After getting my J degree and moving to Los Angeles I began searching for my first editorial job. It didn't take long to realize that if I wanted to live by the beach and enjoy life out of Michigan that I had better get a job on the business side of things. That is how I ended up selling real estate classified advertising for Hearst Newspapers. Within a year or so I was promoted to outside sales where very soon we launched a real estate tabloid into the market, later I became a CAM.
Classified, and real estate in particular, is still near-and-dear to my heart -- and it is truly heartbreaking that many newspapers have allowed their real estate advertising to walk out the door. It is only going to get worse.
Today it is hard to compete with the online websites like Realtor.com and Zillow.com. The experience of photo slide shows and great gobs of information is hard to beat when the standard classified ad is a couple of lines of text. It is for this reason that I have advocated for the mobile app.
Through smartphone apps, newspapers can offer location-aware content, maps, etc. Unfortunately, most classified ad departments have lost whatever power they once had as their revenue and ad pages have declined. (Let me tell you, we CAMs used to rule the roost -- and we knew it!)
A new series of apps from Trulia.com show how hard the battle will be for newspapers to win back their real estate category. The online real estate search company, backed by Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital, have launched new iPhone, iPad and Android apps today that are pretty much state-of-the-art.
All three apps released over the last couple of days are free for users to download. The iPhone and Android apps are, of course, best used on-the-go when house hunting or when you've come across a "for sale" sign. Like the Zillow's offerings, the apps offer detailed information concerning features, sales history, property taxes, etc. The iPhone app has been around a while but was updated yesterday. The update teases that new features are on their way.
"We believe the real estate apps currently available on the market today lack both the vision and the utility that home buyers, sellers and renters crave," Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia said in a statement bragging up their new apps. "Trulia has doubled its mobile resources and this year we will bring innovative tools to the fastest growing segment of our business. During peak usage times on weekends, more than 15 percent of Trulia's traffic comes from mobile devices and we expect this number to continue to grow in the future."
The iPad app gives the developer more real estate, so to speak, to work with. Home pictures are more attractive, and the maps are easier to navigate. Map features that show schools, restaurants and other things nearby are especially helpful when learning about a new neighborhood.
One thing that I continue to notice, however, is that most Android apps continue to be designed for mobile devices, rather than new Android tablets. Of course, the reason for this is that Google has not yet opened up their Honeycomb version of Android to developers. Until this happens we are not likely to see has many iPad apps built specifically for Android tablets.