"Is the housing market the final nail in the coffin for newspapers?”
That is the question posed by an item on truliablog, a site that tracks the real-estate markets in big cities. Declines in the volume of classified advertising in newspapers related to housing, notes the item, pose a real problem for dead-tree dailies.
All decade, newspaper execs have complained that Craigslist is killing their classifieds. The 2008 report of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says Craigslist has “gobbled share in general classified and is a presence in real estate….”
One question: Have these analysts picked up a classifieds section lately? If they did, they’d come upon the shocking revelation that the housing sector is, in fact, shoring up newspaper classifieds.
The collapsed housing sector, that is.
Foreclosure notices are filling in where condo sales and auto deals once held sway. “There are definitely more than we’ve ever seen,” says Ginger Stanley, executive director of the Virginia Press Association. “I’ve been in the business 30 years.” Here’s what Stanley’s talking about: On March 13, the Washington Post’s classifieds section totaled 22 pages, approximately 14 of which were devoted to what are technically known as “trustee’s sales.”
This, in a town that, according to industry site RealtyTrac, ranked 41st in the country in foreclosure proceedings, with 28,455 filings in 2007—about 575 percent more than in 2006.
Area municipalities require that foreclosure sale notices be placed in local newspapers with broad distribution, and much of the resulting business lands with the Post and the Washington Times. “Classifieds has always been a good harbinger of where the economy is going,” says Charlie Diederich, marketing and advertising director with the Newspaper Association of America. “In good times, that category shrinks.”
And it’s one category Craigslist can’t touch. Placing a legal notice on Craigslist or some other site won’t satisfy municipal distribution requirements. No bother—the masses aren’t clamoring for more online legal ads. “No one’s begging us for a legal notices section,” says Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist.
Inside the Classifieds: Five signs of the new times