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The number of online adults who use online classifieds has more than doubled in the past four years, with nearly half (49%) now saying they have ever visited an online classified site, compared with 22% of online adults who had done so in 2005, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

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The April 2009 survey from Pew’s Internet & American Life Project found that 9% of internet users visit online classified sites on any given day, up from 4% in 2005.

These findings highlight the growing importance of such sites to internet users and reflect the changes in the audience for classified ads – both those who place them and those who make resulting purchases, Pew reported.

Craigslist Most Used

In the world of online classified advertising, Craigslist is by far the most used website in the US. In March 2009, classified sites averaged 53.8 million unique visitors, up 7% from February. Of these visitors, Craigslist had 42.2 million uniques. As of April 2009, Craigslist had established itself in more than 500 cities across 50 different countries.

Age Plays Role in Online Classified Use

Age is a significant factor in online classifieds use, the study found. Internet users ages 25-44 are significantly more likely than any other age group – including 18-24 year-olds – to use online classified ads. Fully 62% of online 25-34 year olds and 57% of 35-44 year-olds use online classified ads, compared with 49% of online 18-24 year olds and 48% of online 45-54 year olds.

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Pew noted that free sites such as Craigslist are tremendously popular with young adults moving to new cities, looking for jobs, or trying to find inexpensive goods or roommates.

Internet users ages 55+? are significantly less likely than younger age groups to use online classifieds. Just over a third (35%) of online 55-64 year olds use classified websites, while about a quarter (26%) of internet users age 65 and older do so.

On a typical day, internet users ages 18-44 are also slightly more likely than online adults 55+ to use classified sites, Pew said.

Demographics Remain Stable

Over the past four years, the demographic makeup of online classified users has changed very little, though younger age groups have grown even more likely than older groups to use classified ad websites, the study found.

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Specific demographic details:

  • The percentage of all internet users to use classified sites grew 27 percentage points from 2005 to 2009, while most other demographic groups’ growth ranged from 25 to 29 percentage points.
  • Online 18-29 year olds saw a 30 percentage-point increase in their use of online classified ads, and 30-49 year old internet users marked a 32 point increase in online classifieds use.
  • Internet users ages 50-64 saw a 21 point increase
  • Online seniors (ages 65+) saw the smallest increase overall: 13 percentage points.

College graduates and higher income-earners as well as urban and suburban internet users are more likely than their counterparts to use online classified ads.

  • Online adults living in households with incomes of $50K0 or more a year are significantly more likely than lower earners to visit and use classified ads sites. More than half (56%) of higher income internet users use sites such as Craigslist, compared with 47% of those making $30K-$49,999 and 42% of those making less than $30K per year. In addition, online adults making $50K or more are more
  • College grads are significantly more likely than online adults with no college education to use online classified ads. Fully 54% of online college graduates use classified ads sites, while 45% of online adults with a high school degree and 40% of online adults with no high school education use these types of websites. However, college graduates are no more likely than those with less education to use online classified ads on a typical day.
  • Urban and suburban residents are also significantly more likely than rural internet users to use online classified ads. Some 47% of both urban and suburban internet users utilize sites like Craigslist, compared with 32% of rural internet users. Online rural adults are also much less likely to use these sites on a typical day: One in ten (10%) urban and suburban internet users use online classifieds, while just 4% of rural adults do so.
  • While women and men are equally likely to visit online classified ads sites, men (12%) are slightly more likely than women (7%) to use these sites on a typical day.

At the same time as online classifieds continue to gain steam, newspaper classified revenue plummeted to less than $10 billion in 2008 from $17.3 billion in ’05, writes Barrons, citing figures from the Newspaper Association of America. Real estate classifieds dropped to 52% from ’06; and total web ads for newspapers in ’08 racked up $3.1 billion.

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About the survey: This report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the internet. The results in this report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between March 26 – April 19, 2009, among a sample of 2,253 adults, 18 and older (including internet users, n=1,687).

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