OC Register launching RE section

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

During a time when many daily newspapers are cutting back on the space devoted to business and financial news, the Orange County Register newspaper is slated to debut a new real estate section this Sunday.

The section, called “Real Estate” after initially being called “O.C. Homes,” will have as much news hole as many daily metros devote to regular business news on the weekend.

“We’re not cutting. This is expansion, and it’s local content. That excites me. I hope it catches on,” said Register real estate columnist Jon Lansner. The new section is his brainchild, according to business team leader Julie Gallego.

Talking Biz News obtained a copy of a prototype dated April 1, 2010. The prototype is a 16-page section with 10 pages of ads. One page included median home prices for each zip code in the Orange County market, including sales data for each zip code as well. Another feature took a look at the market for foreclosed homes in the area.

The regularly Sunday business section, which is primarily content from the Sunday Wall Street Journal, will remain and has space for late-breaking or significant staff-produced stories. “Real Estate” will include content from the paper’s popular real estate blogs, where staffers post at least three times a day.

The biggest hurdle in creating the section is converting some of the business section’s Web content into a printed version.

“Most exciting to me — besides the potential for this to be a moneymaking cooperative venture between the newsroom and advertising — is the potential for this to solve some production challenges we have struggled with since going ‘web first’ a few years ago; namely how to get what we write each day on our blogs easily into print,” said Gallego in an e-mail. “And how to make it an attractive section for newspaper readers who don’t read news on our Website. The result is broader cooperative effort between newsgatherers, print team designers, editors and our tech team.”

The new section, said Lansner, “is based off the fact that we have six real estate blogs and more real estate news than we know what to do with.” He called real estate news “religion” for Southern California consumers.

The paper has five out of its nine full-time business journalists covering real estate. There’s reporter Jeff Collins, Huntington Beach real estate reporter Marilyn Kalfus, south beach cities real estate reporter Kelli Hart, and Irvine housing reporter Erika Chavez, currently on maternity leave. Real estate finance reporter Matthew Padilla recently left for a communications job at PIMCO, but his position will be filled.

Gallego said that the advertising department, which was part of a task force that created the section, has committed to selling ads for the new section.