Saturday morning, my daughter and I went up to our local coffee hangout...placed our order....and sat at one of the tables outside in anticipation of enjoying our favorite beverage on a warm but clear day in Southern California. I bought that morning's edition of the Los Angeles Times...and was looking forward to perusing whatever news was happening...before settling in to see how many squares I could fill on the crossword puzzle...and how bad I'd regret using my trusty pen instead of pencil.
Then, there it was...in the business section.
I almost couldn't breathe for a moment. I honestly think my heart stopped. NO, it was NOT an article about Walmart getting into the real estate business (the graphic above was manipulated.) BUT...the headline read "Times Media to enter real estate business."
"Searching for new sources of revenue, Los Angeles Times Media Group is getting into the real estate business. On Monday, Times Media Group and other partners will launch ZetaBid (www.ZetaBid.com) a business that will auction foreclosed homes and other properties."
Bob Bellack, who is chairman of the new enterprise, said "The traditional newspaper model doesn't exist anymore. The next generation media company is a company that facilitates transactions and helps buyers and sellers come together." Bellack said ZertaBid's print and online listings would provide more information that other auction companies on properties for sale, including opening bid prices, contact information for listing agents and photos.
The Times and other newspapers have been suffering from a downturn in advertising that has been exacerbated by the housing slump. The ZetaBid venture represents one way for Times Media Group to counteract that, industry analysts said.
Steve Gray of the American Press Institute in Reston, VA, said "the newspaper model has been limited to telling people what is available to buy. But in a digital world there is no reason why newsppers shouldn't be part of what follows."
So...okay, here's the deal. I've commented on a number of blogs about the prospects of MAJOR companies getting into the real estate business...and how it's going to affect the industry permanently. These comments are usually in response to agents blogging about their unwillingness to negotiate their commissions. I don't want this to become a new discussion about that. But my feelings have always been that major players are going to be entering this market soon...rewriting the rules on how this business is transacted and compensated...and we're not going to have a choice.
If you don't think every single newspaper in the country is watching closely as to how this L.A. Times venture will develop, think again. And although I have no "real" proof....I'd bet a million dollars that Walmart already has a team in place trying to figure out how THEIR entry into the real estate business will take place.
Will it replace real estate as we know it today???
Gosh, who knows. But I do believe it will impact it heavily. These operations have more money to spend on marketing than anyone else....and ZetaBid is already dictating that Realtors who want to play in trheir arena will be paid 2% of the winning bid price (providing they've previously registered their customer).
We've seen an entire industry adapt to $4.00 prescriptions...and five-dollar footlongs. Those companies don't do inkjet printed flyers at home, and they've got jillions to spend on SEO.
And the consumer feels like they're getting what they've always wanted.
I think I'd be making some definite plans on how best to compete....right now.