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When Craigslist Won the War Over Classified Ads

It wasn't back in the mid-nineties, when Craigslist was still new, that the newspaper industry truly lost its chance to retain its treasure trove of classified advertising, according to a new report, but just over the past four years.

As recently as 2005, states the report from Pew Internet, only about one in five adult users (22 percent) reported having ever visited an online classified site, but that percentage has since exploded to the point that now virtually half (49 percent) of users say they have done so.

"On any given day," author Sydney Jones writes, "about a tenth of internet users (9 percent) visit online classified sites, up from 4 percent in 2005."

Citing metrics published by Comscore, the report estimates that as of March of this year, Craigslist accounted for roughly 80 percent of the online classifieds market. The tiny San Francisco-based company currently is active in over 500 cities in over 50 countries, so it continues to steadily expand around the world.

Of course, along with such growth comes new problems, like the Boston murder allegedly committed by a man via the "erotic services" section of Craigslist. But, although that may represent a first for Craigslist, it certainly isn't the first time bad things have happened to those offering in one venue or another to provide "erotic services." (Not to blame the victim, mind you, but also don't blame the site.)

Anyway during this period of explosive growth for online classifieds, how have newspapers fared?

Not so well. This has really been a rotten decade for newspapers, hasn't it? Yet, the trends were clear long before Craigslist completed its triumph, so, as we've noted here previously, "Don't Blame Craig for Killing Newspapers."
For those pubs that are perishing, it's more closley akin to suicide, frankly. If you don't protect your asset by keeping it competitive, then a newcomer will be taking it away from you in a free economy. Maybe this is this why those desperate "first amendment" lawyers writing in the Washington Post recently want to re-establish newspaper monopolies, gain government subsidies, and tax the Internet?

Note about the Pew study: It was based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between March 26 to April 19, 2009, among a sample of 2,253 adults, 18 and older. It has an error rate of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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