Craigslist vs. Facebook? Why Craigslist wins, big time

In teasing a classifieds “Facebook Marketplace” offering via a CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefing for the New York Times Friday, the Facebook message apparently was “Craigslist, here we come!”  But why?

In teasing a classifieds “Facebook Marketplace” offering via a CEO Mark Zuckerberg briefing for the New York Times Friday, the Facebook message apparently was “Craigslist, here we come!” 

But why? In addition to being blind to multi-million dollar buyout offers, Craigslist is blind to market share.

The opening New York Times Facebook competitive salvo, nevertheless: 

"Facebook, the social networking Web site, is adding free classified ad listings, putting it into competition with dozens of established companies like Craigslist and many newspapers."

Reinforced by a concluding: 

Many established companies are likely to be paying attention to the new service. Most notably, Craigslist, which is based in San Francisco and offers classified ads for more than 300 cities that are largely free. Job sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder, which have services aimed at college graduates, are also likely to take notice, as are dozens of other online classified ventures and car-trading sites. Traditional media like college newspapers, which rely to a varying degree on classified ads, may be threatened as well.” 

Facebook’s supreme confidence in its latest classifieds value proposition apparently bowled over Brad Stone of the New York Times. 

But are job sites Monster.com, CareerBuilder, “dozens” of online classified ventures and car-trading sites, “traditional media like college newspapers,” all feeling “threatened,” as Stone surmises, simply because Facebook pre-announced its latest classifieds initiative?

What about Craigslist, is it really “most notably” going to be paying attention to “Facebook Marketplace” out of fear for its own classifieds future? 

NO and NO.

While many continue to have difficulty in comprehending that Craig Newmark really is not in it for the big money, many also do not realize that he welcomes any and all other classifieds offerings in the marketplace.

United Press International:

Craigslist, which has reportedly turned down buyout opportunities, benevolently welcomed Facebook's new ads section.

"We don't look at other companies as a threat or competition given that we see ourselves as providing a public service to the community," said Susan Best, a Craigslist spokeswoman. "Providing free classifieds to the general public is a service the public seems to appreciate and finds valuable."

WashingtonPost: 

Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster said he could not assess how Facebook's move would affect other providers of free ads, but predicted it would have no effect on his company. "We see ourselves as being in the business of providing a public service and do not concern ourselves with market share," he said. 

And why should they? The Craigslist “subversive” winning formula is that it has no formula: There is no Craigslist end-game, no ulterior motives, no bravado, no positioning, no upselling scheme, no product placements, no contextual ads, no top shelf listings… 

All Newmark set out to do was provide a platform as a service to any one that wished to use it, and he has not wavered from his desire to serve his vision for a greater good.

Newmark answers to no one, except the Craigslist “community,” which is comprised of any and every person/organization upon browsing and/or listing within the very open service. 

Can Facebook, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, newspapers…say the same? Of course not. All would be Craigslist killers are beholden to investors, Board of Directors, shareholders…and their properties and business models reflect that.

Facebook may seek to position itself as Craigslist, only better, but Facebook’s ultimate strategic and tactical positioning, as well as its profit motives, belie the notion.

Craigslist has not changed on the outside, and it has not changed inside. It is the purity of Craiglsist’s simplicity and its purpose that makes it seemingly irresistible, and therefore unbeatable in its niche.

Can Facebook say the same? Hardly. Facebook began with a purity of purpose, but those days are long gone. As the Facebook multi billion dollar acquisition rumors grow, it strays farther and farther from the core differentiator that fueled its initial traction.

Facebook stood for something, once. Founded by a college student, its appeal was that it served as an online extension of college campuses, by and for the college students.

Now, it stands for what’s best for Facebook: Unlimited demographic diversification and commercialization, while nevertheless attempting to cling to its founding philosophical centricism via feel good Facebook positioning.

What is the Facebook classifieds value propostion? Alas, Facebook has competing classifieds value propositions within Facebook itself, and amongst the greater Facebook developer network.

By not committing to a single, unified visionary Facebook classifieds offering, Facebook not only dilutes its position in the classifieds marketplace, it fragments Facebook users classifieds demand by enabling a diversity of classifieds options.

Last week, I reported on the third-party Oodle classifieds aggregator collaboration within Facebook. SEE: Facebook Classifieds? NOT ‘Another Blow for Newspapers’

Outside of Facebook, third party Websites are developing destination campus-focused classifieds offerings which integrate with Facebook, such as CollegeMedium.com.

Next week, Facebook is rolling out a “dedicated” application within Facebook, “Facebook Marketplace, to make it easy for users to create, find and manage listings.”

How does Facebook hope to differentiate “Marketplace” from competing offerings from both within its own site and external to Facebook? “Social context.”

Is “social context” the latest Web 2.0 users are in control buzz word? Time will tell.

For now, Facebook is touting both classifieds exclusivity and universality:

How is Marketplace different from other classifieds on the Internet?
Our approach is not to display anonymous classified ads broadly but to make it easy for people who share real-life connections to discover listings and sell items among friends and within their networks.

How will you prevent spam on Facebook with listings?
Our registration and network structure encourages the posting of relevant Marketplace listings because we require anyone posting a listing to be a verified user on Facebook. 

Can people outside of Facebook post a Marketplace listing?
Only Facebook users can post listings.  All people need to join Facebook is a valid email address; once they register, they will be able to use all of Facebook’s tools, including Marketplace listings. 

How is Marketplace different from partners’ sponsored groups on the site that also include classifieds?
Marketplace offers a general listings integrated with Facebook. Our partners offer sponsored groups that take users to other online classifieds outside of Facebook and provide additional resources around topics, like careers. While many other classifieds are about businesses selling broadly on the Web, Marketplace is about individuals selling or seeking items within Facebook networks. 

Sounds interesting, but neither revolutionary nor disruptive. And even if it were to be, the Craigslist disruption would continue to thrive, undeterred.