Homescape, the online real estate venture operated by a group of five newspaper publishers, is changing its approach by working directly with brokers and agents to gather property listings in markets nationwide.

Homescape formerly was a private brand that acquired listings via the more than 100 newspapers that comprise its network. Its coverage also was limited to listings in only the markets where it had newspaper relationships.

Today, the company says it has changed its approach and will now partner directly with brokerages and agents who want to market their listings in a national database at Homescape.com.

Homescape.com has compiled close to 2 million property listings for consumers to search through, according to company officials, and has formed partnerships with some regional brokerage companies, including Prudential Fox & Roach, Prudential California, ERA Masiello, GMAC Real Estate of Atlanta, and Prudential Gary Greene.

Homescape.com also features new construction, open house and other newspaper classifieds content, said Frank Breithaupt, general manager of Homescape.

The home page offers links to local market snapshots, home valuations, property searches and the ability for sellers to add a single home listing, among other features.

“This will be marketed directly to consumers,” Breithaupt said, whereas “before we were working as a sort of second-tier brand.” The company also is upgrading its branding efforts with newspapers.

Breithaupt said Homescape’s national brand helps local newspapers attract interest to their real estate offerings.

Newspapers have started seeing declines in real estate classified revenue as more online marketing options become available to brokers and agents. Last week, major publishers Gannett Co., Tribune Co., and McClatchy each reported significant declines in advertising.

Tribune Co., the number two publisher by circulation, posted a 24 percent decline in the second quarter, while Gannet Co. saw a 9.9 percent drop and McClatchy Co. reported a 19 percent decline, according to an AP report.

Analysts have begun worrying that real estate could follow the path of help-wanted ads by making a significant and permanent shift to the Internet, AP reports.

During the dot-com boom, Homescape’s parent company, Classified Ventures, pushed toward a national home listings model but later pulled back.

“Newspapers know they have to continue to invest in the online side of the business,” Homescape’s Breithaupt said. “Newspapers know they have to have the right partnerships,” and as that shift continues, Homescape hopes to offer a new mechanism for their real estate advertising channels.

Homescape is a division of Chicago-based Classified Ventures, which is owned by five major media companies — Belo Corp., Gannet Co., McClatchy Co., Tribune Co., and Washington Post Co. — working to establish a stronger Web presence for newspapers’ classified listings.

Classified Ventures also operates national listing sites for rental units and autos at Apartments.com and Cars.com.

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