The Real Deal New York

With REBNY deal, NYT stakes claim on resi listings space

Paper will stop charging firms to post listings
By E.B. Solomont | September 11, 2017 06:10PM

Andy Wright

“All the news that’s fit to print,” maybe so. But for years now, the New York Times has not been the place to find all the homes that are fit to buy or rent.

Now, the Gray Lady is having another go at it. In an effort to bulk up its listings data, the Times said Monday that it would stop charging brokers in New York City to post exclusives. Instead, it will take the Real Estate Board of New York’s new syndicated feed in the hopes that doing so will drive web traffic and ad revenue.

“We were the only game in town that remained as a paid listings model,” said Andy Wright, senior vice president of advertising for the newspaper. “We felt as though, strategically, it made a lot more sense for us to go free.”

The Times expects a 60 percent bump in Manhattan listings from the move, which comes amid the residential world’s battle with StreetEasy over a $3 daily fee to post rental listings. Today, it has around 5,000 Manhattan listings, but it’s projected some 8,000 when the free model kicks in next month. Citywide, the Times has 9,058 sales listings and 18,794 rental listings. By comparison, StreetEasy had 12,264 sales listings and 18,196 rental listings as of Monday afternoon.

“While we’ve had the majority of large brokerages sending their feeds, there were a lot of boutique firms that weren’t sending their listings,” said Brendan Walsh, the Times’ executive advertising director, who said the portal would offer a more “complete” set of data.

Curbed first reported news of the REBNY-NYT deal earlier Monday.

For residential firms, the move will be a big cost-cutter. Some of the city’s largest firms were paying $12,000 a month to feed their listings to the Times, several brokerage chiefs said. “It used to be the place to go, and it could be the place to go again,” said Brown Harris Stevens’ Bess Freedman.

While the Times was a de facto multiple listings service back in the day, its position has been diminished by StreetEasy and other sites that have popped up in recent years.

“They’ve been losing eyeballs,” said Robert Seamans, a professor at New York University, who in 2015 found that Craigslist cost newspapers $5 billion in classified ad revenue between 2000 and 2007.

Michael Gabriel — who developed a listing system that the Times licensed back in 2000 — was bullish on the Times’ prospects. “There were a large percentage of firms here in the local market that were already investing in paid packages,” he said.

The move, which Wright said was a year in the making, got a boost this summer when REBNY launched the RLS on August 1. StreetEasy has so far opted not to take the feed, further alienating residential firms that were already upset by efforts to monetize the site. In response, several of the city’s big firms opted to feed listings exclusively to the RLS, including Compass, Town Residential, Brown Harris Stevens and Stribling & Associates. But two of the city’s largest firms — Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group — are not among them. Ellliman has said from Day 1 that agents could use their marketing budgets to pay StreetEasy’s fees, and last week Realogy — parent company of Corcoran, Citi Habitats and Sotheby’s International Realty — announced a multi-year deal with Zillow to cover StreetEasy fees for its New York City agents.

That battle has opened the door to competitors that worked out deals with REBNY, including Realtor.comHome.com and now, the Times.

“The problem with the New York Times before was that it didn’t have the entire database, so it was not the go-to platform for buyers,” said Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan. By trading a steady stream of ad revenue for listings content, she said the Times is likely to draw a larger audience. “That allows them to charge more for other types of advertising. It may look bold, but it’s a no-brainer if it’s executed properly.”