'Kinda-sorta' syndication and portal blood sport

Many people speak of being “tired” of the syndication debate. I don’t get that. Yes, we could surely pull together a Syndication Anxiety’s Greatest Hits album pretty quick at this point (and could play it at all the good conference parties!) but that doesn’t mean the issue won’t continue to reverberate.

Especially when it gets weird.

As Inman has reported, CLAW, an MLS in Los Angeles, has decided to delay sending listings to third-party sites by 48 hours.

Delay. Not cut off. Delay.

This “kinda-sorta” syndication is like attempting to get half pregnant. It’s just not something you should try.

I respect brokers that stop syndication for having made a bold decision, even if I think it may not be the best long-term play. This was indecision.

It’s tough to explain this. Here’s just a sampling from CLAW’s CEO:

“…She said she did not think showing up next to inaccurate data on third-party sites showed advertising agents in a bad light.

“I don’t think it’s important to them. They still get exposure. That’s what they want when they buy a ZIP code. I don’t think the accuracy of the listing is going to affect the exposure, their purpose of paying money to get the exposure,” she said.

Furthermore, the agents were already showing up next to inaccurate data on these sites before the delay, she added.

The circular nature of this thinking is making me dizzy, so I won’t pick it apart. And I don’t really blame Ms. Ives. She’s got a board to deal with. But this is a kooky half-measure embarked upon too late.

I hope we don’t see more of it.

The big portals reported earnings this week. Plenty of discussion material here, but here’s how I tend to think about the net of it:

There are about 150,000 agents who will buy things. All three portals have roughly 50,000 paying subscribers apiece. That’s 150,000, but there’s overlap, so let’s say that 100,000 of the total addressable agent market is already paying these companies.

That means there’s not a ton of room for growth — unless Zillow, Move and Trulia steal customers from each other. This is going to make 2014 a fiercely competitive year in online real estate.

Zillow and Trulia will spend over $100 million on consumer advertising. Move will pull out all the stops on its reinvigorated relationship with NAR. Brokers and MLS folks will be treated to a record number of steak dinners.

Lots of elbows will be thrown. Watch out!

Happy Valentine’s Day.


[Disclosure: Move, Inc. is a 1000WATT client]