One of the things that keeps editors from sleeping at night is great stories that aren’t told. The other is the stories you publish that no one is interested in reading. In an effort to close both of these blind spots, many publications are assembling a team of consultants to help them keep their finger on the pulse of their readers. At Propmodo, we recently did the same. We’ve brought in a diverse group of experts to help us understand some of the most critical issues that will help move the commercial real estate industry forward. Here are some of the things we found.
What we’ve heard the most from our editorial advisors is that we need to go beyond what is possible. A lot of what gets published in the real estate industry is either clickbaits, corporate jokes, or both. Most of the publications exist for the sole purpose of promoting companies in space for the purpose of selling advertisements, tickets to events, and god knows what else. We’ve made a concerted effort to avoid indulging in this type of selfish content. The first reason for this is a little selfish: we don’t like to write this. We are writers first, and nothing takes a writer’s life more than having to type 700 words around a boring phrase. The second reason is strategic: we know you won’t buy it. Writing for a professional audience like ours is always difficult. When your readers are experts on a topic, you cannot waste their time explaining what they already know, or you don’t have time for it. This is especially important to us as our audience, commercial real estate professionals, are some of the most distrustful business people in the world.
While we want to make sure to bring up complex topics and oppose oversimplification, we should also not use unfounded sensations. The drive for attention has forced many media publications to use shock and gossip in exchange for clicks. Most of the feedback we receive is that our comments should be well researched and not just hyperbole. Avoiding unnecessary headlines and simplistic, cutting corners has been one of the main reasons we offer paid subscriptions. Having a paid audience really changes the balance of power for any post because it makes our readers more valuable to us than potential advertisers.
Our content is divided into four categories: real estate, buildings, jobs, and smart cities. We organized editorial boards in the same way. Each board had different feedback for us. The Real Estate Board wanted to know about trends in other industries that are affecting the market. The Buildings Council wanted to explain how regulators strive for sustainability. The Jobs Council inquired about various companies’ approaches to getting back to work. The Smart Cities Council asked us to look into zoning and land-use strategies, and how the real estate industry is finding ways to overcome NIMBYism. They all wanted us to interview experts and find both good and bad examples. None of them cared that we would move on to politics.
The editorial tips were designed not only to find new coverage topics, but to help us understand our purpose. There are many variations on what counts as “news” or “media” and we want to make sure we position ourselves in the most useful version. After the meetings, our team focused again on what we do best, providing important and engaging comments that can help the commercial real estate industry become the best version of itself. We don’t want to spew the news, but rather analyze it in a useful, thought-provoking way. We want to talk about technology, but we don’t want to focus only on hardware and software, as that would overlook all of the important innovative changes taking place in commercial real estate. We know that we may not always have the answers to all questions, but we never want to be afraid to ask the tough questions. We plan to grow our company, but we never want to get so big that we can’t stop and listen to our audience.
I want to personally thank everyone on our editorial boards. You helped us better understand what we can do to help the industry we love. And we love it. One thing you notice as an editor is that people write best about things that they really care about. And we are interested in all the great things that are happening in the huge, dynamic, not always reported commercial real estate sector. You have a promise that we will poke our noses into controversial topics and poke our heads out for important ideas. We understand that not all of our opinions will be unanimous, and this is normal. There is always room for disagreeing opinions. In fact, if you have something that we publish, I give permission to write to us and explain why. Just be careful, one day you might end up in one of our editorial tips.
We are looking for two more full-time writers to lead the editorial channels of our buildings and workplaces. If you or someone you know is interested in writing about what is changing the way we live, work and play in buildings, check out our list of jobs. here and feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.