10 October 2005

A Craigslist Moment

In his Times column today, David Carr says print newspapers need "an iPod moment," a disruptive technology that eventually revitalizes the industry it seemed destined to destroy. The problem for newspapers, as he sees it, is that reading them required your full attention:

"For all the print newspaper's elegance -- it is a very portable, searchable technology -- it has some drawbacks. A paper is a static product in a dynamic news age, and while every medium is after eyeballs, the industry has to take that quite literally. You cannot read this story while driving in your car -- which is how most of America commutes -- and you cannot have it on in the background. America is hooked on 'companion' media, a pet platform that sits in the corner and pays attention to you when you pay attention to it."

I disagree. The problem with newspapers is less about reader attention (too much required or too little paid) than it is about marketing efficiency. Local papers used to be the great communications platform for neighborhoods, towns & cities. As such, they enabled streamlined, one-to-one commerce by way of classified advertising -- the life-blood of the newspaper business.

So forget about an iPod moment, some innovation that entices more people to read print newspapers again. Yesterday I had a Craigslist moment, a taste of the service's dreamy community-connecting power. I hadn't purged enough old furniture before moving & found myself with a sun-bleached couch & a wobbly bureau that didn't fit in my new house. I couldn't track down a friend with a station wagon (to drive the items to Good Will), so I posted a classified at Craigslist in the "free" section. Forty-five minutes after uploading the ad, two young women hauled away the couch & bureau in their Subaru. Within an hour I was helping another guy take away my broken-down moving boxes. Service with a smile! It's only services like this -- not re-tooling its articles to be consumed as "companion" content -- that will save newspapers.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger blaze, at 12:05 AM  

  • I agree with you Chas, in today's world of technological efficiency, it makes more sense to post an ad in Cragislist and wait for an "instant response" than it is to track down which newspaper is the best newspaper to use, figure out who you have to call to place an ad, find out how much it's going to cost for a listing of so many days, etc. At the end of it all, the effort and time you invest in posting an ad in a newspaper is not worth the garbage you're trying to get rid of!

    By Blogger Mostskillz, at 9:49 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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