"I don't really know what I'm doing, but I really think a tipping point in journalism is happening, and I think it's time to get involved. That is, I think we're hitting what Vernor Vinge calls a "singularity", a term from physics. Like, at the event horizon of a black hole, looks like the rules that govern normal existence change abruptly, and things are different thereafter." -- Craig Newmark, blog post, March 3, 2005
At first glance it doesn't make much sense to ask Craig Newmark about the future of journalism. It makes less sense to ask that he play a role in it. After all, he's not a journalist and has never worked in journalism. He created a Web site of free classifieds. He called it craigslist. It's a place to find a job, sofa, running partner, new studio apartment. He started it as a community service. He does it in his own words, "to do good."
All the same, classifieds are a traditional funding source for newspapers, and by taking them away, he is sometimes fingered as the man responsible for taking down newspapers.
When he was humorously accused of this during the The Colbert Report (a satire show on Comedy Central), Newmark chuckled, said he couldn't take full credit, and admitted that he's been called the anti-christ of print media.
He has become adept at handling these kinds of moments. He's funny in a flat-affected, self-deprecating way. But in a more serious moment with the Media Giraffe Project, he says, "I have the impression of a love-hate relationship. The classifieds people aren't happy with us. The news people, the editors, the writers really like us, but they're frustrated about the whole phenomenon of what's happening in the newspapers."
He says he has spoken to a classifieds analyst who believes small papers like the Pennysaver are doing more harm. He also sees classified revenue that no one is tapping into. But he doesn't linger on these points. He reads newspapers, he says. He cares about civic responsibility. He understands that a loss of advertising will lead to a loss of reporting jobs.
"It's not my responsibility in any sense except self-imposed," he says. "I'm concerned about it. I want to find out how I can help, but I don't have many solutions. I'm hoping the shifts in journalism occur fast enough that investigative journalism is a more secure kind of job." That is a question: What role will he play? What will this role look like?
April 20, 2009, paidContent.org reported on a panel discussion that brought up the old Craigslist as killer-of-the-newspaper argument. When Newser founder Michael Wolff splashily declared that most newspapers would be gone in 18 months, he fingered Craigslist. Newmark (who was a part of the panel) disagreed, and Wolff said: "CraigsList did it by taking away the ads. And they did it for good or bad, I would say for the better. They distribute ads more efficiently. But that's what supported newspapers for 100 years. People don't want to pay for content. And you could argue newspapers haven't done their jobs. But that's separate from the real story. They were supported by those three legs and they have gone to Craig's List. 18 months from now, 80 percent of newspapers will be gone. "
In this January 20, 2007 video posted on ScribeMedia.org, Newmark gives a 17 minute speech titled "Craig Newmark: Web 2.0 and People's Globalism." From the site you can also access a 52 minute Q and A.
Newmark is quoted in an ABC News website story:
In the Winter 2006 issue of Nieman Reports, Newmark published an article "Community Building on the Web: Implications for Journalism." It's a good summation of his thinking of news on the internet. He ends:
"I'm hopeful that what I've learned about trust in our online community can help journalism achieve this in their digital enterprises. I'm here to help, and I'll try not to get in the way."
This suggests again his interest in the issues, without putting him in a role further than discussing it, or making small investment in online sites such as Daylife.
Craiglist is a growing source of free online classifieds for housing, real-estate and general sales. Founded in San Francisco, it has expanded worldwide. Its founder, a one-time software engineer, wants the sites to be know for their simple, human voice. Craig Newmark bills himself as the company's full-time customer service representative.
The Los Angeles Times did a profile of Newmark and his company on June 13, 2004.
Craigslist is about: