Technology has transformed our lifestyles in dramatic and significant ways, including new and less expensive options for recruiting study participants. This study examines cost and participant differences between two recruitment sources, Craigslist (CL), and print newspapers (PNs). This paper also reviewed and compared studies involving clinical trials published since 2010 that recruited participants using CL alone or in combination with other methods.
Secondary data analyses from a parent study involving a randomized controlled trial of a mail-based intervention to promote self-change with problem drinkers.
Significant differences were found between CL and PN participants on most demographic and pretreatment drinking variables. While all participants had AUDIT scores suggestive of an alcohol problem and reported drinking at high-risk levels, CL participants had less severe drinking problem histories, were considerably younger, and had a higher socioeconomic status than PN participants. The total advertising costs for the 65 CL ads ($275) were significantly less than the 69 PN ads ($33, 311). The recruiting cost per eligible participant was vastly less expensive using CL ($1.46) compared to print newspaper ads ($116.88).
Using CL is a viable recruitment method for soliciting participants, particularly those that are younger, for alcohol intervention studies. It is also less expensive than newspaper ads. When CL participants were recruited, they reported being slightly more confident to change their drinking than PN participants. Limitations of using CL are discussed, including that some initial ad responders gave inconsistent answers to similar questions and a few tried to enter the study more than once.