Craigslist Loss Could Be City Weeklies' Gain

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the fallout from Craigslist's recent move to cut down on sex services postings, weekly city papers may be the ones that benefit.

As reported in the past few months by, Craigslist, which had been under fire for its "erotic services" section, has replaced it with a new "adult" section where postings are monitored one by one by its staff. The move came under urgings and even legal threats from attorneys general in various states, along with revelations of the so-called "Craigslist Killer" in Boston.

So, if postings for prostitution truly do reduce -- and it appears that way, though they can still be found on Craigslist -- it's city weeklies that may come out the winner. Those alternative papers are likely rubbing their sales department hands with glee after years of taking a drubbing and suffering ad losses due to Craigslist.

As noted by sales of erotic services-type ads in local alternative weeklies are now on the increase.

According to the Washington City Paper, citing its own sales, adult ads were up 38 percent in the first week of May from a year earlier. At the same time, Craigslist was under the gun. Also way up in ads is the SF Weekly in San Francisco, with an increase of a staggering 500 percent-plus since Craigslist changed its posting policy and did away with erotic services.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has accused law enforcement and politicos of selectively targeting the site and ignoring the same kind of ads in city weeklies.

Those alt-weekly ads cost more than Craigslist, which now charges $10 for a one-week ad in the adult section and $5 to repost. In contrast, Wired observed, the Washington City Paper starts at $150 per week and The Chicago Reader charges $50 for online-only ads and double that for online and print combined.

Such erotic ads have long been a staple of the back pages of these papers, including the L.A Weekly, appearing alongside ads for strip clubs, massage parlors and adult stores.

Craigslist's guidelines state that anyone posting in the adult section agrees they are not placing “content that is unlawful, pornographic or which advertises illegal services” or "suggesting or implying an exchange of sexual favors for money." Also, no pornographic images, or images suggestive of an offer of sexual favors, are allowed, the site says. 

As a result, the latest CL postings are toned down visually when there's a photo, but the "code words" often still appear, such as "roses" for dollars, "holes" for areas of penetration, as well as "backdoor," and the generic "good time," "fun time" and so on, which is all vague enough to make create muddy waters of prosecution for law enforcement to navigate through.

Most city papers allow "risqué" pictures, but draw the line at blatant topless or nude photos.