craigslist > about > press > inlights

from Fortune, April 19, 2004

Craigslist Gets Its Name in Lights
by Chris Nolan

Turns out Craigslist is not only screen fodder but a pretty good business too.

Craigslist is ready for its closeup. The website, where wired twenty- and thirtysomethings search for jobs, homes, and love, so fascinated filmmaker Michael Ferris Gibson that he made 24 Hours on Craigslist.org, which debuted in April at South by Southwest, the indie film and music festival. Culling from 23,000 San Francisco residents who put listings on Craigslist on Aug. 4, 2003, Gibson interviewed a cast of characters that included a gay porn star/masseuse, a male Ethel Merman impersonator, and a couple selling some of their six baby strollers. But few of the film's stars realize that Craig (as in Newmark, the site's founder) exists. One guesses that "Craig" is a computer. Another suggests that he's the man behind the curtain, a la the Wizard of Oz. Like Oz, Newmark himself appears only briefly in the film, and his face isn't shown.

The real story of Craigslist began in 1995, when Newmark, a shy self-proclaimed Jason Alexander look-alike who was a programmer for Charles Schwab, wrote a rudimentary e-mail program offering job and housing leads. Newmark was attempting to break out of his shell -- the list included parties -- and it grew quickly as San Francisco swelled with eager young job seekers.

Newmark began charging Bay Area employers -- the only customers that pay -- and running the list eventually became his job. Nowadays he and 13 other employees work in a shabby, converted Victorian in San Francisco's Sunset District, and his take-home pay is somewhere around $200,000 a year. Though Newmark says the site has been profitable since 1998 and now serves 35 cities in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, the company releases almost no financial information and has no plans to go public (revenues are roughly $7 million a year).

So what does Newmark make of the celluloid buzz? He's generally amused by the attention. And adding "movie star" to his resume certainly can't hurt his social life.