A former regional newspaper editor has cited the rise of estate agents advertising on property portals as a major factor in the decline of the local press.
Keith Perch, who edited the South Wales Echo, Derby Telegraph and Leicester Mercury, and who is now a lecturer in journalism, says local papers saw their revenues and staff numbers decline after failing to notice the changing way estate agents were advertising properties.
Writing in a new book, Last Words, he says traditional newspaper executives failed to “understand the nature of the threat or the opportunity of online classifieds”.
He writes: “Take property advertising, for example.
“Newspapers already had a good relationship with thousands of estate agents throughout the country and already gathered details and a photograph of hundreds of thousands of properties from them for advertising every week. Moving this online and making it searchable would keep them ahead.
“But the newspapers did not understand either the internet or the business of estate agents. In newspapers, space was at a premium. As a result, advertisements for houses tended to include just one photograph and very limited details of the property.
“The estate agents were quick to realise the internet offered them the chance to put full details, and lots of photographs of every house, online, giving them rich data which was searchable at any time.
“They had access to the data via their members and could attract a direct audience without the need for newspapers as intermediaries.”