Pew Center illustrates how Craigslist is killing newspapers

Research center says nearly half of Internet users have used online classifieds. At the same time, classified ad revenue at newspapers has been cut in half.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval

It's tough to compete with free.

The use of online classifieds sites, such as Craigslist, has more than doubled in the past four years, according to a study published Friday by the Pew Research Center. At the same time that Web classifies are on the rise, the classifieds business that newspapers once depended on has collapsed, the Pew Internet & America Life Project found.

"Nearly half (49 percent) of Internet users say they have ever used online classified sites," the Pew Center said in the report. In 2005, the percentage was 22 percent.

One out of 10 Internet users visits an online classifieds service each day, up from four percent in 2005.

Not that this is big news but the Pew Center helps to illustrate just how devastating online classifieds has been on newspapers. A graph of newspaper classified ad revenue since 1980 to last year (at bottom) shows that the industry saw a high in 2000 with about $19.6 billion. Last year, newspapers recorded $9.9 billion.

That's a plunge in revenue of about 49 percent.

There's no question either that Craigslist dominates Web classifieds.

"In the world of online classified advertising, Craigslist is by far the most used Web site in the United States," Pew said in the report. "In March 2009, classified sites averaged 53.8 million unique visitors, up 7 percent from February. Craigslist had 42.2 million unique visitors in the month of March."

Pew Research Center