People in the newspaper business are getting pretty tired of hearing about Craig Newmark. But those not in the industry (i.e., regular people) actually know very little about him—even though plenty of them sell furniture, buy automobiles or look for jobs on his Web site, Craigslist.
We thought it was time to provide SN&R readers with a closer look at the fellow and his remarkably successful online classifieds Web site. Why? Because of what all of it may herald for a local and national newspaper industry that used to depend (too heavily, it turns out) on profits that flowed from charging top dollar for classified advertising.
Is Newmark himself a threat to the future of newspapers? Not exactly.
But he certainly can be considered a harbinger of some kind for a daily publishing industry that is dealing with the loss of classifieds while it simultaneously seems unable to stop the hemorrhaging of young readers who increasingly are going elsewhere for their news. In the last weeks, we’ve seen sizeable layoffs at big dailies across the country: The New York Times Co., The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News.
In “The geeks shall inherit the earth,” longtime SN&R contributor R.V. Scheide gets up close with Newmark, reveals the sincerity that defines his small business and shines a light on what the writer dubs the Craigness of the whole enterprise. (Scheide—whose younger brother works for Craigslist— used his family connection to get access to Newmark.)
A few people at this newspaper thought it was crazy to assign a story on Newmark. I understood. After all, why announce a competitor’s victories? (Especially when SN&R has just launched a terrific, streamlined, free online classifieds site on its own Web page at http://sacramento.newsreview.com/.)
Ultimately, though, I had an answer to the question: Doing so had a certain Craigness. One thing’s for sure about the future: It’s coming. Better to advance and embrace it than pretend it isn’t headed our way.