After the builder had carved an arrow pointing to his workshop in every tree for miles around, he went to bed. When he woke, many visitors waited outside his door: beggars, scoundrels, and brigands, all.

Best Defense: Monitor the Media.

Beyond print

With the Internet coming on strong, newspapers are eroding as the once-primary source of real estate advertising.

By Christina B. Farnsworth

Risk extinction if you rely on newspapers as your sole source of advertising. and Borrell Associates study media. Research done by these two companies finds the prognosis for newspapers isn't especially optimistic. Ironically, Borrell's research, released in April, shows that the 40 percent of real estate advertising decision makers surveyed find newspaper advertising their least effective advertising method. However, the survey by the Portsmouth, Va., company also found that the majority of builders would continue to do it anyway--spending as much or more on newspaper advertising in the future as they had in the past. How head in the sand is that?

If newspaper ads are not effective, which way should builders go? Internet, referrals, and signs, according to the survey, says Peter Krasilovsky, Borrell's senior partner and vice president of consulting.

And that's not surprising. The National Association of Realtors reports that 70 percent of home buyers do at least some of their house hunting via the Internet.

Fatal FlawsContents

In 2001, Contentintelligence did a Web-based study of more than 1,400 people aged 55 plus, 1,200 of whom were regular newspaper readers. The study showed a trend of declining newspaper readership roughly proportional to increasing Web use. Moreover, in another 2001 study by the content research firm an overwhelming majority of those respondents under 25 years old reported using the Internet several times a day; less than 20 percent of these same respondents reported reading a newspaper daily. And not reading a newspaper at all certainly has an adverse effect on the reach of newspaper advertising.

Even that last bastion of newspaper readers, those 55 plus, and especially those with higher incomes, are starting to move from reliance on newspapers to interest in the Internet as a source for real estate information, says John McIntyre, managing editor of the Newtonville, Mass., content research firm.

Contentintelligence did report that readers continue to use newspapers for reading obituaries and job and real estate classified ads, but Web sites such as the job-oriented and may be eroding those reasons to pick up a newspaper as well. And Realtors bemoaning what they consider to be the high cost of newspaper classified advertising have found ways to strike back.

Steve Goddard, broker/manager with Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based RE/MAX, worked with his local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to develop a small real estate sales newspaper. "We were able to offer ads that cost $100 in the [conventional] newspaper for $35, but what most of those purchasing ads did was buy bigger ads." Ultimately, the MLS sold the paper to the Los Angeles Times. The Times folded the paper but also began charging less for its own real estate advertising. After all, Goddard says, "we started a real estate selling newspaper once, we could do it again."

By the time a potential home buyer sees any real estate ad, Goddard says, information about the property has already been circulating, an important reason, especially for small builders, to co-op with Realtors. Goddard snail-mails or e-mails his new listings to other Realtors. He also prospects the neighborhood, noting that 15 percent of people who buy a home live within five blocks of the selling property.

Goddard eschews radio and television advertising as too expensive, and according to Contentintelligence, radio and television are losing to the Internet when it comes to how users spend their time. The least expensive way to advertise property, of course, is to use a sign posted on the property for sale (and Borrell Associates found in its survey that signs were also the third most effective advertising method). Flyers with property details are typically placed in containers attached to the sign, another economical way to advertise.

Such techniques work in all price ranges: Goddard's own recent listings have ranged from a $226,000 home in Anaheim, Calif., to a $5 million home in Bel Air, Calif.

Which Advertising Works?

Opinions differ. Some respondents find one method effective while others don't.

Key Most Effective Least Effective
Internet 39% 10%
Referrals 31% 1%
Signs 31% 1%
Rack Publications 25% 14%
Newspaper Classifieds 24% 40%
Display Ads 6% 1%
Direct Mail 5% 5%
Newspaper Supplements 4% 4%
Open House 0% 4%
Sea change:

Newspaper advertising has traditionally been the be-all and end-all of real estate

advertising. But that trend is ending--40 percent of respondents to a Borrell

Associates survey conducted in cooperation with The Newspaper Association

of America view newspapers as their least effective advertising method.

Respondents--real estate marketing decision makers--cited the Internet,

signs, and referrals as the most effective.

Source: "Real Estate Classifieds: Big Changes Ahead for the Home Listings Business," Borrell Associates, April