June 7, 2011

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Print Advertising is Obsolete – The Case for On-Line


I’ve been working in and around the internet almost since the beginning of the dotcom boom. Between 2001 and 2008, I was the CEO and Managing Director of realestate.com.au and my most recent business venture is focussed on investing, innovating and consulting in the on-line realm.

When I originally took on the realestate.com.au role, it was the very early days of online real estate marketing. At that time, internet advertising was just a sideshow to the main action, which was print advertising. By the time I left realestate.com.au, on-line had become the main show, and in fact in some segments of the market place, the only show.

Over my nearly eight years there, visitors to realestate.com.au increased from 230,000 a month to 4.5 million a month and total on-line spend for agents grew from around $7 million a year to over $180 million a year. That’s explosive growth in anyone’s books. I expect the internet will continue to grow, although obviously not at the same rate.

In the real estate market today, the internet has taken almost 100% market share away from print in advertising of rental properties, share accommodation and low-end properties for sale. The only real estate segments that continue to be advertised in print in any great volume are developments and the upper end of the market, driven by vendor-paid advertising.

As to why it’s happened, the answer is pretty obvious - the internet is where the eyeballs are. Buyers prefer to use the internet for their research; they can filter results in any way they want and make electronic shortlists, they can see multiple photos and floor plans, they can check the location of the property on Google maps, and perhaps most importantly, they can do it wherever they want, whenever they want.

The real estate portals have been great news for agents and vendors too, because when you compare the two modes of advertising, the internet is ridiculously cheap and easy to use. Uploading a property onto on-line portals is a lot less time consuming than organising a print ad - buyers can see the property as soon as the listing is uploaded and the agent can update details whenever they want. It will even be emailed direct to interested buyer’s in-box overnight via email alerts - how much more targeted could marketing be?

The pro-print corner will try to convince you that internet advertising loses steam after that initial upload and if you don’t get a sale straightaway you might as well have the property hidden under a rock. This, of course, is fear mongering in a rear guard action to protect the ancient rivers of gold. If you look at the viewing patterns of any property, you will not only see an initial spike, you will also see a long tail of continual viewing of an online listing. Ask any pro-print person how many people actually looked at each print add and the best they can do is quote some out of date circulation figure for the paper.

To maximise the value from any online advertising, the agent needs to do more than just upload the listing. They need to actively manage that listing on the portal sites and on their own sites.

To maximise the number of leads generated by an on-line ad, there are two key things to consider. The first is the quality of the advertisement, focusing on the same features that draw consumers to the web - lots of information:

- High quality photos and lots of them - 8 to 10 is the most effective number.
- Floor plans - a clear layout will help the buyer visualise the property.
- Informative text - the copy should include as much factual information as possible and be straight to the point. Savvy internet consumers are turned off by flowery descriptions.
- The location of the property so it can be mapped.
- Even videos of the property can help create more high quality leads.

The second key thing which will determine the effectiveness of the ad is positioning on the site:

- Adopt premium products - use options like the guaranteed top spot or the e-brochure feature which sends the property in a separate email to interested buyers.
- Advertise on multiple sites - cast the net as broadly as possible.
- Promote the real estate brand separately to listings - unlike print, on-line can disaggregate the brand from the listing, so use options like banner ads in the suburb search.
- If a property is languishing in an on-line campaign, it is most likely due to the advertisement not ticking these boxes rather than the medium of on-line itself.

The other argument for print is that print advertisements are a branding tool for the agent and therefore great for sourcing sellers. This may well be true, but if it is, why isn’t the agent paying for the ad out of their commission as they would in other countries? Getting a vendor to spend thousands on print ads that are unlikely to make any difference to the sale of their property just doesn’t seem right to me. The question to ask is, if it were your money you were spending, would the branding benefit be worth it?

I believe your brand will be promoted far more effectively if you do the right thing by your vendors and save them money on their marketing campaign by using the most effective tool in the market place - on-line advertising. The best driver of leads you can ever create is through word of mouth recommendations.

Going forward, I believe print advertising will become even less relevant. Print advocates say that there is a whole segment of society that doesn’t use the internet, particularly those buyers in the older age group who are looking for premium properties. I don’t necessarily agree with that argument; 70%+ of the total population is now on-line and that includes many older people. But even if it were true now, in time the younger generations who are only using the internet will become the older generation who only use the internet.

My advice to any agent considering the marketing campaign for a property today would be; think carefully of the buyers you are targeting. Anyone under the age of 40-50 is almost certainly using the internet, and in many areas, people in older age brackets are too. I personally wouldn’t waste my time advertising anything in print - the time and effort required is just not worth it.

Don’t hang onto the past, on-line is here to stay and is the most effective forum for real estate marketing. Embrace the future and run like mad - your audience is already there.

[image: flickr/inju]


Related posts:

  1. Online Advertising Overtakes Print
  2. Surveys Shows the Problems with Print
  3. New Mobile Option Links Print to Web
  4. Print Media: Dead or Just Dying?
  5. Social Media Takes the Shine off Print
  6. Online is the Future
  7. Selling Online Advertising to Vendors
  8. The Case for Video Marketing
  9. Price Freeze at realestate.com.au
  10. remoov.com.au Cuts Out Agents


  1. Greg Vincent says:


    ‘Embrace the future and run like mad – your audience is already there.’

    I totally agree with this…There are lots of agents who haven’t properly embraced web 1.0 & yet the internet has already evolved into web 3.0.

    Learning how to market more effectively over the internet has become one of the most important skill sets for any real estate agency.

    Print media simply provides a link from the offline to the online as property seekers will normally go from the paper advertisement & before contacting the agent they will look for more information & photos about a home in the paper by looking it up on the internet. Then if they’re interested they’ll contact the agent for an inspection or more info from there.

    I suppose the only way that agents can really measure the effectiveness of print media is for them to ask any enquiry ‘where did they first see the property advertised & not assume that it’s simply an internet enquiry’.

    Because people are more familiar with navigating the major portals like realestate.com.au or domain.com.au they will tend to search there for the information rather than going directly to the agents website & having to learn how to navigate each agents website separately.

    The major portals have received huge amounts of this direct traffic from print media over the years & it would be interesting to see what happens in the future as agents learn better ways to measure their print media campaigns.

    I can still see a need for print in the current climate, but I can’t see that a full page ad v’s a 1/4 page ad will make any real difference to the enquiry level & the eventual sale price of the home.

    Agents need to put better strategies in place that help to monitor traffic from their print advertising directly to their online listings & by-pass the major portals & their competitors listings.

  2. Daniel Hare says:


    There is no doubt that the internet is the most important media channel for property and it plays a key part in the customer journey from initial research right through to purchase decision, but this does not mean that all print media is pointless. I recently did some enquiry analysis for a developer and found that there was a direct correlation between website enquiries for specific developments and the amount of press advertising they were doing for those same developments.

    Web is perceived as so good, because the analytics are so complete; it’s safe, it’s tangible, but the reality is that it is one (very big) piece of the marketing jigsaw and although you should put the majority of your efforts and budget online, it should not be to the exclusion of all others.

  3. Brightmove says:

    The question I always ask when I see articles with the same headline as this is simply - What about prospective house purchasers who won’t or don’t use computers? In the height of the market - the usual answer to this was - we have sufficient buyers from the internet alone. Home sellers need to take advantage of all the toys avilable to sell their property - however, good old fashioned news print, estate agents windows and for sale boards are also desirable. We all like a good read - papers, newspapers will never die - and neither will the advertisers who support them. After all, there will always be someone who will advertise in print if only to be different.

  4. Hi Simon,

    I totally agree with your article having seen print uk media property magzines winding down operations in uk and their international counterparts.

    very broadly speaking many newpapers did make to jump to online ,but now the question arises is this the end to free news.Newspaper sites are great but ad reveunues aren’t covering their costs.

    Catherine Mathis of the NY Times and press Mogul R.Murdoch have both signalled that online content costs more to produce than the ads they bring in;thats got to change with R.Murdoch annoucing plans to charge for content within 12 months.

    The problem for News is that for charging to work, everybody needs to do it .~In 2008 Cardiff University analysed UK newspapers and found 80 % where churnalism partly or wholly recycled news wire or PR copy.Such content will find its way online for free with or without news papers.

    More importantly the UK has the BBC,thanks to the licence fee,it provides the same sort of content news paper sites offer.That means the challenge for the media isn’t just to charge their users;it’s to create content that their users will be paying for.

    Kind Regards

    Amul Raj Desai


  5. Kylie Emans says:

    I totally agree with Simon but I am constantly dumbfounded as to how agents are still convincing owners to spend $1,000′s of dollars on print media when it is not needed. The internet has so many advantages over print media. As far as I can see print media for real estate is a luxury, non environmentally friendly marketing medium and the only real advantage over the internet is that you have a hard copy of your real estate advertising that you can show to family and friends! Ie a vanity item!

    For people who don’t have a computer or are not online (do these people exist? and if they do, do they not have friends, family etc who have computers?) and are looking at real estate well, if they want to wait for the print media advertising they will get the properties that are leftover after the right priced properties have sold weeks before on the net!


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