VVM to Craigslist CEO: There is Nothing Wrong With a Little Competition

may 29, 2009  12:12 pm
May 29, 2009

Last Friday, Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, fired a deliberate, unnecessary and wholly inaccurate shot across the bow of Village Voice Media and backpage.com, our online classified advertising property. Given the serious nature of what Buckmaster inferred in his post about Village Voice Media newspapers and backpage.com, we can't sit on our hands and be silent.

In the original blog post, which was later "submarine" edited to reword and soften some of the attacks towards Village Voice Media, Buckmaster complained that politicians are attacking Craigslist but not Village Voice Media and other media outlets because they have a "need for positive stories and campaign endorsements from those very same newspapers.

"Is it possible that writing stories critical of Craigslist's (relatively tame) 'adult service' section is more career-friendly than attacking their own employer (or journalistic media brethren) for operating a (far more graphic) 'adult service' section of their own?"

Buckmaster and Craigslist are in a tough, and in many ways, frightening situation -- they have a number of moralistic state Attorneys General threatening them over their adult ads, and a raft of bad press following the terrible tragedy in Boston that the company is admittedly in no way responsible for. But, the manner in which Buckmaster is responding to this pressure -- by disingenuously lashing out at competitors and caving to political pressure -- is inexcusable, and displays a remarkable lack of sound judgment.

In 2002, Village Voice Media recognized the forces that were changing the classified advertising market and created backpage.com to answer that challenge. We've put a lot of work into making it the No. 2 free classifieds site in U.S. We're fine with being No. 2, proud in fact. Buckmaster, apparently, is not. Instead of working with his competitors to find a way to solve, or at least mitigate issues surrounding adult ads -- the shortcomings of automatic content filters is something we are all trying to fix -- Buckmaster simply attempted to take the competition down with him. And, his methods leave much to be desired.

First off, our newspapers don't endorse politicians and rarely have anything nice to say about them, so to say that politicians aren't going after Village Voice Media because they need our endorsement isn't viable. Secondly, Buckmaster is only complaining because a competitor is challenging his economic advantage in the free classified arena -- which he built in part on adult ads -- and has made him a very wealthy man. His talk of building community and serving his users rings hollow. It now appears that, as is so often the case with New Age entrepreneurs, it's all about the money.

We will continue to exercise our right to accept legal, adult postings from our users and concentrate on growing backpage.com. We are aggressively building additional technical solutions as well as increasing our manual site inspections to improve the efficiency of removing content that is illegal or otherwise violates our Terms of Use.

About Village Voice Media

Village Voice Media is a collection of 15 weekly newspapers and daily Web sites, including New York's Village Voice, the LA Weekly, Denver's Westword and the Phoenix New Times. Online, in print, and on mobile devices, VVM's products combine music, food and events coverage with gritty, hard-hitting journalism to create the most powerful city guides in each market. While the focus of the brand is local, its free classifieds site backpage.com, partnership with social recommendation engine LikeMe.net and national sales force, Voice Media Group, extend its reach on a national level.