NEW YORK — Real estate professionals may be the answer to a struggling hyperlocal news industry, according to journalist and author Jeff Jarvis who spoke at Real Estate Connect Friday.
Jarvis is associate professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY) and author of "Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live."
Why make hyperlocal news work? It gives real estate professionals a place to spread their message and become part of their community, Jarvis said. But the problem with hyperlocal is that it lacks a sustainable revenue model. Just selling advertisements to local merchants is not enough, Jarvis said, because merchants don’t just need ads, but a way to improve their own relationships with their local community.
"I’ve argued we need new sales forces to go into these communities and help these local merchants sell things," he said.
Who should these new sales forces be? "You," Jarvis told attendees. "You know your communities, you know what it’s like to try to become digital out there. You also know what it’s like to know how to sell," Jarvis said.
But "selling" is not just about marketing; it’s about growing relationships through sharing, he added.
"Move past the idea of just marketing — ‘here’s my inventory’ or ‘here’s why you should talk to me.’ It’s all about you," he said.
Sharing is as easy as starting a conversation about the restaurant you went to the night before — being human, Jarvis said.
"If you don’t have time to be human, there’s something wrong with your life."
Part of the reason newspapers are struggling is that they broadcast instead of share, Jarvis said.
"They think about generating content and selling it. They don’t think about relationships. Facebook thinks about relationships."
The Facebook wall, for example, is not a broadcast medium, but "a way to have conversations in public … and conversations are about relationships," Jarvis said.
Real estate professionals need not launch hyperlocal ventures to find avenues to connect with their community.
"You don’t have to start something. It already exists. It’s called the Internet. Use Facebook (or) Google Plus," Jarvis said.
Real estate professionals, like those in any other industry, have to rethink their roles as their industry changes, he added.
"What business are you in? I’m not sure you’re just in the business of selling. In the long run, your business succeeds based on relationships," he said.