The Houston Chronicle has offered self-service advertising to real estate agents for over three years. Our initial real estate system enabled agents to access the Houston Area Realtors MLS data to build single listing display ads to be published in The Houston Chronicle real estate section. We began to experience the benefits of self-service advertising with a decrease in the cost of sales and an increase in ad revenue but felt that the application was too difficult to manage and cumbersome to use by agents. Simple functions like managing customer accounts, changing orders and adding new ad packages were hard to setup and manage, and were getting in the way of us achieving our vision for self-service in the real estate vertical.
Having launched Wave2's iPublish AdPortal for the small-business retail vertical, http://instaad.net, we approached Wave2 to help us replace our existing real estate site. At this time though, our vision had grown, not only did we want to replace our existing real estate self-service platform, we also wanted to launch other classified self-service applications like obituaries. With this vision in place, we felt it was important to provide new workflow features that would easily support a broad-range of advertisers, and also provide tighter integration with our Millennium Classified Advertising system.
Branded as MyAgentAds.com, we see AdPortal as a flexible portal that will provide us with a platform to evolve our real estate business well into the future. MyAgentAds is much easier to use for the agents, far easier for Hearst to manage from template creation, ad package creation, user administration, ad processing and adding new features. Wave2 added a "recommendation engine", another new feature for AdPortal, which agents are presented with upon login. This "recommendation engine" offers up a few questions that when answered will help navigate them to the correct type of ad and ad package. We went live on June 1st and are already adding new features like a single login between the HAR system and AdPortal. Agents will be able to choose to advertise a listing or their real estate business directly from within the Houston HAR system. With links built into the MLS site that state "Advertise this listing in the Houston Chronicle" or "Advertise in the Houston Chronicle Realtor Directory", agents can easily step into the self-service application and process their ad. This significantly extends our position and exposure to agents, and further streamlines their workflow process.
We launched MyAgentAds.com on June 1st. We took this time to move our Wave2 applications to a Wave2 hosted facility, which allowed us to decrease the cost of running the self-service applications and also leverage Wave2's enterprise architecture to expand the real estate application to the other 4 Hearst properties: San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Albany Times-Union and Connecticut Post. All of the Hearst newspapers will realize lower costs by sharing hosting, server, and software costs.