To Fight Craig’s List, Publish Something Unique

Anil Dash responded a few months back to a long editorial criticizing Craig’s list published by Tim Redmond in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

“And live up to the standard you’ve set, Tim. You say “And he puts nothing back into the community: He doesn’t, for example, hire reporters or serve as a community watchdog.”

Craig spends hours every day tracking down scammers and shady characters in communities he doesn’t even live in. He turns down more money in buyout offers every year than a typical alt weekly has earned in profits during its entire existence.

But somehow I can still go to the SFBG homepage and see a tired, unpersuasive, preaching-to-the-choir rant about how Bush should be impeached. Even the people who are in complete agreement can find a better version of the same thing in any one of dozens of left-wing blogs. Where’s that deep pool of resources you’re investing back into your community?

My advice? If you have a newspaper, publish something that’s unique to your community; Write something that nobody running a website on the other side of the country would have enough knowledge or information to create. Find a business model that makes your work seem valuable instead of worthless. Free the smart, creative people on your editorial staff to express themselves, especially online, without having to obey seniority rules or arbitrary limits.

And realize that the reason Craig is eating your lunch is not merely because his information is better, or because he cares about being online and you don’t, but because he’s given people a place to connect with each other, instead of just being preached to by people too arrogant to stay curious.