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May 18, 2009

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Somebody Pull a Craigslist on Craigslist

Earlier today, Kurt Andersen said:

Yesterday I told Craig Newmark that craigslist had effectively expropriated newspapers’ classified-ad business and put it in escrow….

…and then asked him: what if local web news startups asked to partner with craigslist to, you know, save American journalism? No comment.

Right theme; wrong approach. Instead, how ‘bout we do what Daniel Bachhuber suggests: out-compete Craigslist.

I don’t agree with all of Daniel’s points. But I do think that he’s directionally correct. On today’s web, Craigslist is feeling awfully creaky and old-school. There’s an opportunity for disruption there.

Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:22 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Journalism


Isn't it blasphemy to suggest that competition could save newspapers?

Insert plaintive mewling here. Can we just ditch the 3rd party advertising model all together, somehow? We need to give our consumers a quick and easy incentive to pay for the cost of production. Member-support, t-shirts, and micropayments are all babysteps away from that towards. . .anything else at all. Advance copies? (Everybody else gets it for free in 3 hours; you get it emailed to you immediately.) Maximally convenient multiformat copy? (Everybody else gets the web text version--you get it pre-diced and sliced into audio and typeset kindle-friendly pdf.) Access to special commenting processing plugins? (Everyone else has to wade through the linear comments, you get to maintain a private profile that intelligently redisplays comments in a way most pleasing to you.) Something that doesn't make journalists have to worry about two audiences instead of one. It would be so great to lose the advertising model somehow.

1. Generally, I agree; advertising isn't the ultimate model for all news. And some of the stuff you suggest is really interesting.

2. But, in this case specifically, there actually seems to be a great consonance between local classified ads & local news to me. It makes *sense* to me for both to be in the same place. That place becomes the town square, the place where you put up signs and posters and stand on soapboxes. A local news hub mediates a conversation -- and that conversation is civic *and* commercial.

That place becomes the town square . . .and that conversation is civic *and* commercial.

Okay, I agree there is a great consonance. It's even more resonantly consonant if you mix in the other traditional functions of the town square--local society and local culture, local pride (something to show off to tourists), and local sanctity (the place for a vigil.) But in most areas--even semi-urban ones--the model for this metaphor has completely died. That doesn't mean it can't be revived, phoenix-like, but both the physical manifestation (new urbanism) and its metaphorical expansion (local media) need to be reconstructed (re-evolved, revelutionised, as you like) in a ways that are sustainably immune to the ills that plagued their ancestors. How do you keep the conversation local and lively and accessible? How do you keep it from getting corroded, infected, parasitized, malnourished? Besides thinking hard, on a much larger and more systemic scale about what ailed the originals (I, for one, do not think all the fault lies in the structure of journalism), I think one strategy is making sure each aspect of the conversation is stronger and more sustainable on its own. Local commerce that's less advertising dependent is less prone to being replaced by chain that will always have better advertisers; local media that's less advertising dependent will be less prone to being replaced by other media that's cheaper or more entertaining.

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