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Craigslist: Forget the ‘it’s so ancient’ mantra


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By Peter M. Zollman; reposted with permission from AIM Group‘s Classified Intelligence Report.

Craigslist, the granddaddy of all horizontal classified websites, hasn’t taken a single step to focus on verticals like real estate and recruitment. And yet it is active in the verticals, nonetheless.

Unlike most recruitment sites, Craigslist doesn’t have sales reps calling employers. and send sales reps to car dealers; Craigslist doesn’t. And Craigslist doesn’t offer special features for apartments or new-home sales, nor does it have sales reps calling on real estate agents and brokers.

Even so, thousands of real estate advertisers, car dealers and employers use Craigslist consistently to rent apartments or sell homes, sell cars and find employees.


Simply because it works. Because it has “critical mass,” “liquidity of listings” or “network effect” due to the large volume of ads and users. Because it’s free in real estate (with a small exception), cheap or free in other categories.

All very powerful reasons to use Craigslist.

A whole cottage industry has developed around posting ads to Craigslist. Two cottage industries, in fact: One for real estate advertisers and one for auto dealers.

And don’t be fooled by the 1990s-style homepage design that Craigslist always gets hammered for. Pop in a search term in real estate, for instance, and a map comes up, along with pictures of properties and easily searchable information. Job ads frequently come with maps; car ads, with photos. And they’re rankable and searchable, which you might not expect based on the “it’s so 1990s” mantra about Craigslist. It’s not so 1990s any more.


Craigslist isn’t your average job board. No resume / CV database. No featured employers. No career advice. Even so, it’s a powerhouse site for recruitment. On one April day, Craigslist carried 1.24 million job listings in the United States (based on a Google Index search). In Orlando, where the AIM Group is based, there were 10,000.

Recruitment listings stay online for 30 days, unless they’re removed earlier. They generate lots of responses, although the site has no screening mechanism to eliminate unqualified responses.

Orlando jobs are $35. Jobs in large and mid-size cities range from $25 to $45, except in San Francisco, where they’re $75 (although discounts are available for heavy listers of Bay Area jobs). In small U.S. markets, Craigslist charges $7 or $10 per listing. It charges $25 Canadian in Vancouver, $10 in Toronto and $7 in Montreal.

That adds up to a LOT of money.

Last year, Craigslist generated $305 million in recruitment advertising revenue, the AIM Group estimated.

The company’s recruitment revenue is soaring in 2017, because on Nov. 1 Craigslist raised rates in some markets and initiated fees for job listings in more than 350 U.S. markets (and a handful of Canadian cities as well). Last year’s revenue projection was based on a detailed analysis in 62 markets where we counted listings and smaller markets where we made a conservative estimate. In most of those smaller markets, Craigslist job postings were free until Oct. 31. Now they’re a minimum of $7.

Craigslist ads must work. Otherwise, Uber, Lyft and Amazon would be smart enough to stop advertising there. For that matter, the AIM Group would, too. We’ve found our finance manager through Craigslist, several office managers through Craigslist, a marketing director through Craigslist. We also found dozens of caregivers for elderly parents. Simply put, it does work. Well. And inexpensively.

Sales and marketing expense: Zero

It’s worth noting that two of the biggest expenses at a typical real estate site like Zillow or are marketing and sales, usually (but not always) in that order.

Craigslist has neither.

It spends nothing on a sales force. Every one of those millions of ads was bought, not sold. Advertisers can set up accounts and buy “blocks” of postings, but all ads are paid in advance unless the advertiser has spent a minimum of $2,000 during the previous three months; then, an invoiced account can be established.

Some companies publish hundreds or thousands of ads with Craigslist, relisting open positions, like “Drive for Uber,” frequently to keep them near the top of the list.

What impact does Craigslist have on the big job boards? Clearly, the availability of a job posting online at just $7 or $10, or even $35 or $45, may help depress prices at more traditional sites. And the “it’s just good enough effect” also may convince employers to post on Craigslist, rather than a major or a niche site, if it can generate results for that employer.

Real estate listings

As with jobs, Craigslist really hasn’t gone “vertical” with homes or cars. But it does offer some better tools than the standard text listing.

Housing ads are free everywhere except New York City, where apartment ads placed by brokers are $10 (Discounts are offered). We’ve long expected Craigslist to add a $5 or $10 fee for all real estate ads; so far, it hasn’t happened.

So the only cost for posting ads is the time and effort it takes. Lots of property agents find it’s worth it to post their own ads, or pay someone to post them. Real estate ads can include up to 24 pictures, and some do. Many include at least a few pictures, and limited property detail with a link to the broker’s or agent’s page, or the property listing page.

Our review showed lots of low-end properties — mobile homes, “starter homes,” cheap condos, etc. But we also found a very high-end home selling for $1.4 million in Winter Park, just outside Orlando, and another in a gated, 24-hour guarded community, for almost $800,000. In Orlando, those are high-end prices.

Judi Sackett of Sackett Investment Co. Inc., an Orlando rental management company, told the AIM Group she gave up using Craigslist to find tenants. “For me, it just didn’t work. The people who wanted to rent on Craigslist were generally time-wasters. But that’s just me. Some of my real estate friends say they don’t like Craigslist — others love it and use it a lot.”

Don’t want to post your own ads? Someone — lots of someones — will do it for you. We called one of the advertisers who listed his Craigslist-posting services on Craigslist (in violation of the site’s TOS). He posts listings for real estate agents for $1 or less per ad, with a minimum of 35 per week. Unfortunately, we woke him up — it turned out he’s in Bangladesh, and we called at 5 p.m. Eastern, or 3 a.m. in Dhaka.

Additional contributions to this article were made by AIM Group’s Anastasia Gnezditskaia, Andrzej Sowula and Radhika Sachdev.

© 2016 Advanced Interactive Media Group LLC / Classified Intelligence, reprinted with permission

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