Are Listings Information or Advertising?

Nov 13, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

Advertising is lame and information is the future, especially when it comes to real estate listings. Dave Winer (who I really love reading lately) puts it well:

“Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information. And that’s good!”

Much of the controversies surrounding listing syndication centers on the concepts of advertising, i.e., who gets to advertise what listings and when and where they get to advertise them. Competitors will never agree on these issues. Period.

The solution to this conundrum, though, is in moving our thinking from advertising to information. How can we make listings information, instead of advertising? That’s a central question I’ll be pondering as I head off to Vegas for the NAR Convention. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Update:  Realonomics has an excellent post today on a similar vein: An All Carrot and No Stick Industry.

9 Responses to “Are Listings Information or Advertising?”

  1. ‘Listings’ are a contract between sellers and brokers.

  2. David Harris says:

    as an MLS operator, we face this question almost daily. We exist primarily to serve our members… who are agents and brokers trying to conduct and complete real estate transactions on behalf of their customers. We strive to develop and provide the tools and technology to help them do that as fast and efficiently as possible.

    Each day our compliance department has to address issues where the property may not be described accurately or the listing may contain information that does not pertain to that property (ie. a picture of the list agent as the 4th property photo 🙂

    The agent will always make the case that where they have “blurred” the line will get more buyers in the door that otherwise would not even take a look. So in that sense, the “listing” has been morphed into a pseudo-advertisement; “stretching” the truth to emphasize the good qualities. Just watch this funny video to see it in action (around the 35 second mark).

    The other side of this argument is the concept of the MLS being a property information database. With proper policing, the MLS sold data can be a much more accurate, centralized, and immediate source of transactions for comps, appraisals, mortgages, etc.

    I would love to set up a “history” link on a listing so you can click to see any past times it has been on market to allow for an event better idea of the property, but that could be a concern with some agents as well.

    Bottom line, our energy will always be balanced between offering the tools to help our members be successful in their daily business and providing the most accurate information about the real estate marketplace.

  3. Mr. Wurzer- I agree that information is, at the very least, “the future” – if not the present. Especially when it comes to real estate listings. MLSs must strive to provide the most accurate and helpful information, or they will be rendered obsolete by other sources. According to your other posts, you seem to agree with this.

    So why, when FBS released its new version, did you hop on the video bandwagon by merely allowing agents to embed something from Youtube? Here you had a chance to let us upload a high quality video to our own MLS. We had a chance to really make it nice looking, instead of the fuzzy, sometimes slow offerings of Youtube. We had a chance to one-up them. Why didn’t you take it?

    You may retort that if all the agents uploaded lots of video, that it would hog a lot of space, etc. etc. But isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t an MLS strive to be the premier source of all information and media on listings – not by exclusion – but by sheer quality that benefits the end consumer?

    I sincerely hope that the “embed” deal is just a stepping stone to allow us to upload high quality video just as we do photos, documents, and other info.

    Thanks,

    John C

  4. John, you’re not limited to YouTube or any particular video provider or hosting company. For example, Wellcomemat provides a very nice product. The reason we are not hosting the videos ourselves is that others are already doing it well. As much as it might seem attractive to upload a high-resolution video, the reason companies like YouTube have been successful has been their use of flash, which pretty much every computer has loaded, and because the videos are not too large. If you used a format like Windows Media Player or Real Player, you’d end up with lots of people who couldn’t view the video because they wouldn’t have the software loaded and many others without the bandwidth to consume the video. Put differently, these issues have already been solved by companies like Wellcomemat and YouTube and leveraging their success seemed best.

  5. Thanks for the response. I see the logic in not trying to re-invent the wheel. But, I do wonder what the future might hold for MLSs that send consumers to other resources for information. Maybe I am naive, but I would like to think that, since we specialize in real estate, can provide better info that is related to real estate. However, I am all for using technologies that others specialize in, also. I don’t mean to sound like I think Flex needs to be some huge invention lab like Google.

    Thanks again for the insightful answer.

    John C

  6. […] post continues the discussion regarding listings as advertising or information and brings in days on market, data accuracy, long-tail search, hot sheets, and improving listing […]

  7. Great post. This is one of the awesome by-products of adding listings to Zillow that they are are at least equal part information than advertisement. Listings on Zillow include public records, community contributed images, aerial imagery, questions and answers from the community and of course, Zestimate values; none of which are supplied by listing agents or sellers. Even the fact that the home is listed can be reported on the site without the listing agent or seller’s involvement (i.e. sans any advertising) – though the ideal scenario is a healthy mix of advertising and information.

    This works so well on Zillow because the house is on the site long before and long after the home sells. I’m not sure you can get to “listings as information” if your starting point is just the listing; because at that point, you’re natural bias is to serve the seller first.

  8. David, you bring an interesting point of view. Why do you say the “ideal scenario is a healthy mix of advertising and information”?

    I would suggest that an ideal scenario for consumers would be a site with all the listings (or at least a very high majority), but I don’t believe that’s likely in an advertising forum that naturally breeds competition and frustrates the cooperation necessary for the aggregation.

  9. REALonomics says:

    Hello from REALonomics.net and thanks for mentioning the site. Are listings ads or information? Listings are fishbowl ads, written within the industry, by agents and for agents, but the significant property information is mostly public. We haven’t learned yet or, with much expertise, the fine art of melding information into marketing so that we have a consumer friendly tapestry. We’re getting better because we are grasping for the best models that will work in what REALonomics calls the “Third Economic Wave” or the real estate industry, the consumer-centric era. We get bogged down in information technology and transliterating data for consumers. We need to partner with the consumer with respect to allowing them to create the market models, let them into our fish bowl, let them participate in localizing the marketing content. Every home should have a blog, every seller should have online access to posting information about their own property via key industry portals and perhaps creating their own marketing strategies in cooperation with we so-called “experts.” This is perhaps the most exciting time in the history of our industry…we have so much to do and so many ways to create what we call “Model Perfect.” REALonomics.net