The problem with not having all of the facts is that you can end up feeling pretty stupid. And for the record, Steve is wearing an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt as we speak. (Also, for the record, he rarely has occassion to change out of it.)
When I first heard that our Sandicor MLS was going to be adding an “advertising remarks” field to our listing input forms, I silently criticized them of being all-over-the-place-inconsistent.
First, here is the idea. Beginning this week, when agents input listings in the MLS, they will now be able to include advertising remarks — remarks like, "Hey! Look over here! I'm the listing agent, and here is my phone number and website address!" These remarks will in turn be included in the listing feed provided to third-party syndication sites (think Zillow and Trulia), should agents opt-into syndication.
Now, I get that this is a good thing in at least one respect; it means the right guy just might have a fighting chance of being picked out of a line-up on third-party sites as the one who is actually representing the property owner. This is in fact one of the many arguments against syndication — that the agent or brokerage providing the data lost in a sea of competing agent advertisements or worse. Listing agent information is absent altogether.
But the very idea that Sandicor, with this new advertising remarks field, seemed to be at least tacitly supporting syndication by enabling it smacked of hypocrisy in the wake of the recent debut of their own front-facing consumer website. That’s the website, you might recall, they described as designed to capture the consumer traffic from the Zillows and Trulias of the world while protecting agents from third-party evil-doers out only (at least for now) to grab their advertising dollars.
In other words, it sounded like they were saying, “We are helping Zillow and the likes (by making it easy and attractive for our agents to send their listings on over), but we really want them dead.” So, my knee-jerk reaction was, “Dudes. Do we have a plan?”
I think we might.
I admittedly didn’t have all the facts (and probably still don’t), which is an unfortunate side effect of being a working girl. So, what I was not aware of until this morning was this: While I was scanning my client's disclosures and meeting the photographer, Sandicor also had decided that as part of their little data feed remapping effort, they would be limiting the number of photos included in the third-party feeds — to four. Compare that to the twenty-five photos we can actually upload in the MLS, and consider that photos are king. Now, who's your daddy? Take that, syndication sites!
Seriously, I may feel differently when I have had time to sleep on it, but right now I am standing on my chair and offering a personal round of applause. This was bold and rather creative. Maybe it’s not “No more syndication. Period!” uber-bold, but I can think of about forty reasons why it was a smart middle-ground approach to take. I can start with the simple argument that not all of Sandicor's subscribing agents and brokers are on my side of the syndication argument and, while I might lack polital acumen, they must be political; I could end with the idea that our MLS would probably have a hard time defending a position of telling us where and with whom we can and can't advertise our listings.
But, I hold firm to my belief that third-party syndication is run amok. In it's present form, it benefits neither the consumer nor the agents and brokers. It benefits the third-party site holders and, in one case, their shareholders. And I do not believe, as some have suggested, that we are too far down this road to reverse course. Apparently, neither does Sandicor.
I will indeed sleep on it. In the meantime, I'll give credit where credit is due. For now, this feels like a good move.