The phrase death rattle is not a pleasant one, however, it may describe the current state of print advertising, specifically, as it relates to real estate. Print advertising has been the main venue of real estate advertising for many years. For some papers, it accounts for 30% of newspaper ad revenue. Brokers have historically relied upon print to market homes and create a presence for their company in the market. Agents loved print from a promotional standpoint, sellers loved seeing their homes and buyers frequently relied upon it at the early stages of their home search. The most recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) statistics point out the severe decline in readership of print and the expediential growth in the internet. According to the 2007 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:
- 84% of recent home buyers used the Internet in their search, up from 80 percent in 2006. Those statistics indicate that of the 84% of buyers who used the Internet, 99% of them found it to be a useful resource.
- Of the 51% of people who look in newspaper ads, about half of them found the ads a useful tool.
- Only 31% of buyers even used them, and of those, only 34% of them found home books to be useful.
At the heart of this evolution are the changing habits of our consumers (buyers and sellers). Our consumers want to see multiple photos, video tours, the latest listing information, mortgage payments for the listing and mapping. They want it to be interactive based upon their profile, lightning fast, global and real time. Print doesn’t accommodate any of those consumer needs.
In meetings with many local newspaper publishers to renegotiate our print advertising contracts, it’s clear that they are either in denial about the value of print or are hoping that brokers will continue to ignore how buyers are searching. They are sheepishly willing to admit their print revenue dollars are declining, and are scrambling for ways to recapture their revenue through on-line venues. In some cases, they don’t even have a web strategy or know how to go about it. In one negotiation, a publisher attempted to entice us with additional print venues, stating the standard line in publishing…"But, your competition is here."There was a recent announcement and significant blow to print media when the century-old L.A.Times ceased to print its weekly real estate section. Staffing and production cuts are being made to offset a "continuing slide in advertising revenue", according to the newspaper.
So, they need us (really our revenue) but haven’t figured out exactly how to provide the value. While they are thinking of how to do that, real estate brokers are smartly adjusting their strategies. The leaders in the industry are tracking their consumer habits, and understand that "marketing" versus "advertising" is necessary. They are quickly establishing aggressive internet strategies and beginning to shift marketing dollars to the web. They also have specific plans in place to reduce print significantly and take control of the change.
Like anything else, it’s a process and things will evolve with time. In this case, the evolution is happening rapidly and the prognosis is not good for print. Our consumers are demanding more interactive ways to get involved in the real estate process. If newspapers don’t adjust to the change they will go the same way of travel agents. Remember them?