If you listen carefully, you can hear the city’s three newspaper publishers sobbing softly. This evening, classifieds-killer Craigslist expanded their city-specific listings to include hundreds more cities across the nation, including Our Fair City. There are only a half dozen listings at this moment, but that’ll number in the hundreds in a week or so, and in the thousands not too long after that. As the San Francisco Chronicle explained yesterday, Craigslist’s free online classifieds have left newspapers’ balance sheets in tatters, thanks to a simple, obstinate, profitable approach to their business.
Classifieds are absurdly expensive. Want to run a one-day ad to sell something in the Progress? That’ll be $44.50. Craigslist? Free. Media General is far too large and cumbersome of an organization to be capable of reacting to this incursion prior to 2008, or thereabouts — and that’s no exaggeration. Their advertising revenue is going to slump in the next couple of years, and that means life is about to become more difficult still for the Progress‘ beleaguered reporters.