Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Realtor.com updates its universal iOS app as online classified firms solidify their hold on the new platforms

You can lead a newspaper publisher to water, but you can't make 'em drink – or at least that seems to be the lesson we've learned from the lack of new classified advertising apps being launched by newspaper properties.

Most newspapers sat around while the Internet ate up their classified sections. Then they partnered to create and support separate Internet properties like Cars.com and Careerbuilder – all the while watching as their classified sections shrank into nothingness.

(As I've argued in the past, this has nothing to do with the Internet as newspaper watched as stand-alone publications like the auto traders and local real estate tabloids sprang up. It is in the DNA of newspaper execs to watch as their business walks out the door.)

The growth of smartphones and tablets has presented the industry yet another chance to try and reclaim a category that once was the profit generator of most daily metro newspapers. But all we've seen is a few attempts at launching mobile apps for classified, such as the weak soup efforts of the NYT.

Meanwhile, Zillow and Realtor.com (Move, Inc.) have seen both the opportunity and the danger. Both entities have moved quickly to establish themselves on smartphones and tablets lest they blow all their hard work to grow their online properties.

Today the REALTOR.com® Real Estate Search apps has been updated to add support for Apple's retina display devices.

The app is attractive and simple to use – and users have given the mark consistently high marks. But today's update also includes changes most users will not see as it creates a new setup experience for real estate agents.
While it kills me to see newspapers blow another opportunity I have to admit that it probably is too late anyways. CAMs (classified ad managers) are no longer the strongest managers on the team. As a former CAM myself I fondly remember being able to attend meetings where my department could report that it was driving the lion's share of the property's profits and revenue growth.

Further, it looks like all those good relations between the clients and the paper have grown cold. Introducing a new mobile real estate or auto product that takes advantage of geolocation services, combined with the editorial content of the paper, would be difficult if the reps no longer have the ear of the advertisers.