This is a modified transcript of Episode #2 of Micro Biz, The Video Newsletter for Micro Businesses. Watch the video.
Craigslist’s Posting Fees: Are They Hurting YOUR Micro Business?
On March 15, 2018, pretty much out of the blue with no warning, Craigslist (aka CL) began charging a $5 fee to post ads in the services and gigs categories.
For the benefit of those of you who just joined us on planet Earth a few days ago, Craigslist was started back in 1993 as a place to post free ads, instead of paying for ads in the classifieds sections of your local newspapers.
Obviously, people loved the idea of not paying versus paying to advertise something they wanted to sell.
So what happened next for this innocent internet commune?
In 2004, CL started charging for posting job ads. In some cities, these now cost as much as $75.00 apiece. Even the Wall Street Journal found this change a newsworthy event back then.
But by 2013, when CL began charging car dealers (not individual car owners) to post ads, mostly only car dealers cared.
And by 2018, when CL slammed all the services and gigs with a posting fee of $3 to $5 dollars, depending on the size of their city, no major news site or publication bothered to report on it at all.
Instead, YouTube became news central on this topic. Several YTubers put out “breaking news” videos and they attracted dozens of comments.
YouTubers were mostly negative about the new fees. Some people saw them as a blow to the budget, others were worried that even their paid ads could still be flagged and removed.
Other commenters listed the possible benefits, such as less competition and fewer repeat posts. Some hostile commenters blamed the new fees on offenders who practiced “overposting,” and pointed accusing fingers at some of the hosts of the videos.
Over at the Craigslist subreddit, Redditors generally seemed inclined to agree that the new posting fees were a good thing. Twitter, well, not much of value there on this particular topic.
Last year, YTubers and others predicted the potential positive and negative consequences of the new fees. They were pretty optimistic about the possibility of reducing overposting and scamming. However, other possible consequences raised concerns.
Could competitors still get your ads “flagged off?” Who would be doing this “review” of paid posts, since CL only has about 50 employees??? And this one, the fact that paying the new fees provides no added value at all, such as data on clicks or views of your ads, really chaps my hide. Compare that with all of the amazing analytics YouTube provides for free (at least for now).
At first, it looked like all the optimistic predictions were on track. [See the video} Compare the duplicate posts in the week before the change was announced, and the week after, and it does look very different. Some commenters claimed that postings in many categories plunged 80-90%.
But when I checked just a couple of weeks later, it seemed to me that things were pretty much back to business as usual in terms of scammy overposts.
So let’s look at some of Craigslist’s “Posting Rules”:
Only one post every 48 hours
You can only post on your own local site
You cannot post service ads in free sections
Now let’s look at reality. [See video] In just part of one day there were three clusters of posts which “broke the rules.” Oh, and one dude not only double-posted for days in a row, his map location was Los Angeles, so how is that even possible, riddle me that?
One overposter was a little more subtle about it. Different text for the headline of each ad, but all of them had the same phone number.
And of course, free sections like “local news” are still stuffed with service ads. For example, one guy offering shady cable installation services not only shouldn’t be posting in “local news and views at all,” he also overposts!
Let’s review some of the predictions made back in 2018 about the results of the new fees:
Reduce overposting – nope. In fact, it seems like Craigslist is just profiting from them now
Squeeze out smaller operators—check
Fewer choices for consumers—check. And those are mostly businesses which constantly break CL’s rules, so how ethical are they going to be in the performance of their trade or service?
However, although many angry YouTubers devoutly wished death and destruction on Craigslist last year, it is still with us.
I wrote a blog post about the new fees last year that has received thousands of views and a number of comments. Most commenters have been highly critical of the new policy. Several people believe the fees have had a substantial negative effect on their income streams. And at least one person reports that paid ads are still subject to removal without any ability to even contact customer service.
What is your opinion on the new fees? Do you believe it has been detrimental or beneficial to your micro business? Have your say in the comments below!