A teen blogger, who not long ago was writing posts about AP exams and Disney’s latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, is now a paid writer for several real estate blogs — including a site dedicated to Caribbean real estate.
Joseph Natividad’s contributions to a high school student-written blog site maintained by a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper catapulted him into a stint as a paid blogger. Natividad spent an hour or two per day assisting with the newspaper’s blog site. “I looked at it more as a hobby than as a chore,” he said. “I turn on the computer a lot.”
College-bound Natividad, 18, lamented in a post at the Contra Costa Times’ Life in Perspective blog site about his trouble in locating a summer job.
John Harper, an online marketing specialist for The Harper Team, a Keller Williams real estate group in Danville, Calif., had followed Natividad’s work in the newspaper’s blog and offered him the opportunity to write community content for the team’s real estate blog.
“One of the things we look for as real estate agents is local, color content to put on our site to draw search traffic and bring points of interest to the community, so that’s what we use him for,” Harper said.
Natividad, who served as editor-in-chief for the school newspaper at Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, Calif., and plans to study economics and journalism at the University of California, San Diego, said he enjoys the experience of blogging for bucks.
While he studied journalism in high school, “Most of the stuff on blogging I pretty much learned on my own. You can’t get formal instruction,” said Natividad, who attended Blogger’s Connect sessions held this summer in San Francisco as a part of the annual Inman News Real Estate Connect conference.
Harper introduced Natividad to Jim Walberg, a colleague at his Keller Williams office who also is a co-owner of a real estate company in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Walberg started up a Virgin Islands blog two months ago, and brought Natividad on board to assist with that blog. And Natividad is also a contributor to two other real estate blogs.
“I subscribe to (online) feeds from every single newspaper,” Natividad said, for the regions he writes about, and he also gets guidance on story ideas from the real estate professionals. Natividad said he provides two postings per week to each of the sites he works with.
It’s gratifying to receive comments about the blog posts he writes, Natividad said. A key to successful blogging is providing plenty of links and relevant tags for each post, he said, as it can provide more longevity for the posts. He links his own name in blog posts to his personal Web site, at JosephNatividad.com, to boost traffic at that site, and he participates as a commenter at other Web sites. Also, it’s important to be “really careful about how you choose your headlines,” he said.
While Natividad said he still enjoys the physical experience of reading a newspaper during breakfast, he questions the future of print journalism. “I’m a little skeptical where print journalism is going to end up. Most of the news is available online already, and it’s free. The word ‘free’ is a big, attractive deal — especially for teen-agers like me.”
And that’s why Natividad is far more optimistic about online media. “I can see myself probably profiting (from blogging). It can only get bigger from here. We are only beginning to realize how big it can get.”
His parents, though, still don’t get it, he said. “My parents are so confused. They have no idea what blogging is.”
Harper said that he was glad to offer some mentoring for Natividad. “I paid for setting up his own blog and helping him get that going,” he said, and Harper also encouraged Natividad to network with people at the real estate bloggers’ conference, he said. Natividad has already engaged in business networking, joining the popular online sites Facebook and LinkedIn.
“Here is this really bright kid,” Harper said. “I know he’s sharp. It occurred to me that if he launches his own blog and he treats it as the number one business resource in his life, in a year he should be able to monetize that blog and probably pay his way through college by monetizing that.”
Harper’s real estate team launched a blog in late 2006, and that site had grown from about 350 unique visitors per month in December 2006 to about 3,000 by April 2007.
Walberg, who launched his Caribbean Islands Realty blog just two months ago, said he has been “blown away” by its quick success.
“I am 60 years old and even though I’m an old dog I can still learn new tricks,” Walberg said. “There are lots of people who are just not understanding the power of blogging.”
Walberg said he was impressed with Harper’s blogging success, and that led him to pursue his own blog. Finding time to blog can be challenging, though, and Harper introduced Natividad as a possible blog contributor.
“I could not believe — my first meeting I thought I was dealing with a kid — I am dealing with a kid,” and he said he has been impressed by his work. “I tip my hat to him — some of the things he is uncovering. He said, ‘I can’t believe the fun I’m having learning about a part of the world that I didn’t know anything about.’ “
Natividad’s writings at the Caribbean blog focus on the island culture and community events.
Within a couple of months the site has led to some surprising business opportunities, including the opportunity to be an exclusive marketing partner for some new developments in the Virgin Islands, Walberg said. “To gain this position in two months has just floored me. I’m in an area of nonstop learning now.” Walberg expects the blogging effort to leapfrog into online video to promote the islands. “It has opened up so many fun ideas and doors in how to participate in the worldwide real estate market.”
Natividad said he plans to keep up his real estate blogging career while attending college courses.