Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Study Confirms: Growth of Online Classifieds Cost U.S. Newspapers $5 billion

A new academic study indicates that major US newspapers lost more than $5 billion of classified advertising to Craigslist.  The study looked at the impact of the entry of Craigslist into newspaper markets from 2000-2007, and the resulting changes in classified advertising revenues.
  The study found that those papers that relied heavily on classified advertising revenues experienced a 20% drop in classified advertising rates in response to online competition.  One consequence of the loss of classified advertising was the decline of the value of the paper to its consumers, which would impact both single copy sales and subscription levels. It also suggests that the advent of competition from online classifieds caused many newspapers to raise subscription rates to replace lost earnings, and that led to a further decline in circulation, that lead to declines in display ad rates (which are based on readership levels).  The study suggests that classified losses encouraged many newspapers to try to differentiate their content from its competitors, and less likely to make their content freely available online.
  In sum, the failure of newspapers to effectively compete with a more efficient and high-value competitor entering the market in this one sector triggered a downward spiral in both revenues and circulation.

What the study, and news report, don't bring up is that there was no reason that newspapers couldn't have entered the online classified market themselves, and captured a large share of that market.  In fact, several major newspapers had successful online classified trials in the late 1990s.  But most publishers felt that entering the online classified business might impact print circulation and sales - which it clearly did.  The problem is that rather than capturing that impact for their organization, they let somebody else grab it - and the resulting revenues and audience attention.

Sources -  Craigslist Costs Local Newspapers $5 Billion in Lost Ad Revs,  Media Daily News
"Response to Entry in Multi-Sided Markets: The Impact of Craigslist on Local Newspapers," research study by R. Seamans & F. Zhu

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