Monday, May 7, 2007

Why Do Newspapers Resent Craig Newmark So Much?

By Kara Platoni
Mon, May 7, 2007 at 4:54 PM

Well, maybe it's because he does not want what they haven't got. Gawker has a well-written item up about Craigslist founder Craig Newmark's appearance at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention in New York, a meeting no doubt awash in thinly-veiled tension and hopeful references to the awesomeness of journalism's future on teh Internets. Writes Gawker associate editor Doree Shafrir:

It is no secret that many newspaper people, implicitly or explicitly, at least partially blame Mr. Newmark for the slow and steady demise of newspaper profits, particularly in classified advertising. Perhaps what they find most frustrating about Mr. Newmark is his (so-far) almost total disregard for making a huge profit off of Craigslist - he's a competitor, but he's rejecting the cash that so many othes would gladly, desperately take.
Heck, that's a good point, one that hasn't often been raised in the endless debate about Craigslist's effortless poaching of classified ads that were once the bread and butter of print journalism's revenues. (In 2004, for example, the site reportedly cost Bay Area newspapers up to $65 million in ads.) Maybe Shafrir is right ... it's not just that newspapers aren't making money on classified ads, it's that soon nobody will, because the public perception of them has been totally transformed. What was once a sellable commodity is now expected to be free.

Faced with such dismay from the media establishment, Newmark has certainly tried to show that what he calls "nerd values" and the Craigslist organization can be forces for the public good: he started the Craigslist Foundation to aid nonprofits, was involved in the Defend Net Neutrality fight and showed how the bulletin board could play a role in Hurricane Katrina relief. In 2005, he also launched a high-profile push for more Internet citizen journalism that would be publicly edited and fact-checked Wikipedia-style, saying that the real reason for moribund print circulation figures is not ad loss, but reader disgust with flabby reporting , untrustworthiness, and media outlets getting too cozy with their establishment sources.

Come to think of it, that might have cost him a few friends, too.

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