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Interview: Craig Newmark on Online Real Estate Part 2

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Craig Newmark is famous for more than Craigslist. I first heard him speak at Brad Inman's real estate conference in New York the year Zillow launched.

He promised the audience he wouldn't sell out or sell Craigslist. Recently, Rajan Sodhi of the big marketing for small business blog heard him make the same promise.

So far, Craig hasn't disappointed anyone. He's kept his promises.

As a competitor, it's tough to get on Craig's radar. Even eBay doesn't scare him.

Here's Part 2 of Promediacorp CEO Avi Wilensky's one-on-one with Craig Newmark on online real estate. Part 1, here.

The Interview Part 2

Avi Wilensky: Do you have a problem with people using Craigslist to promote their sites using search engine optimization?

Craig Newmark: If they break guidelines and spam us, big problem, and I'm escalating our investigations.

AW: What are your thoughts on the SEO community in general?

CN: I think it's important to get the word out about search engine optimization. SEO is more ethical and less obtrusive than many other online marketing methods. In comparison to many other marketing tactics, SEO is appropriate and not spammy, and it uses sites in a positive way. With time, people get a lot smarter about SEO.

AW: Is link spam a huge Craigslist problem?

CN: It's not a huge problem, but it is significant and annoying.

AW: You are heavily focused on entrusting the community with the ability to police spam. How does it work? While self-policing is fair, how would you deal with those who intentionally attempt to flag legitimate listings as spam?

CN: If you see anything wrong, spam or otherwise, please flag. If enough people flag, the ad is removed automatically. We do have people who try to game the system, and have some protection regarding that, improving continuously. However, our system does have flaws. Like some guy said, democracy is a lousy system, but it's better than anything else we've tried. (I don't think he's doing much these days.)

AW: In real estate, I'll often run into real estate agents who spam their Craigslist postings with every single city they provide services in, even if the listing they've created is not related to that city. Ultimately, this creates a poor user experience, especially if a person is performing a search for "New York" but not Queens ("New York -Queens"). What actions, if any, have you taken to prevent this kind of exposure?

CN: People flag them away a lot. We need more of that, and people can email me the occasional link or posting ID and I'll dig in.

AW: Do you feel there are any threats to Craigslist at all? Which online properties do you perceive as a threat?

CN: Probably our only real threat would be to grow complacent. Sometimes people indulge in mythology regarding our effects on newspaper revenues, greatly exaggerating. That's always annoying.

AW: Do you have a problem with the competition in the space?

CN: We don't think about competition, it's only a distraction


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