More bad news for print classifieds

It’s no surprise to anyone that the Web now dominates the real estate advertising market.

In response to the question, ‘What resources did you use in your home-search process,’ 65 percent of respondents listed the Internet, while 49 percent mentioned newspapers. Two years ago, 43 percent of respondents listed newspapers as a primary information source while 43 percent listed the Internet as a primary source.”

For the true believers (like me), it’s a bit of a surprise that the Web was never able to disintermediate the real estate agents’ MLS monopoly. However, no one should be surprised that the agents recognized the Web as not only a cheaper, but a superior method to promote houses (and their services).

Not only did newspapers abuse their local classified monopoly for decades, but they never were able to offer an efficient buy in a business where the only thing that matters are location, location, and location. Why advertise to an entire metropolitan area when you only want buyers who are interested in a single neighborhood?

Bay Area real estate advertising never recovered from its decline in the recession of the early 90’s because the advertisers in their desperation found newer and cheaper ways to sell houses. The business was already pretty damaged by the time the Web came along.

Given the poor prognosis for newspaper classifieds in general and employment in particular, I was startled to hear that the Conference Board is still promoting its help-wanted index as a measure of the employment market, saying “Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, this measure provides an important gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs.”

What decade do the Conference Board’s economists live in? These days, employment classified ad volume is a lot more sensitive to online competition than it is to labor market conditions.

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