Journalism and Craigslist

written on March 15, 2011

# “A fundamental pillar of democracy is basically starving…”

Business Insider recently published a chart showing the declining classified ad revenue. The article is a waste of time to read, here is the good stuff:

” He shows ad revenue from help wanted classifieds dropping 92% in last 10 years, hitting $723 million last year, down from $8.7 billion in 2000.”

Now you couple that with the 10 minute snippet of audio, starting at around 13 minutes, from podcast 67 from Stack Overflow. Joel Spolsky philosophizes that “[he] feels that what Craig Newmark is doing with Craigslist is a brand of evil, in that it has destroyed the income stream (classified ads) that supported professional journalism.”

For those of you who don’t know of Joel’s work, he is a long term fixture in the online programming community. He worked at Microsoft back when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth. He went on to write, or compile, some great books on the art, style and craft of writing software. He also started a company Fogcreek, and has been fairly successful. I find him a very interesting guy and a fantastic thinker and writer in the industry.

Some great quotes from the podcast: > Social deal with the newspapers, they ran a big ad agency and spent some of that money to do investigative journalism to make democracy work.

Advertising…has paid for that part of democracy, which is a shame…. but it is a fundamental part of democracy

Craigslist is a Charitable benefit, of free classified ads… is less than optimal ( and has a bad outcome) … so instead of saying my charity is free advertising, he could charge a nominal amount and use that money toward a “worthy” cause. (Journalism)

Joel argues that Craig (from Craig’s list) “charity” is to eliminate newspapers (and journalism) which “Shot journalism in the head, inadvertently”… as an “accidental side effect”

Very compelling argument that is not obvious when initially thinking about Craigslist. It is fascinating that the ideals of capitalism (competition which reduces prices) are directly competing against the ideals of democracy (open and honest journalism).