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Craigslist meets the Capitalists

There are few things as intriguing as a culture clash. And as a clash of cultures go, could I be naughty and suggest someone add the word ‘philanthropy’ to the American English dictionary?

Well imagine the clash of capitalism against the ‘delightfully communist’ Craigslist:

“Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, caused lots of head-scratching Thursday as he tried to explain to a bunch of Wall Street types why his company is not interested in ‘monetizing’ his ridiculously popular Web operation. Appearing at the UBS global media conference in New York, Mr. Buckmaster took questions from the bemused audience, which apparently could not get its collective mind around the notion that Craigslist exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money.”

When I look at Craiglist and the line the guys have taken, I just smile and doff my cap to them. I know where they’re coming from and I certainly see where they’re going. But maybe that’s just me?

“Craigslist charges money for job listings, but only in seven of the cities it serves ($75 in San Francisco; $25 in the others). And it charges for apartment listings in New York ($10 a pop). But that is just to pay expenses.”

Commendable and hugely refreshing, too. I may as well as make my confession right now; I would not be able to resist the temptation. Maybe that’s just me, also? Not so, apparently:

Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a ‘a culture clash of near-epic proportions.’ She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn’t, Mr. Buckmaster replied (perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). ‘That definitely is not part of the equation,’ he said, according to MediaPost. ‘It’s not part of the goal.’

‘I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now,’ Mr. Schachter said in response.”

Take a deep breath, because I don’t think this kind of thinking is going to stand alone too long. I see more of this thinking coming along, although maybe those following will at least come from more expected sources, such as charities and the like.

“Following the meeting, Mr. Schachter wrote a research note, flagged by Tech Trader Daily, which suggests that he still doesn’t quite get the concept of serving customers first, and worrying about revenues later,…”

Personally, I’d be embarrassed to admit that I didn’t understand ‘the concept of serving customers first’, which says more about Mr. Schachter than it does about the financial appetite or capitalistic business acumen of Messrs. Jim Buckmaster and Craig Newmark, the guys behind Craigslist.

A word of advice Mr. Schachter: there are other kinds of wealth, some of which do not have any material or monetary value associated with them, but enrich the individual non-the-less…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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