Friday Flash: Chaos, experience, and love among the ruins

I’ve been on the road a lot the past two weeks, and writing has been tough. But, boy, it’s always good to get out there. I learn so much, hear so much, and always come back energized by the people and ideas I encounter.

But I do have some questions. Perhaps you fellow road warriors can weigh in here:

  • When is it ever a good idea to “add a shot” to your 22 oz. airport beer for “just $1 more”?
  • For the love of god, when will cabbies stop giving us the stink eye when we pay with a credit card?

OK, to lesser matters….

Open Home Pro, the hot little startup that’s built a nice following for its iPad/web app for open house management and follow up, released an iPhone app this week.

In short, it allows agents to post their listings to the web, to Facebook and to Craigslist directly from their iPhone. Take the photos, enter the details, share. Agents can follow other agents’ activity.

“Mobile first” all the way. Nice.

But there’s a bigger picture here. Within this little app lies the beating heart of chaos.

Over the last five or seven years, there’s been a lot of talk about the “democratization of publishing”, referring, specifically, to the fact that the number of channels through which a content creator can reach an audience has multiplied dramatically. Book publishers, cable networks, news editors and the like – those who stand between content creators and content consumers – have seen their positions eroded severely.

So it will be in real estate. The MLS, the broker, the franchisor, policy constructs like IDX, syndicators like ListHub and Point2 — they will all see their intermediary positions in the flow of listings eaten away by a powerful solvent: the agent with a computer in the palm of her hand.

Sound a little dramatic? It’s pretty straightforward, really. Right now, every agent inputs a listing into the MLS. They type it into a desktop screen. From there, it heads out to other agents who may help them sell it, to a bunch of broker and agent websites within the confines of IDX, and to millions of consumers through syndication. This is a pretty linear progression from agent, through intermediaries, to the market.

What something like Open Home Pro portends is a future that is not nearly so linear, one that is diffused, democratic and, from the intermediaries’ point of view, chaotic.

In the world of digital real estate, the endgame is with the agent. Zillow knows this, Trulia knows this and some franchisors and brokers know this.

Those who act will win.

… 

I normally don’t like infographics, but this one from ZenDesk drives home a really important point: improving the experience of people already touching your brand is usually more profitable than advertising or distribution.

We run into this with brokers a lot. Sometimes the focus is on “what do we do about SEM?” or “How do we attract more people on Facebook?” when there’s an existing audience, existing traffic, existing clients, just waiting to be dazzled.

First things first.

Trulia hired Alon Chaver as VP of Industry Services. Alon was formerly CEO of iHomeFinder, one of the first and biggest IDX vendors.

The portals have hired a bunch of industry folks over the past year. You can either look at this as a cynical ploy to co-opt a wary industry, or as a sincere effort to better understand your customer.

I tend to focus on the people. And Alon, as they say, is good people. I’ve known him for going on 10 years and he’s someone I respect and trust. I think many people in this business would say the same thing.

We’ll see if he can spark some love among the ruins of the portal/industry relationship. Big challenge. But I wish him well.

The tech blog ReadWrite has a regular feature called “Death Watch” where they highlight companies, technologies or systems they believe are on their way out.

The column from a couple weeks back: ReadWrite Deathwatch: Real Estate Multiple Listing Services.

It’s worth a read. Outside tech or business blogs usually miss a lot when talking about real estate, but this piece is surprisingly astute. I don’t necessarily agree with the thrust here, but it’s always good to see what the rest of the world is saying about our little thing here in real estate.

Enjoy the weekend.

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