Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brevity is the soul of wit

A quote of Lord Polonius from Hamlet, cited by Craig Newmark last night at Gordon Platt's Media 3.0-What's Next?". Michael Wolff, author of The Man who Owns the News and Burn Rate joined him on stage and the contrast was stunning.

Mr. Wolff looks like he's right out of Bonfire of the Vanities with strong opinions, a hyper cadence and incredible certainty for his vision. Craig Newmark is modest, brief, and he said it best...'I'm a nerd'. You gotta love him.

A few points and observations:

1. Craigslist is an infrastructure that operates a combined business and social network. The success of the social network drives the business.

2. They really take the customer experience and community health seriously. Clearly a core Company value

3. 'We do one simple thing really well. Classifieds'. One of the challenges is to keep things simple, not get distracted and serve the needs of the people who come to the site.

4. The site, similar to Google's, is totally uncool. No graphics, minimal color, real estate dedicated exclusively towards community navigation.

5. Craigslist does not really innovate. Some 'cool things' in the back-end, primarily around fraud stuff, but no real original stuff since 1996.

6. The Company, or Craig, are the antithesis of 'internet speed'. If there is any sense of urgency, it's around keeping the site engaged with the community.

7. Craig "As a nerd, I like precision and measurement', however, I recognize that social media is just beginning and it's really hard to form opinions about good or bad at this point in a market's formation.

8. No advertising, no search engine marketing, only word of mouth to get the message out.

While at the session, I was toggling between Craigslist and Michael Wolff's news aggregation site Newser. Unfortunately, Newser does not offer a thrilling load experience on mobile devices and, IMHO does not stack up well against Daylife (where Jeff Jarvis and Craig Newmark are investors), nor my favorite Meehive.

It was interesting listening to the questions/observations from the audience and the moderator. Less interested in listening to observations gleaned through the windscreen, there was much bemoaning the decline of 'old media' as epitomized by the NY Times. Naturally, Craiglist, the permacheap of classified advertising, was an easy target for Luddite snipers.

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