Spreading out: How do brokerage magazines stack up?

Spoiler: Not all magazines are created equal

Nov.November 25, 2015 03:14 PM

With articles on Miami’s tech scene, the history of architecture in Boston and a creative renaissance in Brooklyn, the magazine could have passed for the latest issue of just about any general interest publication out there.

Instead, the slim journal was put out by Compass, the two-year-old residential brokerage that’s joined a flurry of residential firms fancying their hand at publishing.

In September, Town Residential entered the fray with its inaugural “My Town Magazine,” a glossy tome replete with gorgeous photos of agents, artists, tastemakers, and a supermodel in denim cut-offs on the cover. This spring, Douglas Elliman re-launched “Elliman,” featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell on the cover, and introduced “Elevate,” a magazine from Douglas Elliman Development Marketing.

What gives? In the hyper-competitive world of residential real estate, firms are selling themselves not just as brokers but as arbiters of a certain lifestyle.

Marketing experts said brokerages have a hard time differentiating themselves, but magazines – a form of branded content – can help them stand out.

“It’s tough to maintain relationships when a transaction completes and the buyer may be five or 10 years away from needing such services again,” said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer at New York City-based agency MRY. But a steady stream of content, he said, can “keep the brokerage top of mind.”

With a stack of these magazines piling up on our own desks, The Real Deal dove into the issues to see how they measure up. Here’s what we found.

Published by: Douglas Elliman
Frequency: Biannual
Pages: 316
Paper: Glossy
Think of it as: Tatler meets House & Garden
Love or cringe? Use of an “exclusive” yet blurry photo of Naomi Campbell on its debut cover

Whenever she’s asked why Elliman launched a magazine, global chief marketing officer Nicole Oge has the same answer: It is the voice of the brokerage’s brand. “As a brand, we value rare opportunities like these to communicate directly with our clients,” she wrote in the fall/winter edition of Elliman.

Articles clearly cater to the Louboutin and Jimmy Choo set, with topics ranging from Aspen ski vacations to a guide to getting into New York City’s best private schools. The back half of the magazine is comprised mainly of listings – Elliman is a brokerage after all – but bizarrely, much of the magazine is written in the first person. Editors aren’t shy about using clichés, either. A profile on publisher Tina Brown, for example, starts this way: “In many ways, I’ve been preparing for this day my entire life. On the most recent Friday the 13th, I had lunch with Tina Brown at Michael’s in New York City.”

My Town Magazine
Published By: Town Residential
Frequency: Annual
Pages: 184
Paper: Glossy
Think of it as: Interview meets Maxim
Love or cringe? A calendar of activities for children includes vintage photos of Donald, Eric and Ivanka Trump

My Town is intended as “an authentic expression of our ethos,” CEO Andrew Heiberger declared in an a publisher’s note that appeared in its inaugural September issue.

The magazine is chock-full of gorgeous people – from up-and-coming models to vintage photos of artists and icons, including one of Yves Saint Laurent kissing a replica of the Empire State Building.

The real estate focus? A “Neighborhood Watch” dives into neighborhoods like Franklin Square and Wall Street, and there’s a feature on next-generation developers, such as Joseph Sitt’s son, Jack, who is also an owner of Town.

Compass Quarterly
Published by: Compass
Frequency: Quarterly
Pages: 43
Paper: Recycled paper
Think of it as: Dwell meets McSweeny’s
Love or cringe? Agents are bestowed with titles such as “The Orchestrator,” “The Globetrotter” and “The Curator”

The smallest of the magazines, Compass’ inaugural design-focused issue pays tribute to the artisans and entrepreneurs who it says  are creating “functional, intelligent, and beautiful” homes.

Here, the layout is crisp and though the content is undeniably self-serving, the writing is far less grandiloquent than the rest. Features are pegged to Compass’ markets, such as an architectural review of real estate in Boston, where the firm recently launched. A topographical map of Washington, D.C. is consistent with the firm’s emphasis on tech and data.

Published by: Douglas Elliman Development Marketing
Frequency: Biannual
Pages: 180
Paper: Glossy
Think of it as: Vanity Fair meets Travel + Leisure
Love or cringe? Headline for a piece on the next-generation prices and princesses: “Who are the totes-modern next gen royals?”

If Dottie Herman gets a magazine, Susan De Franca does too. Elevate is going after the global elite with features like one on Puerto Rico’s status as a tax haven. While the summer/fall issue is dominated by pop culture – there’s a story about models on Instagram – it features plenty of Elliman’s new development listings at the back. The longform stuff is stellar. A profile of designer and soccer wife Victoria Beckham is strong, and the standout is a spread on Edward Villella, a protégé of George Balanchine, which poignantly summed up the dancer’s career-ending injury: “The man who’d soared across the stage at Lincoln Center Could No Longer Cross Broadway before the light changed.”

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