Classifieds, Craigslist, and the late adopter

Trends always worry me and I’ve run face first into them with late adopters.

Recently, I was reminded of one of those missed moments. Frank Strong of Sword and the Script had shared a Twitter post linking to an article about the substantial growth in podcast ad revenue.

late adopterI can’t remember the year. 2010 maybe? I was editor of a daily newspaper and a couple of weekly newspapers. Our publisher considered himself to be a “late adopter.” In fact, he had a rule that nothing could appear on our website or social media before it appeared in print.

Truth came out after a few beers one night when he declared he will not let digital cannibalize print.

I started looking for other ways to highlight the website and perhaps drive some online traffic. Our first thought was to create a podcast – very early in the podcast days –  about local high school sports.

“You are wasting your time,” the publisher told me. “Nobody will ever go online to listen to a radio program.”

Opportunity lost.

Craigslist

I attended a panel. I want to say early 2000s, maybe late 90s. I think it was Texas Press Association, but with the way my memory is, who knows.

A panel of newspaper company owners and executives were discussing classified ads. One, I don’t remember who, said nobody will ever go to a “free” website (Craigslist) to buy a car or look for a job.

First, we saw a softening in auto classified advertising, especially private party. Then we started to see a decline in private party sales. And it just kept going. In my last publisher position, about all we had in classifieds were garage sales and real estate. And honestly, if you have Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, why do you need the classifieds?

This week, I checked my local weekly newspaper. They have lots of ads, but they had, literally, one classified ad – a car for sale. The classified section was loaded with public notices, but those are a different beast, and also under attack.

I remember in 2008 or 2009, I was publisher of a group of weekly and twice-weekly newspapers. The ad director said the same thing. In our rural community nobody’s using Craigslist. So I did a search. Cars For Sale Macon County.

That week, the Macon County paper has 13 cars listed as classified ads. Craigslist had 57.

But its all good because nobody will go to Craigslist, right?

Reality

That one boss for whom I was editor was not an early adopter. He was scared. He feared what digital would do to print – rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean his … caution … was what was best for a news organization.

In fact, he was hurting it.

When Craigslist launched in 1995, and when it began expanding nationally in 2000, it was probably very difficult to see it as a threat to newspapers, which were still showing very enviable revenues and profits.

The problem is that when the powers-that-be finally realized there was a problem, it was too late. And efforts to deal with it were usually woefully underfunded, a classic too little too late.

Ello

When Ello launched in 2014, I was working for a digital marketing agency.

Talk of the “minimalist” social media platform was all over the place. Everyone was talking about it. The agency where I was employed was very active on Twitter and had launched a good, steady approach to LinkedIn.

Rightfully, we asked the question. Should we be on this Ello?

Our social media manager did her research and we dipped our toes in the Ello waters. Eventually, we let it go as we didn’t see a huge benefit to being there either for us or our clients. Not delving deeper was the right decision. Ello’s still around, but it never took a place as a huge influence, or at least that’s how it seems.

Process

There’s nothing wrong with being a late adopter. There’s nothing wrong with moving in quick. In either case, you need to be prepared to move out quick.

Whether it is some software platform, generally an SaaS, or a social media platform you’ve got to evaluate and monitor what’s going on. Carefully.

TikTok sure seems to have some staying power. Lots of blogs out there about marketing on TikTok. Is that the place you need to be? When it comes to video, Vine was the place to be for quite a while. At one point, it had 200 million users, allegedly. It has since been discontinued.

Will that be TikTok’s fate?

What happens when its primary audience and user finds the “next cool thing.”

My thought is simple.

You and I are going to miss some opportunities. We’re going to come to some great video-based social media site late because we were hanging on to Vine or think TikTok will never die. Or you are going to invest in Morgan’s Sales and CRM Pipeline Emporium because Sales Force doesn’t do what you want (or at the price you want).

Approach something new cautiously but with an open mind. Be willing to study, learn, and invest in something new. It’s OK to protect something old, but remember, Podcasting was considered a waste of time. And nobody was going to go look at a website with free classifieds on it.

When it comes to content distribution, marketing, and public relations, Clay Morgan can help you sort through the clutter. Reach out at clay@clay-morgan.com.

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