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The Trulia Publisher Platform and the hypothetical elastic mind

Trulia.com is releasing a new product offering this morning — or at least a new product skin. It is called Trulia Publisher Platform, and what it amounts to is customized branded hosting of Trulia’s real estate content on third-party publishers’ sites.

For example, you can get your Trulia fix under the Village Voice brand, presumably at the web sites of the dozens of formerly-counter-culture newspapers owned by the Phoenix-based corporate behemoth. Even though the real estate content will be Trulia’s, and even though the Truliesque pages will be hosted by Trulia, the on-page branding will give the impression that you are still reading The Village Voice or The Phoenix New Times or whatever.

Okayfine. I myself am so much in love with with power of the long tail in horizontal search that I am, with each passing day, less and less sanguine about vertical search tools. Geeks Google. Proto-geeks search on Craigslist. When the whole world looks like a nail, I’m less than ecstatic about trying to figure out which of the 27 specialized search blades on a Swiss Army Vertical Search Knife works most like a hammer. It turns out none of them do, where the Hammer of Google always delivers.

But: Even so: The expectation seems to be that the webaholic who searches for homes he can’t afford in towns he doesn’t live in on PhoenixNewTimes.com is somehow not the same bleary-eyed gnome who would have quested after houses he won’t buy in places he’s never been on Trulia.com instead. Do you see? Why would anyone presume that spreading the Trulia love around comes to anything other than spreading it thinner?

No one actually does make that presumption, of course. Instead, the math of free content is a math of infinities. No one in America knows any other American who is not already maxed out in every possible respect, but the hypothetical user of our proposed free-content web site is miraculously endowed with infinitely elastic spare time. Lucky bastard. Imaginary people have it so easy!

In the long run, we will surely add new gnomes and gnomettes to the Web 2.0 world. But why would flashing listings at them over here, as against over there, make any difference? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s vain to expect any huge increase in the exposure any one real estate listing might get as a result of this move.

On the other hand, in terms of looking like a member of the club to the clubby folks who invest major dough in internet start-ups, saying words like “Kiplinger” and “Village Voice” may actually matter. Probably the same goes for the scions of the withering dead-tree media: Saying “Trulia” and “Zillow” might make them feel slightly less like terminal cases.

So: How much is Trulia charging its new publishing partners for all this richly-detailed content? You guessed it: Nothing. Chortle now if you want, but the last laugh may not be yours.

 
More, sort of: Corporate PR, undisclosed corporate PR, inside baseball and the incomparable Robbie Paplin.

Still more: Batelle:

Time Warner May Cut 1,000 Jobs Due to Strike
McGraw-Hill to Cut 611 Jobs; More May Come
Martha Stewart Said to Lay Off More Staff
Chicago Sun-Times Reduces Size, Cuts Jobs
Seattle Times Plans to Cut Its Work Force

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9 comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Robbie January 9th, 2008 9:30 am

    I’m sure Yahoo & Microsoft laughed when Google Adwords was born too. Frankly, I think this is a brilliant idea.

  2. Greg Swann January 9th, 2008 9:39 am

    That’s funny — I was linking to you as you were commenting. It may it fact be a great idea. But is it the same one ham sliced thinner?

  3. A reader January 9th, 2008 10:10 am

    It might be thinner sliced ham, but you could say the same about coppa. Meat lovers like that super thin salame a lot.

    Seriously though this could be a very good deal for listings publishers if they “get” the 21st century concept that more eyeballs seeing their listings means more chances to sell those houses. They’re gonna need all the help they can get this year.

  4. Robbie January 9th, 2008 10:15 am

    BTW, I meant Google AdSense, not AdWords as I originally posted….

    Trulia, as popular as it might be in RE.net circles, still gets a lot less web traffic than a major metropolitan newspaper. Granted, Trulia has partnered with smaller properties so far, but if gets enough of them, I think it’s AdSense all over again.

    I think the trick for Trulia is finding the right publishing partners, that give it the right kind of traffic. (People interesting in Real Estate, who don’t already visit Trulia). According to, Realtor.com’s media kit, Trulia is still a small time player. A few hundred thousand visitors here, a few hundred thousand visitors there, and pretty soon, you have real traffic.

  5. Arlington Virginia Condos — Jay January 9th, 2008 11:08 am

    In 90+% of the time, the same person who finds the home on trulia who is a serious prospect will also be finding it on local MLS anyway. From a LA’s (listing agent) perspective they gone next to nothing by having their listings posted outside the MLS unless they are marketing themselves to local homeowners. For selling agents (in our region they represent the buyer)it could act as a doorway to your website, but it’s payback is infinitesimal to organic rankings in google.

  6. Tony January 9th, 2008 12:11 pm

    We have been doing something similar with property videos since July. We have a drop-in video content management system where videos are presented with the same look, feel, and branding as the hosting organization (usually listing portals).

    The trick is definitely having the right publishing partner (as Robbie above mentioned). For us, the methodology works particularly well for tapping into the international investor market.

    For instance, many international investors are not accustomed to going to an MLS so they frequent popular international listings sites (even for US listings). By integrating property video in multiple langages onto fairly high traffic international listing sites, we’ve managed to drive a decent mix of prospective buyers to our videos. The video traffic for our customers has risen significantly as a result and a fair number of sales have resulted from this approach. From what we can tell, everyone wins.

    The google advantage comes from the Google juice of the partners and the set of frequent visitors that partner sites have built over time. Our videos just ride the coattails of those that have the juice and/or following.

    Tony

  7. John Wake January 9th, 2008 5:18 pm

    I think it’s brilliant.

    Both Trulia and the publisher make money. What’s not to like?

    Oh… people might search on Phoenix New Times for homes instead of my IDX sites? Yeah but people willing to thumb through forests of audio equipment ads really aren’t my clientèle.

    Even if they were my clientèle, they are competing fair and square.

    Is it cutting the ham too thin? Not if the publisher ends up making money.

  8. […] I had brutal fun at Trulia.com’s expense yesterday morning, and I don’t want to come off like I’m playing favorites. And I’ve given Zillow a lot of grief in the past, and no doubt I’ll be doing that again. But where Trulia seems to me to be striving to be the TV Guide, Zillow has within it the potential to be television itself, The Show, the all-encompassing everything. They understand the Cluetrain idea better than anyone, absorbing criticism with aplomb and using it as the fertilizer from which to cultivate their garden. Second Life is a toy. Trulia feels like a toy to me. Zillow is building a correspondent on-line avatar for everything that matters in residential real estate. In the long run, I think, they will end up defining the virtual real estate world. […]

  9. […] their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly […]