In UK Online Property Landgrab, Zoopla Will Power Listings For Lebedev’s Independent, Evening Standard

Hot on the heels of completing its acquisition of Findaproperty last week, Zoopla is increasing its online real estate inventory once again: it will operate the property portals for the UK daily newspapers the Independent, the Evening Standard, and the Evening Standard’s popular standalone property site (itself an offshoot of a printed supplement) Homes And Property, on an exclusive basis. All three publications are owned by the Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev. The partnership went live today.

The move is interesting on two levels. First of all, it’s a sign of how Zoopla is continuing to move aggressively in its bid to outpace its biggest rival, RightMove, and potentially Google, in the UK online property market, one of the biggest in Europe (and therefore a key target for, say, U.S. players who may have their eye on international expansion). Second of all, it’s yet another sign of how newspapers are continuing to downsize, cut expenses and outsource operations in a bid to save money to offset their declines in readership and ad revenues, and their costly print operations, but they’re doing so in a way that is eating into areas that once used to give them very healthy margins and actually drive revenues.

For its part, Zoopla will be using the deal to actually invest more into the operation — something that the papers may not have had the resources to do to keep up with competitors’ offerings. This will include getting involved in more of the advertising and promotional marketing that happens for the property pages in the printed editions as well as the online portals.

For Zoopla, this is an important deal because in its competition against RightMove, one important selling point to real estate agents and brokers is how much their home listings will get seen. The Standard says that it currently has 2.6 million unique users (according to ABCe figures from April 2012). The Independent has 15 million unique users (UK and elsewhere) with 60-70 million page impressions per month, along with 125,000 users of its mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices.

This is something underscored by Zoopla’s founder and CEO Alex Chesterman, too. “We are delighted to be working so closely with the Evening Standard and Independent. Both these newspapers and their websites have a very loyal and property-interested audience and Homes & Property has one of the highest circulations of any property supplement in the country. This partnership will drive significant value for our members,” he said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Zoopla would not disclose the financial terms of this deal, or details of how long the exclusivity of this deal would last. Presumably, the papers could potentially feed other real estate listings into their portals over time.

This is not something that the publisher would comment on at the moment however. “Our cross-media partnership with Zoopla combines leading property search technology with the Homes & Property, Evening Standard and Independent brands’ combined reach in print and online – an unrivaled solution for advertisers and home buyers and sellers,” group MD of The London Evening Standard, The Independent and i (the Independent’s smaller-format, less expensive edition) Andrew Mullins said in a statement.

For companies like Zoopla, it’s important to sell their services both as a direct product, but also as a platform reseller, and this deal with Lebedev’s papers follows on from similar deals Zoopla has signed with others. They include agreements in 2011 to power property search for AOL, parent of TechCrunch, as well as local newspaper publisher Archant.

Zoopla has been making other moves to grow its business inorganically: in May it also bought the local listings site UpMyStreet, once an early mover in the local listings space but more recently losing its way as companies like Google and smaller startups have come to dominate that space.