Newspapers Snap Up Real Estate Vertical

Classified Ventures, a newspaper partnership that includes KRD, Gannett, The Washington Post Co., Belo Interactive and the Tribune Co., has announced the acquisition of HomeGain, a top real estate vertical.

Real estate is among the fastest growing of the online classifieds segments according to Nielsen/NetRatings, which reported that category traffic in April had 21.6 million uniques. According to Nielsen, the most popular site was Realtor.com, with 5.7 unique visitors in April. HomeGain was second and AOL Real Estate third.

Last year, print real estate ad revenues were approximately US$4.2 billion according to the NAA. Online real estate classifieds brought in US$200 million according to Kelsey Group estimates.

HomeGain has been among the most progressive of the real estate verticals, offering numerous marketing programs (including search marketing) for its small business clientele.

As broadband consumers increasingly turn to the Internet for information they once sought exclusively from print newspapers, more newspapers are responding by acquiring Internet properties. A subset of Classified Ventures — KRD, Gannett and Tribune Co. — owns ShopLocal and recently acquired a controlling interest in news aggregator Topix.net. Well publicized acquisitions of MarketWatch by Dow Jones, About.com by the NY Times, Shopzilla by Scripps and PointRoll by Gannett are part of a larger — and now more aggressive — push by newspapers to find additional readers, distribution and revenue streams online given that their core businesses are under pressure.

According to a June, 2004 survey by the California Association of Realtors, 56 percent of aspiring home buyers used the Internet as part of their housing search. There are other consumer surveys that confirm the trend. And if conducted today, those numbers would be even larger.

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