Magazine article Editor & Publisher

You Can't Beat' Em, So Start Your Own Home-Buying Guide

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

You Can't Beat' Em, So Start Your Own Home-Buying Guide

Article excerpt

Home buyers like the pictures, and real estate agents like the listings that print them

"I AM CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt that real estate classified ROP as we know it will cease to exist."

This was the dire warning that James Williams delivered at the Newspaper Association of America's Classified and Co-op Advertising meeting in Chicago on July 28.

Williams and his partner, Collier Black, were responsible for launching Marcol Publishers, a Memphis, Tenn., firm that successfully produced weekly real estate tabloids which challenged newspapers during the late 1980s in the lucrative real estate category.

Landmark Communications of Norfolk, Va., acquired Marcol in 1990. Black and Williams now run a consulting business that shows local associations of Realtors how to produce their own real estate publications.

Black and Williams believe real estate classified sections are in trouble for several reasons.

Major complaints voiced by the real estate agents include unjustified rate increases, unneeded or wasted circulation, and negative editorial coverage. The agents also complain that the newspapers do not understand or meet their needs.

"We talk to Realtors 365 days out of the year and, boy, do they hate newspapers," said Black. "That is a central theme. It's not a rational hatred; it's just something that's out there."

Basically, Black said, newspapers have a perception problem. Real estate agents are generally not sophisticated buyers of advertising.

"It's an emotional-type decision they make based on how much money they have at the time.... They don't really think about things as carefully as you do in the newspaper industry. When you cite statistics and numbers, facts, figures, that doesn't really mean a lot to Realtors," Black said.

The decision on advertising is usually visceral and based on whether Realtors like the homes magazine or the newspaper in the market, he said. They are not interested in how large a newspaper's circulation is because they want to reach only an extremely targeted audience of buyers.

"Two to three percent of the people in the marketplace are maybe looking for a home. They think about all the wasted copies they are paying for with a newspaper that has 700,000 circulation," Black said.

Williams, whose background includes 10 years as a real estate agent and a Realtor association member in Jackson, Miss., listed several goals the associations cite most often when they consider starting their own weekly real estate tabloid.

The first is the desire to create the marketplace for real estate. Most real estate agents, he said, do not believe that in 1993 there is a single market place for real estate.

"There is not a single daily newspaper in here that creates the marketplace. Realtors create the marketplace by where they choose to place their ads," Williams said. "Should they choose, by some magic, not to give you any ads on a single day, then your product ceases to exist. That is the kind of control that Realtors are now realizing they have."

Williams pointed to the Asheville, N.C., Realtors association, which took over a weekly real estate tabloid after another publisher bought it from Marcol.

The listing was producing $125,000 a year in revenue when Marcol sold it. However, the new publisher failed to maintain communication with the Realtors association and did not tell members why certain rates had to go up or what they were getting for their money. …

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