Bracing for Big Data

few years ago, people were lamenting the “death of media” and the decline of traditional journalism.

And while some bloated old-school media outlets are still hemorrhaging dollars and staff, I think it’s a more interesting time in journalism than ever.

One reason for this is the rise of so-called data journalism, the ability to gather and analyze vast amounts of information from both government and private sources.

While that might sound dry on the face of it, it is actually leading to some very juicy stories for us at The Real Deal.

We are seeing huge implications (and applications) when it comes to this type of reporting. In fact, we have several new data-related offerings in the works that are scheduled to launch soon, including a new standalone online research section with some 35,000 entries capturing the people, companies, properties, deals, market reports and rankings connected to the New York City real estate industry.

Our five-person research team, led by senior reporter Adam Pincus, already scours city databases daily to uncover the latest breaking residential and commercial sales.

But we are also quickly developing the ability to scrape together giant amounts of data to compile our own real-time market reports, as well as creating more rankings than ever before (see our analysis of condo offering plans, top multifamily dealmakers, rental listings and commercial development in this issue.)

This data is enabling us to report stories that turn the conventional wisdom on its head and move past the anecdotal to what’s really happening. Take the myth of the all-cash buyer, which holds that everyone who buys high-end real estate in the city just shows up with a check and doesn’t need to borrow money. Turns out nearly half of luxury condo buyers in the past year took out a mortgage, our research team discovered after combing through more than 5,000 property records.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

We’ve also used data to figure out how deep the pool of buyers is for luxury condos in NYC — a billion dollar question for developers. And our research has the ability to shape public policy by analyzing the effects of government programs on real estate. 

Beyond real estate journalism, the applications of this kind of data gathering are, of course, potentially infinite. Think about your own personal email account, a robust database in its own right. My Gmail account contains a record of almost every written interaction I’ve had with people over the past eight years. Running queries against someone’s email history could create a fascinating behavioral breakdown. What are their work patterns and how have they changed over time? Or, say, how often do they argue with friends? (Both could be analyzed looking at the frequency of emails sent to particular addresses, or emails containing certain key words.) One would imagine biographers with access to email accounts of their subjects in the future will have a treasure trove of information, enabling them to glean insight into character like never before.

I’m not going to even get into how “The Internet of Things” — when every physical object is connected online — will affect data gathering. It’s too mind-blowing.

But I’ll tell you that we have a beta version of our new research section, which we’ve dubbed TRData, online now at We expect to formally launch by the first quarter of 2016. Check it out and tell us what you think. If you work in New York City real estate, chances are your firm, properties and many of your deals are already featured. If not, let us know.

Meanwhile, we’ve got some great stories in this issue.

Our cover package is about the burgeoning real estate scene in the Bronx, where developers are moving past stigmas about the borough and seizing on opportunities to pick up cheap land.

We’ve also got an in-depth breakdown of who is taking space at the first office buildings rising at the Hudson Yards mega project. 

And speaking of mega, we’ve also got a revealing behind-the-scenes story on the mammoth $5.3 billion purchase of Stuy Town by Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge. The deal has made Blackstone, the private equity giant, the unlikely darling of tenant advocates and left-wing politicians, writes Konrad Putzier. 

Enjoy the issue.