February 14, 2008

Craigslist and Enterprise Architecture

Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free classified advertisements (with jobs, internships, housing, personals, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets categories) and forums on various topics.”

Here’s some basic stats on Craigslist:
  • Founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark for the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Incorporated as a private for-profit company in 1999.
  • Operates in approximately 450 cities in 50 countries.
  • Operates with a staff of 24 people.
  • Estimated annual revenue as high as $150 million in 2007.
  • Sole source of revenue is paid job ads in [11] select cities [and apartment listing in NYC].
  • Over nine billion page views per month, putting it in 56th place overall among web sites worldwide, ninth place overall among web sites in the United States, to over thirty million unique visitors.
  • Over thirty million new classified advertisements each month, Craigslist is the leading classifieds service in any medium. The site receives over two million new job listings each month, making it one of the top job boards in the world. (Adapted from Wikipedia)
Craig has taken basic website technology and revolutionized the business of classified advertising, and for the most part making it free of charge!

Why is Craigslist such a success?

I believe it is because of Craig Newmark’s almost complete adherence to user-centric enterprise architecture principles.

Here are some examples of this:
  • User Focus-- “In December 2006…Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit, instead preferring to help users find cars, apartments, jobs, and dates.” (Wikipedia)
  • Customer-driven—“People suggest stuff to us, we do what makes sense, and then we ask for more feedback,” says Craig Newmark.
  • Customer-service—Craig Newmark’s official title is founder and customer service representative. When asked where Craig sees Craiglist in five years, he states: We always need to improve customer service. For example, we need better tools to detect and remove spam listings.”
  • Rejected annoying banner ads—“At the end of 1997, [we] hit a million page views a month. Then the folks at Microsoft Sidewalk wanted to run banner ads on the side, and at market rates, that would be all the money I needed to live. [But] I figured…I don’t need the money, and many banner ads are pretty dumb.”
  • Technology-enabled—“We’re just starting. We have to improve technologies, like multicity search.”
  • Culture of service—“We think we have a really good culture of trust and that’s because…we have stood by some core shared values. The fundamental value is that we feel you should treat people like you want to be treated.”

The only non-user-centric EA aspect of Craigslist is the quirky look and feel of the site, which is white, mostly text-based. As Craig acknowledged, “someone said our site has the visual appeal of a pipe wrench.”

(Adapted from ComputerWorld Magazine, 4 February 2008)

If Craigslist would take the leap and make the site more visually appealing, I believe we have a User-centric EA winner!


1 comment:

Robert McIlree said...

He's grossing $150 M with 24 people - that's $6.25 M per employee. He's also pounding the heck out of the newspaper classified ad markets in the cities he serves. Techcrunch reported two weeks ago that Facebook (it of "user-centric" whiz-bang 2.0 look and feel) had identical 2007 revenue with 150 employees.

My point is this: Craigslist may have the visual appeal of a pipe wrench, but it's hard to argue the above math. Why would he want to change anything at the present time? It would appear that he doesn't have to, at least in the short-term.