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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Craig Newmark Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0 Interview: "My exit strategy, personally, is death"

Craig Newmark Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0 Interview: "My exit strategy, personally, is death"

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: Craigslist is the #10 most popular website in the United States, according to Alexa, and the 30th most popular English language website overall. Craigslist is the leading classifieds entity in the world, with over 10 million new listings per month (along with half a million new job postings). The original site, which you founded in 1995, is now in approximately 450 cities across 50 countries? Did you anticipate such growth, and what's next for Craigslist?
Craig Newmark: Never had a clue regarding that growth, it's all been a happy accident, at least starting. Jim took over in 2000, then really made things happen; he's an accomplished manager.

For the future, mostly more of the same. We do one thing well, and don't want to screw that up. We do incremental improvements all the (time), like better customer service, in the same vein of current activity.

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: Craigslist operates with a skeleton staff. The site's main source of revenue is advertising from a small number of cities. How would you describe and define Craiglist's core business model?
Craig Newmark: Calling it a "business model" overstates the case. We have a clear vision of what we're about, and from there, we make it up as we go along.

In 2000 we talked to lots of people, asking people how we should make a little money. They told us to charge people who were already paying too much for less effective advertising elsewhere. Specifically, people told us to charge for job ads and for real estate ads.

As a result, we charge for job ads in eleven cities, and for apartment listings in NYC.

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: It is believed that you retain the largest stake in Craigslist, with EBay's ownership state around 25%. Is there a detailed exit strategy that you are following? What might its time horizon be?
Craig Newmark: We don't disclose the equity stuff, doesn't really matter.

My exit strategy, personally, is death.

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: Craigslist has received some criticism in regard to its personals listings, for example prostitution listings. What do you say?
Craig Newmark: Anything illegal is completely unwelcome on our site, and our community has really helped us out by flagging away lots of such ads. We're getting help from law enforcement, but need more help, in flagging, and from ISPs when we need help getting rid of spammers.

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: Who are Craigslist's greatest competitors that keep you up at night?
Craig Newmark: We're a community service, and don't really feel we have competition. Dwelling on that would only be a distraction.

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0: Please tell us about SaveTheInternet.com.
Craig Newmark: It's a bunch of people working hard to preserve values like fairness and a level playing field on the Net. The theme is Net Neutrality, the idea that we should try to give everyone a voice. It's tough going, since there are "front groups", run by telecoms trying to get special privileges, and they're well funded.

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