II visiting recently with the senior strategist at one of the United States’ leading newspaper companies, a theme emerged about classified advertising in today’s recession:

  • Employment advertising has migrated to the internet and likely will only come back to newspapers as a fraction of what it once was.

  • Automotive advertising is down about what you would expect it to be in a recession, but this is expected to return to newspapers.

  • Real estate advertising is the one classified sector the newspaper industry should focus its energy because, mid-recession, it’s unclear the degree to which this will come back to newspapers.

The rationale behind focusing industry efforts on real estate is a long-understood but rarely discussed reality: real estate advertisers hate newspapers. They’re not sure that newspaper advertising move homes, but agents feel pressure to advertise so they can show clients that they’re doing something.

The strategist tells me that what’s needed is a migration away from selling print ads to the real estate sector … toward evolving the newspaper into the role of marketing services agency to the real estate sector.
 
Another U.S. publisher disagreed with this notion, saying national internet pure-plays in the real estate sector are “as greedy as we are,” and there’s no disruptive innovation happening.
 
How can newspapers help solve real estate agents’ problems over the next five years? How is the market changing from the agent’s perspective? How can newspapers retool to be the real estate sector’s marketing services agency?
 
Are national press associations taking a leadership role on this subject? Are newspapers collaborating to get to the heart and inside the minds of the real estate industry?
 
Or are we burying our heads, unable to marshal resources to focus on a sector with high return on investment?