In the wake of Craigslist “censoring” its adult services section, commentators and the media continue to read the tea leaves rather aggressively, trying to divine what exactly are the site’s motives.
The move can be viewed as an absolute PR calculation. Of course, when there’s subtext, it’s worthwhile to analyze what that is. In this case, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has posted several entries on the official site blog that make the company come across as rather angry. On the blog, Buckmaster takes shots at CNN, competitor adult personals sites, eBay (which owns part of Craigslist, oddly enough), human rights advocates, and various state attorneys general, amongst others.
CNN in particular gets quite a bit of heat, given its recent ambush interview of the site’s founder, Craig Newmark. Of course, as a network that once paused for breaking news to report the incredibly pressing story “horse stuck in mud” and other hard-hitting content, Newmark shouldn’t lose too much sleep over CNN’s antics.
Still, tirades rarely go over well as a PR strategy, as the objective observer often assumes that passion, not reason, guides the aggrieved party’s messaging. The same perspective certainly applies to Craigslist. Even though countless advocates and communications experts agree that the site certainly has 1st Amendment protections for its content and a DMCA shield, simply applying the “censor” sticker without a call for action is, at best, a curious PR tactic.
If Craigslist simply wanted people to talk about the issue, then fine, mission accomplished. But, if the site wants to mobilize the masses who peruse its 50 million new monthly ads and call out perceived hypocrites in the law enforcement and advocacy communities, it needs a more focused PR strategy with carefully articulated points (not random blog posts) and demands consistent with its goals of freedom and transparency in communication.
We’ve seen the launch point, now let’s see the follow through…