The Washington Post and Trulia announced today that Trulia will now power The Post’s local real estate content. The multiyear agreement is a bit unusual, since The Washington Post Co. is one of the five owners of Classified Ventures, whose HomeFinder portal has been behind the newspaper’s real estate classifieds until now.
But even though The Post won’t be using HomeFinder, both the paper and Classified Ventures say their relationship isn’t in trouble.
We understand that the two parties negotiated for more than a year on revised services and a new agreement but couldn’t settle their differences. Once The Post started talking with Trulia, the negotiations were resolved in less than two months.
“Our relationship with Classified Ventures hasn’t changed,” Jennifer Lee, communications manager for Washington Post Media, told us. “We will continue to partner with Classified Ventures for apartments and cars, but we have decided to embrace a more customized real estate search experience. We think our users will benefit from Trulia’s features including user personalization, search result filtering, statistics and trends.”
Tim Fagan, president of Classified Ventures’ real estate division, echoed a similar sentiment about the relationship with The Post, adding that a tough economy played a significant part in the paper’s decision. “In a down market people are looking really hard at their costs,” he said.
“The category is down. Home transactions peaked in 2005. We’re heading into the fourth year of a downturn. We are different (from) other categories, both offline and online in automotive and recruitment, because real estate has been down since 2006,” Fagan said. “Is that a direct cause of today’s announcement? No. Is it indirect? I think it is.”
He added: “When times are tough you’ll find out who’s got the appetite to invest. When times are good you reach agreements on decisions much sooner. We’ve got five owners with five different balance sheets. “
He called The Post’s break with HomeFinder “a difference in appetite for investment. Where they wanted to take online real estate was no longer congruent with where we wanted to take it. What we do for owners is pretty involved, different facets to relationships, as the five owners don’t always agree on all facets of that relationship. They are unique in our investor group in that they are one paper with a bit of a national flavor; other (owners) have a number of papers. The way we’ve built our systems and business is to cater to these larger newspaper groups. The Washington Post, they are unique in that sense. … “
Besides the Post company, CV’s other owners are Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co.
“The Post is still an investor in CV and will continue to be an investor in CV. Departing HomeFinder and going to Trulia has no impact at all on their investment in CV, nor does it affect their affiliation with the other CV products,” Fagan said.
“We don’t view today’s announcement as a big problem for us. I don’t say that as ill will or sour grapes. I’m a big fan of The Washington Post and Trulia.”
Fagan added that Homefinder will still have a presence in D.C. “We are going to be fine in the Washington, D.C. market. HomeFinder will be fine. With 130 newspapers and our traffic, we are going to do OK. The Post was something like 5 percent of our traffic.”
HomeFinder sees about 2 million unique visitors per month. About half of them come from affiliate newspapers; the rest from search-engine marketing.
Trulia has lined up dozens of media affiliates, from U.S. News & World Report to The Bakersfield Californian, but The Washington Post deal may be the most significant to date because of the prominence of the newspaper and the market, and because it’s a major move away from Classified Ventures. The new site launches in April.
The new co-branded site will sport all the usual Trulia bells and whistles – search results based on neighborhood, price, property type and open houses; maps; local price data; heat graphs; and of course property descriptions. Trulia redirects users to a broker or builder Web site.
The Washington Post will also be incorporating its own editorial content into the site.
Trulia CEO Pete Flint wouldn’t give specifics of the company’s agreement with the Washington Post, but he called the deal “a more significant relationship” that will involve revenue sharing between both parties. In most Trulia deals, publishers keep revenue they generate from the display of advertising.
Trulia was full of praise for The Post. From the Trulia blog: “They’ve readily embraced innovative multimedia technologies and formats to provide their users with an award-winning experience (it shows – according to compete.com, their visitor traffic has grown almost 60% over the last year).”
Trulia also called it a “strong endorsement” of the Trulia platform. One-hundred sites are now using Trulia, the company said.
The Washington Post was equally effusive. “One of the key things about the Trulia experience is that although they provide a very fulfilling experience on Trulia.com, they also link out to broker and builder Web sites,” Goli Sheikholeslami, vice president and general manager of Washington Post Digital said. “We like that approach very much. It’s attractive to agents and brokers to know we are really trying to provide them with customers and leads and sending people to their Web sites.”
A basic version of the site will be live in April with additional personalization and social functionality — such as Trulia’s Voices product — coming online afterwards. For now, The Washington Post’s real estate site is still powered by HomeFinder.
Updated 7:30 pm EST Feb. 11 with additional reporting from Mya Frazier.