I always encourage clients to consider Craigslist as a forum for free Internet advertising and also a good source of web site traffic but lately I am in two minds with the news that the site is being used to try to sell everything from sex to babies.
Yes babies – you read it right. Some unfortunate, mentally challenged parents in Vancouver were recently arrested for advertising their 7 day old baby on Craigslist for $10,000. When police popped in to investigate they claimed it was a hoax but that didn’t prevent their child from being taken into care.
Initially I considered this to be one of the problems of the “free” future of business much touted by Chris Anderson of Long Tail and Wired Magazine fame: if everything is free then there’s no money to pay anyone to monitor the service. Then I realized that Chris is right and that this is a perfect example of crowdsourcing – using the people and collective to get things done “free”. Craigslist doesn’t need to pay someone to monitor the ads that people are posting because the people will do it for them. The parents who thought it would be funny to advertise their child for sale got caught because of a conscientious granny who read it, thought rightly that that was wrong and reported it to the police.
When I recommend Craigslist to clients in future, I will be sure to set appropriate expectations and some will no doubt choose not to associate their products with the likes of those aforementioned which sometimes get advertised on Craigslist but it does remain a valuable “free” advertising forum that shouldn’t be ignored.
Watch out for more on crowdsourcing later in the week in the form of Out-Smarts podcast #5 with Monica Hamburg – coming soon!