One of the things that keeps editors up at night are the great stories out there that are not being told. Another is the stories that you publish that no one is all that interested to read. In an attempt to close both of these blind spots many publications gather a team of advisors to help them keep a pulse on their readers. At Propmodo, we have recently done the same. We invited a diverse group of experts to help us understand some of the most important issues that will help move the commercial real estate industry forward. Here are some of the things that we found.
The thing that we heard most from our editorial advisors was that we needed to push the envelope. So much that is published around the real estate industry is either clickbait, corporate puffery, or both. Most publications exist for the sole purpose of promoting companies in the space in order to sell advertising, event tickets, and god knows what else. We have made a concerted effort to not dabble in this type of self-serving content. The first reason for that is a bit selfish: we don’t like writing it. We are writers first and nothing sucks the life out of a writer like being forced to put down 700 words around a dull lede. The second reason is strategic: we know you don’t buy it. Writing to a professional audience like ours is always a challenge. When your readers are experts in a topic then you can’t waste their time explaining things that they already know—or don’t have the time to care about. This is heightened for us as our audience, commercial property professionals, are some of the most incredulous business people in the world.
Even though we want to make sure to bring up hard topics and pushback against oversimplification, we also want to be sure not to use unfounded sensationalism. The quest for attention has forced many media publications to use shock and gossip in exchange for clicks. Much of the feedback we get is about how our commentary needs to be well researched and not just hyperbole. The ability to avoid gimmicky headlines and over simplistic, reductive angles was one of the main reasons that we offer paid subscriptions. Having a paying audience really changes the power balance for any publication as it makes our readers more valuable to us than potential advertisers.
Our content is split into four categories, real estate, buildings, workplace, and smart cities. We organized our editorial boards the same way. Each board had a little bit different feedback for us. The Real Estate Board wanted to know about trends in other industries that are impacting the market. The Buildings Board wanted some explanation about the regulatory push toward sustainability. The Workplace Board was interested in different companies’ approaches to return to work. The Smart Cities Board asked us to look into zoning and land use strategies and how the real estate industry was finding ways to overcome NIMBYism. All of them wanted us to interview experts and find both good and bad examples. None of them were concerned that we might get political.
Even more than to find new topics to cover, the editorial advisory boards were meant to help us understand our purpose. There is a lot of variation in what is considered “news” or “media” and we want to make sure we are positioning ourselves in the most useful version. Coming out of the meetings our team has a renewed focus on what we do best, providing important and entertaining commentary that can help the commercial real estate industry become the best version of itself. We don’t want to regurgitate news but rather analyze it in a useful, thought provoking way. We want to talk about technology but don’t want to focus only on the hardware and software as that would overlook all of the important innovative changes happening in commercial properties. We know we won’t always have all the answers but we never want to be afraid to ask the hard questions. We plan on growing our company but never want to get so big that we can’t stop and listen to our audience.
I want to give a big personal thank you to everyone involved in our editorial advisory boards. You have helped us better understand what we can do to help the industry that we love. And we do love it. One thing you notice as an editor is that people write best about things that they are truly interested in. And we are interested in all of the great things that are happening in the huge, dynamic, and underreported commercial property sector. You have our promise that we will poke our noses into controversial topics and stick our necks out for important ideas. We realize that not all of our opinions will be universally held, and that is alright. There is always room for dissenting opinions. In fact, if you have one about anything that we publish you have my permission to write to us and tell us exactly why. Just be careful, you might find yourself on one of our editorial advisory boards one day.
We are on the hunt for two more full time writers to help head our buildings and workplace editorial channels. If you or anyone you know is interested in writing about the things changing the way we live, work, and play in buildings, then please take a look at our job listing here and feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.