Archive for February, 2010

Who is Craig and what is this list of his all about?

Friday, February 5th, 2010

When servicing new clients and old, Craigslist.org has become the most asked about thing as of late. Dealers utilizing the VIADA Member Benefits at www.VausedCarDealers.com (VUCD) are able to use the same information and pictures already on that site to create a professional listing that can be posted to Craigslist and other similar sites in just a couple of clicks. Other dealers either post listings manually or pay others to post it for them. Many of these same dealers advertising on Craigslist have never visited the site and because of this “disconnect” there are dealers out there making sales from Craigslist but they still do not know how it works. They just know for now, it works for them.

Craig Newmark founded Craigslist.org in 1995. It started out as a hobby, really. Mr. Newmark would post email lists for San Francisco area events. It was a way for him to keep his friends, and then their friends, and so on, updated on local events. About the time Mr. Newmark left employment with Charles Schwabb (and IBM for 17 years before that), he turned his attention to this site in 1999. In 2000 he brought on his current partner, Jim Buckmaster.

Both Mr .Newmark and Mr. Buckmaster have a geeky or quirky reputation. It is reported Mr. Buckmaster baked his own bread, ground his own soy beans for tofu, and went to school to be a doctor but found that to be boring. He turned to the computer industry to pay off that debt. He started in data entry and worked his way up to programming. In 1999 he posted an ad on Craigslist for programming work. Mr. Newmark hired him in 1999 and a year later made Mr. Buckmaster President and CEO.

The website is not everywhere. Currently they have sites in 450 cities all around the world, even one on the West Bank. Now that seems confusing. How can a website not be worldwide? The answer is you can access this site from anywhere in the world, you just cannot post ads to it from outside those 450 city sites. The biggest question is “How do they make their money?” In some cases dealers are paying hundreds of dollars a month to get their listings on a site that charges nothing! They make their money only on employment ads. It is reported to cost $75 to post an employment ad in the San Francisco area site and $25 in most other areas with a few areas still being free. They now also charge $10 in some areas for two other types of advertising, real estate and adult services.

Craigslist is not without controversy and drawbacks. It started in one city, then grew to ten, and continues to grow today. Each area is sort of self-managed by people in that area. The site is largely criticized for having little or no control over what is posted. On the other end, because it is monitored directly by users, there tends to be a fair amount of flagged listings. That brings up a great question I get, “Why did my listings get flagged?” Think of it like the DMV. Most dealers have heard you can get one answer to a title question from one office that might be the complete opposite of what you hear from another office. Each area site plays by sort of the same rules so there is no one right answer as to why your postings get flagged. If you play by their rules, get over it and repost it.

The site’s success has been at the expense of all other types of classified advertising. Newspapers have a hard time making a profit on classified listings when the largest competitor is giving it away for free. Not only are they stealing the paying advertisers, they are also stealing away the readers. Ebay (now affectionately referred to as feebay) has also seen a negative impact from Craigslist. On the Fact Sheet Craigslist.org (last updated Sept, 09) they boast 20 billion page views per month! This ranks the site 7th in overall traffic worldwide with 50 million users in the US alone. Some Craigslist competitors have said the site is “anti capitalist” but let’s not feel bad for Mr. Newmark and Mr. Buckmaster. They are shy about financial details but it is estimated their 2008 revenue was about $81 million with only 25 employees.

The site is the simplest (aka ugliest) advertising site and for that reason it attracts buyers. It is important to think of this as a community site first and a classified site second. The community wants to exclude commercials and other advertising and therefore no bulk uploads of all your inventory is ever allowed. It has rules that must be followed when posting listings or your listings are flagged, which means removed or deleted. They can get flagged even if you follow the rules but still we see dealers who try to push the envelope. When they do, both Craigslist employees and site viewers will flag your listings and after prolonged abuse, your account will get banned. Sure, it is easy to trick them into giving you another account. However, it is easier just to follow the rules. Remember it is free and everything should be taken in moderation. That is what this site is all about.

I can say on a personal level it works and I hear similar stories from other clients. We have website owners of all types listing things on Craigslist. Campers, antiques, trailers, golf carts, scooters, you name it, they are posting it on this site. The Craigslist tool at VUCD will combine your vehicle’s information and photos into html code that is copied and pasted from one site to the other. That may sound complicated to some but believe me, this is so simple anyone can do it. If you do not have the time to do it, call us. We can be sure you get 25 listings posted once a week every week for only $100 a month. You can select which ones get posted each week and they are posted into your actual Craigslist account.

How long will Craigslist be free? It surprises me it is still free. Part of me welcomes a fee because I believe if they charge for it they will have to clean up some of the posting and flagging issues dealers experience today. Years ago they began charging New York apartment brokers $10 a listing for two reasons, to raise revenue and to reduce the spamming they experienced from New York real estate agents. Something to keep this in mind the next time anyone wants to bend the rules while posting ads at this free site.

Happy Posting!