When a Competitor Gives Away What You Are Selling
This extraordinary operation is accomplished by just 18 folks working out of a Victorian house in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco.
For years, craigslist.com was run by Newmark as a hobby and staffed with volunteers. Feeling the need to pay bills, he started charging for job postings in the San Francisco Bay area where the cost is $75 for 30 days. In New York and Los Angeles, job postings are $25.
Everywhere else it's free.
Paid circulation and classified advertising are the financial guts of the newspaper business. Professor Philip Meyer, author of "The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age," claims that classified advertising represents 40 percent of U.S. newspapers' revenue.
It has been estimated that craigslist.com is costing San Francisco area newspapers $50 million a year in lost classified advertising.
Extend those kinds of losses across Craiglist's 120 American cities and 25 countries, and pretty soon you're talking real money.
What do you do if your competitor starts giving away the thing that you're selling?
A Monday Morning Surprise
Affixed to the top of the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer was this attention-getting sticker.
Let me say at the outset, I have an abiding fascination for classified advertising--especially job postings. After I got out of the Army in 1960, I had nine jobs in 12 years. I used help-wanted ads a lot.
Looking for a job is a trying experience. People need work. Cash is running short. Rent must be paid and bills are coming due. It's terrible to be interviewed and then turned down. It's worse to find no jobs in your field.
As an old job hopper, I believe a newspaper's classified section should be comprehensive, inviting and easy-to-navigate.
When I saw this little sticker I immediately went to the help-wanted section of the Inquirer, tried to put myself inside my head 45 years ago and imagine I was looking for a job. The section was a horror--a hysterical hodgepodge of type sizes and styles. Job titles were more or less in alphabetical order, but some were tiny while others were huge. Italics, boldface, tiny black strips with white type reversed out--the whole thing was a nightmare.