- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

It looks like your typical personals ad: “Looking for a woman, the same as my personality … between 38 and 44, between 140 to 160 lbs. over 5‘5ft.”

The difference comes in the last sentence of the post, which appears on www.craigslist.org: “Maybe we can hook up for or before new years eve!!”

This year, Craigslist has emerged as the District’s go-to for all things New Year’s.

Hundreds of local residents, companies and groups are using the site to promote New Year’s Eve bashes, score dates to hot parties and sell tickets to gigs they are no longer planning to attend.

Others are seeking anything from catering staff and security guards to jugglers and models — all for Sunday’s big night, and all through Craigslist.

The online forum, which leads all classified services with 10 million new classified ads each month, has succeeded in branding itself as a universal solution for even the most particular requests.

Users say the site’s simple layout, broad geographic reach (450 cities around the world) and well-established privacy settings have made it their primary access tool for Sunday’s revelry.

“Craigslist is more personal, because people post what they want, and you don’t have to pay, like a dating service,” said the author of the personals post, a 40-year-old grocery store employee from Virginia who goes by the online alias “Osital Rescate.”

Osital Rescate said she read about Craigslist in a dating book and decided to post an ad for a New Year’s Eve date after she spent Christmas alone. Twelve hours after she posted her ad, Osital Rescate received replies from four persons, one of whom she hopes to take out Sunday night.

Savvy surfers such as Osital Rescate are forgoing traditional forums such as dating services, ticket box offices and the Yellow Pages in favor of Craigslist. Their reasoning: Why shop around when you can get everything you need in just a few clicks from a single Web site?

Michael Karlan, director of networking group Professionals in the City, said he relied on Craigslist to satisfy several needs for the group’s New Year’s Eve galas at the French Embassy and the Washington Plaza Hotel.

He sold tickets to the 900-person bashes and hired party staff, a belly dancer and a magician via Craigslist.

“Craigslist is free, and it’s ubiquitous,” Mr. Karlan said. “People come here from other places, and they may not be familiar with us, but they are familiar with Craigslist.”

The site’s geographic reach gives it a strong advantage over local advertising tools such as community bulletin boards and newspaper classified ads.

Many Craigslist posts are geared toward tourists coming to Washington for New Year’s weekend, while others offer locals weekend getaways to places such as Miami and Boulder, Colo.

The site’s fluid layout provides a forum for users whose New Year’s Eve needs don’t fit into a neat category such as “personals” or “jobs.”

For example, D.C. resident Mimi Diez bought tickets to a “James Bond 007 License to Thrill” party at the Jurys Washington Hotel, only to find that her husband wanted a more low-key celebration.

Mrs. Diez listed her tickets online and was able to sell them for her asking price within a week.

“I thought of Craigslist first,” she said. “I just heard so many success stories; not just with tickets, but with nannies and finding apartments. This was my first time selling on Craigslist, and it was really easy.”

Craigslist Chief Executive Officer Jim Buckmaster attempts to maintain the unpretentious, user-friendly model even as the former community forum grows into a media behemoth.

At a UBS Media & Communications conference earlier this month, Mr. Buckmaster surprised attendees by saying the site would not carry banner ads because, “the impetus for everything we do comes from users … [and] no users are suggesting we run text ads.”

This populist attitude is what keeps tech-savvy users clicking on Craigslist for free access to all of their New Year’s needs.

“It’s a little like EBay.com or Amazon.com,” Mr. Karlan said. “Everyone goes on it because everything is on it.”

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