From the broadsheet to cyberspace

By Broderick Perkins
Executive Editor/Founder
DeadlineNews Group
Originally Published Copyright © October 15, 1999

“Truth is a battle of perceptions. People only see what they are prepared to confront. It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you allow yourself to see.”
- Emily VanCamp as Emily Thorne (Revenge)

SAN JOSE, CA — After 16 years with the Mercury News, I’ve resigned my post as real estate writer, but not my job as a real estate journalist.

The World Wide Web presents me — and you — with new and compelling challenges.

See The Newspaper That Almost Seized the Future

Study after study reveals that a growing number of you, real estate consumers, are looking to the Internet to rent, buy, sell, fix up and fill your housing.

You’ve also indicated you prefer solid information to help you navigate the ordeal.

Unfortunately, editorial content in cyberspace simply isn’t what it is on the broadsheet.

Web-based real estate information is often static, rudimentary stuff. That’s fine if all you need is to background yourself in the fundamentals.

It’s not good enough, however, to help you keep abreast of the record-breaking boom that’s gripped Silicon Valley, the nation’s hottest housing market, now in crisis mode.

Along with the basics, you need timely, objective news coverage, analysis and informational content that explains how today’s real estate market twists and turns affect your housing decisions.

You’ve said as much.

This summer, a survey by the Newspaper Association of America said 75 percent of home buyers read real estate-related articles or editorials when searching for a home and 66 percent of newspaper subscribers read real estate articles even when they’re not in the market for a new home.

“Consumers trust newspapers for the information they need every day. So when it comes to buying a home — one of the most important decisions in their lives — it’s no surprise that they turn to newspapers, both in print and online,” said association president and CEO John F. Sturm.

Mercury Center’s own real estate Web page, the electronic edition of the newspaper’s Real Estate section, enjoyed a whopping 745 percent increase in traffic after Knight Ridder, Mercury News’ parent company, launched HomeHunter, a real estate listings and information site. Before HomeHunter, the stand-alone real estate home page received only about 14,000 visits a month. After HomeHunter launched — with prominent links to the real estate news — traffic to the news area soared to 118,000 visits a month.

In Internet vernacular, that’s a lot of eyeballs.

Do the math.

The demand for realty news you can use is growing, and it’s not just another Silicon Valley phenomenon.

A record 67 percent of Americans own their own home. That number should reach 70 percent in another 10 years, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Housing — owned and rented — and everything that goes in it, on it and around it, is the single greatest expenditure for most consumers.

You need objective information to help you make the best decisions for your money.

Consumers spend nearly 40 cents of every dollar for housing and its related costs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Home buying, renting and related purchases of goods and services account for at least 20 percent of the nation’s Gross National Product — the value of all goods and services produced in the United States.

You need to know when to move and when to stay put.

Economists say that as goes the real estate market so goes the economy. The housing market can signal an economy climbing out of a recession or it can signal an economy slipping into one.

When consumer confidence is down, you avoid major purchases. When it’s up, you buy homes.

The economic impact alone is enough to warrant plenty of solid information.

But there’s more.

Reams of regulations from all levels of government cast a confusing net of law over realty transactions. Legislation to draft still more laws, court cases to help decipher existing laws and hearings, mediation and arbitration to settle disputes over legal interpretations of realty law add to the confusing morass that surrounds your home.

How do you sift through it all?

That’s your challenge.

Learn the difference between editorial content and objective news coverage of the real estate market, on or off the Internet.

My challenge is, as always, to make your job easier.

I hope to help raise the bar for real estate coverage on the Internet and bring it more in line with what you’ve come to expect from me at the Mercury News.

Thank you for reading my copy all these years.

Thanks for the kudos and thanks for the brickbats that helped keep me on my toes.

See you in the interactive funny papers.

About This Column

When I “retired” from the San Jose Mercury News on October 15, 1999, I wrote this piece as my final column. Managing editors decided not to publish it because it was too promotional, and as such, a possible conflict of interest.

So be it.

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