The number of online adults who have used online classified ads has more than doubled in the past four years. Almost half (49%) of internet users say they have ever used online classified sites, compared with 22% of online adults who had done so in 2005.
On any given day about a tenth of internet users (9%) visit online classified sites, up from 4% in 2005.
These are the main findings of an April 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey. They highlight the growing importance of such sites to internet users and reflect the changes in the audience for classified ads – both those who place them and those who make purchases – that have devastated a key revenue source for traditional newspapers.
The figures also underscore the growing social role of online classified ads. On May 13, Craigslist eliminated the controversial “erotic services” section of its site and said it would manually review every ad posted in a new “adult services” section it had created. The move came after a Boston medical student was charged with killing a masseuse he had found on the erotic services section of Craigslist.
In the world of online classified advertising, Craigslist is by far the most used website in the United States. In March 2009, classified sites averaged 53.8 million unique visitors, up 7% from February. Craigslist had 42.2 million unique visitors in the month of March. The free, no-frills, user-generated and self-policing classified ads site has grown tremendously since its start in 1996 in San Francisco. As of April 2009, Craigslist had established itself in over 500 cities across 50 different countries. Some other online classified sites include Gumtree (primarily UK) and Kijiji (worldwide).
Classified ads sites are a one-stop-“shop” for everything from jobs to apartments to furniture to movers to puppies. However, users don’t buy anything directly on classified websites – they use the sites to set up meetings, and transactions are conducted in person or by mail – a characteristic which separates online classifieds from auction or shopping websites like eBay and Amazon.