Village Voice Wishes McMaster Would Hate Them, Too

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And you thought the South Carolina v. Craigslist story was dead.

If anything sucks more than being the target of an ambitious but delusional gubernatorial candidate who has suddenly developed a bit of a fetish for prostitution, it’s being ignored by that candidate. As far as Village Voice sees the world, Craigslist just got a bunch of free press. And they want their share.

When Craigslist management was facing a criminal investigation for listings on the site they did the smart thing. They talked about the law, and they pointed out that the real smut was on other sites that were being ignored by the South Carolina Attorney General. If you really want hard core porn and prostitution, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster pointed out, check out Village Voice’s BackPage.com.

That’s all body fluids under the bridge now, of course, since a federal judge smacked down McMaster and forbid him from stalking Craigslist management.

But Village Voice is still smarting from those Buckmaster links in that blog post. Yesterday they issued a very official press release titled “Village Voice Media to Craigslist CEO Buckmaster: Calm Down, Back Off; There is Nothing Wrong With a Little Competition.”

In an email, Village Voice’s PR firm accuses Buckmaster of “leveraging the legal bind he’s in to damage Craigslist’s competition.”

The real reason for the press release and press outreach, of course, is to get a little bit of the spotlight pointed to backpages, too. Because their official story doesn’t make sense.

Backpages has adult ads, lots and lots of them, and they’re proud of it: “We will continue to exercise our right to accept legal adult postings,” they say. All Buckmaster did was link to a whole bunch of them. And since backpages desperately needs the traffic, what they really should be doing is thanking Craigslist, not attacking them.

What we learned today: If you really want to pay for sex, backpages is the place to go.

Full press release is below:

Village Voice Media to Craigslist CEO Buckmaster: Calm Down, Back Off; There is Nothing Wrong With a Little Competition

PHOENIX, May 29 /PRNewswire/ — Last Friday, Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, fired a deliberate, unnecessary and wholly inaccurate shot across the bow of Village Voice Media and backpage.com, our online classified advertising property. Given the serious nature of what Buckmaster inferred in his post about Village Voice Media newspapers and backpage.com, we can’t sit on our hands and be silent.

In the original blog post, which was later “submarine” edited to reword and soften some of the attacks towards Village Voice Media, Buckmaster complained that politicians are attacking Craigslist but not Village Voice Media and other media outlets because they have a “need for positive stories and campaign endorsements from those very same newspapers.

“Is it possible that writing stories critical of Craigslist’s (relatively tame) ‘adult service’ section is more career-friendly than attacking their own employer (or journalistic media brethren) for operating a (far more graphic) ‘adult service’ section of their own?”

Buckmaster and Craigslist are in a tough, and in many ways, frightening situation – they have a number of moralistic state Attorneys General threatening them over their adult ads, and a raft of bad press following the terrible tragedy in Boston that the company is admittedly in no way responsible for. But, the manner in which Buckmaster is responding to this pressure – by disingenuously lashing out at competitors and caving to political pressure – is inexcusable, and displays a remarkable lack of sound judgment.

In 2002, Village Voice Media recognized the forces that were changing the classified advertising market and created backpage.com to answer that challenge. We’ve put a lot of work into making it the No. 2 free classifieds site in U.S. We’re fine with being No. 2, proud in fact. Buckmaster, apparently, is not. Instead of working with his competitors to find a way to solve, or at least mitigate issues surrounding adult ads – the shortcomings of automatic content filters is something we are all trying to fix – Buckmaster simply attempted to take the competition down with him. And, his methods leave much to be desired.

First off, our newspapers don’t endorse politicians and rarely have anything nice to say about them, so to say that politicians aren’t going after Village Voice Media because they need our endorsement isn’t viable. Secondly, Buckmaster is only complaining because a competitor is challenging his economic advantage in the free classified arena – which he built in part on adult ads – and has made him a very wealthy man. His talk of building community and serving his users rings hollow. It now appears that, as is so often the case with New Age entrepreneurs, it’s all about the money.

We will continue to exercise our right to accept legal adult postings from our users and concentrate on growing backpage.com. We are aggressively building additional technical solutions as well as increasing our manual site inspections to improve efficiency of removing content that is illegal or otherwise violates our Terms of Use.

About Village Voice Media

Village Voice Media is a collection of 15 weekly newspapers and daily Web sites, including New York’s Village Voice, the LA Weekly, Denver’s Westword and the Phoenix New Times. Online, in print, and on mobile devices, VVM’s products combine music, food and events coverage with gritty, hard-hitting journalism to create the most powerful city guides in each market. While the focus of the brand is local, its free classifieds site backpage.com, partnership with social recommendation engine LikeMe.net and national sales force, Voice Media Group, extend its reach on a national level.

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