Teaching Examples

Craigslist — the essence of "sticky"
December 13, 2006, 1:21 pm
Filed under: advertising, newspapers, online

Craigslist got my stuff back for me after it had been stolen.

The details of the theft (my bicycle panniers and their contents) are not important. I was so mad, though (the theft took place in midafternoon on the major street in town, not 10 feet from the curb), that I wanted desperately to do something. Desperate — I knew the police would do nothing (that was clear when I reported the crime). I felt helpless and very angry. Somehow, the idea of posting a “reward” ad on Craigslist came to my mind.

Craigslist ranks 47th in terms of the number of monthly unique visitors among U.S. Internet properties. But because the average user spends so much time on the site — about five days a month, 20 minutes per day — the site ranks a startling seventh in terms of monthly page views. Its 3.35 billion page views in October were less than a third that of eBay … but were more than double that of Amazon.com … (Source: Newspaper Killer, by Louis Hau, Forbes.com, Dec. 11, 2006)

Tell me who spends 20 minutes a day on a newspaper Web site. Go on, take a survey. (Why does Craigslist work so well? Maybe it is by design.)

One week after I posted my FREE ad, I received two e-mails.

Two young people who live in a part of our town where drug addicts go door-to-door selling stolen goods (which they claim to have found in Dumpsters) had separately bought my bike bags and a collection of the contents. When they saw my ad on Craigslist, they e-mailed me and offered to return my stuff.

I am still amazed by this.

When I met them — separately, at two different times, in front of the same downtown restaurant, I asked the two (one male, one female, both in their 20s, I would guess) how it was they saw my ad on Craigslist. Both of them gave a similar answer.

They go on Craigslist “a lot.” They look at many things there. Not because there is something in particular they are searching for. No, just “to see what’s there.” They just … like it. They like to keep tabs on it. Check it out. See what’s there. They found my ad describing the theft because they were simply browsing.

I paid them each what they said they had paid the thief. I got my stuff back.

Because of Craigslist.

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4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

thanks, that’s great to hear!


Comment by Anonymous

As a journalist in San Francisco who’s seen classified advertising devastated in the birthplace of Craigslist, I’m of course of mixed emotions. Ultimately I recognize that had Craig Newmark not hastened the end of the classified advertising monopoly, someone else would have, and without the good community intentions (which is a big key to the stickiness, I think). But I’m now looking at jobs outside newspapers, and I think that’s a loss to my community.

Comment by Anonymous

Amazing, and I’m glad you got your stuff back. Glad to hear there’s still honest people in the world.

Comment by Angela

I’m not happy that newspapers are losing classified advertising revenue, because the loss of income hurts the papers’ ability to do good journalism.

However, newspapers are a business, and as a business, ever since the 1980s and the early consumer online services such as Compuserve, the newspapers have taken a protectionist attitude. They have failed to recognize where their competition is coming from. And they have failed to pay attention to what their customers want and like.

So while I’m worried about journalism — which I consider necessary and valuable — I would say the newspapers have dug their own grave and jumped inside it. If the earth is now pouring down on their heads, that is their own fault. (Not Craig’s fault.)

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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