In 2019, Journalists Still Blame Craigslist

created Apr 26, 2019

Two conversing journalists swerved off the rails.

https://www.recode.net/podcasts/2019/4/26/18517875/julia-angwin-markup-sue-gardner-jeff-larson-craig-newmark-facebook-kara-swisher-decode-podcast

So, you went around to raise money and got how much money?

More than 23 million.

From?

Mostly from Craig Newmark, who pledged 20 million.

Right. Who ruined classified advertising for the San Francisco Chronicle, for example. Craigslist founder.

Yeah.

So, he was taking his money, and he’s talked about this. He was taking his money that wrecked the newspapers to try to do something about it. He said that to me.

I mean, I’ll let you put words in his mouth.

I shall. Because he said them.

He did? Where did Craig Newmark say that he ruined classified advertising and the newspaper industry?

https://www.recode.net/2018/7/15/17569000/craig-newmark-craigslist-philanthropy-donation-journalism-decode

Craig Newmark said:

Yeah. After that, 11 years in the field, Detroit, then Pittsburgh, and then I decided I needed a change. Charles Schwab got me a good job and I moved out here. And about two years into my tenure there, that’s when the dot-com thing hit San Francisco in a big way. I had acquired a number of the necessary skills, did some web work, wound up doing software contracting, most notably for Bank of America, where I helped develop home banking.

Around that time, I realized that a lot of people had helped me in the San Francisco Bay area, I should give back. Well, that was the start of Craigslist.

That does not sound like a newspaper killer.

Craig said:

Craigslist just started as a simple mailing list, which developed categories relatively quickly. I figured I’d started something. I’d committed to it, I needed to continue with it. Fortunately, I could write my own code to automate whatever procedure took time. Just kept growing, word of mouth, and at some point I had to make some decisions, like, well, if it’s going to continue to exist, I needed to make it into a real company.

I’m thinking that people in my community need something to help get them through the day. The deal was that, what Craigslist became at that point, is a place to help you put food on the table. Then, to help you find a table, and then to help you get a roof under which to put the table. That’s really how I think about it. It’s pretty basic, because in our lives, sometimes it’s just enough to help someone else get through the day. That ain’t bad.

Oh, getting through the day. I mean, again, getting enough money or whatever to get food on the table.

And that's what supposedly killed the print newspaper classified business, according to Kara Swisher and others in the media.

Craig said:

I had no thinking really about classifieds. At some point, years in, it dawned on me that I had done classifieds in a good way, like once you put a classified ad up, it was easy to remove, which meant no one was calling you after it’s removed, hopefully.

... the deal is the site should be monetized as little as possible, and even when we’re charging, Craigslist is providing ads that are much more effective, we feel, for less money.

Craig Newmark did not order the newspaper industry to obtain 40 to 65 percent of its revenue from classifieds. Newmark did not order newspapers to give away their craft for free on their websites.

Long ago, did the newspaper industry complain about its monopoly or near monopoly on local classified advertising? Did the newspaper industry complain about charging too much money for classifieds? Doubtful. When the newspaper industry dominated, then their actions were okay.

Craig and his team built a service that many people found useful. That's it.

100 percent of the blame for the demise of newspapers at all levels belongs to the newspaper industry that has existed in the U.S. for nearly 200 years.

The Toledo Blade started in 1835.

Craigslist started in 1995. And before 2005, Craigslist was blamed for hurting the newspaper industry.

In the interview with Newmark, Swisher blamed Facebook for hurting the local news industry. Swisher said:

I think Facebook should just pay for all of local news, that’s what I think. I think they’ve ruined local news and should now pay for it.

In my opinion, claiming that Facebook ruined local news is denying reality. How does a journalist make such a blanket, baseless statement? Where are the facts to support that absurd claim?

Citing dozens of posts on my message board toledotalk.com, I could make the argument that the Toledo Blade has harmed Toledo since at least 1980 with its advocacy for numskull ideas through opinions, written by the editorial board, and through its alleged news reporting that advanced the views of the editorial board.

Even today, the Toledo Blade editorial board demands private sit-downs with local political candidates, and for some reason, candidates participate in this archaic process.

Another throw-back to a bygone era is the newspapers, such as the Blade, making political endorsements, like they are supposed to carry more weight than someone's opinion blabbed on the web.

The Blade still believes that it has power and influence over what happens in Toledo. Why is that? Why do local businesses and local governments still kowtow to the Blade?

Media orgs whine about the alleged advertising duopoly owned by Google and Facebook. What about the daily newspaper monopoly that has existed for a long time in many cities, such as Toledo?

When cities had two daily newspapers, the newspapers did not like it. They fought and sometimes, one acquired the other. Why the intense competition, back in the day? What about the idea of informing the public? Truth to power or however the saying goes. In some cities, newspapers acted ruthlessly toward each other.

Maybe newspapers should have banded together, prior to 1980 or 1970. That's hindsight. 50 years ago, the newspaper industry assumed that its dominance would never end. The industry probably still maintained that arrogant attitude in 1990.

In my opinion, the Toledo Blade fails to conduct enough investigations into every local entity that receives local taxpayer money. The Blade reports on traffic accidents, but the paper fails at doing more real journalism. Is that because of a lack of resources? Problem is, I don't think that the Blade did enough of these investigations 15-plus years ago either.

Speaking of Big Tech harming local newspapers, what about the big bad Toledo Blade forcing the closure of a local, weekly newspaper earlier this decade?

Excerpts from my Apr 2, 2019 post

The Blade had no issue with suing the Toledo Free Press out of business earlier this decade for a petty issue. The TFP began around 2005 as a free weekly newspaper. A few years later, it added a second printing that focused on arts and entertainment.

Why was the Blade worried about a free, twice-a-week newspaper? Because the TFP attracted advertisers that might have advertised with the Blade. The Blade filed a frivolous lawsuit against the TFP that got hung up in the courts, costing the TFP too much money.

One of the founders of the TFP previously worked for the Blade. The TFP ran a cartoon that criticized the Blade owners or something like that. Somehow, that editorial violated some kind of separation agreement with the Blade.

If the TFP struggled or was only a small, twice a month newspaper like the Toledo City Paper, then the Blade probably would not have sued the TFP. But the TFP enjoyed good success by 2010, and that probably alarmed the Blade for some reason.

The Blade had the money to tie the case up in the courts for years. The Blade got what it wanted: the closure of a local media org.

The Blade had the money not because it's profitable but because the other businesses owned by the Block family are profitable. The Block family's other businesses, such as the internet and cable TV divisions, subsidize the Toledo Blade's existence.

In my opinion, the Blade's actions toward a popular local newspaper appeared to be:

  • anti-media
  • anti-local business
  • anti-truth to power
  • anti-freedom of the press

When I see stories about the decline of the local daily newspaper industry, I think about our daily newspaper, the Toledo Blade, forcing the closure of a useful, twice-a-week local newspaper.

The Blade contributed to the decline of local media coverage for Toledo.

Excerpts from my February 2019 post

April 2015 Toledo Talk thread about the Toledo Free Press closing down, allegedly due to the Blade's long legal battle against TFP.

Excerpts posted to that thread from a foxnews.com story that no longer exists:

Pounds said he hated to cave in, but had no choice following his bruising battle with the powerful twin brothers who own The Blade.

... a 2009 editorial cartoon in the Free Press that implied the brothers were blocking job-creating development in the struggling city of 282,000 struck a nerve.

“That was the last straw for them,” Pounds said. “They went ballistic.”

The battle bled out of the courtroom and into the business community, where, Pounds claims, The Blade threatened advertisers into spurning the Free Press.

Currently, the two sides are awaiting an appeal of a 2014 ruling by Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook requiring the Toledo Free Press to turn over its financial books and marketing strategy to The Blade.

Holy crap. Did the Blade assume the role of an oppressive dictator? The Blocks could not digest editorial humor. The Blocks/Blade have had no trouble dishing it out for decades, but obviously, when it comes back onto them, then they unleash their legal team.

Facebook harming local news??? That sounds like crap spewed by someone who is clueless about living in a small to mid-sized city that is somewhat ruled by a newspaper. A Toledo Talk user called the Blade the strong publisher form of government because Toledo supposedly uses a strong mayor form of city government.

The narrative pushed by journalists is that a lack of local news coverage can harm local democracies. I might agree with that, outside of Toledo, Ohio where I have lived since 2001.

It's questionable that our local democracy has been enhanced by the Blade's existence. Maybe if the Blade investigated more local orgs that receive taxpayer money, then the Blade might be considered more relevant. Unfortunately, a mindset exists around here that the "Gems" are off limits to criticism. The "Gems" are the major attractions in Toledo.

Gems that receive taxpayer money need investigated. Numerous local government services that might not be called "Gems" also need investigated. And these orgs should welcome the investigations, right? As long as they act responsible with taxpayer money, whatever "responsible" means, then the orgs have nothing to fear from a newspaper colonoscopy.

Reporting that nothing odd has occurred with our taxpayer money is good reporting, and it makes the orgs look even better.

Somewhat related:

Back to the present and the absurd, baseless claim that social media, particularly Facebook, has ruined local news.

Why do media orgs, such as the Toledo Blade, use Facebook comments on their websites? The Blade has used Facebook comments for many years. The Blade. like many media orgs, believed Facebook's myth from the late aughts that Facebook comments lead to more civil discussions.

Why does the Blade display social media sharing links on its article pages? Why have media orgs enslaved themselves to social media to a degree that the media orgs have become dependent upon on referral traffic from social media?

It's not Facebook's fault that the Blade has made those decisions. The Blade CHOSE to perform those actions, probably out of a misguided fear of being left behind.

Maybe the media has enslaved itself to Facebook and other social media silos because those are the locations where people spend much of their time. It's the same reason why advertisers have flocked to Facebook: it's where the people exist online.

But media orgs should focus on their own domains and their own brands and not rely on anyone else for help. Instead of dumping hard-to-find resources into social media, the local news orgs should focus on developing their own products, hosted at their own domain names.

The newspaper industry has faded anyway. It may as well go down on its terms, instead of hoping for a miracle from social media.

Here's one example of how the local newspaper industry's problems began more than 20 years before Facebook started.

Excerpts from a February 2004 comment that I posted to my toledotalk.com message board, which I closed down for new content in March 2019.

WSPD is reporting that the Blade could be for sale "someday."

"More talk about selling the Toledo Blade, and this time it comes from the Blade's managing director [Allan] Block, who in a letter to the [employees] says the attitude that the "Block's will never sell the Blade" is "unrealistic" because of current market pressures which could force a sale to a large chain."

"Alan Block says in that letter, that the "days are over" when one division, the cablevision division which he runs, will send profits to rescue the other and the Blade hasn't turned a profit since the early 1980's. Block informed the [employees] in that letter that the Blade "isn't healthy" and that no job will be secure until it is."

(That WSPD story contained multiple spelling errors.)

As of 2004, the Blade had not made a profit since the early 1980s. Has that changed in the past 15 years?

The early 1980s, that's 8 to 10 years before the web began, and at least 13 years before Craigslist began. The newspaper industry started having problems long before Craigslist, Google, and Facebook launched.

More from the Newmark-Swisher interview:

If you want to get to Silicon Valley, because one of the things about you, we talked about the amplification of lies and how easy it is, is by using social media that was created right here. Some people might think a creation of Craigslist hurt newspapers, for example, by killing off classifieds. Classifieds went digital. It’s not your fault, particularly, but the digitization of everything has weakened media. No? Yes?

I have to challenge the premise there.

Tell me. Please do.

I’ve looked at the last 60 years of newspaper circulation and revenues.

Down, down, down.

Down, down, down due to TV news, as people say.

I'm surprised by the number of people who "get" their local news from TV today.

Back to Swisher's obscene comment:

I think Facebook should just pay for all of local news ...

Wanting Facebook to fund local news is revolting. I would never read local news that was funded completely by Facebook. That's a disgusting world.

How in the hell do people rationalize wanting a company that they despise to fund local media?

The local newspaper industry has no future if it continues to blame others for its problems. It might have a shot if the newspaper industry accepts 100 percent of the blame for its woes.

But I don't think local newspapers will a part of the future digital landscape because the industry contains too much archaic thinking. The future for local media will have to come from new digital startups.

More related links:

My August 2013 post titled In 2013, academic dolts blame Craigslist for the demise of the newspaper industry.

Excerpts from my October 2018 post titled Media Still Blame Craigslist for Newspaper Industry's Decline:

2007 - Newspapers hiring programmers - excerpt from a website that non longer exists: "Learn from Craigslist". In 2007, someone suggested that newspapers learn from Craigslist, but in 2018, the NY Times still blames Craigslist.

2008 - Newspaper industry experiences worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years that excerpted another website's post from 2007 titled 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head

It's not Google's fault. Get over it, professor. Blaming search engines is like blaming the library. "Oh no, please don't let readers actually find stories from my newspaper and then click through to my site to read them, anything but that!" Forget it.

It's not Craig's fault. Newspaper classifieds suck and they have for years. Either develop simple database applications with photos and maps to let your users actually find what they're looking for, or partner with a good third-party vertical who can. Anything less is a waste of your time.

That's from 2007.

Again, that was from 2007, 12 years after Craigslist started. It's now 2019, 12 years after the above post was created, yet journalists still blame Craigslist in 2019.

Excerpts from my 2014 post that excerpted info from 2006:

What really determines a paper’s financial health, though, is advertising. Ads account for about 80 percent of most papers’ revenue, according to the State of the News Media.

80 percent? Is/was it really that high? If so, how is that the fault of Craigslist, Google, Facebook, Big Tech?

Apr 26, 2019 cont

Odd.

Apr 24, 2019 CNN story titled Days after ousting, Julia Angwin says she wants to remake The Markup

One way or another, Julia Angwin is determined to remake The Markup, the publication she co-founded and planned to launch this summer before being fired via email on Monday.

Five of the website's seven editorial staffers resigned on Tuesday after Angwin was fired. Other editorial and technical staffers remain at work.

Angwin said in Wednesday's interview that she hopes Craig Newmark, The Markup's biggest financial backer, "would choose to fund us in some other way, or to put us back in place at The Markup. Or maybe another funder comes forward."

In the interview listed at the top of this page, Swisher interviewed Angwin.

"Yeah" is an inadequate rebuttal to Swisher's baseless, imbecilic claim. I would think that an investigative, data-driven journalist would have levied a logical, contextual response.

In my opinion, "Yeah" equals agreement with Swisher that Craiglist is responsible for ruining classified advertising.

But if we're wallowing in the world of nonsense, then we may as well blame the web, the internet, DNS, routers, TCP/IP, Perl, Common Gateway Interface, Unix, Linux, BSD, MySQL, Apache, NCSA web server, CERN, Tim Berners-Lee, Hypercard, all other hypertext systems from the 1970s and 1980s, personal computers, Apple, Microsoft, Xerox PARC, the MITS Altair, DARPA, Grace Hopper, IBM, Vannevar Bush, and zillions of other people, orgs, technologies, and ideas.


More from my April 2019 post, mentioned above.

I'm digital subscriber to the Blade. I chose the $9.99 per month option, instead of the $100 per year option. I want the option to cancel immediately.

I started my Blade digital subscription in March 2019, about a month ago.

  • I do not use the Blade's NewsSlide mobile app.
  • I do not use the Blade's e-something app that is basically a PDF version of the print newspaper. WTF?
  • I do not use the Blade's website because it fails to display content with JavaScript disabled. The Blade's website is horribly bloated and obnoxious to use. It's a disgusting UI/UX, like most media websites.
  • I do not use any other Blade products to consume their content, except for their RSS feeds.

Craigslist started in 1995. Facebook started in 2004. In 2019, the Blade's delivery products are terrible, in my opinion. How are Craigslist and Facebook blamed for a local, daily newspaper offering products not worth funding?

More from my April 2019 post:

I created my own web app to read the Blade simply and efficiently. My Blade reading web app subscribes to the following RSS feeds.

  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/local - (local news)
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/news
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/art
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/opinion
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/sports
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/business
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss/technology
  • https://www.toledoblade.com/rss - (all topics)

I only access the sports feed because the stories by the Blade's outdoor writer are unfortunately mixed in with the sports.

If I could not program, then I would not be a Blade subscriber. More from that April 2019 post:

Last fall, the Blade introduced its latest hideous web design. The article content is not stored within HTML tags. It's stored in JSON. The Blade's new web design requires JavaScript to display text.

But since each article page contains the article content in JSON, then my web app fetches the page, parses out the JSON, and displays the article to me. I do not store article pages on the server. My web app creates and displays the articles to me dynamically.

It's a simple, lightweight, and effective way to read the Blade. I do not share my web app with anyone. This setup bypasses the Blade's lame metered paywall design and most importantly, it displays news to me without ads, JavaScript, trackers, etc.

This is the best designed media website: https://text.npr.org, but NPR's funding model allows for such a design.

Regarding my Blade web reading app, here's an excerpt from another of my April 2019 posts:

What I'm doing is probably violating the Blade's terms of service, but the Blade's web design violates human decency. If the Blade changes its website, and my web reading app stops working, then I will cancel my Blade subscription.

A useful website does not improve bad writing, but good writing can get lost and ignored when the delivery mechanism is garbage. In my opinion, all of the Blade's content delivery products are garbage and not worth funding. We donate money to charity orgs. The Blade is not a charity.

Fact: media orgs design some of the worst websites on the planet. Their websites are massively bloated and slow loading, possibly never loading fully on slow internet connections. Their websites are bogged down with a megabyte or more of JavaScript, images, ads, and crapware.

In my opinion, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is anti-open web, but many media orgs create VERSIONS of their websites that support Google's bastardized web specification or AMP, which enables these lightweight web pages to display quickly for mobile users who might be using slow internet connections.

Question: Why don't the media create lightweight, simple, fast-loading websites by default that would be useful for people who use any device with any type of internet connection? The media would not need to support AMP. The media might attract more visitors if the orgs built lightweight, useful web reading experiences.

AMP is a scam to get media orgs more enslaved with Big Tech, and the media oblige. Why? It's because media believe that their stories will appear higher in Google search results for mobile users, resulting in more referral traffic.

When media orgs feel that they need to support AMP, then those orgs probably use a failed business model. When media orgs feel that the need referral traffic from Big Tech, then those orgs probably use a failed business model.

I don't see how it's the fault of Facebook, Google, Craigslist, etc. when media orgs CHOOSE failures.

Relying on referral traffic, abusing readers with obnoxious website ads and possibly nefarious trackers, creating websites with poor UI/UX, and publishing to support metrics, instead of publishing to inform the public are failed choices, made by the media orgs.

Obviously, Craig Newmark did not tell the Toledo Blade to create a bloated, disgusting website experience.

May 2, 2019

Unbelievable. Then again, maybe not.

May 1, 2019 Vanity Fair story about The Markup soap opera.

The tech-nerd founder of Craigslist infamously helped to decimate journalism—inadvertently. But he’s finding that remaking it is not that simple.

It's hard to respect an industry, a profession that engages in delusional thinking like the above.

When did the newspaper industry start earning most of its revenue from advertising, especially classfieds? 1950? 1900? Earlier?

By 1995 or even 2000, how in the hell did the newspaper industry not realize that classifieds could be displayed on the web?

Has the newspaper industry heard of eBay, which started in 1995, the same year that Craigslist began? By the late 1990s, I'm guessing that the newspaper industry was aware of eBay even if Craigslist remained under the radar.

I don't know if eBay or Amazon were the web companies that changed how we shopped online, but they probably popularized it by the late 1990s.

eBay made it easy for people to sell items in an auction-like setting without the hassle of taking the items to an auction house. And obviously, anyone around the world with an internet connection could bid on the items.

By 1999 if not earlier, the success of eBay and Amazon.com should have warned the newspaper industry that it needed to innovate quickly, which the newspaper failed to accomplish.

As long as media hacks continue to blame Craiglists, I will continue to express my opinion that 100 percent of the blame for the newspaper industry's demise belongs to the newspaper industry.

About every generation, a new tech advancement occurs that ignites new business development that disrupts old industries. Blame should never be directed at the new technology nor to the new businesses. Maybe nothing is blamed. It's simply evolution.

Maybe the decline of the newspaper industry that began before the web got invented in 1990 could not have been avoided. Charles Darwin might say that the newspaper's decline was expected due to the invention of new technology. It's not right. It's not wrong. Nobody gets the blame. It simply is.

Maybe the newspaper industry needs to start blaming evolution.

Here's the opening paragraph for the Vanity Fair hack article:

Craig Newmark, the Craig in Craigslist, has been criticized for helping to bring about an extinction event for vast swaths of the journalism world, by creating a platform that sucked up the classified advertising on which it depended.

That kind of thinking deserves scorn and ridicule.

More from the article:

Craigslist’s classified dominance is generally seen as one of the driving forces behind the industry’s torturous decline over the past two decades, starving local publications all over the country.

Evolution. Yep. The newspaper industry has been Darwined away. It had to happen some day.

Maybe that's how we explain the decline in the open web: it has been Darwined away by social media, such as Twitter, which is the journalist's favorite web service.

Journalists have aided the demise of the open by their love of Twitter. Compared to the open web, silos are easier to use for creating, sharing, and commenting on content. Silos make it easy to discover and follow content producers.

Journalists bitch about Craigslist allegedly harming the newspaper industry, and I bitch about journalists and media orgs harming the open web. Maybe it's all evolution. Users, including journalists, prefer to use centralized silos, owned by Big Tech.

Craigslist has been profitable for a very long time, maybe its entire existence. Twitter started in 2006, and it finally had a profitable quarter at the end of 2017 and/or early 2018.

Facebook's Groups, Twitter, and Reddit's subreddits have cabbaged much of the web-based discussion activity. Centralized services. The silos defeated the open web. Familiar user interfaces and user experiences are preferred even if those functions are mediocre. People like familiarity.

Millions of people will continue to use Craigslist because it's a useful tool. Journalists will continue to use Twitter because they believe that Twitter is useful.

It's impossible to respect a journalist's absurd opinion about Craigslist when the journalist uses Twitter. Regarding the Vanity Fair article, I root for Craigslist over the newspaper industry.

More from the Vanity Fair article:

Newmark himself doesn't subscribe to the notion that Craigslist laid waste to the news industry.

That's because Newmark is a logical thinker and not an overly emotional reactor.

More from the article:

There were other factors, after all, and the news companies themselves aren’t blameless. “People throw the accusation,” he told The New York Times in October. “I look at the facts and stick with that.”

Facts, eh? I assume that journalists would be interested in those facts.

May 2, 2019 Dave Winer post.

Lots of people were working on classified ads on the web in the 90s. I had my own project, the archive is still there. Journalists should stop saying Craig Newmark is responsible. Progress happens. The web is better at classified ads. That's the story.

Evolution happens.

And Craig said that he did not launch is website to create a classified ads business. Craig said in the above interview:

I had no thinking really about classifieds. At some point, years in, it dawned on me that I had done classifieds in a good way, like once you put a classified ad up, it was easy to remove, which meant no one was calling you after it’s removed, hopefully.