Armed with a new round of $5.5 million in Series A funding, real estate website developer Placester will begin powering real estate sites for local publishers — starting with those owned by the media giant Hearst Corporation.

The funding, led by Romulus Capital, which also headed the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm’s $2.5 million seed round last April, will allow the firm to approach its goal of becoming not just a provider of website hosting and design services for brokers and agents, but for local publishers as well.

Powering publishers’ real estate sites “has been our plan all along,” Placester CEO Matt Barba told Inman News.

Since launching in 2010, tens of thousands of agents have signed up to use the free version of Placester’s Web service, Barba said. Thousands of others pay $45 per month for the pro version, which can pull in Internet Data Exchange listings from the more than 600 multiple listing services Placester has data licensing agreements with.

The new product allows sites with a local audience to monetize it with listing display and ad technology similar to large real estate portals like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com that they might not have access to, Barba said.

Publishers can leverage Placester to bring ZIP code-based agent and display ads next to listings and search results pages and to sell premium placement for “featured” listings, he said.

The Hearst Corp., which operates 15 daily newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and Albany Times Union, 34 weeklies and 29 TV stations, is the first media network to sign up for Placester’s new real estate search and ad platform for all of its properties.

One of Hearst’s papers, the Connecticut Post, was the first to launch the platform for its online real estate site, CT HouseHunter.

“These publishers have seen their real estate ad business cannibalized by emerging digital platforms in the last decade and seek a partner for real change,” said Krishna Gupta, founder and general partner of Romulus Capital, in a statement.

“For many publishers, we’re bringing their real estate sections into the 21st century, which provides them with new revenue opportunities,” Barba said in a statement.

Placester’s funding round included participation from current investors including TechStars founder David Cohen, Angel Street Capital and others.

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