OPW INTERVIEW -- Apr 21, 2006 -- Craig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist. He has built a powerhouse of a site on sheer utility, pure goodwill, and a groundswell of viral word-of mouth. Craigslist is a phenomonen and Craig is one of my personal heroes.
Why did you start Craigslist?
In 1994, I was at Charles Schwab; I was evangelizing the net for the brokerage industry. I saw a lot of people helping each other out and I figured I should do some of that. So, in early 1995, I started a simple 'cc' list telling friends about arts and technology events, and that was the beginning of Craigslist. People asked for more stuff on the list and I did that and I got more feedback and I did that, and that's how it is today. We talk to people, we find out what's needed, what's useful, and we do it.
Just how popular is it now?
We seem to be getting about 4 billion page views a month and we're in a little over 200 cities, in five countries with 8 million posts per month.
How is the international growth coming along?
It's slow but steady. We are not where we want to be in terms of multiple language support. But, word of mouth works and we're growing.
Why not charge for personals?
Five or so years ago, I asked people what it was they'd like us to charge for. The answer was to charge those people who would otherwise be paying more, for less effective advertising. The consensus was to specifically charge for real estate and job postings. So we charge brokers and recruiters and soon will charge apartment brokers for rental listings in NYC; although they specifically asked us to charge them to improve quality by reducing redundancy. People have suggested we charge for personals as a way to improve quality; but there's no consensus.
What prompted the creation of the casual encounters, more racy personals section?
People saw that racy ads were being posted in the more conventional sections and people suggested we trade an alternative to get the racy ads focused in one or two places. And that's been effective.
Have you been surprised by some of the posts?
These days, after about 13 years in San Francisco and going to the Fulsom Street Fair; not much surprises me.
What do you have in store for Craigslist and for the personals section in 2006?
We do need to improve customer service by giving more power to the people who use our site. People can help us out by flagging inappropriate ads for removal. We are driven by the culture of trust we've developed with our communities and that's another reason why I personally do full time customer service and I intend to do substantial customer service only as long as I live, after that, it's over !!