Social Media Monetization: Craigslist hits $100m

Establishing revenue and monetization from free social media sites – Craigslist is hitting $100 million this year. Online Communities and Social Networks may yet show Rupert Murdoch a thing or two. Including the new rivers of gold?

When we talk about revenue streams and monetization strategies for social networks and online communities, people often wonder out loud if there is money in giving away stuff for free. Well, look at free classifieds Craigslist projectd income (report by Peter M Zollman of AIMGroup) :


Craigslist, the “free classifieds” site that offers community advertising in 570 markets worldwide but charges only for a tiny percentage of its ads, will generate $100 million in revenue in 2009, the AIM Group / Classified Intelligence estimated today.

That’s an increase of more than 23 percent from Craigslist’s estimated revenue of $81 million in 2008, making clear that the company continues to grow significantly while many classified advertising publishers are reporting year-over-year drops of 50 percent or more in certain categories.

Craigslist is a stunning business success story, especially since it’s run more like a community service than a for-profit business. And despite tremendous negative publicity and legal battles, its revenue keeps increasing at a remarkable pace.

Our estimate of Craigslist’s revenue is part of an 11-page annual overview in our clients-only Classified Intelligence Report, one of the cornerstones of continuous-advisory service. Clients received the report today, along with other news.

The report illustrates how the company has neatly sidestepped an agreement with state law-enforcement officials about ads for “erotic services;” recaps the company’s ongoing court fight with part-owner EBay; and reviews some of the sites competing with Craigslist, including, from Village Voice Media, and and its related classified sites from EBay.

We’re making the Craigslist portion of the report available to non-clients, for only $295. You can purchase it here.

The special report includes more than a dozen links to legal action against and by Craigslist and other Craigslist-related information, and four graphics about Craigslist’s revenue and growth. One full-page graphic details Craigslist’s ad counts and revenue projections in more than 150 U.S. cities.

We began estimating Craigslist’s revenue in 2003, when we projected revenue of about $7 million. The AIM Group tracks Craigslist’s revenue through the most basic approach – counting ads; its complete methodology is detailed in the report.

In 2003, their revenue was $7m, $81m in 2008, 100m in 2009. Freemium (part free part pay)? Ad revenue? Value added? We don’t use Craigslist here in Australia so I have been remiss in following the news. One assumes it’s one of these models below.

Social Media Monetization Models
Social Media Monetization Models

You can read  more about this chart and social media revenue at Monetizing Social Media.

Unfortunately my revenue stream isn’t projecting me being able to afford $295 every few days for interesting reports but if YOU can – cuddle? 😛 – let me know what you think. You can purchase the Craigslist report here.

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  1. It’s amazing to see how Ads Beta manages that by charging a tiny fraction of Crags it’s users RSS. Thanks for sharing this!

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