from Business 2.0, July 7, 2000
'We're Just About Helping People'
By Eric Mack
Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark talks about bringing his homegrown community site - ranked "most efficient job recruiting site" by Forrester - to a global audience.
Call it the success of Zen. The "new" formula for online community success is plain text on a gray background coupled with feverish word-of-mouth endorsements that leave a whole community parched. Similar to the Web's version of an 80's revival, Craigslist.org is one of the more successful sites around that can still be viewed in its entirety with Lynx. And now it's going international.
The Bay Area classified and community site named "most efficient job recruiting site" by Forrester Research beating out multi-million dollar career portals like Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com recently launched a Boston/Cambridge area section and plans to go global this summer by opening Craigslist-Australia. "Response to the Boston site has been modest so far, but we expect this kind of model with no advertising to start slow and eventually spread faster by word of mouth," says founder Craig Newmark.
The modest appearance of Craigslist has not changed much since it began in 1995 as an e-mail list sent out by Newmark, a local programmer, to inform people of tech events. That e-mail list now has close to 10,000 subscribers and the corresponding Website receives page views in the millions each month. The staff of Craigslist describes the tremendous growth - all without any formal advertising - as a "phenomenon that no one ever expected."
Despite the success of Craigslist, commercial job sites don't seem to be worried. "I like Craigslist, it has a lot more soul than a lot of other niche and local-oriented sites," says Monster.com CEO Jeff Taylor.
But Taylor says he doesn't view community-based sites like Craiglist as competition, but rather "co-opetition." "Craigslist does a great job of serving that local niche. If you look nationwide, I think you'll find Monster performs better, but if something like Craigslist became big enough to come into my radar, I think we'd be interested in possible partnerships or acquisitions."
According to the folks at Craigslist, such a marriage isn't likely. "I think part of the success is due to our community outreach; people like it because it's simple and straight-forward and non-corporate. We're just about people helping people," says one Craigslist staffer who was granted anonymity. The site's sole revenue stream comes from a $45 charge for job postings. No banner ads, no partnerships, no other fees.
Even with the success of its job posting service, Craigslist will continue to focus on creating online communities. Newmark is particularly proud of the recently added nonprofit venture forum, which will kick off with a meeting of San Francisco's philanthropy community in July. "The goal is to introduce venture capitalists to non-profits. It's really amazing when you can do business and really help to change things at the same time."
Interest in Craigslist's non-profit activities is now international. "We're already working with people in Sydney and Melbourne and after that we're going to work on New York, Seattle, Amsterdam, and Berlin," says Newmark. If all goes well, the team will have all the new Craigslists up and running in the next two to three months.