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Craigslist CEO offers advice to newspapers

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, tells Wall Street Journal writer Brian M. Carney that the “demise of the newspaper has been overstated.” In Buckmaster’s view, newspapers would be better off being a little more like Craigslist: Go private, eschew Wall Street’s demands for continually “goosing profitability” and give readers what they want.

Another point Carney makes: Newspaper executives, angry at how many classifieds they’ve lost to Craigslist, question why Craigslist doesn’t charge for most of its ads (job ads in certain cities including SF are an exception). They wonder if Craigslist is run by “communists,” as Carney put it. Buckmaster says Craigslist is more comfortable charging businesses, which pay with pre-tax dollars, than individuals, who pay with after tax dollars. Denying money to the government is hardly communistic.

The interview for this story is done in Buckmaster’s “Spanish-style townhouse in San Francisco,” and while most stories about Craigslist focus on founder Craig Newmark, this one is exclusively about the views of Buckmaster, who is CEO, CFO and COO of Craigslist. (WSJ illustration of Buckmaster by Ismael Roldan.)

This week, Craigslist will increase the number of cities it serves from 150 to 300, the story says. The site currently has more than 10 million visitors per month. Revenues run at $25 million a year and it’s been in the black since 1999. If Craigslist ran a few banner ads, it could probably take in $500 million a year, the article says.

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