Newspapers & Craigslist

As everyone talks about the death of newspapers, i’d like to remark on one of the majors elements in this death spiral: Craigslist.  To me the two major killers of the newspaper are:

  1. Decrease of authority & differentiation
  2. Lack of classified revenue

First, the decrease in authority and differentiation.  Every web site and publication needs to be an authority on something, anything.  Newspapers in the past were authorities for:

  • local news
  • international news
  • sports
  • entertainment

Over the past 8 years, they have no become the authority for only one of those: local news.  International news is dominated by CNN, Reuters and others who focus explicitly on that area.  Similarly, sports is dominated by ESPN and Fox News and Entertainment has a variety of outlets that provide much more in depth coverage and reviews than newspapers ever did.    This decrease in authority minimizes the importance of newspapers to readers.  For most categories listed above, it’s a nice piece of reading material to have but by no means necessary.


The second piece is Craigslist.  In 2000, newspapers pulled in $20 billion in revenue from classifieds. That went to $10 billion in 2008.  So, in 8 years revenues for newspapers got chopped in half (stats here).  Where did this money go, most of those services are now free on Craigslist.   Craigslist took $10 billion out of the industry and pocketed about $100 million of it.  To be exact, Craigslist is pulled in $80 million as of April ’08 (stats).  Who knows what that will be for 2009 but prob at or around $100k.  With a  staff of 28 people so that’s pretty damn good.

Imagine that, a staff of 28 people is decimating an entire industry.  That is the true power of the internet.

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New Media – What Will It Look Like

Toby and i have been debating and discussing what new media will look like.  His post today inspired me to lay down some of my thoughts. A lot of my thinking stems from this article in The Atlantic and Fred’s Post about his reading habits.

The Atlantic post described how the NY Times is dead.  With $1 billion in debt, a $400 million dollar loan due in May and only $46 million in cash on hand, it is going down.  Even with the $250 million it got yesterday, it cannot continue to exist the way it is.  No newspaper can.  My beloved Star Tribune declared bankruptcy last too and that’s the beginning of the trend of all papers.

Why are they failing?  Because the business model is wrong.  They are trying to do too much.  They cover things that are commodities.  It’s as if every online music service tried to build an mp3 store to compete with iTunes and Amazon.  They don’t because those work great.  Newpapers try to cover every story: national and international news, sports, entertainment, etc. The local newspaper doesn’t need to cover most of they reports on today because their paper is not going to be the place where the public finds that information. When user’s get online, all of this news is available in other places, for free and in a better, deeper format.  For instance:

  • National and International news: this is covered by AP, Reuters, and
  • Entertainment news: this can be found online (RottenTomatoes) or from national news and reviews from individual columnists (Ebert)
  • Sports: and bloggers will cover this

If a paper is covering any of these on their own, it is a losing proposition.  What’s left? The only thing is see is local news. I think local papers should focus on local news because everything else is a commodity.  Even bloggers will be able to fill the gaps left by major journals.

Toby talks in his post about the Huffington Post which i think is a piece of the puzzle but it’s only interesting because they are trying to be a news portal.  And i agree.  In my mind, most “papers” will shift online and instead of reporting the news, they will be filtering it. And if they don’t, they will die.  They better hurry up too, becuase places like the HuffPo are trying to get there first. You can already see how this is happening.  Filters are already part of people everyday lives the same way a paper used to be.  Technology aggregation and filtering is done at Techmeme, sport aggregation and filtering at ESPN, and news filters like CNN can replace almost any newspaper’s news coverage.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way.  More evidence came yesterday when ESPN announced a partnership with TrueHoop to place NBA blogs in their site because they know that they can’t cover everything.  You can see how techmeme is the “paper” of choice for Michael Arrington from TechCrunch.  He writes:

Image representing Techmeme as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

TechMeme is another four-year favorite. It is the blogosphere’s daily newspaper, and one of the sites we use most often in seeing how stories develop.

Will papers become local news sources?  I think that’s all that’s left for them.  But they better hurry up because local blogs like and are already attacking this niche and doing a better job than they are.

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Sports Guy Mailbag

I’m in to reposting these days so i thought i’d post some good questions from readers today in The Sports Guy mailbag article:

Q: Shouldn’t Elizabeth Perkins have faced statutory rape charges in “Big”?

Q: So you’re looking for the four-way version of paper-rock-scissors that makes the most sense? I think I found it: blow-booze-weed-sleep. Yes, booze will defeat blow and weed will defeat booze. Sleep can beat weed and of course, blow beats sleep. Granted I don’t behave this way EVERY day.
— Vaughn, Philly

Q: My friend almost got into an altercation with a guy who had a hook instead of a hand. He contends that having a hook for a hand would be an advantage in a bar fight (for the obvious reasons); but I contend that because the prosthesis included the guy’s forearm, it would be a disadvantage as arm speed and dexterity were reduced with the lack of arm muscle. What are your thoughts?
— Adam, Washington, D.C.

Q: My friends and I were discussing the two-faced lady in the Southwest Airlines commercial that you are so fond of. Well, say one of her faces is eating a banana and the other is eating a corn dog. Would the corn dog and banana touch, or do the faces have two separate throats? They probably share a throat, right?

Nothing else captures America quite like a Sports Guy mailbag.  I love it.

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