Craigslist best practices

A conversation with Craig Newmark

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SAN FRANCISCO — Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, in a conversation that ranged from political views to where he met his girlfriend (not on Craigslist), took the stage at the Real Estate Connect conference Tuesday.

Newmark, during the discussion with Inman News founder and Publisher Brad Inman, also passed on some best practices for real estate professionals’ use of his giant classified listings site.

Craigslist is now in more than 700 cities worldwide. More than 50 million people visit the site per month and they view more than 20 billion pages per month, Newmark said. Users have posted more than 1.5 billion ads on the site since its founding in 1995. Posting on the site is free in most cases; the site makes most of its money from job postings, Newmark said.

The site depends on self-policing to catch inappropriate content. As the customer service representative for Craigslist, Newmark handles consumer complaints.

The real estate sphere "does seem to get policed fairly well. In New York, I have agents quite frequently sending us e-mail about other agents’ inappropriate acts," Newmark said.

While agents have improved their behavior on the site in the last five years, Newmark said, some still quite frequently post their listings in the "real estate – by owner" category.

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"Literally every day I have to take a look at ‘by owner’ sites because agents post there," Newmark said.

Agents should also avoid posting specific listings more often than once every 48 hours, he said. Top ranking on a page is lost in about 15 minutes because of the regular influx of listings, he added, so it’s not worth it to try to get a top rank there.

For other best practices — and to avoid the ire of other users — he gave this advice:

"Disclose who you are and what agency you’re in. Cut down the hype level. Just be straight with people. Treat people like you want to be treated. Remember you are dealing with people a lot like yourself," he said.

Also, "don’t do any keyword spamming. That has to do with throwing in a lot of terms (in the posting) that don’t have to do with your property. People online are getting smarter and smarter."

Newmark and Inman also discussed the organizations Newmark is involved with — he works with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, for example — and his views on the Obama administration.

Newmark said he had been impressed with the administration’s work on health care, improvements for veterans, and with financial regulation. It has "gotten a lot of common sense stuff done," he said.

He added that he thought some truly grassroots Tea Party organizers who oppose the president’s policies have some valid points.

"Be fair to people. Look at their stuff first," he said, before writing off what they have to say.

A few audience members objected, through text messages posted live during the discussion, to what they termed his "political views." One commented that "socialism isn’t cool."

An audience member took to the mic and said she objected to Newmark’s endorsement, as a public figure, of sweeping financial reform legislation, which she said would likely further impede the flow of capital and therefore the real estate market.

"I was talking about governance, not politics," Newmark responded.

The bill will be as long as it has to be, he said, but he is personally more interested in getting Congress, as well as the public, to read legislation. He is on the board of the Sunlight Foundation, which pushes for government transparency.

Readthebill.org is one of the foundation’s projects and got the financial regulation bill online 72 hours before a vote in the House of Representatives. The foundation also supported the launch of a bipartisan congressional transparency caucus in April.


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