RealLiving.com White Paper Regarding Declining Newspaper Readership
Posted by Kelly Kinzer — June 19, 2006
Real Estate and the Declining Newspaper Readership In the midst of stagnant and declining circulation, many newspapers are forced to turn toward the Web to reinvent themselves. One particular reason for the transition relates to the Internet’s ability to break down geographic barriers. In the past, newspapers were only able to reach an audience within their local market area. Today, newspapers are finding that online editions reach beyond their usual parameters. According to Hitwise, a leading Internet monitoring service, the New York Times’ NyTimes.com received 72 percent of its U.S. traffic from visitors outside of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut during four weeks ending May 21, 2005. Similar results were reported among other daily newspapers. As printed newspaper circulation and readership continue to steadily decline, most analysts predict that fewer than half of adults will read the paper every day by the end of this decade. The facts highlight this downward trend. In 1964, more than 80 percent of American adults read a newspaper each weekday, but only 58 percent did in 1997, according to the Newspaper Association of America. In 2003, an estimated 54 percent read a newspaper each weekday. The real estate industry has been as affected by these trends as any other industry, if not more so. Over the years, the real estate industry has also felt the effects of the newspaper’s gradual fallout. Consumers have grown hungry for information. CMA, pre-approval, virtual tours, community information: consumers want it all – and they want it now. Through the rise of the Internet, all of this information is available at their fingertips. Gone are the days of thumbing through the Sunday paper, only to find a listing with the possibility of a small photo that requires a phone call to get any more information. We are in a generation of instant gratification, and the Internet provides the perfect opportunity for real estate brokerages to tap into everything that consumers want – instantly. According to the National Association of Realtors, an estimated 74 percent of home buyers searched for homes online in 2004. But that was then. According to the same study, 97 percent of home buyers plan to use the Internet the next time they buy a home. According to a Borrell and Associates report, newspapers lost 2 percent of real estate advertising market share, with online venues gaining 2 percent between 2003 and 2004. Within the industry, traffic to real estate sites increased 23 percent from April 2005 to April 2006, from 34.7 million unique visitors to 42.7 million unique visitors. The number of unique visitors to real estate sites rose 12.3 percent in April 2006 compared to March 2006. Online advertising in this category has grown approximately seven times as fast as newspaper print advertising over the last eight years. So what’s the best way for real estate brokerages to make the transition from the newspaper to the Internet? Real Living, an Ohio-based real estate company, made the transition gradually. With the majority of their advertising dollars being spent on traditional newspaper listings, a change was made to pull out – but not completely. Instead, listing ads were replaced with image ads, allowing Real Living to maintain a presence during its transition. Eventually, the image ads were then replaced with online advertising campaigns within daily newspaper Web sites, like Dispatch.com (The Columbus Dispatch) and Cleveland.com (The Cleveland Plain Dealer). These campaigns not only provided brand and name awareness, but also drove consumers to their online source, RealLiving.com. With the transition complete, Real Living is currently updating its Web site, RealLiving.com, in order to continue attracting online consumers. Its newest Web portal, MyRealLiving 2.0, offers all the amenities and features that today’s real estate consumers seek, including: detailed property information, photos, interactive maps, neighborhood/community information and agent contact information. But, the site also offers added features allowing consumers to: save listings, searches and bookmarks; share information with family, friends and agents; receive e-mail alerts and updates on saved properties; keep a calendar of showings, open houses and events; and personalize the site’s look. It’s apparent that Real Living’s transition to the online world has taken shape. While the future is always unpredictable, certain trends may be inevitable. Gone are the days of skimming the Sunday classifieds. Real estate brokerages are now striving to keep up with the changing market, while newspapers are struggling to stay ahead of their readers by taking their offerings online. News feeds, community information, listings – it has all been transformed into an online, one-stop marketplace. Now, real estate brokerages need to choose between getting online and getting in front of the consumer or staying rooted in traditional listing advertising – possibly meaning the difference between a successful, forward-thinking company, and one that is barely able to stay afloat. HER Real Living, Real Living’s Columbus, Ohio-based company, pulled out of the Columbus Dispatch in 1998. Listings are up 500 units.