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The Inman Two Step – Errol Samuelson has an opportunity to get it right…

Warning – long post ahead. I had a lot on my mind. ;-)

This last week and my trip to Inman has been a whirlwind and I just walked in the door from the airport.

I have literally been too busy to write some of the things that I experienced and I really want to have some time to put them in context and “digest” some of them so that I can (hopefully) use what I saw to provide something useful in future posts.

That said, the first of my impressions was the most clear and thus most easy for me to put out into the arena of public ideas while it is still fresh. One of the panel discussions was the “Syndication Discussion” which included the usual representatives, (Saul Klein, Spencer Rascoff from Zillow, Errol Samuelson from Realtor.com, and others) including Mark McLaughlin of Pacific Union. (Note to Mark – I don’t know you personally, but nicely done. The crack about “I’m not outnumbered the audience is on my side.” was priceless. There were many people in that audience that wanted to get up and say something, but did not…)

Ok, now to my main point. At one point in the panel, Mr. Samuelson turned to Mr. Rascoff and pointed out that they include FSBO listings on their site at which time Mr. Rascoff replied that REALTOR.com included non-REALTOR listings in THEIR site as well. (gulp–start the music and Mr. Samuelson proceeds to do the “Inman 2 Step – a dance done by executives when they want to avoid continuing the line of discussion that THEY started…) This is a point which I had made recently in a post on Real Estate Industry Watch. And the folks at Realtor.com had actually asked to meet me about at Inman (and we did…).

If you read what I wrote at REIW, I specifically was concerned that REALTOR.com has a HIGHER LEVEL of ACCOUNTABILITY because they are the OWNER of the REALTOR trademark. (Please, we can leave the anti-NAR stuff for a later post, I am trying to stick to one issue here) Since they HAVE our trademark, I do NOT believe that they should be able to water it down and put non REALTOR listings on the site with the REALTOR trademark. That in my opinion, while not Fraud, is deceptive in that they KNOW non REALTOR entities are using it to tell their sellers that there is no difference and that they are advertising listings on REALTOR.com. And there IS a difference. (again, let’s please leave the fact that some folks would not mind the REALTOR brand and NAR to go away entirely out of this for now…)

If you can flag these listings and put a little itty bitty image that says REALTOR listing that noone sees, then you sure as heck can push the delete button REGARDLESS of what the MLSs have to feed you. At the end of the day Mr. Samuelson, the ball is in YOUR court. I told the people in your organization that I would totally praise REALTOR.com for doing the right thing here and I will… if you get it right. IF you stand behind the intent of being REALTOR.com – the domain of the REALTOR brand.

You are not Spencer. He does not claim to be the protector of the REALTOR trademark. He does not have to rise to that. There is no difference to you SEO wise, because you have a page for the homes that are NOT for sale as well as the ones that are. What is the difference (precisely) between a FSBO and home listed by a non-REALTOR and why are you going to list one and not the other?

It would seem to me that the most defensible position to take would be “We are the defender of REALTORS and we list the listings represented by them”…especially since a HIGH percentage of your traffic to your main page is type in traffic for the term REALTOR.

Or alternatively, you could take the position that we are not the protector of the REALTOR trademark…but saying one and doing the other is not consistent (in my opinion). So which is it? The folks at Zillow, while I am no friend of their business model, do not have the same level of duty to REALTORS that someone does who owns that brand.

If left alone this problem will only grow as more people leave NAR (and I know there are a few people here who would be happy with that, but I am not among them..I am still a work from the inside out kinda guy) in pursuit of lower fees and a way to “game the system”. They are only facilitated by the protectors of the REALTOR brand not protecting it.

I would love for there to be some open discussion about this (sparing us the NAR is evil rhetoric for the moment) so that we can see if REALTOR.com will actually defend REALTORS. You have the opportunity to do the right thing, Mr Samuelson, and not the Inman Two Step. It is my understanding that protecting the brand was NAR’s intent and was in the spirit of the agreement (no matter how much I disagree with the sale of R.com, it happened).

I hope that you in fact WILL do the right thing.

Related posts:
  • Mr Inman, less advertorial content please!
  • Inman “news” has always been a FUD-driven vendorslut cesspool — that’s not new — but what is it doing to the Web 2.0 ideal?
  • Uptown hound: BloodhoundBlog to contribute to Inman Blog . . .

  • 2 comments

    2 Comments so far

    1. Don Reedy August 5th, 2012 6:23 pm

      Eric, you’re way more involved than me in this, but here’s what I believe to be the applicable information from NAR’s website:

      NON-MEMBER USE

      1. I am not a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, can I use the REALTOR® marks?
      No, non-members are never authorized to use the REALTOR® marks or logo in connection with their real estate business. Because the use has not been authorized by NAR it may also be viewed as an infringement of NAR’s legal rights in its membership marks under the federal Lanham Act and other state and federal laws.

      2. May a company that sells real estate related services use the term REALTOR® in the name of its product or service if the company only wants its business to serve REALTORS®?
      No. NAR does not license third parties to use its marks in connection with the names of the products and services of those third parties.

      3. If a non-member salesperson is included in an advertisement for a REALTORS® firm, can the REALTOR® marks be used in connection with the firm’s name or with the names of others who are members?
      Yes, but the Marks must be placed in the ad so that they are used in connection with the firm name or the names of the people who are members and not in connection with the non-member. In addition, a non-member salesperson in this situation cannot use business cards on which the REALTOR® logo has been used even if it is in reference to the member broker or firm.

      Seems clear to me that the pot isn’t simply calling the kettle black by providing non-Realtor listings/info on Realtor.com’s site. There’s something much more nefarious about this “two step” thing you’re describing. I’d say Realtor.com should be invited to this season’s “So You Think You Can Dance” show. You can share hosting duties with “the audience.”

    2. Jim Klein August 5th, 2012 10:36 pm

      “They are only facilitated by the protectors of the REALTOR brand not protecting it.”

      Now there’s the principle! Great post, Eric.