I can vouch for the site in a couple of ways.
- I posted a couple of ads for our cars when we got a newer one and sold both within a couple of weeks for the asking price.
- The butterfly lady's research has used craigslist almost exclusively to recruit participants, and her two studies have about 2,000 participants apiece. (Latest posting is in Austin.)
So, what can I/my employer take from businesses like craigslist, and for that matter, Google?
I'm not certain. The butterfly lady and I tend to agree with the tech-oriented media punditry, that a great local media outlet site would be pared down in design, like Google, and produce Google-like search results, with the difference being that the results would all be local.
Indeed, Google's home page already has lots of the stuff you'd want for a local site - information (they call it "Web"), images, video, news, maps, "more," links to advanced tools and links to the business end of the company.
Although it would probably constitute an unacceptable (and maybe illegal) ripoff, it would not take a rocket scientist to recast the Google home page for any media outlet. I would probably add a link called "shop" where the images/videos/news/etc. goes, but that would be about it.
It's not like many news site really stand out as different. The Bakersfield Californian, famous amoung news people (aka not actually famous) for its radical redesign, also has a Web site that is not garden variety.
As I have said before, probably ad nauseum, one of the top five reasons (maybe the top?) for working at a small paper is the freedom to innovate. I'm sharking for ways to do just that, but I haven't hit on anything spectacular yet...