Who's paying for all those recommendations and ads?

Who Pays for Angie's, Craigs and Cyndi's Lists?

by Debra Karplus

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Like most people, you've learned that you can find all kinds of things on the internet. Sites like Angieslist, Craigslist and Cyndislist can provide free ads or help you find a plumber or pediatrician. But who pays for the service? And, could this affect the reviews that you're reading? Let's examine who pays for Angie's, Craig and Cyndi's lists.

Who pays for Angie's List?

Search online for AngiesList.com and it will not at all be obvious as to who actually pays to use Angie's List or how much it costs. Forbes in a September 2013 report reviews Angie's List and competitors such as Yelp as to how they operate and their value to consumers. The good news is that customer reviews cannot be anonymous and are reviewed before they appear on Angie's List. But Forbes states that although Angie's List claims to be "customer-driven," 70% of the corporation's revenue comes from paid advertisements.

CBS News gives more specifics as to the financial operation of Angie's List, in a January 2014 report. Consumers of Angie's List pay anywhere from $3.25 to $29 annually, depending on the level of service they are buying. Most members opt for the $13 annual membership. But 73% of Angie's List revenue actually comes from businesses. In a 2011 report, Businessinsider.com claims that Angie's share of the company is a mere $12 million. Have no pity for Angie!

Who pays for Craig's List?

No one seems to pay to use Craigslist.org. So how did founder Craig Newmark from the San Francisco area, a software engineer by profession, amass a net worth of over $400 million, according to CelebrityNetworth.com in 2010? In 1999, Craig started his online listing of ads that we all seemingly use for free. But, job advertising is the financial bread and butter of Craigslist.org. Job listings sell for about $75 each in some of the larger cities. Way to go, Craig.

Since anyone can essentially post anything, and ads are not typically screened, you the consumer must be extraordinarily careful while using Craig's List. One woman was searching for free stuff in her area, and found that someone was "giving away her ex-husband." The online dating listings are often embarrassingly explicit and crude. So be careful. Freecycle.org, an alternative to Craig's List for give-away items, is a locally operated online trading post of free items, where each ad in this global service is moderated by a local volunteer.

Who is Cyndi and what's on her list?

Family tree hobbyists and professionals are likely familiar with CyndisList.com. All things genealogy can be linked to at absolutely no charge, via Cyndi's List. In 1996, Cyndi Howell, a genealogist, launched this growing one-woman site. Though supported by ads, Cyndi welcomes donations via Pay Pal. She lists her annual contributors, a mere three to four a year. Cyndi's List appears to be simply a labor of love, but who knows?

Is Pay Pal really free?

Like potential users of Angie's List, one needs to do a little digging around to find out if Pay Pal is really free. Your first encounter with Pay Pal may have been a few years ago when eBay.com was one of the early participants in this easy online bill pay system. You, the buyer, provided some information to set up your Pay Pal account, and yes, it was and still is absolutely free to buyers. But if you are selling something on eBay or some other website or getting paid for some service you provide, such as selling documents that you create, you, the seller, pay the 2.9% transaction fee to support Pay Pal.

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Before you set up an account on some website that requires a membership, do your homework and discover or uncover how the site is supported because it may be supported by people like you!

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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