Stick a fork in data. I’m done.

Data standards. Data accuracy. Data syndication. Data integrity. Data exchanges. Big data. Little data.

Data. Data. Data.

It’s like I’m stuck in a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation and my positronic brain is misfiring (Caution: Nerd alert!).

So, at least for myself, I’m going to enforce a moratorium on any future discussions around listings as data.

People’s homes are more than just zeroes and ones.

Truthfully, when we think of property as just binary digits, we suck all the fun out of real estate.

I totally acknowledge there is important work being done making databases talk to each other. I just think we’ve gone too far making this the emphasis and are losing sight of the end goal we’re all striving to achieve, which is to market and sell a particular piece of property.

That’s why I now prefer to think of listings as collections of photos, videos and words.

That may seem reductionist but there is a profound difference in philosophy here. These are all elements that can have a human touch to them. A flourish. An imaginative hand that guides their creation.

What I’m coming to believe is that real estate listings are content not data.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a new construct – our client Sotheby’s International Realty (SIR) was the first to espouse this philosophy on a large scale. Credit is due to John Passerini, Global VP of Interactive Marketing at SIR, who has led the charge on this.

Last year, 1000watt worked with John and his team on the redesign and launch of their new website and this idea of listings as content formed the genesis of the entire experience.

From the get-go it was obvious that we would not be setting up another stall in the Akihabara district of IDX search sites that exist out there. Rather, we’d focus on the presentation of high quality, unique content and merchandize the homes the way they deserve to be merchandized.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 and the results are in. Traffic is at an all-time high. Time on site is through the roof. Leads and user engagement are up significantly.

Go figure… invest in great content and people will flock to it.

So count me among the converts.

Once you think of listings as content, you can start to have standards. And you can enforce them. SIR does this militantly and the results are clearly, beautifully evident.

But perhaps most importantly, while data “wants to be free”, content most definitely does not. Just ask the entertainment industry.

Let’s face it, the data on homes for sale is widely available online these days. The statuses and square footages, the beds and baths and last year’s taxes are all out there, everywhere. And that’s probably a good thing.

But what’s unique, and proprietary, is the content – the photos, the videos, the words that you create. And that’s what you should keep close to your vest.

Brokers and brands: I believe you are best served holding most of this content back. Share a photo or two and a price with the portals. Leverage the distribution that those platforms offer, but keep the content experience within your world.

The challenge is to take the time, the care and the risk required to make that happen. It’s not easy.

But I know it works.

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