WHITE BOARD WORKSHOP
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David Bodamer, NREI
How a Print Media Company Became a Digital Powerhouse
David Bodamer, Exec. Director of Content & User Engagement
Today I am delighted to bring you David Bodamer , who is Executive Director of Content and User Engagement at the National Real Estate Investor, NREI, an online media company that you probably already know.
NREI have nearly a quarter of a million unique website visitors a month, over three quarters of a million page views per month and an audience database of over 115,000. Put another way they are the leading force for news and information distribution in our industry.
David and I discuss not only how NREI currently handles digital marketing, but also how they evolved from being a print only company into the digital realm, just as you are doing, as you migrate from printing out pitch decks to creating online content to raise capital for your deals.
What You're Going to Learn
- How Digital Media Has Changed Real Estate Storytelling
- How Print Publication Evolved Into Digital Media Production
- A Few Simple Keys To Better SEO Real Estate Articles
- The Challenges of Consistent Content Production in Real Estate
- How to Prepare Varieties of Real Estate Content for Different Social Media Channels
- Consideration for the Different Preferences of Your Readers
- How to Monetize Media in the Digital Space
- What NREI's Conducted Survey about President Trump Means
- And much more!
Listen To or Watch the Full Podcast Here
How Digital Media Has Changed Real Estate Storytelling
ADAM GOWER: As a journalist and as a journalist who's been in the business for a long time, you know, pre-dating digital world, presumably, especially NREI, when it was a paper magazine, literally a paper magazine.
DAVID BODAMER: Right.
ADAM GOWER: It used to be said that you would have a story, right, that was a 500 or 600 word article. But, has the concept of what a story is, also evolved in any way, since going from print to digital?
DAVID BODAMER: Absolutely. I think it's changed in a lot of ways because it again goes from being just maybe there being a couple of different story forms, you know, news, analysis, early deal coverage and just pretty straightforward. To now, we think along. I'm constantly thinking about, you know, maybe you don't need 500 words to tell this and instead you need three charts and like three bullet points and that's actually the important takeaway for the industry. And instead of trying to just, you know, I think, in a lot of ways print it's a great medium because you can do a lot visually with it and you can, you know, it's you know, you look at it, you feel it, you got in your hands, it's tangible. But it's also very limiting because it's like everything has to fit these certain parameters whereas digital allows you to embed, you know, embed social to to create things that are more interactive, create interactive graphics, to use video when you need to, to use, to do podcasts, you know, to do this kind of thing. And I think that's, it is about thinking about how to do, you know, all of that and which media, which strategies the most appropriate given the information that you're working with.
The Evolution of a Print Publication to a Digital Media Production
ADAM GOWER: So you've been at NREI for long enough to remember when it was a print magazine and you have evolved or you've been there through this evolution and this change to the digital world and that is a world in which most real estate developers and sponsors, they live it, right? Legislation or regulations prohibited them from soliciting to raise money online so they had to do it in person. So they've never had this ability to deal with the digital space. Describe to me what it was like, this shift from print to digital world for your company, which is an old established company, isn't it?
DAVID BODAMER: Well, yeah, well, it's an old established brand. We are a part of it. We have been part of many companies even since I've been here. So, but we were owned for many years by just by some form or another. We were a traditional publishing company. Now we're part of a company that is much bigger, that bought our portfolio because they.. Our brand doesn't do it but many of our other brands have events, have data products, have other things going on. So that what we do is, kind of, there's like now, kind of, a complimentary suite of different kinds of products, you know, depending on the brand. So, for National Real Estate Investor in specific, you know, for many, many, many years, probably for 50 years at least, it was a monthly magazine and that was basically it, you know. I don't remember the exact year that, you know, oh wait, we, you know, we have to do this thing called a website started. But, you know, for the first years, it was, the website was just let's put like the magazine stories online, you know? But we're still just doing the magazine. And then at some point it's like, well, maybe we should start having a couple extra stories a week or maybe we should start sending a weekly newsletter. And like now, all of that is completely reversed where what we are is a publication that covers the industry on a daily basis through our website with daily newsletters promoting things on social.
And then, yeah, every so often we throw together a magazine, you know. At this point, I think we do it 8 or 9 times a year and then a couple of additional supplements. But largely, everything that's in the magazine is stuff that's been online first and it's just, we kind of take the best of the web or a couple of the more feature oriented things that we've done for the month, throw it in a layout and send it send it out to the print subscribers. But most people, you know, because I mean, you know, one of the things about this industry is that there still are a lot of, you know, folks in this industry who are in their 50s and 60s who are still pretty devoted to the print product. But I think part of, like what I think about what we're doing is, is both serving the traditional established audience but then also you've got to serve the new audience who is not looking for that magazine, you know, every month. So, you know, so again, it's flipped. It's flipped the content flow. It's flipped how we cover things and, you know, and it it's meant a lot of evolving and adapting over the years over just like what my daily and weekly workflow looks like.
A Few Simple Keys to Better SEO Real Estate Articles
ADAM GOWER: When you think about putting articles together, I'm really curious to know how you guys do this because you're the top magazine. I still want to say "magazine", I'm not sure, it's top media anyway, in the industry. Do you ever do any SEO-driven content production or is it, you don't do that?
DAVID BODAMER: Well, I mean, we think about SEO. So certainly, I don't think, we don't create content that's just merely about like starting with, like looking at what's trending and like, oh, we should build a story that kind of optimizes that. So we don't do that. But what we do, we definitely do do when we're looking at articles. We think about how making sure that they've got like the right terms and that it's going to look right in Google and it's got the right number of characters so that, you know, the full headline will appear and the full description won't get cut off. There is some optimization that occurs when we're posting articles. We also think about the number of links that we're putting in and external links versus internal links. So there is a bit of an SEO process to it, but we don't, but we don't do the thing that, you know, like where we like, you know....
ADAM GOWER: You don't create story outlines based on what people are researching or looking for on Google.
DAVID BODAMER: Right.
Challenges of Consistent Content Production in Real Estate
ADAM GOWER: And then, so how do you get content? Do you, you have in-house journalists, freelancers, guest posts? I mean, how do you get content? How do you create the content?
DAVID BODAMER: All three of those. That's exactly right. So, you know, we have a couple. We have, you know, we have three, including myself, there's three in-house editors. You know, varying levels of people that are more focused on production. You know, just producing content versus editing and strategizing. Then we have a team of freelancers that we use that are giving us content every week. And then we do accept submitted bylines and then we have a couple who also are regular columnists although that kind of ebbs and flows and not as much as we used to.
ADAM GOWER: Is that by design or just because people say they'll present something every month and then don't, basically.
DAVID BODAMER: There's definitely a, my experience as a columnist over the years or industry columnist is that people have like ideas for about 10 columns. And then, after they do those 10, they have a harder time coming up with flaky new ideas. So then, it's like suddenly, it's like, I'm going to...Can I do my column quarterly now or, you know..
ADAM GOWER: Annually on my birthday please, if you don't mind.
DAVID BODAMER: So I think, you know, and that's you know, I don't think that's a particular flaw. It's hard to like, it's hard to be a columnist and it's hard to like, come up with new ideas all the time, especially if you weren't trying to do it monthly. So, you know, we have some flexibility. We do have people that like, you know, that we, that just will do them quarterly. But at this point, it's also, we get a lot of, you know, there's just so many people writing, writing things. And it's much easier to write that we don't need to rely on like, oh, we have to have these five or ten people that are our stable columnists. Like we can just be more democratic about it and just allow, you know, anybody from the industry that's got something to say, to submit something or we review it, and, you know, if it seems like good and not going to get us into any trouble, we can run it.
Preparing Varieties of Real Estate Content for Different Social Media Channels
ADAM GOWER: Now you talked about different types of content. Now obviously, this is very interesting because with a print magazine, you have one type. If it fits on a piece of paper, you can publish it. But now, you've talked about podcasts, webinars, video, you've got digital media, digital articles, etc. etc. Tell me how you integrate those into your reporting and how you decide which media to use to deliver what kind of content.
DAVID BODAMER: Yes so, one thing that we've had a lot of, like, the idea of doing like listicles or like galeries is something that we can do more now.
ADAM GOWER: Hang on a minute. What's a listicle?
DAVID BODAMER: A listicle is.
ADAM GOWER: And what's a gallery?
DAVID BODAMER: So, one thing that we like to do is, you know, there are so many reports in this industry that talk about the top 20 markets for multi-family development this year and the top 15 industrial markets or the top 20 cities that people are moving to. And like, which have a little bit of data to them, you know, we can just do a nice gallery with. So you just kind of, that way people have kind of paged-through, see the pictures of the city or pictures of the report with a little bit of data in it and it's just a way to digest that information.
ADAM GOWER: I always thought that the reason that you did those, now that I know what you're talking about, you click through, is because it is interesting. Oftentimes, you kind of want to know who's in this list and because it's not on one page, you can't get through it super fast. You have to stay on. I've always struck me that that's, isn't that an SEO strategy to keep people on the website?
DAVID BODAMER: It definitely plays into it. And yeah, it's also about, you know, generating additional impressions and all that kind of stuff. So I think it's, but it's and generating some extra pager use, you know. So, yeah, to be, I think it is both, I think a strategy for building our metrics but also I think, you know, it's a nicer way to take in information than if we just put like those list of 20 cities in a text blog with like, no imagery. You know, that's kind of boring.
ADAM GOWER: Right. Oh, I see. Yes. That's also, that's an interesting point you made there.
DAVID BODAMER: Yeah.
ADAM GOWER: It is actually a nice way of consuming it. Sometimes, I find it... I just want to see the.. Give me the Top 10 on one page. That's all I want to see. Who is it?
DAVID BODAMER: I would love, one thing is, like, if you ever look at Business Insider, like they have the, because they do a ton of galleries too. But they do have the capability, you know, like do a single page view so that you can like either page through it or just see all the slides and scroll through it. I would like that functionality.
ADAM GOWER: I'll tell you what, find me a contact over there..
DAVID BODAMER: Yeah.
ADAM GOWER: I'll do a podcast with him and ask him how he does it and I'll let you know.
DAVID BODAMER: I don't think there's any. It's just a question. You know, there are these different content management systems and, you know, and ours like, doesn't have that support, but it's something we've asked for. Because I do get that, from a user perspective, you don't necessarily want to, you know, sometimes it's nice to click and sometimes it's just like, yeah I just want to see it.
ADAM GOWER: See the whole thing. You were talking about podcasts and webinars and it's interesting right, from a print magazine? Tell me about those.
DAVID BODAMER: You know, in just doing some like more audio and visual formats too. I mean, again, it's just about.. I think because sometimes it's also about conversations, right? So you know, rather than, like an article is good or when you're kind of, analysis, you know, a 1,000 or 1,500 word piece that's more analytical, you wanna sit down and read. We also do some typed-up Q&As. But I think podcast, video, webinars are just, they're more conversational. And I think that's sometimes, that's the tone you want. Sometimes that's a better way to, that's what you want to get out of, you know, sometimes the story isn't. Sometimes the story is the person you're talking to and it's like, you know, finding out about them. So I think in which I you would inherently understand since you do a podcast. So, you know, like, could you imagine, like, you know, just trying to take a transcript of this, of our conversation. That's not the greatest user experience. But hopefully, you know, somebody sitting down to listen or watching it, it is, you know, that is something that's going to be interesting. It just sort of depends on what you're talking about.
Consideration for the Different Preferences of Your Readers
ADAM GOWER: How do you use your content on social media? How do you interact with social media? Then we can talk about repurposing and what that means afterwards, but talk about social media first.
DAVID BODAMER: Social media. To be honest, I think we're a little bit behind on, but we are there. So we have, you know, we're on Twitter, we're on LinkedIn and Facebook as our primary social channels. And, you know, I think it's just another way of... I think it gets back to like the engagement part of my title. You know, because like when you're thinking about, in the past, you write the story, you edit the story, you put it in the magazine and then you put it in the mail and there's no real, there isn't that much you can do after that point. You know, it's in the mail and someone gets it, they read it or not. Online, when you post something online, if you just posted it online and you don't tell anybody, it's there, you know, no one is going to find you.
ADAM GOWER: That's it, isn't it? That's the truth. That's exactly why it's so important to have observation.
DAVID BODAMER: So I think that. And but, whereas in the past, again, it was like whereas the way you delivered this thing was like you stick it in the mail, it gets on their desk and they're going to see it. Now people have very different preferences for how they want to consume information. So some people love getting email newsletters and I still like those. So I get a lot of my stuff from e-mail newsletters. But I also like Twitter and I don't really like Facebook. So I don't get anything for Facebook. I do get a lot of news from Twitter. I do get a lot of news from e-mail newsletters. So, but like as a publisher, you have to respect that your readers have different preferences. And so if you want to reach, if you just deliver stuff one way, you're only going to reach readers with a certain preference. So if you only do, you just focus on print, you're only going to serve an audience that likes magazines. So that's why we do, print, but we do e-mail blasts. I push stuff on Twitter, push stuff on LinkedIn to reach people where they're at because otherwise you're, kind of, cutting yourself off from a potential audience.
Monetizing Media in the Digital Space
ADAM GOWER: I love this, that you say, there's no point having a gorgeous website if you don't tell people it's there, right? You have to engage. And the only way to do that. Well, there's a few ways, but one of the best ways is to go out on social media with the content that you've actually put on your website. So, that begs the question, how do you decide what to put on social media?
DAVID BODAMER: Well, we just put everything on social.
ADAM GOWER: You do? Do you really? You just rotate every article with a link back to the every website?
DAVID BODAMER: Yeah. Yeah.
ADAM GOWER: Oh, good for you. That's exactly what we do. That's fabulous. So do you have a digital? So what are your, what's your revenue model like? You've got a print, you've got to subscribe to the print. That's a fee paid thing.
DAVID BODAMER: Subscription. Like B2B media is. I mean, now there's another question of whether this was a good idea. But about, you know, sometime in the 70s. Up until the 70s, B2B media worked the exact, business to business media worked exactly the same as consumer media, which was that people paid for subscriptions, and then you also had some advertising to supplement the revenue.
At some point, B2B media decided that subscription revenue was not as important as having a qualified audience.
So rather than just like giving the publication to anybody who was willing to pay for it, instead, it would be better. Let's just not have a subscription. But to get these magazines, you have to prove that you're in the industry. So, in the past that was done through things that were called qualification cards that you had to fill out. That said, this is my job title. This is what I do in the commercial real estate industry. And this might, you know, basically all this kind of stuff. And you were, and then it's like if you did that, then like you were able to get the magazine. And then the selling proposition for revenue was to go to companies that wanted to reach a commercial real estate audience and say, we have 50,000 people that get this magazine and they are 100 percent, people that are in the industry that are qualified every year, that are you know, this is a valuable audience. And so, you're basically you're selling this, you're selling this audience by, you know, controlled circulation that's going to people that matter who will engage with your advertising. And that's still basically the model. It's of that now, you know, rather than just having the print qualification cards, it's the same thing. That's why we ask for when people sign up for our newsletter, you have to fill out, you know, a whole form. You know, that's basically the modern version of the qualification card. And then, but then the other side of the revenue model is that rather than just being, you know, when it's a print magazine, there's you know, you could take out an ad, that's your option.
With being more digital, now we have far more services to offer to client, you know, potential clients about how do, you they can reach. You could still just do it, you know, you can do a display out on our website, but you can also do a targeted mailing and we can do custom newsletters with you. We can do white papers with you where we help, you know, we develop research alongside you. You can do content marketing, where you place, you know, and it's very clearly labeled our website, but it's like sponsor content that appears on the website, in our newsletters. So now, so that's where, that's what the revenue model is on the website now. It's not just like, you know, I mean, and that's evolved over the years, too, because originally it was just display ads. Then it became, you know, ads in the newsletters. But now it's actually marketing services. And that's a whole other business that we have as part of our company to work with clients around figuring out what they want to accomplish. And like, you know, then based on what you want to accomplish, you may want to do different things with us.
NREI Conducted a Survey about President Trump - This is What They Learned
ADAM GOWER: But what I'm interested in hearing from you, as a, hang on, let me get it right, content and user engagement guy. Not an editor, or a journalist, for heaven's sake. But, in that role, I've always wondered, does the commercial real estate industry relate to Donald Trump in any way as a president who is running the country as a real estate guy? Right? Like, if anybody, who was a real estate license professional was given that job, would they do it the same way? Any thoughts on that?
DAVID BODAMER: I mean, based on the response to the survey that, you know, because we've done the survey five or six times since he became president. And I mean, there's two, I think, important caveats about our audience. One is, we ask, you know, how do you identify politically and much more Republican self-identified Republican than Democrat. And then a healthy dose of people that also identify as independent, but much more heavily Republican than the general, than you would find in the general population. And also, the industry obviously skews to be, you know, older white men. You know, so given that those are your caveats, the reception to Trump is very interesting. Because I think, early on, in some of the surveys we did, we found it more mixed and even slightly negative. Once the tax reform got done, then pretty consistently, he's had higher approval in the industry. So I think, and then we, so I think, you know. That piece of legislation certainly, I think, both just on the tax policy level, but because it brought with it the opportunity zone legislation and then some stuff around, some you know, some other things that are just favorable to investment in general. That's a very important thing to the industry. So I think like, there's the question of how is Donald Trump a president for the industry versus then what might you think of him personally or what do you think of some of these other issues that don't touch our industry as much? And I think those are two.
What we find in the surveys are those, those are two separate questions. Because we might find that people, even within industry, even within people that are more Republican, still don't approve 100 percent of everything he's doing. There's some, been some trepidation around, we asked like, this time, you know, whether they approved of how much he's kind of pushed Powell to lower interest rates and whether they agreed with that. And a lot of people, while they like a lower interest rate environment, don't necessarily like the president influencing the Fed. So, you know, we get that and some of the open-ended comments. So I think, but by and large, and I think there's also the other issue that's come up a bunch of times is infrastructure and the fact that nothing has really happened there. And people saw that as a potential, really positive thing that could have happened for the industry, especially since the ways that it had been sketched out originally were more about bringing in the private sector to to be part of that process and that never came to pass.