CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In Philadelphia newsrooms, the plants are no longer watered. In Akron, Ohio, reporters face a shortage of notebooks.
These are just a few blows being felt by newspapers nationwide amidst a steadily shrinking print classified advertising share and waning subscriptions that have made newsroom staff cuts a regular thing. Professor Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, noted these changes to real estate journalists in Charlotte, N.C., Friday afternoon.
Print newspapers still dominate classified advertising, but market share is shrinking, according to a 2005 study from the Newspaper Association of America. In 2001, print newspapers had 57 percent of the classified advertising market. In 2004, that share shrank to 50 percent, with online newspapers absorbing 2 percent and pure-play venues grabbing 8 percent.
Although real estate advertising remains strong, online advertising in this category has grown approximately seven times as fast as newspaper print advertising over the last eight years and might face a scenario similar to employment, the NAA study said.
The outlook is bleak for the ink-and-paper business, which many insiders say without hesitation is “sucking wind.” The lasting effects of the Internet on traditional print journalism in years to come are profound.
What does this mean for real estate and home sections that used to be a central point for consumers in the market for homes? What will the real estate section of the future look like – if it exists at all?
Professor Roush envisions a possibility of free ads coupled with advertorials about real estate, which certainly calls the role of journalists into question. Whatever the picture, it’s definitely not the same as today in his view.
It’s time to embrace new innovations such as blogging and podcasting, he told a group of real estate reporters during the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ annual conference last week.
“Blogging is where real estate reporting should be headed,” said Roush, author of “Show Me the Money,” a book on business reporting.
Roush makes an important point that to a professional reporter, blogging is no different than traditional journalism. Blogging should involve gathering facts, checking those facts and blogs should be overseen by editors.
“Curbed.com is real estate journalism of the future,” he said. The 2-year-old site is a daily read for thousands of New Yorkers who must get their daily fix of local real estate gossip.
However, Curbed’s distinction is that much of what appears on the blog comes from tips or rumors that are then either confirmed or ousted by loyal readers. It’s not fact-based reporting in the traditional sense that would be put through rigorous checks before publication, Roush said, and this creates an opportunity for newspaper real estate sections across the country to create something all their own.
Newspaper real estate blogs could include sections that show the top 10 homes by price in specific neighborhoods, he suggested, as well as other hyper-local information on homes.
He also sees opportunity in podcasting, and said one idea he’s not seen implemented is to have a home seller discuss his or her price expectations with potential buyers then discussing theirs.
And Roush practices his own advice. “If you’d asked me years ago whether I’d be blogging I’d say you’re crazy,” he said. Indeed, he launched a blog about business reporting last September and said he now blogs every day.
Some newspapers have already developed blogs around real estate, including The New York Times with its “The Walk-Through” blog.
David Feld of the Raleigh News & Observer said his newspaper has started experimenting with blogs, allowing interested reporters and editors to create their own. The paper now has 50 blogs associated with its Web site, ranging in topic from local traffic issues to politics to television.
Here is a list of real estate blogs written by journalists, industry professionals and interested observers:
- The Matrix: http://matrix.millersamuel.com/
- The Real Estate: http://therealestate.observer.com/
- SocketSite: http://www.socketsite.com/
- Curbed: http://curbed.com/
- Curbed SF: http://sf.curbed.com/
- The Walk-Through (A New York Times blog): http://walkthrough.nytimes.com/
- The Realty Gram: http://therealtygram.typepad.com/
- Property Grunt: http://propertygrunt.blogspot.com/
- Behind the Mortgage: http://www.behindthemortgage.com/
- Inman News blog: //www.inman.com/blogger/bradinman.aspx