Craig's List had NOTHING to do with a decline in classified ad revenue.
November 14th, 2008 by analyticjournalism

IAJ co-founder Steve Ross has long argued that Craig's List HAS NOT contributed in a major way to the decline of North American newspaper advertising revenues.  Here's his latest analysis:

This isn't rocket science. Craig's List had NOTHING to do with a supposed decline in classified ad revenue.

Here's the raw PRINT classified revenue data, right off the NAA website. (If anyone doesn't use excel 2007 I can send the data file in another format, but everyone should be able to read the chart as a jpg).
Click here for bar chart

Note that the big change that pushed classified ad volume up in the 90s was employment advertising. Damn right. The country added 30 million new jobs in that period, and the number of new people entering the workforce declined because births had declined in the mid-1970s. More competition for bodies = more advertising needed.

Knock out the employment data and everything else stayed steady or INCREASED for newspaper classified.

The past 7 years were not as good for employment ads, but still better than in pre-web days.

There was indeed sharp deterioration in 2007 (and of course, 2001), as the economy soured.

There are some missing data (idiots) right around the time the web came in — 1993-4.

But just look at 1994-2006 — the “web years.” Total print classified ad dollar volume was $12.5 billion in 1994, $17 billion in 2006, roughly in line with inflation AT A TIME WHEN CIRCULATION FELL and even newspapers managed to get some new online revenue!!!

Look, I can do this with ad lineage (which didn't rise much at all but stayed ahead of circ declines), I can compare with display ad figures, I can do Craig's List cities vs non-Craig, I can add back the web revenue because in fact newspapers allocate revenue wrong, to preserve existing ad sales commission schemes, and thus undercount web revenue. I can do ad revenue per subscriber. And on and on.

All those corrections make this look even better for newspapers.

This is SO OBVIOUS that I just do not understand the “Craigs List has killed us” argument or even the”web killed us” argument.

It is (to me, anyway) a transparent lie. Either the newspaper barons are so inanely stupid that they don't understand their own business, or they are incompetent managers, looking for an excuse. Maybe both.

But oddly enough, Craig Newmark believes he did the damage. I've been on several panels with him where he has apologized for killing newspapers.

I might also add that some obviously web-literate societies are seeing a newspaper boom. Germany is an example.


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