The conventional wisdom is that craigslist, the free online classified ad/community site, marks the end of classified ads as a viable revenue source for newspapers, which have long relied on those little lines of type for significant income. One of the reasons anything becomes conventional wisdom, of course, is that there is truth to it, and this bit of news from Red Herring seems to confirm this bit of CW.

Death Knell for Classifieds

Craigslist, the locally focused clearinghouse for online listings, has long been touted as a replacement for one of newspapers’ main revenue sources: classified ads. And local newspapers will need to move quickly to adapt, as Craigslist increased its market share of U.S. Internet visits by 90 percent in the last year, according to online market research firm Hitwise. In the week ending July 9, the combined sites accounted for 0.23 percent of all U.S. pages visited on the Internet, up from 0.12 percent in the comparable week in 2004. Leading local gainers were the sites for Fresno, California (up 422 percent), Providence, Rhode Island (up 405 percent), and Miami (up 363 percent). Hitwise also reported that the term “craigslist” now ranks 30th on the list of most popular search terms across major search engines.

That 0.23 per cent figure seems rather puny until it hits you that that is .23 per cent of all of the Internet page visits in the U.S. The number is one thing: the size of the year-to-year increase is also staggering. If I were a newspaper exec without a long-term plan for classified — a plan other than just watching them dwindle away as craigslist gains traction in my region — I’d be spending some sleepless nights.