The acquisition last month of a leading on-line lead
generator for realty agents and brokers by a
consortium of six leading media companies was hailed
last week at an industry conference as a signal of a
new era in cooperation between once bitter rivals for
the billions that are spent every year on real estate
"Print and online have a role to play together," said
Richard Sommer, chief executive officer of HomeGain of
Emeryville, Calif., the privately-held Internet-based
firm that was purchased by Classified Ventures, a
joint venture owned by the Belo Corp., Gannet,
Knight-Ridder, the McClatchy Co., Tribune Co. and the
"It's a signal that traditional companies are ready to
play in this space," agreed Justin McCarthy, head of
local sales at Google, the popular Internet search
And it's about time print media has embraced the web,
added Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist.com, a
rapidly expanding community-service website where
buyers and sellers get together to trade just about
"It's great that newspapers are catching up," Newmark
said. "In some of our markets, especially New York,
more real estate agencies are using our site than are
advertising in newspapers."
Sommer, McCarthy and Newmark made their remarks at
Real Estate Connect, the annual conference that seeks
to join the real estate industry with technology
Established in 1999, HomeGain provides consumers with
direct access to real estate professionals and visa
versa. It also gives agents the products and tools to
conduct their marketing online. The site claims 4
million visitors a month.
Classified Ventures is a strategic business enterprise
between the six newspaper companies to collectively
grow their revenues in the real estate and automotive
categories. It has three main businesses, including
Homescape, which delivers online solutions to more
than 150 newspapers, Cars.com and Apartments.com.
The acquisition of HomeGain "adds a powerful marketing
and business partner to help accelerate (our) growth
and deliver more value and innovation to consumers,
agents and brokers," said Daniel Jauernig, president
of Classified Ventures.
At the conference, Google's McCarthy pointed out that
this is not the first time newspapers have attempted
to win back some of the classified advertising they
have lost to splashy websites and on-line innovators.
The "Career Builder" newspaper section of job ads is
basically a print version of an Internet job posting
site, he said.
But Harley Rouda Jr., chief executive officer at Real
Living, the largest residential real estate brokerage
in the Midwest with some 4,000 agents and 150 offices,
questioned whether realty pros will ever again embrace
newspapers as a key, stand-alone advertising venue.
When the Columbus, Ohio-based RealLiving, then known
as HER Real Estate, dropped its Sunday newspaper ads,
Rouda said he was "burned in effigy" by his agents.
Now, though, he added. "they have finally given up the
heroin addiction of newspaper advertising." And he
wondered whether they will ever go back.
But Rouda said smart brokers and agents will advertise
in both venues. "You have to have online and print;
they compliment each other," he said.
Another speaker, Glenn Cohen, founder of Expert
Realty, said the print media will always be an
important ad venues, if not for classified ads, then
at least for tombstone-type display ads that tout a
"We spend a tremendous amount in newspapers," he said.
"We're the new guy, we have to build a brand."