With mainstream media in the midst of a major transformation, mashups that blend user-generated content with more traditional news sources are cropping up across the Web.
These hybrid, aggregated news sites can blur the boundaries of social media and journalism, serving as a catch-all for all types of timely online content.
Joseph Ferrara, a New York real estate attorney and publisher of the often offbeat and sometimes irreverent Sellsius real estate blog, and partner Anthony Barba are seeking to define these blurry lines with the launch of TheClozing.com.
"It’s techmeme.com (a technology news aggregator) for real estate," Ferrara said. "We’re aggregating mainstream and social media news," Ferrara said. The site carries the slogan: "your real estate water cooler."
"I read a study that said headline news is available on the Net, but the backstory that comes with social media is tough to locate. We tried to meet that need."
Launched this month, TheClozing.com is free and currently features a list of 20 items, including news items and blog posts, followed by a sentence or two from each source. Clicking the headline takes a reader to the full article at its original source.
Below nearly every headline is a box that contains links to other related articles and blogs.
"There’s so much information out there and it’s hard to absorb it, so the trend is to aggregate it and organize it," Ferrara said, adding that Clozing has about 200 sources that feed the site.
Because the majority of these sources produce a variety of articles — some of which don’t pertain to real estate — Ferrara said an initial problem was identifying the best sources for real estate news and filtering out non-real estate articles.
Currently, an editor filters through articles and regularly updates the site.
As the site grows, Ferrara said he foresees grouping together articles that apply to a specific city or area of the country to better localize the content.
He said the plan is to localize for larger cities first, such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.
"Down the road we want to possibly integrate other social media like Twitter (into the Web site)," he said.
While Clozing.com may be one of the first sites focused exclusively on providing real estate news links, Ferrara sees the launching of this Web site as the beginning of a possible new trend in the real estate industry.
"The question is, ‘Can a real estate site bring enough traffic on its own (without providing other types of news links)?’ " he said. …CONTINUED
Several prominent real estate Web sites also feature news pages and a mix of user-generated content.
Zillow.com and Trulia.com offer up user-generated information from question-and-answer sessions and other online discussions, for example.
Zillow offers real estate Q&A, discussions and real estate information guides through its "Advice" tab, and Trulia offers an advice and opinions section that includes Q&A, blogs and other discussions. Trulia rounds up location-specific user-generated content and real estate statistics on its home page.
Zillow advertises "real estate news" on its homepage, which links to content at the company blog — Trulia and Zillow are among the highest-ranked sites when conducting a search for "real estate news sites" at Google.
Another real estate search site, Frontdoor.com, mixes content from affiliated HGTV and other media sources — both are owned by media company Scripps Networks Interactive. Frontdoor has launched a City Guides feature that features reviews of communities’ amenities — that user-generated content is powered by Yelp.com.
Real estate site Cyberhomes.com, has a news section that feature a mix of its own news content for categories including buying, selling, owning and renting, and links to Associated Press articles.
Domus Consulting Group, which has clients in the real estate industry, is aggregating local Twitter feeds in a number of categories, and will help businesses tap into the feeds — and engage with a local audience — by setting up their own "Breaking News City Site."
The Breaking News City Sites promise local news, events and reviews that are "up to date and open for conversation," the company says.
Twitter is perfect for local marketing because it can be difficult to compete with big companies on the Web, and Google doesn’t index in real time, said Pat Kitano, a real estate blogger and founder of the company’s Domus Media division.
But some aggregators don’t do the community-building required to generate engagement from users, Kitano said. Domus recommends that businesses building hyperlocal sites meet with Twitter users in their community, organize them into a Twitter network, and meet in person at a "Tweetup" at a local coffee shop.
Domus’ Breaking News City Sites, which feature a scrolling list of Twitter posts (or "tweets") from a variety of sources for in several categories — including "real estate" — are live in about a dozen market areas including Boston, New York, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Kitano said the company hopes to add five to seven cities a week.
Some mainstream news media have incorporated social media — CNN.com integrated live online video coverage with viewers’ Facebook messages during President Obama’s inauguration, for example. And some online news sites feature posts from guest bloggers.
Inman News reporter Matt Carter contributed to this report.
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