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Monday, March 31, 2008

Classifieds vs. Craig's List

On Friday night, I slept in the guest room. I moved there because I was stressed out from work stuff and I'd dozed off for 20 minutes before taking a shower, and that was enough to keep me up reading, trying to shut down, for over an hour. So I shuffled into the other room and read some more, slept fitfully, occasionally being wakened by Colin who seemed rather put out that I was sleeping in there and had to tell the world about it, occasionally wakened by Dixie's little collar bell, and other random noises in the night. What I did note though was that the bed in there is very comfy, but that the frame leaves a lot to be desired. It makes an overly bouncy bed even bouncier, since being on wheels on hard wood, it seems to basically float once a bounce starts.

So I thought, let's check Craig's List and see what's out there in the way of bed frames. I searched, narrowed to the South Bay, flipped through listing in the Peninsula and East Bay, reviewed photos, emailed myself copies of three listings for comparison. After 40 minutes of searching, I had a good idea of a reasonable price, a clear picture of what was available, and had contacted one seller to make an offer, sending her a link to a comparable item at a greater distance, offering to buy hers at their price, all without leaving the single modality of my computer.

On Sunday, we're driving down 87 and I'm listening to another story about the changes to the newspaper business. Classifieds used to be 40% of the revenue for newspapers, but that is being gobbled up by little upstarts like Craig's List. Um, well, yah. I can't feel bad about this really. The newspaper business got way too comfy and complacent. I looked into posting a classified years ago and it was going to be about $40 for a two line listing, replete with obnoxious abbreviations and no photo, advertising my phone number to the whole world and forcing me to field calls asking for details.

The newspaper business is getting a lot of coverage about how their world is changing, but really, it's okay. It's good. It needed to happen. Why do we need to produce temporary, quick information on paper every single day? Why do we need to have thousands of people across the country driving around delivering this paper edition daily? Why do we need to get our fingers coated in ink just to read the news? The truth is, we don't. But the news industry really seems to be struggling with the switch to digital, complaining that while people read the full page ads of yore when printed, they close them when they popup on screen. Well... yes... because the full page ads of the paper edition never get up and move in front of the article you're reading.

The news industry really needs to take some lessons from Google. People used to read and notice the full page ads and circulars in the newspapers because they applied to their local needs. They were not just generic advertisements geared toward the broadest audience. The ads were based on specific, current sale prices at local stores. Bananas for 29 cents a pound at the local grocery? Great! Compare turkey prices at various grocery stores the week before Thanksgiving? Yes! Spring clearance sale with big 40% off sale prices coupon at Macy's? Sure! Random refinance ads or Punch the Monkey? Um, no, never.

And that brings up another point - people paid attention to newspaper ads because there was a specific reward for doing so. Clipping coupons was the national obsession of the eighties. Internet advertising generally doesn't get you anything additional for acknowledging it.

Ah well. The owner of the bed frame accepted my offer, and we picked it up Sunday afternoon. No inky fingers. It looked just like the photo in the ad. The entire process was completed with one phone call. Now it's set up in the blue room, easy as can be.

1 Comments:

  • I'm split on papers. Classified ads were way expensive and Craig's List beat them on that, at the same time, I love getting a paper and reading it at lunch. I find it much more portable, and easier to read front to back than if I had it on a laptop (which I don't have to begin with). You can read a paper anywhere.So it's a quandry

    By Blogger Chris, at 9:37 AM  

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