A New Print Publication? About Real Estate? No Joke!

It seems like every day there's more news about the demise of print; Readers Digest is the latest storied publication to file for bankruptcy. So that's why I thought it the press release I received this morning detailing a new publication from the Observer Media Group was either a mistake or a joke. The company that runs "The New York Observer" is planning to launch a new weekly paper on September 15, "The Commercial Observer" focused on New York's commercial real estate business. You'd have to be hiding under a rock not to know that the New York real estate business is struggling -- in fact deals are off about 90 percent year over year. But this new publication aims to create two revenue streams: subscriptions will cost $240 for the weekly paper, which will include ads.

So what is the Observer's 28 year-old owner and publisher, Jared Kushner thinking? It may not be as off-the-wall as it sounds. Kushner is the son of Charles Kushner, who built a real estate empire. Maybe the younger Kushner sees some incredible resurgence in Manhattan's commercial real estate market and wants to tap into the excitement as the market recovers. And just as Rupert Murdoch is investing in new niche content at the Wall Street Journal on topics he'll be able to charge for (commodities, investing) it seems Kushner sees an opportunity to tape into a niche audience that's desperate for a competitive advantage. And from an advertising perspective, he can promise marketers they're reaching this very specific demographic. (Generally speaking, the more targeted an ad, the more valuable it is.)

Still, launching any kind of print publication right now seems pretty absurd. After all, why does this publication need to be physically printed and sent out to offices around the city. Isn't newsprint so last century? Another issue-- this morning's press release says the publication will "be delivered to approximately 10,000 commercial real estate insiders and members of the Real Estate Board of New York." If the publisher is guaranteeing a certain circulation, are they really going to charge? And if there's no publication out there like this now, does there really need to be? Is there any chance this will make money? Kushner bought Observer Media for some $10 million back in 2006, back before newspaper valuations really fell off a cliff. Time will tell if he's making an equally questionable call now.

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