Craigslist vs. The Bakersfield Californian

Earlier I mentioned that we’ve rented our house on a rent-to-own basis.

Here’s the interesting part of the story: Twice previously, I had placed placed rental ads on craigslist. In both cases, I mentioned our desire to do a rent-to-own arrangement. Prior to that, I had placed ads on craigslist for our FSBO effort. In total, the craigslist ads led to two flaky e-mails (not counting real estate agents). A month ago, we placed a week-long ad in The Bakersfield Californian, which included It was a house-for-rent ad that included a line about rent to own. The result: more than 60 phone calls. Of those, we had at least five serious prospects.

Steve Outing writes often about how great craigslist is for him in Boulder.

So what’s the difference? Is it that houses of the kind I have are not a high appeal item to the craigslist audience? Is it that Craigslist in Bakersfield is intrinsically under performing? Or could TBC’s defensive measure of launching Bakotopia be paying some dividends?

I honestly don’t know the answer. But I think it’s important to note that craigslist isn’t unbeatable, isn’t unstoppable, and that newspaper classifieds still drive a tremendous amount of response.

Recruitment advertising has been hurt by online, but contrary to the dire predictions of industry analysts five or six years ago, the likes of Monster and Hot Jobs haven’t killed newspaper help wanted ads. In fact, I remember speaking with a couple of classified managers a couple of years ago who said they were hearing from advertisers who tried Monster but found it less effective in reaching qualified recruits than the newspaper-provisioned ad (which by that time always included online). Since the initial Monster scare, newspaper recruitment advertising has held steady, from what I hear.

I can’t say I’m optimistic about the future of newspaper classifieds (the single most important piece of newspaper revenue), but neither am I worried. The game isn’t over, and I don’t believe the killer app of online classifieds has been unrolled yet. I don’t know what online classifieds will look like in five years, but I don’t think there is a dominant model today. For all of the buzz around craigslist, it isn’t the category killer some pretend it is, nor is Monster, nor any of the dot com auto or real estate verticals.

The classified environment is turbulent, and certainly, newspapers will never again rule the kingdom as they once did, but I wouldn’t count newspapers out yet. The question is, can the business models, and business minds, adjust to lower volume, slower revenue growth and smaller margins?

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6 thoughts on “Craigslist vs. The Bakersfield Californian

  1. Ive had a couple of bad experiences with craigslist its doesnt work very well around here and nothing but flakey responses from Bakotopia trying to sell quality stuff. On the other hand we ran an ad for our yard sale in TBC and had an overwhelming response per usual. By happenstance a neighbor was running a yard sale on the same day and came over and thanked us for running the ad because she had more traffic than we did, I made more money though haha.

  2. I gotta take issue with your statement that classifieds are the single most important piece of newspaper revenue.

    I would go with preprints.

  3. Mark, I couldn’t find a link that summarizes industry revenue breakdowns, but here’s a link to the January financials for McClatchy, which does classifieds as about 40 percent the company’s advertising revenue. Preprints are probably hidden in retail and national.

    From this New York Times report shows classifieds as bigger percentage of revenue than preprints.

    Also, my advertising exec friends tell me preprint margins aren’t that great.

  4. Different markets, different results:

    Our local newspaper advertised in its own classifieds for three months trying to hire a new web developer. They found no one.

    They put an ad on craigslist, and I called 20 minutes later. Got the job.

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