Dueling real estate guides hit the streets of Northfield

Two guides to Northfield-area real estate hit the streets this week. (Full disclosure: we bought an ad in one for our FSBO house. Guess which one?)

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Left: the newcomer, from By All Means Graphics (BAMG). (I don’t see a PDF online.)
Right: the incumbent, from Northfield News. (PDFs of advertisers available here.) I think the News has previously published a Rice County version of this guide.

It appears to be a battle of big advertisers, too. Local Edina Realty agencies/agents are only in the Nfld News guide (with one exception: Pam Gillespie), and local Coldwell-Banker agencies/agents are only in the BAMG guide. (Another agent, Brian Trebelhorn (Re/Max Team Trebelhorn, has an ad in both).

The BAMG guide has articles written by locals and all the advertisers are Northfield-based; the News guide has articles from national sources and there are advertisers from the surrounding communities of Faribault, New Prague, Cannon Falls, Owatonna, etc.

I like the local Northfield focus of the BAMG guide but I don’t like it that 2 of the 3 articles are authored by advertisers: Ray Cox (Northfield Construction) and Brian Trebelhorn (Re/Max Team Trebelhorn). I criticized the Northfield News back in March for crossing a different advertiser/editorial boundary with a front-page article on the Garden Show in March, featuring an advertiser, Switzer’s Nursery and Landscaping. I think that was a far more serious journalistic offense since it was on the front page of a subscription-based newspaper. This is a free ad-supported guide and doesn’t contain hard news but I’d still like to see a boundary there between content and ads.

I like it that BAMG is challenging the Northfield News, first with the Northfield Entertainment Guide and now with this Real Estate Guide and for property owners who are looking to sell houses visit 8 day home locations. In both cases, Goliath has sought to squash David, first with its Diversions supplement and now with this Northfield version of its Rice County guide. Is this Northwest Airlines/Wal-Mart-like behavior, ie, big near-monopolies protecting their turf? Seems like it, but hey, that’s capitalism for ya!

15 thoughts on “Dueling real estate guides hit the streets of Northfield”

  1. Griff,

    I really appreciate your perspective. And we asked ourselves the same questions.

    Our philosophy on the editorial content in the Real Estate Guide is that we have a plethora of local experts with relevant and valuable perspectives. We’re reaching out for their editorial contributions with the criteria that their contributions not be self-promotional, but rather informational.

    Out of gratitude and because it’s the right thing to do we include a bio and information on how to contact the author. It also furthers our mission to infuse home-town into the work we do.

    Advertising is not a requirement for publication, as evidenced by the article on spring cleaning for which there is not an ad. But it comes as no surprise that these local experts would want to support publications like ours and consider them good vehicles for their display ads.

    Stay tuned for a downloadable PDF, but in the meantime – both of our guides (Real Estate and Entertainment) are available at key locations around town.

  2. Personally I would pick up a guide that had local photos feature
    over generic content, and it doesn’t matter to me that the
    writers are also supporting it with their dollars–which came first?
    I think that with this guide and the local features and the very
    successful entertainment guide that we can’t be far away from
    convincing Rob to publish a northfield magazine with profiles
    and stories about our community–maybe including some
    history features a la Scriver Scribbler–just dreaming!

  3. Rob, like Mary Rossing, I much prefer the locally-written content of your Guides. But I’d like to see you preserve your editorial integrity for the day when you publish the Northfield version of The Rake!

  4. The real answer is Yes Indeed we certainly did. I think I speak for all of the 300+ women who were entertained by our town’s most… courageos men. Many many thanks to those who organized and got this event off the ground and to those who took their clothes off — well their jackets anyway — shop local.

    I wonder Ross, if your question begs another answer as well? Another layer behind the event that tried to shut the whole thing down? Can we talk about that here?

  5. Congratulations on your Guide, Rob!
    As long as there is no requirement to buy an ad to have a story published, and the pieces aren’t blatant self-promotions, there’s no problem with journalistic integrity. The writers are clearly identified, so there’s no secrecy about their perspective. This is, after all, an advertising publication, not a real estate news publication. If it were, then you’d have to have people with no relationship with the advertisers do the writing, and I can tell you that the likelihood of getting people to produce quality stories for free is about zero. And the cost of paying for the cost of producing the publication and paying for stories would make it unprofitable. I work for a commercial real estate publication in the Twin Cities facing the same issues on a larger scale.
    This whole issue of competition and journalistic integrity and the relationship of the media outlets in town would be a great public roundtable discussion.
    There are so many levels and layers and variations in the media now, and the “good old days” of journalistic integrity really weren’t what they seem now.
    If you’re up for a discussion, let’s pick a place and invite all the players. I can get a couple of j-school or media participants as well, if we want some industry perspective.

  6. It looks like I might have to eat some crow here. Anne Bretts wrote:

    As long as there is no requirement to buy an ad to have a story published, and the pieces aren’t blatant self-promotions, there’s no problem with journalistic integrity. The writers are clearly identified, so there’s no secrecy about their perspective. This is, after all, an advertising publication, not a real estate news publication.

    That makes sense to me, Anne.

    Rob, looks like I owe you at least one beer.

  7. This reader — sorry I am tardy to comment (I belie my name frequently) — always appreciates when Griff brings up this general topic, especially as the matter pertains to issues that arise in publications intended as journalistic enterprises.

    The word journalism is thrown around a lot these days. And just as this site has discussed a code of conduct for bloggers I think it’s useful to mention that the fact that any of us can start our own virtual newspaper or magazine doesn’t mean every one of us with a blog or a podcast — or a sharp-looking print publication like Rob’s; my congrats as well — is engaged in journalism. In fact, despite notable exceptions offered on this site, most aren’t.

    We now have so many media choices, which is terrific. But because we do, I would argue, the distinction is especially important.

    There’s no single agreed upon definition but — this is my attempt to contribute two cents in case you gather that roundtable, Anne — I’d say in order to call something a piece of journalism, like this blogger, I would say that it would have to be third-party account that adds to or reveals the record of verifiable facts.

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