Hmmm… I have mixed feelings about the second day of the NAA Connections meetings… Where should I start?
I guess I’ll start with the fact that the official NAA blog hasn’t been updated to actually reflect anything happening at the conference on Monday. It jumped from Sunday to an advertisement for the Tuesday session. There are any number of reasons for this, but I think a big reason for this is that the whole “we’ll blog the conference” was a good idea, but isn’t really something traditional newspaper people understand, so they haven’t committed to it. For example, they asked people to participate on the blog, but didn’t actually tell anyone the URL or tell them how to add an entry… just a thought. The blog was most likely an addition thrown into the mix at the last minute without any real understanding of how to use it.
Anyways, I attended a few sessions today:
• Fighting for Recruitment Revenue – This was an hour or so presentation by Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin, the guys behind CareerXRoads. Great presentation. Probably the most well presented stuff all day. Gerry and Mark presented the results of their latest study on Hiring Practices (which is supposed to be online here, but isn’t according to Safari… actually, it looks like that’s a redirect to a download of a Word Doc) [Press Release] and interjected their thoughts and answered questions from the audience throughout. Great overview of what Gerry and Mark see as ‘leading indicators’ in the hiring space, and some great actionable information for the recruitment space.
• Future Focus: Trends that Will Shape Online Real Estate Revenue (not online anywhere that I can find) – Very good panel. Very good.
Panelists were: Bob Birkentall, Tribune Co. Real Estate Strategy Manager, Robert Kempf, Cape Cod Times Internet Business Development Manager, and Dave Coglizer, eBay. The Moderator was Tony Lee, Editor in Chief and General Manager, The Wall Street Journal Online Network.
The panel presented the 10 trends they see shaping the future of the real estate market. They were:
Trend 1: Home Sellers Take Control – Every aspect of sales will be measured and sales channels that don’t produce sales will get eliminated from the marketing and advertising budgets of home sellers. If an advertising channel’s results aren’t tracked and reported, it doesn’t exist.
Trend 2: Expect Significant Growth in New Property Types – Disappearing boundaries will boost demand for vacation homes, recreation land, time-shares and low-management commercial properties. Ebay is already playing in this field.
Trend 3: Online Brokers will Boost Competition, Cut Commissions, and Weaken the “Realtor” Grip – Data is available to all, propelling the growth of discount brokers, For Sale By Owner sites and other low-cost marketing efforts.
Trend 4: Sellers Demand to Receive Their Own “Home Page” – (now this is a cool idea) – Newspaper sites (and every other medium for home sales) will create ‘portals’ for clients’ homes to help speed the sale process.
Trend 5: Auctioning Homes will become a real alternative – Online auctions will solve sales issues for many types of properties and their sellers. (Dave shared with us an annecdote that “50% of all homes sold in Australia are sold through an auction” noting that it’s just part of the culture there and has been for about 20 years).
Trend 6: RETS is here, while VOWs and IDX systems are already old news – With a data standard emerging, transaction information will flow easily and targeted internet marketing will blossom.
Trend 7: E-commerce replaces call centers as online up sells print – Self Service becomes the preferred online client experience and print emerges as a “premium” opportunity for the advertiser.
Trend 8: A la carte systems embrace online – From lawyers to appraisers to inspectors, the entire home sales process will be faster and cheaper on the internet.
Trend 9: The future of the MLS is fuzzy.
Trend 10: Online Real Estate dominance is still up for grabs – The jury remains out on whether newspaper websites can become the online equivalent of print for most home buyers and sellers.
• Competing Against New Threats – What a waste of my time… but not because the content and presentation wasn’t useable, mainly because of the fact that the panelists are probably 10 times more technologically savvy than the newspaper business. The panelists were Mark Pincus, co-founder and CEO of Tribe Networks Inc, Mike Downey, director of business development, Overture Services, and Dan Finnigan, executive VP and general manager for Yahoo! HotJobs.
Mark presented Tribe.net well, but I honestly think 95% of the audience had no idea what he was talking about… Mike told us that Overture wasn’t a competitor to local newspapers, but rather that we were a desired partner, and Dan talked, but about what I honestly can’t remember (he wouldn’t speak into his microphone). My favorite quote from Mark was that “newspapers don’t have a chance in local search”. Whether that’s true or not, I couldn’t tell you, but hearing Mark say it at a newspaper conference was funny. I can tell you that newspapers on a national level don’t have a chance to compete with the likes of Google or Yahoo in the local search market, but there’s no telling that someone out there couldn’t build a model that works in their own market. I could see NYTimes Digital putting together something that worked for Boston, or WPNI putting together a solution for D.C. You just never know, ’till it happens.
Overall, this panel wasn’t very useable… The audience didn’t ask any questions, and that’s always a sign of disconnect between the panelists and their topics, and what the audience is looking to hear. I for one would have much rather heard about how newspapers can compete with the likes of online yellow pages (especially considering that Superpages is really expanding into the local online market again) or ways to compete against HotJobs or Monster rather than hearing about how they ‘want to partner with newspapers’. The topic was “competing” and the panel didn’t deliver.
I will say that it was great to meet Mark at Tribe.net, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to talk again soon.
I didn’t attend two sessions because they ran concurrently to the ones I did attend: Ultra-local Content and Services and Ultimate Election Coverage. These two sessions also seemed to focus on content rather than on advertising, and thus I was more interested in the other meetings/presentations I attended.
I’m really looking forward to the “New Online Business Plans from NAA New Media Fellows” presentation on Tuesday and “Registration Revisited”
Sorry this blog report isn’t more full-featured, but it’s been a long day folks… I sure wish the NAA New Media folks were really blogging the conference, but instead they’re showing that ‘newspapers don’t get blogs’ — something I hear all the time from my friends that know blogs…