Newspaper Advertising Still Vital

Tom has over 20 years experience in the real estate sector from opening his first agency at age 21 to senior executive roles at a franchise level. He provides an insight to the real estate industry both at a grass roots level and academic perspective through his post graduate Masters Degree Management analytical view.

A prominent Sydney auctioneer and real estate trainer, he consults and coaches to some of Australia’s most successful agencies on increasing market share using media. He is the author of a number of coaching products including Winners In Business with Gerry Harvey, Mark Bouris and John Symond. Sold Magazine goes one on one with Tom Panos in an effort to get to the bottom of the print vs online advertising debate.

In your role as a real estate newspaper publisher, are you seeing a decline in real estate print media at the moment?

Our numbers are lower than what we would like. Most organisations are. The prestige market place where we derive large revenue volumes has declined with fewer listings, less transactions and lower auction numbers. There is a correlation between print revenues and auction listing numbers. What we are seeing is cyclical, not structural.

Is the internet taking revenue from print?
Yes, but not in any significant level. Up until Christmas last year our numbers looked excellent nationally so it is not like all this revenue has migrated to online in the last three months.

Are newspapers losing their relevance in regards to newspaper advertising?
Far from it. The newspaper advertising industry in Australia is very robust and resilient and is significantly more sophisticated than the USA and UK. You cannot find real estate products like the Wentworth Courier anywhere in the world. Certainly classified advertising around the world is in decline, but when we consider the real estate advertising we publish as being very pictorial, on gloss paper for many of our products, we feel very optimistic about the future. Stefan Swanepoel, the author of Trend Reports in the USA who is highly regarded worldwide, believes the vendor paid advertising model in Australia is excellent and is something the real estate industry in the USA could learn from and adapt. Australia certainly leads the ways to real estate print advertising world-wide.

Claims are made by many in the tech world that too much money is spent in print advertising. How do you respond to this?
The real estate media spend across Australia is over $1 billion dollars. News Limited has a significant share of this with its community titles and publications like the Courier Mail in Brisbane, Gold Coast Bulletin and Adelaide Advertiser. My personal opinion is that print advertising revenues can be higher. For instance, certain properties come onto the market with no print advertising budget at all. They could be worth $1 million dollars and there are no marketing dollars attached to it. Some vendors spend more dollars advertising a garage sale than the sale of their home. There is no logic to this.

What are the strengths of print advertising over online?
For a start, ‘trust’. Independent research carried out in 2008 by The Leading Edge, found that in order of trust in the media environment, newspapers come in first, followed by radio. The problem with the internet is that it is not transparent. What you read on the internet can be posted by a criminal in jail. People are becoming wary of the internet due to this fact. Secondly, as a real estate agent, it is very difficult to build a brand on the property portals. Search results deliver properties individually regardless of the brand they are represented by. This is certainly very efficient for the buyers but creates no branding for the agency. Print media is the core product in the marketing mix that creates and drives a brand. There are examples of this right across Australia. McGrath in Sydney and Ray White on the Gold Coast are two to name a few.

You mean branding for listings?
Print advertising is the key driver in your brand. I love great brands. Be it McGrath with real estate or Apple with MP3 players and computers. They just get it. In a crowd of many they have learnt to say “Wow, look at me, I am different.” They have not conformed to mediocrity.

So you’re saying, use your vendors’ advertising to build your brand?
Absolutely not. Invest in print advertising to maximise the sale of your client’s property and as a by-product you begin to create a strong innovative brand that makes you the dominant player. It makes you the agency prospective vendors put on the shopping list. Furthermore, our research shows that the quality of your listing presentations improve when the source of the lead has been your profile and brand in print advertising. These vendors have already decided they will be investing in marketing before you walk through the front door. That is why they have provided you with an opportunity to pitch for the business.

But what if an agent thinks they can get a result without using print?
It’s not whether an agent can get a result, it’s whether an agent can get the best result without print, and unfortunately the verdict is very clear on that as being a BIG NO. In research carried out by Gil Davis in his book Sell for More which used extensive data from Rismark International and RP Data across Sydney and Melbourne, it showed that on average you get a result using internet only but when you use the combination of print and online you’ll get a better result. We are not talking about one property here; we are talking about extensive research on a sample size of thousands of properties. Based on this alone, an agent is being negligent if they do not offer the combination to a seller.

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