the café.
Q: Any advice for young journalists beginning their careers?
Newmark: You guys are going to be graduating into an uncertain, kind of scary environment. The advantage you have is that you grew up with more technology and you may be more open to it. Right now your potential capabilities actually frighten veteran journalists. I’ve spoken with a lot of mid-career journalists, and they think you guys are instant messaging while having conversations. And that kind of scares them. Of course, just think that 5-year-olds can do it better than you. So be aware of that.
Do what you can on the Net to build up some kind of online reputation. Who knows? You may be your own news provider. You may want to start working on your own personal brand. Maybe start a blog and see if people will pay attention. You may be your own network.