Media Competition: New Paradigms or Just Reemergence of Old Ones?

Death by Smiley Face: When Rivals Disdain Profit

There is another breed of rival lurking online for traditional media, and it is perhaps the most vexing yet: call it purpose-driven media, with a shout-out to Rick Warren, the author of “A Purpose-Driven Life,” for borrowing his catchphrase.

These are new-media ventures that leave the competition scratching their heads because they don’t really aim to compete in the first place; their creators are merely taking advantage of the economics of the online medium to do something that they feel good about. They would certainly like to cover their costs and maybe make a buck or two, but really, they’re not in it for the money. By purely commercial measures, they are illogical. If your name were, say, Rupert or Sumner, they would represent the kind of terror that might keep you up at night: death by smiley face.

Probably the best-known practitioner is Craigslist.org, the online listing site. Although it is routinely described as a competitor with — and the bane of — newspaper classified ads, the site is mostly a free listings service that acts as a community resource.