Deceased Equine Shall Be Assaulted: Start Thinking Beyond IDX

 

Oh jeez, not another post on syndication and IDX...

It’s late, and I’m fairly certain that this horse I’m about to pound on some more is long since departed for greener pastures in the hereafter… but hey, what the hell, right?

So by now all readers of Notorious ROB have seen the latest developments in the Syndication Serenade:

This carousel is making me dizzy!

The responses from the peanut gallery are… well, predictable. You have the lamentations of the Transparency Mafia, the chortling of the KillZillThrill Cult, various declarations of how bass-ackwards the real estate industry is, and people who just love that the MLS is “fighting back”, and so on and so forth.

And yet, no one appears to be picking up on the most important trend here. So let me beat this dead horse one more time: brokers, REALTORS, vendors, Romans, friends, countrymen… it’s time to start making your plans for the post-IDX world.

Parsing the NEFMLS Announcement

For our purposes, the fight between Metrolist and Zillow is irrelevant. That has more to do with the fact that many MLS’s rightfully think of Zillow as the lion about to come charging over the hill. Why would they think that?

Here’s Zillow explaining how they work with listing agents:

Listings quality is key: We process all feeds at least once per day, giving priority to MLS and broker feeds over other sources.  We have a team of compliance experts and technologists working hard to provide a higher-quality listing search experience and are committed to delivering accurate, up-to-date listings drawn from definitive sources. Direct listings from brokers and MLSs ensure the highest quality consumer experience.

The highlighted portion would and should send chills (and not of joy) down the spine of many a MLS executive. It’s nice that Zillow includes MLS as a definitive source, but… hey, if you have a team of compliance experts working to ensure accurate, up-to-date listings from brokers… well… do ya really need the headaches of de-duping multiple data streams?

Anyhow, that little struggle is for another day’s blogpost. For our purposes here, let’s look at the relevant parts of the NEFMLS Announcement:

Syndication is the distribution of listing data to third party non-member websites such as the aforementioned. In the beginning, the idea of syndication was a benefit provided by NEFMLS to increase listing exposure on your behalf to potential consumers via these websites.  However, now the number of available consumer oriented real estate websites has increased exponentially and therefore it is difficult (if not impossible) to choose those websites that are best for the entire membership of the NEFMLS.

Therefore, it is the consensus of the NEFMLS Board of Directors that only you, the broker, can truly determine what third party websites best fit your marketing needs. NEFMLS will continue posting all listings to those vendors that we have agreements with including REALTOR.com, fl.living.net, NEFAR.com, RealtyWEB.Net, and Jacksonville.com. 

Syndication is not IDX.  The simplest definition of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) is that it provides cooperating brokers of NEFMLS with the ability to display each other’s active listings on each other’s approved professional websites once an IDX agreement has been executed with the MLS.

How do I decide what sites are best?

Really, only you know which sites will fit your Internet marketing plan.  First, check the terms of use and “scorecard” for each viable channel.  Some criteria to consider is: do they re-syndicate your listing data to other sites, what type of market are they appealing to, what is their refresh rate, and how do they handle leads, just to name a few.  Also, ListHub provides reports to help you determine which sites are actually driving leads back to you.   If you find a site is not working for your “market” it is just a few simple clicks to stop syndication to a site and try a new direction.  NEFMLS will cease syndicating all listing data to AOL, HotPads, Homefinder, CLRSearch, FrontDoor, MyREALTY, Oodle, Vast, Zillow, and Trulia.

Well, a few questions come to mind immediately, don’t they?

First of all, this move by NEFMLS was a very smart one. Put the power to syndicate back into the broker’s hands; it’s their listings, so let them make the decision. The key phrase is, “Only you, the broker, can truly determine what third party websites best fit your marketing needs”.

But  what if I don’t want my listings syndicated to Realtor.com, fl.living.net, NEFAR.com, RealtyWEB.Net, and Jacksonville.com? Given that you’ve just told me that it’s my decision as to what best fits my marketing needs, what if posting my listings to RealtyWEB.Net does not fit my marketing needs? Why should the fact that the MLS has entered into some sort of contract with RealtyWEB.Net affect my marketing needs?

For that matter, what if my marketing needs do not include having buyers ask a bunch of questions about my listing to some agent sitting in an office 30 miles away who has never sold a damn thing in my area? Can I choose not to allow that agent to put my listings on her website, please?

It’s great that ListHub is going to provide scorecards on a whole panoply of publisher sites, such as refresh rate, how they handle leads, and… “reports to help you determine which sites are actually driving leads back to you.” Pardon my ignorance, but hey uh, ListHub… do ya got one of them reports for IDX sites? I’d like to know what the refresh rate of an IDX feed is. I’d like to know how the broker on the receiving end handles leads. And oh yeah, I’d like a report on which of them drive leads back to me.

Fact is, NEFMLS is dead wrong when it says, “Syndication is not IDX”. It doesn’t much matter how often you repeat the phrase, like a magic mantra of protection. It doesn’t jive with the logic of the decision, which goes as follows:

  • It’s your listing.
  • You decide what your marketing needs are.
  • You decide where you want it published, according to your marketing needs.
  • We have technology that lets you pick and choose who gets your listing.
  • Except when it comes to IDX. Then it’s an all-or-nothing decision, and your marketing needs be damned.

Say what now? Why not?

If the technology to pick-and-choose which site gets my listings already exists… why would it be so difficult for me, the broker, to pick and choose which of my competitors gets to use my listings on their website, in exchange for my using their listings on mine? Hey, tell you what, I promise not to put listings of the participants who I do not grant IDX to on my site. We good then?

Once you cross the line into “partial syndication”, and make it plain that not only do you the broker have the right to send your listings only to the sites you select, but also that the technology to make this easy and simple to do already exists… well, good luck trying to hold on to IDX-As-We-Know-It.

Trouble is, all the buyer-specialist brokers and agents in a “partial IDX” scenario are well and truly screwed. Try this line on for size: “Hey, so, I know I don’t actually have any listings, and never have, and don’t plan on working with any sellers anytime soon, but… could I put your listings on my highly ranked website so I can get you to pay me half the commission that might otherwise go to one of your buyer agents instead?” Wow, who could refuse such a sweet offer!

The same goes for small independents and boutiques, unless you have such a specialized practice that your fifty listings a year are so desirable to the MegaBroker in town with 5,000 listings that they’d elect to send you their listings in exchange for you sending them yours. Get ready to hear this more often: “Geez, thanks so much for the offer to get into IDX with you, Mr. Independent. But uh, I think we’ll be okay with the 5,000 listings we got plus the 10,000 from the other Big Brokers in town. We’ll somehow manage to get ranked on Google without your 50 listings. But hey, good luck to you with your 50 listings, you hear? Don’t forget — if you got yourself a buyer, you can find our listings in the MLS!”

The Next Step in the Evolution

Let’s say that despite the logic of the “partial IDX” argument, the MLS says No.

Well, as it turns out, ListHub — the provider of the aforementioned Select-o-Matic Syndication Machine — also operates a little thing called the Real Estate Network where large franchises and brokerage networks uh… syndicate to each other. For display on each others’ websites. Yeah. Amazing thing, that.

After much pleading and banging on doors, I feel that the executives at ListHub — all of whom are really smart, really cool people, by the way, and excellent at karaoke — would be forced to go to the MLS crying bitter tears of disappointment to inform them that the broker customers really really really REALLY wanted ListHub to setup a local Real Estate Network, enabling the syndication of listings to each other on the same Select-O-Matic technology they already enjoy with third party websites. They might sigh deeply, regretting that brokers and agents have so little loyalty to the House of R. Don’t these fierce competitors know that they might hurt some of the smaller independents and buyer specialists?

No, no, such a sad world we live in that brokers and listing agents are more interested in making more money themselves to buy a new baby sealskin gun case than propping up their brethren, most of whom they consider to be Lowering The Bar morons who need to be driven out of real estate. Tragic, really. But they are our paying customers, Mr. MLS Executive, and I’m afraid we have to listen to our customers, so… we’ll be offering out a Local REN next month.

Think that’ll never happen?

A year ago, did you think any of the current brouhaha would happen?

No Woman, No Cry; Just Prepare for the Post-IDX World

It may not seem real to many of my readers, but there was a time when there was no such thing as IDX. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago. We’re talking 1999/2000 here, not 1980 or 1890. Some of you are old enough to remember practicing real estate successfully prior to IDX; others may need to find some older colleagues in and about your town.

Yes, yes, I know… quite a few people will see this inevitable move as a giant step backwards. Folks will take to Facebook and blogs and ActiveRain and Twitter and such places to write diatribes and talk about organizing a movement or a rally or some such thing. There will be lengthy posts written on how the dinosaurs have taken the industry back into the Dark Ages. Maybe there will be original poetry slams, or a music video, or an interpretive dance routine performed by masked dancers emoting sorrow and frustration. I can’t wait to see the creativity of the lamentations.

My suggestion is to do all of those things, but also to make plans for the post-IDX world. Because it’s coming, as inexorably as the Greek debt crisis is coming. You’re gonna want to be ready.

-rsh