Realty board gets out of publishing, turns newspaper over to private firm


The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors is ending a 1 1/2 -year (( run in the publishing business, laying off the staff of its weekly advertising newspaper and turning production over to a West Virginia company, the board said yesterday.

Under a five-year contract with the board, Prestige Real Estate Magazine Co. Inc. will publish, manage and market Real Estate Review. The board remains sole owner and will continue to supply editorial content on mortgage rates, homes for sale and how-to columns, said David W. Baird, president of the board of realtors.

The publication took more time and money than anticipated, he said. During the past few weeks, board members began negotiating with Huntington, W. Va.,-based Prestige. The family-owned printing company publishes real estate magazines it owns and others for independent publishers around the country.

Mr. Baird blamed the newspaper's troubles on format changes that failed to pull in more advertisers and on the sluggish real estate market, which also caused loss of advertising revenue.

He would not say how much the board invested in the newspaper, though he said the figure falls well below a previously reported start-up cost of $1.2 million.

"The paper has required substantial financial resources," he said. "The board felt we had to concentrate on our core business."

Because Prestige can produce the newspaper more cheaply and efficiently than the board, advertising rates are expected rates to decrease, said Marc Witman, president of GBBR Publications, a Board of Realtors subsidiary. Circulation is expected to stay at 25,000. The paper will be distributed on Wednesdays, rather than Thursdays, he said.

The board will lay off the current seven-member staff, publisher Robert A. Dawson and production, sales and distribution workers, within a month, Mr. Witman said. Since the newspaper was launched in October 1993, the staff has turned over several times.

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