Realtors Discover Content – Can Control Be Regained?

Published: January 24, 2011

Friday’s Wall Street Journal contained an interesting article entitled ‘The Airlines Discover ‘Content”.
The article begins, “Air travelers are asked to pay for everything nowadays. So goes a common complaint, though the natural rejoinder is that passengers always paid for everything. Today a traveler who doesn’t want a blanket and pillow doesn’t have to subsidize those who do. One who travels light doesn’t have to subsidize his fellow traveler who can’t leave home without the entire contents of his closet.”

The article goes on to quote Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “The industry has to evolve to a model of other industries where people pay us for our content rather than us paying them to take our content.” (italics mine).

That’s what’s behind current pricing wars among airlines trying to reach their customers more directly and has lead to recent blackouts by some airlines on sites like Orbitz and Expedia. Some airlines, most notably American, are also at war with the giant on-line reservation booking system Sabre.

And it’s not just to save the $3 buck commission on flight legs. The airlines are coming to realize that after years of giving their content away, or even worse, paying others to take it and profit from it, that it’s time to take back control of their own data and use it to better serve their customers and increase their own profitability at the same time.

As I re-read the article, I started substituting ‘Realtor Associations’ for ‘airlines’ and found that the article provided an equally compelling read. For years now at every local, state and national meeting I’ve attended there is much debate about how we as Realtors have lost control of our own data, our content. We gladly pay others to take our data and do with it pretty much as they want.

The listing you worked so hard to obtain you pay a fee to list on the mls. That mls will then take your data and sell it to numerous outlets that re-publish it. They use your data as a bargaining chip to join other regional or statewide mls’s, all without your approval and with no compensation to you. Some organizations will even use your data to generate leads and then charge you to get the information your data provided to begin with. Do you have any idea how many places have access to your listing information right now? How many newspapers, search engines, statewide and national aggregators and others are paying somebody else for the content YOU generated?

As the article notes – “Content, in the digital age, is what attracts eyeballs and, in turn, transactions, which in turn leaves a growing pile of data about who a customer is and what he or she might like to buy in the future. They want to bypass the electronic middleman and have a more direct relationship with shoppers.” Airlines or real estate?

The trend in real estate is for ever larger regional, statewide and national aggregations of mls data – your data. But at the same time Realtors are bemoaning the fact that for that greater exposure they have lost all control of the content they generate.

Maybe the airlines are onto something.

Maybe bigger isn’t necessarily better or more  cost-effective when it comes to the value of your content.

Maybe it’s time to retake control of our content before it’s too late and we’ve been disintermediated right out of the transaction.

Maybe I should just shut up and let you figure it out for yourself. Yeah, that’s probably best.


Last modified: January 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Originally published: January 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm
Printed: September 22, 2020