Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Monday, August 31, 2009

Attention Big Media: The Ultimate Lesson from CraigsList

Media companies are suffering the slings and arrows of online competition for eyeballs and advertising dollars.

CraigsList seems to be the villain of choice, given its outsized role in the collapse of classified ad revenues, the traditional mainstay of newspaper profits.

While simultaneously trying to vilify and emulate CraigsList, most media companies fail to appreciate its ultimate lesson.

CL has plenty of flaws—mainly because it so accurately reflects the imperfections of the masses using it. However, it enjoys spectacular growth while remaining stubbornly committed to a simple (even outdated) design.

The lesson is simple: Pay constant attention to what your users are telling you.

Customer service is the Qi of CraigsList. It is what energizes and sustains its massive community of users.

It also pays.

Excellent customer service breeds customer loyalty. And that makes your content and services more valuable over time while driving down costs.

Don’t know what your users think of your content or services? Then you have found your primary problem. You.

CraigsList, by eliminating marketing, sales, and business development, has eliminated every layer separating its programmers (who run CL) from the users they serve.

No layers = no sound barriers.

User feedback reaches the people who operate CL unfiltered. This can be a painful experience for managers, programmers and writers. But it is irreplaceable if you want to win your customers’ loyalty (and page views).

CraigsList famously responds to annoying complaints with haikus. In this case, their advice to other media companies might be:

Steam rising from rice
User feedback clearing your

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