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Craigslist executive accuses newspapers of hurting his site's bottom line 

Wednesday, Jun 17 2009
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Newspapers have spent the past decade whining over Craigslist pulling the classifieds rug out from under their industry's once-Prada–clad feet. But after law enforcement recently pressured Craigslist to be more vigilant in keeping prostitutes from advertising on the site, CEO Jim Buckmaster turned the tables: He began accusing alt-weekly newspapers of unfairly benefiting from Craiglist's misfortunes.

Buckmaster's crusade hit home when SF Weekly followed up on a tip from a reader who claimed that Craigslist's Therapeutic Services category had been suddenly overrun by hooker ads after the site nixed its Erotic Services category. Buckmaster responded to SF Weekly's preliminary inquiries into the matter with a resounding WTF?

After claiming that the number of suspicious massage and spa ads in the Therapeutic Services category had actually decreased in recent weeks, he launched into what has become his trademark diatribe: "You're missing the real story here, which is that persons looking to post ads that do not meet craigslist's stringent standards have been driven to other services entirely," he wrote in an e-mail. "Are you aware that the volume of ads in the SF Weekly's 'adult entertainment' classifieds section is up more than 400% in the 4 weeks since craigslist closed its 'erotic services' section?"

No, Mr. Buckmaster, SF Weekly's reporters were not aware. Probably because SF Weekly's reporters don't have a clue what goes on in the ad department — we know only that they get paid more than we do. But since you brought it up, Backpage.com, an online classifieds site owned by SF Weekly's parent company, has indeed seen a spike in traffic since Craigslist cut its Erotic Services section. The volume of adult ads in the physical paper (for the few who haven't noticed) hasn't changed much, our sales reps say. (However, Washington City Paper, an alt-weekly in the nation's capital, reports a 38 percent increase in adult ads over the same time last year. Woo hoo!)

As much as we like to gloat, we'll concede Buckmaster has a point: Maybe Craigslist was unfairly targeted over sites like Backpage.com because of its limelight status after the Craigslist Killer. And maybe weeklies and Craigslist should find a way to peacefully coexist, because we all want the same thing: a free society where horny but harmless johns can pay for blow jobs from our advertisers.

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Anna McCarthy

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