Property Journalism: The Future Is Digital

Property journalism is changing, and changing fast.

Part of this is driven by the relatively poor state of the housing market: six years ago there were, quite literally, twice the number of national newspaper property supplements there are today, and they were considerably thicker.

Remember the Daily Telegraph’s London Property and North of England supplements? And the Mail on Sunday’s hefty and always well-written property section? No more.

Part of the change is also driven by new technology: although printed newspaper readership is declining, online newspaper readership is climbing.

We’re reading more things on devices ranging from desktops to iPhones and, perhaps, we are willing to pay for this content after years of expecting all online material to be free.

As a result of these two forces combining, the type of journalism we see in property supplements is changing too.

Firstly, more stories are picture-driven. The Daily Telegraph is a good example - its online property section has been pioneering the use of 'galleries' - pictures of homes on sale, around a particular theme, often compiled without editorial comment and using estate agents' material with no journalistic input.

Secondly, there is more cost-cutting. For example, the Independent on Fridays now runs some of the London Evening Standard’s property stories from two days earlier - the papers have the same owner, so this is an easy corner to cut to save cash.

Thirdly, many stories will be less challenging. Papers (in print or online) tend to go for ‘safer’ high-readership stories - to maximise advertising - instead of going for more controversial but less well-read stories like those which, say, expose property scams.

So journalists, like everyone else, have to explore new digital formats.

In addition to conventional articles in print and online publications, I’m going to be experimenting with self-published digital ‘mini-books’ marketed through Amazon and available to be downloaded to Kindles.

Here is my first - a very brief, simple and low-cost guide to how property professionals may use Twitter more effectively.

The Twitter publication is very short indeed, and commensurately low-cost. It may work as a digital publication for that reason, or may be considered too lightweight and 'minor'.

But over the next few months I'll be experimenting with creating more substantial work for Kindle downloading, marketing the titles through different means, to see how effective (or otherwise) this medium has become.

The times are changing and journalists have to change as well. Property journalism will never be the same again.

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