Wanted: Some hope for newspapers

Mind-bogglingly small, and mind-bogglingly profitable, Craigslist is about to make more money.
December 2, 2005: 12:19 PM EST
By Adam Lashinsky, FORTUNE senior writer

NEW YORK (FORTUNE) – Craigslist, the mostly free online classifieds Web site, is about to make more money. The company plans in 2006 to begin charging employers to post job listings in four new cities: Boston, Washington, D.C., San Diego and Seattle. It’s also set to collect a nominal fee, no more than $10, from New York City real estate brokers for their property listings.

The changes are meant to instill discipline in cluttered categories. But they’re a good example of how Craigslist, which practically goes out of its way not to cash in, is causing major heartache in the newspaper business. Craigslist’s numbers are mind-boggling. Ten million Craigslist users click on an estimated 6.5 million classified postings each month at 190 local sites in 35 countries, generating three billion page views.

Craigslist is also mind-bogglingly small. It has just 18 employees and no sales or marketing departments. The site itself is bare bones. From Albany, N.Y., to Zurich, it looks exactly the same — a sea of fine print whose only graphic element is a calendar set to the current month. The listings are all text, divided into a handful of basic categories, such as “jobs” or “for sale.” They are not searchable by ZIP code; there are no ads or even boldfacing.