Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The End of Newspapers, in Chart Form

craterI’m still not exactly sure why Google (GOOG) has become the chief suspect in the “Who Killed Newspapers” investigation playing out before our very eyes. Because it’s quite clear to me that the real baddie here is bespectacled, mild-mannered Craig Newmark, whose eponymous free service blew up the industry’s most profitable line of business: classified advertising.

Yes, there other players in the online classifieds business, and they cut into the monopoly that newspapers relied upon for decades, too. And some of them, like Monster (MNST) and Yahoo (YHOO), have even tried to ally themselves with newspapers. But all of them charged money for their services. And you can’t compete with free. Just ask the music industry.

Craigslist launched in San Francisco in 1996, but didn’t really start picking up steam until the end of the first Web bubble, which is exactly when the newspaper industry’s classified revenue peaked. See for yourself, via this chart from the Pew Internet & American Life Project (click to enlarge):


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald