Tag Archives: Craigslist

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A, and Craigslist is coming to Ramallah

by David Russell

But I’m stubborn as
those garbage bags
that Time cannot

Craig Newmark, who spoke at the NYU Reynolds Programme in
Social Entrepreneurship
 as part of the Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Speaker Series on
Wednesday joked that he was revealing his age by sharing this, one of his
favourite lyrics. The relevance though is not his stubbornness in keeping to
his original conception of a free online classifieds and listings service with
no banner or pop-up advertising – despite the large sums of money that have
been offered to him through the years from the likes of Microsoft. Some may see
him as stubborn, but as he revealed in referring to the lyric, it is democracy
that is his driving force.  

Founder and Customer Service Representative of Craigslist
– Craig is a social entrepreneur with a difference. A self-confessed nerd, he
is a man who enjoys not having to arise from his seat. But as he is showing, it
is possible to change the world and start a revolution without necessarily
leaving one’s computer in this internet age.

Cragislist evolutionised the ability of people to
connect online – a full decade before facebook was even a twinkle in Mark
Zuckerberg’s eye. The secret of the site’s success – which clocks up over 10
billion page views a month – is its simplicity and dedicated focus. As Craig
revealed “we know what we do well, and we treat people like we want to be

Humble and modest, he spoke honestly about his ineptitude
in managing people – and his realisation that it would be best for all
concerned if he were to just concentrate on what he knows and does best, and
enjoys most, responding to and helping Craigslist users. And as he admitted, with
the site carrying his name, he has a vested interest in doing the job well..!

Craig admitted that it was partly by accident, rather
than design, that he has created a concept that perfectly matches the Reynolds
definition of a social entrepreneurial venture. It is scalable – now in 570
cities worldwide and continuing to spread, recently to Ramallah as Craig
explained, due to the request of the mother of the owner of the coffee-shop at
which he is a regular. It is sustainable – overheads are covered by the
revenues generated by the only sections that charge for postings, brokers that
post flat listings and businesses that post job vacancies (to which “erotic
services” will soon be added, though with revenue raised going to non-profit
organisations). And it is pattern breaking – democratising the paid-for
classifieds section of newspapers.

It is this last point that has led to the often hostile
reception that Craig has received from traditional media. He is now supporting
the burgeoning field of citizen journalism – naming NYULocal, the venture of
Reynolds Scholar Cody Brown, as a great example – but which no doubt will
endear him even less with the old guard.

But the world is changing, for which Craig can claim some
credit in his role as a technology advisor to Team Obama. As is media. And it
is Craig that is helping to pave the way.

As Leonard Cohen went on to sing, which no doubt Craig
wanted us to recognise….

I’m junk but I’m
still holding up
this little wild
Democracy is coming
to the U.S.A.