I’m often asked to share insights into the eccentric world of property journalism, so here goes with one example - that is, we may be half way through the calendar year but for property journalists about two-thirds of 2012 have effectively passed.
It is because advertising in the property sections of most national newspapers and magazines is skewed heavily towards the first half of the year. Therefore property pages are plentiful in particular from early March until early July, then ease back a lot over the summer months and return - briefly - from early September until late October.
Once November kicks in, the volume of property advertising subsides again in anticipation of Christmas. It only resumes something like ‘normality’ in the final week of January.
That is why those newspapers with separate property sections (the FT, Daily and Sunday Telegraph and daily and Sunday Times in the main) often ‘collapse’ those sections for anything up to four weeks over the turn of the year.
During this December and January period the occasional property story appears in a general features section of the paper, but there is little else.
There has roughly been the same ebb-and-flow of advertising during each of the 11 years I have been writing about residential property. The sheer volume of advertising is lower now, of course, because of the downturn since late 2007, but the in-principle profile of ‘busy spring followed by summer hiatus and then short autumn market’ has been the same.
In other words, property sections are healthy when the housing buying market is busiest, and quiet when few buyers are about. It makes sense, although it is not always obvious.
The ebb and flow is exaggerated this year by the Olympics, which will distract the housing market more than usual over the summer period: editors are already admitting that whereas the pages of the sports and news sections are likely to be heaving with advertising (much of it from the principal sponsors of London 2012 apparently), the property pages will be even lighter than usual.
Fortunate and well-organised property journalists know the ups-and-downs of work so plan not just holidays but other writing for this period - perhaps the occasional story for a corporate magazine, some media training or work outside of property.
Then, it is back to the national newspaper property story grindstone in August writing the stories which will appear in September.
In a few days’ time I will update this blog with another ‘insight’ - how property journalists get the ideas for the stories which appear in the nationals.
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