When Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine wrote, "Tribune Company just bought ForSaleByOwner.com. That’s a bigger deal than it may appear in the rearview mirror" wonder if he was aware of these stunning statistics? In less than a year, the online real estate section of The Boston Globe has seen pageviews rise from seven million to nine million per month, and property searches rise from one million to three million per month.
Nearly as impressive, Boston.com’s real estate section has over 150 user generated forum topics. What that tells me is that newspapers, at least the one here in Boston, are trusted middlemen in the real estate industry. Realtors would love to position themselves as "Someone You Can Trust," the title of one of their new spots in a $23.2 million television advertising campaign to enhance their brand name.
Unlike listing agents, who have a duty to offer a range of fiduciary
services to their clients, the Tribune is going into the FSBO business
— not the brokerage business as Jarvis recommended a decade ago. If
smart FSBOs already advertise in their local newspaper, an obvious best practice
recommended a year ago, how will that be different from placing an ad
in a FSBO website owned by a newspaper? My guess is that the newspaper
owned-FSBO website will bundle a variety of financial incentives to consumers, and sell buyer and seller leads to brokers for a referral fee. Otherwise how will they recoup their potential lost revenue? Do the math: ForSaleByOwner.com listing packages start at less than $90 per month, or $249 until the property sells. Compare that to the cost of a print ad in The Boston Globe:
it’s nearly impossible to write a meaningful print ad for less than
$150, and arguably it to be effective, it needs to appear weekly.
If there is a financial upside here for the Tribune, it appears to
selling leads to the brokerage community, something newspapers
traditionally have not done. That’s changing. In July 2005, Classified Ventures, a joint venture of leading newspapers including the Tribune and Washington Post, acquired HomeGain.com,"the
#2 leading website in the real estate industry" with 4.5 million
But one needs to ask where is the financial upside for home sellers? If Boston.com already generates three million property searches per month and delivers nine millon page views, do FSBOs really benefit from being sold to a full-service or flat-fee listing agency
who will put them in the MLS if it costs them half or full commission? Or is advertising on sites like Boston.com and purchasing advice "as needed" for an hourly fee from a new generation of fee-for-service real estate
consultants a better value?