The History of Backpage Part I

Backpage 2004 logo. Image courtesy of Customer Care Contacts.

Backpage Rising (2004-2010)

Everyone else is talking, even celebrating the end of Backpage. 

My three-part series will document the birth, reign and defeat of this online First-Amendment warrior.

This first part details the birth of Backpage.

New Times Media

In 2004, New Times Media (later known as Village Voice Media) began to notice that digital classifieds such as Craigslist were skyrocketing. New Times Media was based in Phoenix, Arizona and were publishers for alternative newspaper weeklies. Upon realizing the popularity of the digital age, Backpage was born. This simple idea would grow to become a controversial topic while also becoming a second popular choice for USA classifieds. 

Backpage?

Backpage Phoenix, AZ listings. January 2004. Image courtesy of Wayback Machine.

The company named it Backpage since it literally consisted of the classifieds that would appear on the back page of their published weeklies. Backpage was free of charge when it first started. Sellers could post for free, even those who had a more provocative business in adult services.

Categories included services, automotive, personals, musicians, adult services, etc. The categories represented the First Amendment created traditions of New Times Media's alternative weeklies.

Adult Services

Backpage disclaimer for Adult Services. October 2004. Image courtesy of Wayback Machine.

Backpage adult services listings. April 2006. Image courtesy of Wayback Machine.

The adult services category would soon initiate Backpage's rise to infamy. It would also become widely known and profitable throughout its presence. Adult services included escorts, erotic massage, strippers, and New Age adult-oriented services. 

The free advertising was highly beneficial for adult entertainers. Backpage also didn't have numerous limitations such as rival, Craigslist, when it came to posting. The myriad of freedoms within Backpage was paradise for adult advertisers.

The Digital Renaissance

With a new millennium, new changes happened. The 2000's was the dawn of enlightenment for adult entertainers. The digital age sparked a rebirth for the industry. 

SAFETY & Empowerment

Empowerment provides harm reduction for sex work. Image courtesy of The Lancet.

The internet gave access to blacklists of any potential threats. Image courtesy of Erictronik at Blogspot.

Workers could now screen an individual to make sure they weren't dangerous instead of just going by a gut feeling within the street walking realm. Workers could determine law enforcement instead of being easy targets themselves for police whilst visible on the streets. This new power meant that were now in control of their own business.

TALENTED AND SEXY

With web design, workers could showcase their creativity and their intellectual abilities. Their blogs could give readers insight of the industry from their own perspective. Their images displayed their best and prominent physical features as well as various luxuries. Hell, the well-known entertainers pranced around in elegant outfits and expensive cars across their domains.

EVERYDAY PEOPLE

The internet gave these individuals the power to convey an image to society that they looked like any other person in the everyday world, they had interests that any other person would have, and they had feelings just like any other decent soul would. Ultimately, sex workers are currently unbeknownst to many because they simply resemble the general population.

The image of the desperate, dirty drug-addicted worker that needed to be rescued from the streets would slowly become a malicious stereotype of sex workers. 

The internet eliminated many of the dangers associated with street walking. Image courtesy of Ravishly.

Craigslist’s safety vs. print classifieds: verification, our flagging system, digital trail catching criminals, posted safety tips, and cooperation with law enforcement.
— Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist 2009

Read More
Craigslist Blog - May 2009 Archive

Craigslist Overthrown, Backpage Crowned

Rules & requirements for a legal Backpage escort ad. Image Courtesy of Business & Human Rights.

Advertising on Backpage was free in the beginning, but there was an increase of legal issues surrounding sex trafficking, mainly child sex trafficking. This caused the introduction of credit card payments. The legal age to have a credit card is 18-years-old in the USA, so this was a way to combat this issue. 

Even though it cost to advertise, it was still cost-effective for workers. The ads were cheap and the ads were guaranteed to stimulate business. Everyday, more and more ads were created while more and more suitors viewed.

On September 3, 2010, in response to pressure from a variety of governmental agencies, Craigslist removed the adult services category from its U.S. sites. 

Read More
Craigslist Sex Ads Go Offline

Craigslist discontinued its adult services section on Sept. 3, 2010, and there are no plans to reinstate the category.
— William Clinton Powell, director of customer and law enforcement relations at Craigslist

THE NOTORIOUS BP

This event would make Backpage the champion of adult entertainment classifieds nationwide; however, its notoriety would also inspire insidious activities within the next few years.

 Backpage would also endure the biggest fight against online government censorship in the next few years. Image courtesy of CNN.

Backpage would also endure the biggest fight against online government censorship in the next few years. Image courtesy of CNN.