Craigslist Founder @CraigNewmark On #SocialMedia

by Adam Popescu

By Adam Popescu

Craigslist is one of the 10 most visited English language web sites–globally. Craig Newmark, the man behind the hugely successful e-commerce site is a man both revered and reviled for revolutionizing the Internet and media.

Back in 1995, he started work on what would become Craigslist, a site that offered users unprecedented access to the advertising market. A site so revolutionary and controversial that its free market openness has landed it in trouble on more than one occasion. The site was once a veritable tool for criminals and was even implicated in murder. In the last few years, crackdowns have removed a seedier element of a site not intended as a tool for pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers.

Within the media world, the site been criticized for gobbling up the classified ad monopoly newspapers once held, and moving them online. The loss of that revenue stream has been written about in numerous publications and linked to the decline of the industry for several years now (Pew, as usual, has terrific research). Newspapers still haven’t quite figured out how to harness the power of the Internet, but at least they’ve finally come to acknowledge its importance.

As for Craig, he’s been focusing on a new venture: Craigconnects, a pseudo-social network platform that describes itself online as a place to “connect people for the common good.” Here’s heavyweight @craignewmark on some of the biggest issues in the news business: social media, credibility, branding, and freedom of information.


Craigslist, founder & customer service rep

Craigconnects, founder

What do you do:

At craigslist, customer service and general direction;

At craigconnects, public service and philanthropy support via social media

How do you use social media / typical day:

Continuously, throughout the day, RSS and Twitter feeds,  occasional look at HuffPost, TechMeme, etc. almost all the time, public radio in background. I try to focus on trustworthy sources and curation.

Your take on the relationship between social media / journalism:

Potentially, people using social media (both in the industry and outside) can help journalism return to basics.  I’m mostly interested in practical ways to get fact checking done, also interested in the separation between reporting and internal financial concerns.

How do you create a brand presence:

Treat people the way you want to be treated.

Do you use social media away from work / if so, for private accounts or on behalf of company:

I do so continuously, via craigconnects, for a whole bunch of public service and philanthropic organizations.

How many hours a week do you work / How big is your staff:

When I’m not doing craigslist customer service stuff, I work on craigconnects with my consulting staff of about six people.

What trends do you see developing?

Increasing insistence on trustworthy reporting and curation.Increasing looking for that from peers and organizations like public radio, NPR, CPI, etc.

Is there a disconnect between online / print media:

Don’t know.

Does online media skew / appeal to a younger audience or are older people starting to get it:


Are bloggers journalists / Is it mutually exclusive:

The terms get in the way, and I’d draw a distinction based on adherence to professional ethics, for example, the SPJ code of ethics.

How did you hear about the Osama assassination:

I think it was public radio, WAMU.

Are you a fan of a paywall system (pay for content):

No opinion.

WikiLeaks: Good or Bad / Why:

Mixed. I think transparency should be the default position in government, but it’s hard to compromise when private discussions are exposed.

In the future, what innovations would you like to see:

Smart ways to help journalism return to basics, like ways to help news staff quickly access existing fact checks, and to get new fact checking via both professional and citizens via crowdsourcing.

In The Economist, you recently said bloggers are like John Locke, Thomas Pain and Benjamin Franklin. Can you elaborate on which bloggers/blogs you were referring to and your take on blogging:

I said that the historical figures were bloggers, much like the bloggers today, for example, Andrew Sullivan, Arianna Huffington, and Robert Scoble.

Craigslist’s role, if any, on the newspaper industry’s advertising troubles?

That’s a craigslist question; it would be better if you talk to CL management on that.  I’m focused on craigconnects.

Brief career path:

* IBM: software developer, then technical customer service

* Charles Schwab: systems architect, and Internet evangelist

* informal contracting: various, including helping build HomeBanking at Bank of America