from Investor's Business Daily, May 25, 2000
Craig's Online List of Stuff Became Popular Web Job Site
By Donna Howell
Craig Newmark was a geek with an idea that took off.
The programmer really did wear a pocket protector and tape-wrapped glasses growing up. Now, at 47, Newmark is the Craig in Craig's List, a Web site that personnel recruiters love and that's built almost a cult-like following in the San Francisco Bay area.
Newmark started the site in 1995 as an informal place to list local events and apartments for rent. The site grew dramatically - solely by word of mouth. There was no budget for marketing.
Fifty recruiters recently ranked CraigsList.org the most efficient career site, says Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. Forrester analyst Charlene Li calls the casual online community her favorite dark horse for job boards.
Investor's Business Daily recently caught up with Newmark on his "first real overseas trip" to look into expanding overseas.
IBD: I understand you're traveling.
Newmark: I'm in Amsterdam - we just arrived. Now a thunderstorm's blowing in from the North Sea. This is fun. I'm calling from an Internet cafe called Le Bastille - I just finally got through all my e-mail.
Why are you in an Internet cafe in Amersterdam?
I was invited to give a presentation at a conference in Berlin, on what this kind of thing - Craig's List - means to people. We're also going to be in Paris, London and New York, talking with people about having their own Craig's List. We figured while we're here...
Are you franchising the list?
I don't call it that, since our spirit is down to earth. For two or three years people have been asking us to run a Craig's List for them. Our philosophy is, find people in other places with the same spirit to run a Craig's List. We'll provide the technical back-up.
Will we see a Bob's List and others?
We don't honestly know how to name it; we thought of something like Boston.CraigsList.org, or even something like Merrills.Craigslist.org. We have a habit of saying, "We're making it up as we go along."
How did Craig's list get started?
I saw a lot of people helping each other out on The Well (a pioneering online community in the Bay Area). I said, "Hey, I can do that." I saw the San Francisco housing shortage and asked people to send in housing notices. People asked for more categories, things kept getting better."
How busy is your site?
We're doing pretty well. I quit my full-time job. In January 1999, Phillip, another principal at Craig's List, and I put our minds to it (full time). We went from a couple of million page views (per month) in early '99 to 8 million today.
What is Craig's List's career section doing differently from big job-listing boards?
We finally figured out just what we're about, and it feels really good and it's paying the bills. We provide a means for people to give each other a break, to help each other out. We're trying to, in our own small way, restore the human voice to the Net. The Net has gotten a little too commercial and a little too slick. We provide a place just for people to talk to each other. I believe in it in a big way.
How do you keep it from becoming commercial?
We've turned down significant offers. One was to run banner ads. About a year ago we turned down a very significant offer and recently (turned down) buyout offers from three different job sites.
Forrester Research found that recruiters think your site's more effective than top job boards. Why?
We're a very effective job site. But we're primarily a community site about the business of everyday living.
How is Craig's List doing financially?
We're profitable enough to pay a staff of 12 and put aside money for geographic expansion.
Technically you're a nonprofit.
We're one of those nonprofits that's become so successful our lawyers are now figuring out what to do about it.
What accounts for the list's popularity?
I've been lucky with the people we have, and I know when to get out of the way. I'm delegating as much as I can to people who are just more talented than me, with the intent of becoming useless. Then I can pursue my second career, becoming a trophy husband.
Will you be looking for a wife on Craig's List?
We probably will do something along the lines of personals - and I'll say, "I practice what I preach."