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Publishing property: a new entrant prepares to join the real estate marketing wars.

NEWSSTAND SPACE around Pulaski County will grow more congested when a new real estate publication enters the market later this month.

The first issue of Central Arkansas Real Estate Weekly isn't scheduled to hit the racks until Jan. 26, with a new edition to follow every Tuesday. But Realtors already have used Real Estate Weekly as leverage to soften previously planned rate increases at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About 15,000 issues of the tabloid, published by Moore Data, will be distributed free through 350 locations. Up for grabs is a share of a print advertising pie in the $500,000 range.

The arrival of Real Estate Weekly will bring to five the total number of free specialty publications in Little Rock devoted to residential listings -- all produced in a variety of cycles and formats:

* The Original Homes, the capital city area real estate listing magazine published every two weeks by J.V. Rockwell Publishing of Corning. The company also produces several other real estate publications in seven other states.

Homes is the oldest of the current roster of real estate pubs, dating to 1984. The cover is a slick, four-color format, but the inside pages are newsprint dominated by black and white.

The average distribution is 18,000 issues, and the most recent issue weighed in at 90 pages, of which 80 were paid advertising.

* Home Guide of Little Rock, color pictures of Little Rock's finest homes for sale, published monthly by Rainey Realty Inc.

The magazine-sized publication, distributed through 300 locations, exclusively features homes for sale through Rainey Realty in a slick, four-color format. The most recent issue (No. 71) of Home Guide contained 16 pages.

* The Real Estate Book, touted as the book of choice for serious buyers and sellers, published every four weeks by Charles and Lynne Tulls of Little Rock.

The Tullses also operate sister publications in Hot Springs and north Pulaski County. Network Publications Inc. of Lawrenceville, Ga., prints this franchise-concept book and a host of others around the country.

The Little Rock-North Little Rock and Suburbia edition first rolled off the presses in September 1989. The North Pulaski edition of this slick, four-color publication is only 4 months old.

The most recent Little Rock edition contained 21 pages of paid advertising in a 24-page book. The average distribution is 16,000 issues at 200 locations.

* Owners Only, a "for sale by owner" marketing system of fine homes and properties published monthly by Jane McLellan and Angela Brown of Little Rock.

Six pages of homes were advertised in the most recent issue of the 8-month-old publication, which distributes 13,000 issues through 100 locations around central Arkansas.

The per-page advertising rate of Real Estate Weekly is about $300 (24 homes), compared with Homes, $150 (12 homes), and Real Estate Book, $315 (15 homes).

Some real estate watchers say they expect the publication to have the biggest impact on Homes and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Sunday real estate section.

Jan Rockwell, president of J.V. Rockwell Publishing, is tight-lipped about the new competition other than saying it will be business as usual for Homes.

"The bottom line is generating phone calls for Realtors, and we think we do a good job of that," says Lynne Tulls of Real Estate Book.

Realtors are nonetheless interested in having a competing weekly outlet to advertise open houses and provide as many updated listings as possible.

What's the competitive response at the Little Rock's daily newspaper?

"We're really not doing anything new or different," says Paul Smith, vice president and general manager of the Democrat-Gazette. "This is just one more publication, I guess.

"I really think they will take business away from the other specialty publications. I'd be really surprised if they had much of an impact on us."

However, last month the Democrat-Gazette did agree to lower its expected ad rate increases for its 150,000-circulation Sunday real estate section.

In return for agreeing to increase rates by less than 10 percent, the Democrat-Gazette was able to do away with distributing the real estate section in Faulkner and all of Lonoke County, except for Cabot.

The Democrat-Gazette is banking that Realtors can't cover the market adequately with add-on publications exclusively. The newspaper has the highest market penetration of any newspaper in the nation, with 84 percent penetration on Sunday in Pulaski County.

Many Realtors try to find a balancing point between the shotgun approach of the newspaper's large circulation versus target marketing with smaller circulation specialty publications.

The difficulty is weighing the effectiveness of either approach to determine which has the most bang for the buck.

Squeezing Ad Dollars

According to national figures, the average real estate company spends 10 percent of its revenue on newspaper advertising. This investment yields 4-7 percent of sales.

Pulaski County Realtors took a harder look at their advertising budget when ad rates at the Democrat-Gazette jumped from 40 cents per line to $1.55 per line following the end of the Little Rock newspaper war in October 1991.

"I think you're going to find |realtors~ in all of the publications," says Roy Rainey Jr., president of Rainey Realty. "In the past, it tended to be more focused on the newspaper.

"I gradually got out of the newspaper after the war was over. I just couldn't afford it any more."

That's when Rainey began devoting his ad dollars to his company's publication. Other companies stayed put but encouraged Moore Data to open a publication as far back as 1991.

"They talked to us at a time when the real estate boards were considering putting a publication together," one real estate insider says. "It evolved from that idea."

But getting the various members of three boards of Realtors in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Saline County to agree on everything proved to be politically impossible.

There was enough interest from individual real estate companies to encourage Moore to venture ahead.

Layout work will be done at Moore's divisional headquarters in Minneapolis, and Real Estate Weekly will be printed in Memphis, Tenn.

Moore's pilot real estate publication is This Week In Real Estate, launched four months ago in Huntsville, Ala. Next up will be Wilmington, Del.

In addition to the Little Rock metro area, Moore Data Management Services provides multiple listing service for real estate companies in 300 cities. This setting will provide plenty of elbow room for more corporate synergy.
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Title Annotation:Central Arkansas Real Estate Weekly
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jan 18, 1993
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