Commentary

Just An Online Minute... Stunning Wall Street, Shunning Profits

In what turned out to be a culture clash of near-epic proportions, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster spoke to the investment community this morning at the UBS global media conference in New York.

UBS analyst Ben Schachter asked Buckmaster a standard financial world question: How does the site plan to maximize revenue?

The CEO of the online classifieds site answered as follows: "That definitely is not part of the equation. It's not part of the goal."

"I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now," responded Schachter, as the crowd absorbed Buckmaster's remarks.

Buckmaster, on stage in jeans and a blazer, insisted that the company--which has emerged as a significant threat to newspapers and other companies that sell classified ads--doesn't especially want to make money.

While it charges for job listings in seven cities ($75 in San Francisco, $25 in the other six) and apartment listings by brokers in New York ($10), those charges aren't to make a profit as much as to cover expenses and keep out scammers, Buckmaster said. He added that some users requested the fees, in hopes of keeping the listings legitimate.

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How did the site arrive at $10 for real estate listings, Schachter asked.

"Ten dollars sounded like a nice round number," Buckmaster answered, totally deadpan, as the crowd laughed.

Schachter pressed Buckmaster on how the site could make more money. Specifically, he asked if the company considered hooking up with Google for AdSense ads.

Buckmaster acknowledged that Craigslist had been approached about placing text ads on the site. "We've had the numbers crunched for us," he said. "The numbers are quite staggering."

But, no, the site wasn't interested. "No users have been requesting that we run text ads, so for us, that's the end of the story," he said to the befuddlement of the crowd. "If users start calling out for text ads, we'll listen."

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