Entrepreneur taps mistrust of media for new venture

The internet entrepreneur Craig Newmark, whose Craigslist site provided a hugely successful free alternative to classified advertising, has trained his sights on the old-fashioned newspaper industry.

Mr Newmark - whose craigslist.org is the seventh-most visited internet site in America, just after eBay - has diverted millions of dollars of advertising revenue away from newspapers.

At a seminar at the Said Business School at Oxford University this week, Mr Newmark rehearsed his new media paradigm: the combination of improving Web technology and a popular groundswell of distrust for reporters - especially, he says, because of ill- informed reporting of the Iraq war and its build-up - means that ordinary people are ready to take over the newsroom.

Mr Newmark said that he expects to launch a project in the coming weeks to harness the "wisdom of the masses" that has fuelled his advertising site and apply it to daily journalism.

The success of Craigslist means that when Mr Newmark talks, the newspaper business would do well to listen. In the San Francisco area alone, it is reckoned he has denied local newspapers about $50m (£29m) in classified advertising revenue annually. The site makes a modest income, charging only for recruitment ads in big markets like New York. Everything else is free. There are sites for almost every major US city and 35 international cities including London.

While he has yet to discuss the specifics of his next venture, he has hinted at an interactive website on which users could decide which parts of the news really matter to them and even report some of it themselves.

"Things need to change," he said. "The big issue in the US is that newspapers are afraid to talk truth to power. The White House press corps don't speak the truth to power - they are frightened to lose access they don't have anyway."

Some observers expect Mr Newmark to make a bid for wikipedia.com, an encyclopedia site that explicitly invites users to contribute with their own definitions and descriptions. Mr Newmark may have it in mind to transform the site into a huge cyber-based community news forum. "I do think professional and citizen journalism will blur together," he predicts, "because we will find that some amateurs are as talented as a professional journalist."

The White House press corps seems to enrage him especially. "No one is taking their job seriously there," he recently remarked. "Now it could be that they could be under a directive to not do so. We don't know. I've spoken to a lot of journalists who are very frustrated."

Part of the problem lies with the newspapers themselves. The race for dollars, he insists, has obscured the race for truth. "They're being run as profit centres, and they're trying to get pretty high profit margins. As a result, investigative reporting has been seen as a problem."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic