Last week, the Cook County sheriff in Chicago made headlines when he sued Craig’s List,. He demanded Craig’s List remove the erotic section channel on it site because it promotes prostitution. Here’s the latest on the story, which includes the Craig’s List response to the suit:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10191150-93.htm

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The story set off glee in some newspaper quarters, because it was the latest in bad press for Craig’s List. Remember the fair housing suit from a few years ago (the courts sided with Craig’s List, BTW)? Even if Craig’s List is protected by law, maybe, just maybe, stories like this would cause people to abandon the site and place their classified ads online with their local newspaper (even though said newspaper, in most cases, still insists on charging for the information).

Why would people flock back? Because, the logic goes, users are getting tired of a classified site that contains scams, spam and hookers. Newspapers have a competitive advantage because they’re a reliable and trusted source that ensures its ads are truthful and honest.

There’s only one thing: Few care about that advantage anymore.

It’s more important for users to connect with someone who wants to buy what they have to sell — and do so quickly. You put an ad on Craig’s List, it’s online in about fifteen minutes. Put an ad on a newspaper site, and it could be 24 hours. Why? Because many newspapers still review at the ads before they’re published to ensure there are no red flags with the information that goes online and then in the newspaper. Newspapers take great pride in that vetting.

But that competitive advantage doesn’t exist anymore. Not in instant-gratification world. Think of your own habits. If an online page doesn’t load in three seconds, you’re ready to move on. If the site you’re viewing doesn’t have the information you want within a couple of clicks, you move on. Forget about leaving a voicemail; who wastes that time? Instead, you expect an instant response via a text message.

Technology has trained people to get what they want immediately. The newspaper classified model doesn’t work in the online space. Instead of holding ads, newspapers should put them online as fast as they can — and take them down later if there’s a problem. And, you’ll be surprised at how few problems there are.

Taking this one step isn’t going to solve online classified issues — but it’s a small step that might help a little.

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