Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 7:04 pm

Rule 4a of Journalism: Always do the math

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

It is a commonplace not only among the public but even within the newspaper industry that Craigslist is killing newspapers by sucking away classified-advertising revenue,.

Here’s my question: How?

Craigslist revenue has only now topped $100 million a year.

Drop in newspaper classified-ad revenue in the most recent year? About $4 billion.

Someone want to explain this to me? Because even this English major knows that that math don’t add up.

(h/t: Tosczak)

UPDATE: My bud Jon Lowder e-mails a link to this Jeff Jarvis piece posted today, which may explain much of the discrepancy. It’s more about the big picture, although it uses newspapers-vs.-Craigslist as an example.

I need to think some more about whether I buy Jarvis’s argument. He argues that old economic metrics no longer apply. Problem is, we’ve heard several times in the past couple of decades that the old rules didn’t apply, only to find out, quite painfully, that they indeed still did. I’m not enough of an economist (at least, not yet) to figure whether there are holes in Jarvis’s thesis.


  1. Craigslist doesn’t charge most advertisers. Newspapers are losing $4 billion to “Free”.

    Comment by Spag — Wednesday, June 10, 2009 8:47 pm @ 8:47 pm

  2. Spag beat me to it – the answer is sort of implicit in the question.

    Comment by Tony Plutonium — Thursday, June 11, 2009 4:58 am @ 4:58 am

  3. Yeah, but does the “free” segment really equate to as much advertising lineage as the missing $3.9-ish billion? Craigslist has a bunch of ads for sure, but it doesn’t look to me like THAT many. Not even close.

    Comment by Lex — Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:47 am @ 7:47 am

  4. I’d also add ebay (and Froogle and Amazon): why have a garage sale when you can sell it online and not have to deal with wackos on your property? I’m guessing that some classified ads were lost there.

    Then there’s job boards. I’m guessing that papers lost a ton of print classified revenue to the online job services. Ironically many newspaper companies are partners or owners of said job boards.

    I think Craigslist is merely the favorite whipping boy, a representative of the entire universe of services that killed classifieds.

    Comment by Jon Lowder — Thursday, June 11, 2009 9:09 am @ 9:09 am

  5. Could be, Jon. But I’m starting to develop this so-far-utterly-baseless hypothesis that the total amount of classified advertising may have dropped over the past few years. If I can ever get out from under job-hunting, child care and getting the house ready to sell, I might actually put some research into this. I could well be wrong. But if I’m right, that’d be pretty significant, and I’d be fascinated by the reasons.

    Comment by Lex — Thursday, June 11, 2009 9:28 am @ 9:28 am

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