Businesses that have long relied upon classified advertising in newspapers are starting to experiment with Craigslist, a free online bulletin board that is expanding its reach in Hawaii.
More than 10 million people use the site each month to find practically anything -- cars, apartments, jobs, even sex. With 3 billion views per month, Craigslist is seen as a growing threat to newspapers but a cheap and active marketplace for many small businesses.
Since starting in Honolulu in NovemberCraigslist has fast become one of Hawaii's busiest online communities. In December, there were close to 24, posts on the Honolulu Craigslist site; that's up from about 5, a year earlier.
And Craigslist says it receives 15 million Honolulu views a month, far ahead of any other local media site. So far, Craigslist hasn't taken a serious bite out of local newspaper revenue.
As the state's largest daily, and with the most extensive classifieds, The Honolulu Advertiser stands to lose the most if free online gain traction. Fisch said classified advertising in the Advertiser has grown in each of the last three years, primarily because of the reach of its Sunday edition.
In each of those years, overall advertising revenue grew between 5 percent and 7 percent, he said.
Newspapers have steadily moved into the online classified business with sites like Cars. The report said Craigslist usage grew percent from September to September That's certainly why the Craigslists of the world are seeing ," said David Kennedy, vice president of marketing for the Honolulu Star- Bulletin and MidWeek.
Kennedy said the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek also have seen little impact from Craigslist, but that's mostly because classified advertising is dominated by the Advertiser. Classified for the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek for "nowhere near" 30 percent of revenue, Kennedy said, but he declined to give a specific amount.
Both the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin have skirmished in recent months promoting free or cut-rate classifiedbut those initiatives appear to have been driven by traditional competition rather than pressure from Craigslist. The Star-Bulletin is preparing more online advertising as a result of the growth of the Internet, Kennedy said, and will soon start a service that allows businesses and individuals to buy and build their own online.
A growing of local businesses are using Craigslist for recruitment. Employment classifieds are among the most lucrative for newspapers; a small help-wanted ad in the Sunday Advertiser, along with a posting on Careerbuilder.
Honolulu public relations firm Bennet Group Strategic Communications recently posted an ad for a new executive on Craigslist and for the first time skipped the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. Helwagen said she plans to use Craigslist exclusively for job from now on.
Craigslist isn't perfect. The staggering s of postings are, in many cases, the result of a seller simply reposting her ad for a '99 Neon every day until it sells.
Some of the are filled with spam from mortgage lenders, phone sex sellers, scam artists and oddballs from around the globe, and it's sometimes difficult to weed legitimate from all the clutter. And in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Craigslist is starting to charge for employmenta practice expected to spread to other markets.
After jobs, housing is the most popular section on Craigslist, which has found ready acceptance among young people more comfortable with a keypad than a newspaper. Phil Uehisa with Century 21 All Islands in Honolulu said he tells all of his clients to post their rentals on Craigslist because, among others, it attracts military families coming to Hawaii.
Uehisa said Craigslist is just starting to catch on in Hawaii and he expects its use to grow dramatically.
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