National Press Club

Craigslist Founder Takes On-line Organizing to Prez Campaign

October 6, 2008 | By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Craig Newmark helped define the possibilities of Internet connections over the last 13 years. His Web site craigslist publishes classified ads that have linked millions of people to jobs, real estate and romance.

Now Newmark wants to use the Internet to get young people to the votingbooth. In a National Press Club Newsmaker on Friday, Oct. 3, he announced that craigslist, Google and other Internet sites have launched an initiative called “Declare Yourself.”

The effort is a natural outgrowth of craigslists’ strength--using social media to bring people together, according to Newmark.

“I’ve become a kind of community organizer, and I do realize the ironic sense in which that can be taken,” he said, referring to Republican charges that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama lacks the experience to be president. Newmark is a technology surrogate for Obama.

Helping young voters register and obtain absentee ballots is similar to customer service activity that Newmark engages in on his site. “I see that every day in my day job,” he said.

The challenge for Obama, if he is elected, will be to stay in touch with the Internet community. “He’s kind of bet the election on the net,” Newmark said. “On January 20, Obama supporters will be looking for a permanent voice on governance.”

Craigslist, with more than 12 billion page views per month and $100 million in annual revenue, has become a fixed presence in the journalism field. Many observers credit its emergence as a factor in the decline of classified advertising in newspapers.

“We’ve had an effect on ads, but it’s been exaggerated,” Newmark said. “I had no vision of that because I have no vision.”

Newmark said he does not plan to offer news content and expressed concern about the decline of investigative journalism.

“We need serious journalism,” he said. “We need journalists asking difficult questions to keep us out of trouble as a country.”