Marketing

Porn, Parasitism and Portland Condos

Author
Joel Burslem
No.
643
Date
11/08/11

A few days ago, my Twitter client chimed. A new tweet hit my dashboard.

“Portland friends, we’ve launched Urbnlivn Portland, a housing blog. Check it out and please spread the word! http://portland.urbnlivn.com/

I clicked through and was greeted by a stark, minimalist design. Clean, almost Scandinavian in its simplicity, the site was packed with gorgeous photos of downtown Portland condos.

It drew me in. I started clicking around and reading.

The world of the property blog is not new. The likes of Brownstoner and Curbedhave carved out significant businesses over the last few years obsessively detailing the comings and goings of real estate in their respective communities.

For good reason too. They’ve figured out there’s plenty of money to be made trafficking in…

Property porn

Trulia and Zillow have their own property blogs. This type of content is catnip to the masses. It tickles the “peeping Tom” urge in all of us.

Take this posting for a Malibu beach home on Trulia’s Luxe Living blog. Staring at the large over-saturated photos of that amazing living room, I get lost in my own Tony Stark-like fantasies.

But visit Trulia’s own listing detail page for the same property, and you quickly notice where those photos were pulled from and that the MLS watermarks have been (conveniently) cropped.

Even if the logos weren’t deliberately removed – this wholesale repackaging of content is surely deliberate.

There are huge SEO benefits in this strategy. Lots of little links sprinkled about the blog post, heavy with great anchor text, all drive clicks and search spiders back to Trulia’s main site.

I’m sure Trulia and the others would say that this is just one more way they are building “visibility” for properties, but this use of copyrighted material seems brazen. I’m not versed in the fine points of copyright law and fair use doctrine, but I am surprised this hasn’t generated more heat from brokers and MLSs.

Because, really, it’s kinda parasitic.

The leaky boat

I don’t really mean to single Trulia out. ‘Cause here’s the thing. Lots of folks are doing this.

UrbnLivn has dozens of posts on the site that use re-purposed MLS photos. The site was launched and is managed by a (non-agent) Redfin employee. No surprise then that all the links on that blog are driving traffic back to Redfin’s search site.

Since all of these blogs are run by “non-participants” in the MLS there is really no way that this can be policed under MLS rules.

It’s a leak in the listings boat.

And here’s the irony: NAR is about to lay down a new ruling on its social media policy around listings – and, at least as far as I understand it, it’s unclear whether it will be permissible for a broker, an owner of listings and an MLS participant, to do this sort of thing.

I’d like to see the whole plugged. And brokers given the space to innovate around listings while respecting the spirit of IDX and the value of the data they own.

Because really, aside from the whole parasite thing, these guys are on to something.