Join 3,442 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Craigslist dooms Bay Area print media
December 5, 2005 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Interesting (if biased) article on the downside of Craigslist's populist appeal in the form of it's contribution to the imminent death of the print newsmedia, especially in the SF Bay Area.
posted by jonson (64 comments total)

 
Sure, blame Craig.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:01 AM on December 5, 2005


It's tough to convince the average reader that one of the causes of inferior newspaper articles was her placement of an ad on Craigslist instead of in the paper.

It should be tough to make that case. Does craigslist cause entertainment articles presented as news? Does it cause the papers to be afraid of criticizing the government?
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2005


I hate to be a prick, but take a good look at the Rants and Raves section of any given Craigslist. If your newspaper can't compete with this, maybe you should sell it and buy a hot dog cart instead.

(Yeah, I know that CL's big draws are the job postings, apartments, and personals, but still.)
posted by Mikey-San at 10:08 AM on December 5, 2005


Internet forcing news media to change. Film at 11.
posted by MrZero at 10:10 AM on December 5, 2005


"Sweep the leg!" Ahahahaha, that's fantastic. I wonder if Matt has any special buttons like that.

I've spoken with Craig and Clint directly via email a couple of times about a number of topics, mainly about someone that kept harassing CL users by signing up their public email addresses to a bunch of spam harvesters and other bulk commercial email operations. I think this is why they don't let you publish your real email anymore.

Anyways, I was totally stunned and impressed that Craig basically sat around all day micromanaging the hundreds of sites and personally replying to piddling stuff like this.

Oh, and about the imminent death of print newsmedia? Fuck 'em. Adapt or perish.

It's not just craigslist, and it's not just news media that's shifting to a user-to-user and self-created, self-consumed model, it's ALL media. Music, art, writing, news, everything. Even TV, eventually. The way that TV has grown, diversified and personalized over the last twenty years, going from a few channels in a given market to hundreds and even thousands is indicative of this. Next up: Thousands or hundreds of thousands channels to go with your billions of blogs and millions or hundreds of thousands of podcasts.

Things obtained via craigslist: Two different jobs, including my current one. The GF's car. Two pet rats. A GPS. Free furniture, multiple times. An apartment. A used computer, on short notice. New-in-box computer components from some adult hardware-dealing nerd in a basement, with kids no less. CL is a daily read. I love it.

On a recent move we had a bunch of stuff like a futon frame and some old cabinets. Put it outside, posted about it on the free section. Within 30 minutes it was all gone.
posted by loquacious at 10:17 AM on December 5, 2005


Adapt or die!
posted by beautifulatrocities at 10:19 AM on December 5, 2005


Internet forcing news media to change. Film at 11.

Yeah, I keep waiting for that single sheet newspaper with the headline "We give up! This is our last issue. We'll see you on the net."
posted by loquacious at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2005


It's a waste of time to pay money for short-run ads with highly limited character counts.

Some mediums are just better suited to certain purposes than others, the news media better find or create an advantage to using print services or find a new way to make money.

"Does it cause the papers to be afraid of criticizing the government?"
Hehe, indeed.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2005


Yeah, why should people need to keep tithing to their newpapering overlords just so that they can keep writing crap articles about the local showing of the "Vagina Monologues" staring an all trans-gender cast?

Or whatever.

Also, micromanaged by one person. Heh. Remind you of any sites you know?
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on December 5, 2005


Bay Area papers alone forfeit at least $50 million annually to Craigslist, losses that contribute to layoffs of dozens of reporters.

I wonder how they arrived at that figure? (To paraphrase Dilbert, I think finding the showing where it came from might involve a doctor with a tiny flashlight.)
posted by alumshubby at 10:26 AM on December 5, 2005


I thought it was bs when he emailed me to stop trolling on R&R, but he was pleasant after I explained to him that I'd been banned from Fark so six weeks for doing the very same thing, and all I really needed was an outlet for my creative writing. He suggested I knock it off. Weird.

I found my condo on CL. Some friends claim not to read the personals, but their browsing histories would indicate otherwise.

loquacious is shameless name-dropper.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:32 AM on December 5, 2005


What a load of crap...print circulation has been dropping for decades. In other news, Craig Newmark announces a separate venture intended to HELP print media.
posted by rzklkng at 10:36 AM on December 5, 2005


Jeez, I hope the town criers are doing OK.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2005


Rock beats scissors.

Seriously CL is far better a medium for these things than the paper or even Ebay is and you can't beat the price.
posted by aaronscool at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2005


quite frankly the average articles in the free weeklies i see aren't any better than some of the things i read online by bloggers ... and many newspapers are afraid of upsetting the local power structure
posted by pyramid termite at 10:51 AM on December 5, 2005


That awful WalMart Craigslist is driving all of those stores newspapers out of business?

For shame!

How dare they offer a superior product and/or better price!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:55 AM on December 5, 2005


I can't hear any of you over the sounds of your knees jerking.
posted by solistrato at 10:57 AM on December 5, 2005


Yeah, it's funny to hear old media complaining abut being shut out by what amounts to market forces. Craigslist has them beat on so many factors (cost, ease of use, audience size, multi-region, etc) that the only way they could compete is to rip off the CL business model.
If they actually offered something beyond reprints of syndicate feeds and NYTimes stories, maybe they'd could sell more copies based on their content. I get most (99.9%) of my news off the net, when I buy a paper now, it's for the crossword puzzle.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2005


meet the new media, same as the old media.
posted by keswick at 11:04 AM on December 5, 2005


I'd say he could fund me and mine, but since I've shuttered that project, it's all irrelevant now.
posted by theonetruebix at 11:11 AM on December 5, 2005


Those personals are...bizarre.
posted by Captaintripps at 11:14 AM on December 5, 2005


Craigslist has them beat on so many factors (cost, ease of use, audience size, multi-region, etc)

Don't forget the biggest factor: speed.
posted by letitrain at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2005


The fall of the daily newspaper wouldn't be a big deal if their one mission was to sell futons. Don't forget that it's the ad revenue.. from Macy's, from Mattress Discounters.. that keeps real, working, investigative reporters doing their jobs. Newspapers have to report their subscriber numbers weekly and advertisers pay accordingly. When readers drop their subscriptions and the papers dry up.

And no, of course it's not just Craigslist. We've seen that the newsrooms are getting lazy, too.. But next to Macy's and friends, classified ad sales were the biggest floats on the pontoon and craigslist was directly responsible for sinking those.

Not on purpose and nobody where I work at the Chronicle (for the moment) is bitter or blaming, because it's obviously a better medium.. But yeah. Classified ads are done at the Chronicle and that's as a direct result of Craigslist.

The real question is how valuable is our print media? Because nobody here knows any creative solutions to this. I'll be curious to see what he and his thinktank come up with. Maybe he can give me a job.
posted by onanon at 11:17 AM on December 5, 2005


A recent article in the Economist (sorry no link) said that a daily newspaper needs revenue of about $360 per year per reader. Currently most of that comes from advertisments.

Rather than newspapers going extinct, I think the income ratio between subscription fees and ads will change. After all, I am paying about $120 per year for the weekly Economist. I might be OK with paying a dollar a day for an absolutely ad-free San Francisco Chronicle.

I believe we are seeing the same trend in TV, where DVRs help people skip commercials and more people get ad-free channels that they pay for.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2005


The funny thing is, the newspapers were (effectively) the first to the online classifieds market, and in 99% of American cities one or two dailies had a local monopoly. They could easily have retained that had their online classifieds not sucked. It's particularly amusing to hear whining about Craigslist when the interfaces on newspaper classifieds have continued to suck in the same ways they sucked five years ago — that is, those doing the whining have made zero effort to compete with Craigslist by providing ease-of-use and feature parity. No sympathy from me.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2005


U.S. newsroom employment fell by 1 percent last year

Am I the only one here who thinks that this is a less-then-staggering figure?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2005


The weird part of craigslist is that since so much of the action there is free, the site really is vaporizing what used to be caught as revenue for newspapers. I've been on panel discussions with Craig a couple times and he even fesses up to it.

Usually a new technology or media outlet transfers the revenue, so if you don't watch NBC nightly news, you now watch CNN and they reap the benefits from their ad dollars (or you could even say online news with ads as well).

But consider that craiglist's free personals don't bring in a dime that otherwise used to bring newspapers. The money simply disappeared from the equation.

I'm not saying Craigslist has done anything wrong, on the contrary, they've brought a terrific collaborative, free service to the masses. It's just weird to see something new replace something old, but leave money out of the equation for the most part. Usually the newer, better things recapture that revenue somehow.
posted by mathowie at 11:41 AM on December 5, 2005


Ditto comments above about how I to have had a few piddling discussions with Craig and he responds ... so I'd suggest one reason they are so successful is because Craig is so darn responsive - try sending a message into traditional media organizations.
posted by RonZ at 11:44 AM on December 5, 2005


Don't confuse the Chronicle "whining" about Craigslist with other people's concern about its demise.

We KNOW that Craigslist is a better classified medium and we KNOW that that's how the market operates. I've been through three rounds of layoffs now and not once has anyone ever shaken a finger at Craigslist for "dooming" us. Nobody here is whining. We're just quietly surfing craigslist looking for more work.
posted by onanon at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2005


I find it amazing that anyone would be concerned about losing this level of journalism. One can only suspect that, somewhere along the way, an editor cut the paragraph about Craig molesting puppies and stealing Christmas.
posted by stet at 11:54 AM on December 5, 2005


fortune magazine has a new article that covers the same ground, especially mathowie's point about craigslist sucking money out of the equation, as opposed to just shuffling it into their coffers.
posted by jimw at 11:56 AM on December 5, 2005


"I hate to be a prick, but take a good look at the Rants and Raves section of any given Craigslist. If your newspaper can't compete with this, maybe you should sell it and buy a hot dog cart instead.

(Yeah, I know that CL's big draws are the job postings, apartments, and personals, but still.)"
"It should be tough to make that case. Does craigslist cause entertainment articles presented as news? Does it cause the papers to be afraid of criticizing the government?"

That, and the "me too" sorta comments that follow, shows a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the business model of a huge number of alt-weeklies. Classifieds (especially for hookers escorts) are the bread and butter of print. The rest of the content is essentially only there for two business reasons: to create an identity to sell to advertisers (on the prospect of who reads it) and to provide prestige for the publisher. For folks like me who both read and write for these types of magazines, the fact that Craig's List is knocking a huge chunk out of the potential revenue is a huge deal. Further, if you're someone who VALUES alternative media (over the mainstream), this should worry you. If you look at, say, the index of the "Top Ten Censored Stories" (however much a misnomer that is), they're almost always from alt-weeklies. And if you want local news with a progressive bent, you again look to the alt-weeklies. Those are the places that are going to die off first.
"Oh, but the internets will replace them! LOL!" comes the gloating reply from those who spend too much of their lives looking at a terminal. No, it won't. The quality of reporting isn't likely to be match on the web, at least not in one spot, and there are still a lot of people (especially in urban environments) who just don't have computers. It's important to have a responsive media for them too.
And c'mon, take a look at what most of hte "internet journalism" looks like: links to print sources where people get paid to research and write stories. You're gonna trade the SF Weekly, Boston Phoenix or Detroit MetroTimes for what? Kos, Guerrillanews, Indiemedia?
Sorry if I come off as oversentsitive, but knock off the braindead "We are the INTARWEB, we PWNXXOR print!" bullshit for a bit.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on December 5, 2005


funny that sf weekly wrote this, then again it makes sense considering how it cut the deal with clear channel.
posted by grafholic at 12:00 PM on December 5, 2005


stet, I totally agree about the tone/demeanor of this article, but you have to realize (as onanon points out above) that what's being lost is bigger than this.
posted by jonson at 12:01 PM on December 5, 2005


thank you, klangklangston.
posted by keswick at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2005


I've been using CL for at least 7 years, successfully. My problem recently has been that CL has become a victim of its own success. There are way, way, way too many people abusing CL by re-posting their ads dozens of times a day. I see this mostly in the real estate and personals listsings, since the volume there is so high. It's almost to a point where unless you are very motivated to refresh the page every 15 minutes to view the new ads, you'll miss the best stuff.

As with any online community, the larger it gets the harder it is to control. CL is seeing this problem mostly in SF and NYC; not sure how they're going to solve it.
posted by camworld at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2005


we should definitely all go back to reading the newspaper instead of using the internet, because think of the poor newspapers. :(
posted by wakko at 12:17 PM on December 5, 2005


Well now, there's a well written, well formatted and reasoned argument.

You're gonna trade the SF Weekly, Boston Phoenix or Detroit MetroTimes for what? Kos, Guerrillanews, Indiemedia?

See, that's the problem right there. You're still looking for some sort of easily accessible, single-point broadcast source amid a vast, hyperintelligent cloud that requires user-side filtering to understand and comprehend.

No persistent single point will emerge from that cloud - except as topical, timely sources, then these points will fade back into the cloud depending entirely on their relevance or irrelevance.

The closest thing to a single point are communal blogs like MetaFilter, and the success of ad-hoc organizations like these is ultimately due to the very dynamic nature of them.

We've already been able to prove this in a large number of time and locality sensitive scenarios. Blogs from Iraq from both occupying soldiers and resident civilians paint a better, more concise, more accurate and more relevant picture than any mainstream news organization. Numerous blogs during Hurricane Katrina provided much more timely, more objective, less falsified and less hyper-inflated media-darling breathlessness and less contrived emotionality.

Newsflash: That shit ain't news. It's entertainment for dollars and panic-inducing bullshit contrived to grab eyeballs and keep them there through fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Removing money from the equation is one of the single best things that can happen to news media. There's no sponsors to please, no ratings to inflate, no corporate or government ties to worry about displeasing, no editors to shitcan your story just because it won't sell papers.

Time and time again the internet has proven that it is self-filtering, that fact checking does occur, that there are almost always everyday people - just like you and me - willing to gather the relevant facts and share them with the world.

I only see that getting better and better, barring some sort of Orwellian lockdown on the internet. (China would be an example of this, but even China has had their share of problems trying to close Pandora's magic box.)
posted by loquacious at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2005


Aren't we seeing this same problem occuring with all the once tried-and-true advertising methods in all mediums? There is an overall loss of effectiveness in traditional advertisement. There have been studies that show that consumers have grown resilient to what were once highly effective methods. The causes of this are in dispute, but it would seem that it is greater than simply the internet stealing the classifieds.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:27 PM on December 5, 2005


Sorry, newspapers have known this was coming for years now. I remember a talk given by someone from the Toronto Star 5 or 6 years ago, who said the biggest challenge for newspapers would be loss of classified ad revenue, that you would have places online that would be faster and cheaper and be more convienient than placing a classified ad. Craiglist is just one manifestation of the inevitable, it seems unfair for this article to single it out.

That being said, I think this illustrates the need for more publically supported news media (something like the BBC perhaps).
posted by bobo123 at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2005


Usually the newer, better things recapture that revenue somehow.

Yea but the newspapers were charging for something that really wasn't worth all that much. If Craigslist is able to pay their bills and still give most of the ads away for free then the papers were charging way too much for the services that they provided.
posted by octothorpe at 12:32 PM on December 5, 2005


"See, that's the problem right there. You're still looking for some sort of easily accessible, single-point broadcast source amid a vast, hyperintelligent cloud that requires user-side filtering to understand and comprehend."

So, that's useful to someone who has, say, maybe an hour a day to get their news and info? Editorial filtering is A GOOD THING. And by trying to present it as part of that dastardly "old media," you're already excluding everyone that doesn't have time to be on the internet making newsgathering a hobby. Unless you'd like to go to the opposite side of the spectrum, with the cable news networks, where all depth is cut from the reporting.

"We've already been able to prove this in a large number of time and locality sensitive scenarios. Blogs from Iraq from both occupying soldiers and resident civilians paint a better, more concise, more accurate and more relevant picture than any mainstream news organization. Numerous blogs during Hurricane Katrina provided much more timely, more objective, less falsified and less hyper-inflated media-darling breathlessness and less contrived emotionality."

Ah, so the solution is to read 30 blogs a day. And how many blogs provided more objective, fact-checked news day after day? And how many of them sent reporters in who could file at wire services to get the news around the world? And blogs present Iraq more comprehensively than mainstream news organizations? Bullshit. I'll match you 1:1 on, say, Reuters or the NYTimes wire service against any one blog you want to bring out.

"Removing money from the equation is one of the single best things that can happen to news media. There's no sponsors to please, no ratings to inflate, no corporate or government ties to worry about displeasing, no editors to shitcan your story just because it won't sell papers."

Right. And no ability to do deep research, no ability to impact social policy, no editors to make sure that you're not using unsourced slander, no ability to reach people without a computer, no ability to judge the credibility... And how, exactly, does this socialist paradise of media happen? Does that mean that the bloggers who are out there making money are going to give it up? I mean, as long as you're just making shit up, why not give us all telepathy? That'd make news organizations really obsolete. But you think Drudge is gonna disappear? That's what internet journalism looks like.

"Time and time again the internet has proven that it is self-filtering, that fact checking does occur, that there are almost always everyday people - just like you and me - willing to gather the relevant facts and share them with the world."

Bullshit. What fact checking does occur is tossed aside in favor of confirming biases. Fact checking on the internet? You mean, like the "Rathergate" flap? Or where we see the missiles hit the Pentagon? And you can pretend that "barring some crackdown" that things will get more free, but while the fringes get further out and the tail gets longer, most people prefer to get the same news as their neighbors. That's an important thing, actually, for democracy to function. And as that happens, you'll see further large-media consolidation while more and more sites compete for the eyeballs of a more and more niche-oriented environment.

So spare me your hype machine, cybercowboy. Your model carves out the middle of the media, and that's the most important part.
posted by klangklangston at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2005


Excellent & informed points klangklangston & onanon; I'm embarassed by the tone of many of the knee-jerk, ill-informed respondents here. The point isn't "wah, poor newspapers", it's "hey, by using this excellent & free resource for one thing, I'm harming myself in a completely unrelated capacity". While it may be obvious and long known, I'd never seen it presented so clearly.
posted by jonson at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2005


Editorial filtering is overrated. And I'm an editorial filterer.

Can you post a link of the missiles hitting the Pentagon?

Removing money from the equation is one of the single best things that can happen to news media.

I agree. The next step is the abolition of FCC licenses.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:27 PM on December 5, 2005


I'm sorry, klangklangston, but the alt-weeklies relied too long on one source of income and are seeing the effects. It's not like the Internet came into being ex nihilo last year. They've had more than half a decade to adapt and develop new income streams.

And yet some still put out shit like this hit piece.

Bullshit. What fact checking does occur is tossed aside in favor of confirming biases.

Yeah, and this never happens in print media *cough* JudyMillerWMDsPundits *cough*
posted by MikeKD at 1:31 PM on December 5, 2005


I think this issue is more complicated than how MeFites with the dogmatic "screw the old system, the Internet fixes everything" attitude think of it.

The Internet is better suited for classifieds, sure. But there's a big social interest in having cheap omnibus news sources for the 90% of Americans who are not so tragically hip as to surf a dozen aggregators and news sites every day. Same as with having a cheap postal service and better broadband deployment. There are lots of big problems that stem from an ill-informed American public, and that will get even worse if they stop getting their morning paper.

The only way I see for the newspapers to make up that revenue in the long run is to make their advertising more invasive, the print equivalent of pop-over and click-through online ads. Ads between paragraphs of stories, technology product reviews sponsored by Best Buy, etc.

The outcomes of an expensive newspaper, a content-sparse newspaper, or a newspaper that becomes unpleasant to read by virtue of its in-your-face advertising are all pretty damn unappealing to me. Not me personally, I'll still get the information I need to get. But I'd rather not lose any more citizens of the world to newsless forms of entertainment.

Yeah, yeah, I know...the news media sucks, it doesn't report the news anymore, it's controlled by liberals, it's controlled by conservatives, Fox News is propaganda, etc., etc...
posted by TunnelArmr at 1:46 PM on December 5, 2005


Bullshit. What fact checking does occur is tossed aside in favor of confirming biases.

Yeah, and this never happens in print media *cough* JudyMillerWMDsPundits *cough*


Actually, to further expand upon this point, the overwhelming majority of major media outlets do no fact-checking whatsoever, let alone the rigourous, New Yorker-style fact-checking that's usually being imagined when the new media's being summarily dismissed as incapable of filling the old media's shoes.

With the exception of certain huge dailies (the NY Times, for example, whose fact-checking is demonstrably sloppy as hell), almost no papers check their facts. Time magazine does not check its facts. Outside of the A-list monthlies (your Harperses and Vanity Fairs and Esquires), no one else does in my experience, either. (I've been a freelance writer - I hesitate to say journalist - for almost a decade.)

Does web-based "citizen journalism" need some filtering? Hell, yes, as all journalism does. But I'd argue that, piecemeal, sites like this one and Talking Points Memo and so forth are learning to fill that roll. And I can assure you that my editors at Time (where I was generally handed not just an assignment but a thesis and rough structure, and then filled this casing with cheap meat) acted as if their role was not to correct my biases but to realign them to Time's in-house mandate. (One of my editors once described said mandate/house-style as "sustained obviousness," which sums it up perfectly.)

And as for using Craigslist being a well-informed populace's self-inflicted wound, well, there's your stinking mound of bullshit right there. The flimsy underlying argument of the linked piece - and it's horribly sloppy that its editor did not point this out to the obviously ax-grinding writer - is that American newspapers should be permitted to overcharge their clients for a secondary service they render poorly so they can do their actual jobs well.

Funny that England, for example, has managed to produce and sustain a fantastically lively and informative newspaper industry without such a large reliance on classifieds (not to mention the refreshing lack of two-section Cars and Homes advertorials every weekend).
posted by gompa at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2005


Pentagon "missile.

"I'm sorry, klangklangston, but the alt-weeklies relied too long on one source of income and are seeing the effects. It's not like the Internet came into being ex nihilo last year. They've had more than half a decade to adapt and develop new income streams."

What new income streams? Google ads? And c'mon: "Here's five years. Change the model of business that's worked for more than 100 years." I'm not arguing that alt-weeklies relied too much on classified income, but rather that the effects are BAD of this model being unsustainable.
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2005


Gompa: Doing news well brings in zero dollars. In order to subsidize that, they overcharge on something they don't do particularly well.
And if you've been a freelancer for over a decade and not felt the fact-checking axe swung, you must be writing in vastly different places than I am. (As an odd corolary, the places with the most upscale advertisers have had the most thorough fact-checking that I've dealt with).
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2005


if you've been a freelancer for over a decade and not felt the fact-checking axe swung

Oh, I've been vigourously fact-checked - by upscale current-affairs monthlies, by arty small-circ bimonthlies, etc. - but not by Time, or The Globe & Mail, or The Indepedent, or any of the half-dozen US dailies that have syndicated my stuff.

This was my point: It's the stuff that's most often cited as "news" that's the least carefully fact-checked. So suggesting that any given city's Daily Upmarket Fishwrap (or all its print newspapers) should be given a monopoly on classfieds (how else to stop the market erosion?) so they can continue to act as stalwart guardians of the public's right to know (which most of them abandoned for infotainment, advertorial, and wire-service copy years ago) - that, to my mind, is a bullshit argument. I learn more solid, double- and quadruple-checked facts on MetaFilter every day than in a month's worth of the watered-down, glib-as-hell, light-as-fluff Calgary Herald, which purports to be my hometown's quality broadsheet.
posted by gompa at 2:12 PM on December 5, 2005


Craigslist is set up in the UK but there's not much doing on it in Glasgow at the moment. I can only presume this is the shape of things to come here once more people eventually catch on. I am not that sad about the prospective loss of 'quality journos' here.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2005


Oddly, small town newspaper circulation is on the rise, if only slightly. I used Craigslist extensively when I lived in Seattle, or when I visted San Francisco, or Boston, but it doesn't do a damned thing for me out here when the nearest Craigslist population center is at least an hour away [Dartmouth or Burlington]. Our local independent weekly is trying to get excited about blogs and new technology while at the same time having a hard time accepting that the more the new tech catches on, the fewer real estate and personals ads they're going to sell. It's a weird position for them to be in. I like the indy paper a lot, but the conversations I have with them often trail off to me saying (or thinking) "Who guaranteed you a market anyway?" It seems to me that they're saying "We want to do the same stuff we've always done and keep getting the same money for it even as the world around us changes."
posted by jessamyn at 3:40 PM on December 5, 2005


As long as there are people who want to be professional journalists, there will be professional journalism. I wonder if there was this much bitching when they invented radio or TV news and adverts.

Market forces will sort it out sooner or later.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:46 PM on December 5, 2005


What new income streams? Google ads? And c'mon: "Here's five years. Change the model of business that's worked for more than 100 years."

Well, there's your problem: apparently the industry is stagnant and uncreative.

Gompa: Doing news well brings in zero dollars. ...

Bullshit. Look at people who have subscriptions to The Economist, Financial Times, The New Yorker, etc. Give me news, not infotainment or tech "reviews" that are no more than ads.

... In order to subsidize that, they overcharge on something they don't do particularly well.

WTF?! They can't sell news so they over charge for a half-assed job on classifieds....and cry when some does it better for cheaper.
posted by MikeKD at 4:05 PM on December 5, 2005


"Bullshit. Look at people who have subscriptions to The Economist, Financial Times, The New Yorker, etc. Give me news, not infotainment or tech "reviews" that are no more than ads."

Aww, a call of "bullshit" from someone with no idea how the publishing industry works. Here's a newsflash: it costs more than the cover price to put out any magazine, usually in printer costs alone. Even more pointedly, subscriptions are nearly always a loss-leader, in order to sell a confirmed readership and demographic data. I'm gonna bet that each issue of the New Yorker, purely for printing costs, runs about $3-4 based on my experience. They may get a volume cut above what I'd guess (maybe there's a MeFite who works at a printer for the NYer), but glossy stock? Fuck, the mailing costs obviate any subscription profit, even through bulk rate (and assuming the pre-sort discount, if the NYer has an internal mailing sorter).
IT IS EXPENSIVE TO PRINT AND PUBLISH.

"WTF?! They can't sell news so they over charge for a half-assed job on classifieds....and cry when some does it better for cheaper."

And you still don't get it. By cutting a money-maker, it means that the subsidized content can't be provided. And that makes us all poorer.
posted by klangklangston at 4:46 PM on December 5, 2005


klangklangston: While these things are expensive to print and publish doesn't that mean by moving to the web they could greatly cut that cost and just use the smaller reveues from ads and/or subscriptions to pay journos?

What other models can you see other than the print paper / sell classifieds working or do you think the current model is the only possible way it can work?
posted by sien at 5:14 PM on December 5, 2005


"While these things are expensive to print and publish doesn't that mean by moving to the web they could greatly cut that cost and just use the smaller reveues from ads and/or subscriptions to pay journos?"
Ask Craig. If moving to the web can support professional journalists, and Craig favors citizen journalism, why doesn't he support journalists? I'm going to wager that it's because there isn't enough of a revenue stream to support people other than Craig.
People on the web like to over-estimate the reach and scope of the internet. It doesn't reach nearly as many people as print or broadcast (especially broadcast). And carving off a majorly profitable portion of companies that generally have very low margins (alternative presses) means that alternative journalism won't be supported by those dollars.
It's similar to the way radio has shifted, though the culprit wasn't classifieds. There are very, very few true alternative radio stations, and almost none that are for-profit. And in America, though lots of us leftists like to pretend that state support ( like the BBC) is a good thing, that opens up a whole different set of caveats (for every Auntie Beeb there's a Pravda). The radio market is either conglomerations who can syndicate content or college radio stations and NPR. That's what the shift means: Village Voice and Boston Phoenix owning content and cutting local news while homogenizing papers. Alt-weeklies will survive, but get worse, cutting down on local reporting and probably calendar listings, and definitely staff. Say hello to wire services, and goodbye to local voices.

And I don't think there is another business model out there, really. Online ad revenue is just not there, not only because it reveals that advertising in general isn't as effective as it was assumed for years.
posted by klangklangston at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2005


I would love to subscribe to an array of quality journalists on a per-article or per-viewing basis. I'd even put up with tasteful ads for that.

Still, 10+ years after the web we either have outdated print-style online subscriptions (often with a mandatory dead-tree version), limited online access only, or no real online access at all.

And frankly, I challenge all comers to name one non-specialty non-niche mass-media paper publication that does a better, more accurate, more relevant and more timely job of reporting real news than any of the teeming thousands of the best the web has to offer - with or without the taint of editorially mandated revenue protection.

Niche publications will likely always have a market. The Smithsonian, Nature, National Geographic, Harper's, The Economist, Wall Street Journal and many more aren't in any danger of vanishing.

The danger of losing small publications, though, is real, and they are valuable. But to mitigate this we can all do our own part in helping replace or enhance them. Volunteer, if you like. Start your own. Help spread the word and educate people in your community on how to effectively self-publish. Teach journalism classes.

The list of things that you and each and every one of us are empowered to do in a direct, hands on approach right now, even five years ago is vastly greater than the number of things going wrong or the number of things worthy of bitching about.

The power is ours. Seize it. Seize the presses and look forward. Seize the presses, copy them and give them to your friends, family, and neighbors. Teach them how to use them.

If there's any real failure here, it's the failure brought on by our own apathy and laziness - not by market forces and adaptations that will happen whether we want them to or not simply as a matter of pure economics seeking the path of least resistance.

Adapt or perish.

This is not a mantra, nor a mandate. It isn't a philosophy or a catchy buzzword.

It is imperative and inevitable.

Anything less is delusional in the face of the change that has occurred, is currently occurring, and will certainly occur in the future.
posted by loquacious at 6:09 PM on December 5, 2005


Papers aren't overcharging for classifieds. The claim that they are is amazing.
Papers are expensive to publish, hence the, seemingly expensive, charges while publishing on the web is cheap, hence the free classifieds or low rate classifieds. And to get those papers to you or the box takes time, people, vehicles and gas and hence the cost.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:32 PM on December 5, 2005


don't make enemies of people who by ink buy the photon?
posted by bendybendy at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2005


grrrr.
don't make enemies of people who buy ink by the photon!
posted by bendybendy at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2005


I'm surprised that none of the Portland crew has mentioned Willamette Week publisher Richard Meekers recent note (or the Google cache because WW site is down as I post this), in which he discussed the impact Craigslist has and has not had on that publication's revenues.

"As far as WW goes," wrote Meeker, "Craigslist has done the most damage to revenues from Rentals in the Classifieds section."
posted by theonetruebix at 1:07 AM on December 6, 2005


There is room for everything on the internet.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:10 AM on December 6, 2005


Who says the alt weekly and other "middle of the road" publications have to be for-profit businesses? Yes, I know that we live in a capitalist society but that simple fact seems to be causing more and more problems every day. It has always seemed counter productive to me that a "news" organization has an owner whose goal is to get rich and whose obligation is to return an ever increasing profit to their shareholders. If the owner and his or her goal of making money is replaced with a group of people whose goal is to make a reasonable income while creating a reliable and trustworthy source for news and investigative reporting then that drastically cuts down on the need for advertising revenue. Sure, there will still need to be money coming in from advertising, donations, and possibly even subscription fees since doing real reporting and publishing a weekly paper is not cheap.

It is even possible for a publication to exist without any advertisements at all. While it is not a newspaper The Sun Magazine has been doing it for a very long time now.

Does anyone know of any non-profit alt-weeklies?
posted by J-Garr at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2005


« Older Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads...  |  A Peek Under the PR Mask... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments