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Zillow.com takes on BloodhoundBlog, attempting to crush The Future Of Real Estate Marketing in the process

In a move that is either inspired or incredibly stoopid, Zillow.com will this afternoon launch a brand new group weblog devoted to real estate technology issues. This of course is a large part of the content of BloodhoundBlog and it is the entire focus of The Future Of Real Estate Marketing. The new weblog, called GeekEstate Blog, will draw its contributions from a cadre of real estate technology vendors. Presumably this will be pleasing to the foxes. The hens? Not so much.

From the Zillow Blog (this text is extracted from a pre-launch press release):

As much as the real estate industry is based on people-to-people contact, there is no denying that technology is becoming ever more crucial for real estate professionals as a way to reach consumers and each other. With this in mind, we are proud today to announce the launch of a new technology blog that Zillow has founded — GeekEstate Blog!

[...]

GeekEstate Blog is a multi-author format and is launching with seven contributors. Our kickoff team of regular contributors includes Michael Price from MLPodcast, Matt Dunlap from Realivent, Damon Pace from Incredible Agent, Brendan King from Point2, WordPress designer Cory Miller, and Steve Jagger from Ubertor. I’ll [Drew Meyers] be the seventh contributor rounding out this group.

I happen to think Steve Jagger is a nice guy, as is Mike Price. Jay Thompson likes Point2. Even so, what we have is a union of fairly low-tech tech vendors, none of whom is going to issue a discouraging word about one of the others’ products, nor about Zillow.com. INTJs like Drew Meyers might say something interestingly impolitic from time to time, but the rest of these guys got the windowed offices because they know how to tailor a response to the demands of their marketing. In other words, if you’re looking for independent balls-to-the-wall analysis, it won’t be at the GeekEstate Blog.

Nota bene:

Zillow will play an administrative role on this blog and keep the wheels turning. We’ll also occasionally provide our own insight based on our understanding of real estate technology. Lastly, we’ll head up the process of recruiting other bloggers as contributors to continue to grow GeekEstate Blog’s reach and content.

If Redfin.com’s Glenn Kelman has an infinite supply of feet to shoot himself in, Zillow.com-the-corporation has the world’s heaviest thumb. I cannot imagine what a delight it would be to write under that kind of supervision, but I expect I wouldn’t have to imagine it for very long.

From the GeekEstate Blog (again quoting from the press release):

The seven at-launch contributors listed below have been selected for their understanding of both technology and the real estate industry and share the belief that educating potential clients is the best form of marketing. These people work in technology companies who serve the real estate industry, but they aren’t here to hard-sell you on their products. They are:
  • Michael Price – President/Founder of MLPodcast, a video pod-casting service for the real estate industry. Mike’s background includes experience with most facets of applied real estate technology and its convergence with marketing, including data distribution, Web application development, listing enhancements, marketing metrics, and new media.
  • Damon Pace – Founder and CEO of Incredible Agent, a provider of real estate marketing systems for agents and brokers. Damon has also been an active Realtor with RE/MAX Excalibur in Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • Stephen Jagger – Co-founder of Ubertor, a real estate technology company that builds websites for real estate professionals. Stephen is actively involved in the real estate industry as a public speaker and co-founder of the largest real estate agent meet-up in North America. He has been an avid real estate blogger since 2004.
  • Brendan King – COO of Point2 Agent, a national marketing and advertising platform exclusively for real estate professionals. Brendan is responsible for the strategic vision, direction and execution for the company. He has more than 17 years of business, sales and marketing experience in the information technology and software industries.
  • Matt Dunlap – CTO of Realivent Corporation, a marketing platform for real estate agents, brokerages and communities. He has more than eight years’ of software and online application development experience.
  • Cory Miller – Founder of Cory Miller Design, a web development and marketing studio, focusing on WordPress blog design. He has more than eight years’ experience in journalism, marketing and Web design. (Note: Cory designed this blog).
  • Drew Meyers- Community Relations Specialist at Zillow. Co-founder and administrator of the Carnival of Real Estate, he is a regular contributor on Zillow Blog.

Zillow swears this is not product promotion, but I can’t imagine what else it would be, nor why these front-office marketers would be involved for any reason other than the admittedly subtle long-term process of blogwise product promotion. This is why we are very careful either to exclude or to strictly contain vendors on BloodhoundBlog.

I don’t think there is anything inspired about this. I think it’s just stoopid. There are already excellent real estate technology sites out there, some of which (ahem!) are written by people who are not selling anything.

My own position is vendor-skeptical if not outright vendor-hostile, but I cannot for the life of me imagine what Zillow thinks it has to gain by doing this. Control, I suppose. It seems always to boil down to control with Zillow. Time may prove me wrong, but I think this was a dumb move. Zillow.com can control its own message — man, can it do that! — but it shouldn’t be trying to control the rest of the conversation. But the company is well-favored by luck. If they get lucky, the GeekEstate Blog will die a quick and quiet death.

 
Moreover: How Zillow could have gotten this right:

  • A daily compendium of links to technology posts from the RE.net and the nets at large. Benevolent and beneficial, and as arm’s-length as a vendor can get.
  • A true technology blog, meaning a blog written by actual front-line geeks. Zillow.com would never let its own geeks speak without filtration, though.
  • A true vendor’s group blog, with the group consisting of people like Rich Barton, Pete Flint and Dave Liniger. I would want it to be no-rules cage-fighting at that point. I would pay to read a weblog like that.

Meanwhile, Zillow introduces with great fanfare a brand new weblog with no content. Dumb. Vendors are not webloggers and vendor blog-analogues are not weblogs.

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Related posts:
  • Wagging the dog at the Carnival of Real Estate
  • Zillow.com takes advertising demographics to never-before-seen places
  • Making Nothing out of Something or Something out of Nothing

  • 21 comments

    21 Comments so far

    1. Steve Berg July 31st, 2007 5:59 pm

      I would think that Zillow might better use their excess time to refine (or rework) their Zestimates algorithm so that it approaches reality more than once in a while.

    2. Surprised July 31st, 2007 9:53 pm

      Apparently, no girls are to be allowed into this treehouse??

    3. Zillow Fan August 1st, 2007 7:06 am

      Trulia – what’s your response? TruliaConnect? What is that? A take in Inman Connect?

    4. John L. Wake August 1st, 2007 2:41 pm

      Ditto, Steve Berg. But then again Zillow may have already reached the best estimates available with that technology (without hiring a Realtor) so the focus shifts towards marketing. It’s a good marketing strategy really.

      Anything successful will be copied and Bloodhound Blog is a supernova of success.

      Come on Greg, you knew this would happen. You expected it didn’t you? And it will continue to happen but you will always have the first-mover advantage.

    5. Greg Swann August 1st, 2007 2:45 pm

      > Come on Greg, you knew this would happen. You expected it didn’t you?

      I expected it eight months ago. I was amazed that no one else seemed to see what I saw.

    6. Sam Chapman August 1st, 2007 3:15 pm

      I agree with Steve about the Zestimates. Why launch something new when they can’t get accurate data. I’ve run into several youngish buyers who think they can represent themselves based on Zillow’s estimates and county tax records. It just doesn’t work that way…

    7. Steve Berg August 1st, 2007 3:35 pm

      I’ll never forget the guy/prospective buyer who came into my open house literally waving a Zestimate in my face, claiming “I wouldn’t even pay THIS (the Zestimate) for the home. Bottom line: Home was on the market for a VR $675k-$725k. Our market value estimate was $700k-$710k. It sold one week later for $705k. The Zestimate? $665k. It’s not good enough for Zillow to claim their numbers are within 5% or 10% or whatever, of the market. In these parts, that’s a big miss.

      Greg – Sorry I’m off subject here but it had to be said…again.

    8. Greg Swann August 1st, 2007 3:37 pm

      > Greg – Sorry I’m off subject here but it had to be said…again.

      I don’t think you’re off topic. And I don’t think you should hold your breath waiting for a critical analysis of Zestimation errors at GeekEstate Blog.

    9. Joel August 1st, 2007 11:42 pm

      Well, I for one, hope they don’t crush me…

    10. Greg Swann August 2nd, 2007 7:22 am

      > Well, I for one, hope they don’t crush me…

      I think you’re safe. So far three posts, three self-promos.

    11. J. Ferris August 2nd, 2007 7:50 am

      I won’t beat them up over it already but that blog is boring. BloodhoundBlog doesn’t thrive on it’s tech topics. In fact if I had to guess any one thing for it’s success I’d say it’s the fact that so many authors of the blog offer their perspective on bleeding edge issues affecting the industry and at BloodhoundBlog the gloves are always off. This blog has slammed Inman, Starpower Conference, Kelman/Redfin and other Realtors all in the same week! That’s what I call entertainment! Zillow doesn’t have the you know what to pull off anything of that sort so their blog will fall in line with all the other blogs of corporate past.

      By the way, can anyone tell me the point of Zillow from an investment standpoint? I just don’t see what will make it a profitable venture. Advertising?

    12. David G from Zillow.com August 2nd, 2007 7:50 am

      Greg, you have totally missed the boat here.

      GeekEtsate is a technical resource for Real Estate professionals – it couldn’t be further from BHB. Please give GeekEstateBlog a chance and evaluate it on merit.

      If you really think we’re trying to control the conversation about Zillow, you’re obviously not reading the discussions we host on the site.

      Steve – Thankfully, we don’t let the blog team work on the Zestimate algorithm. As you know, low-ball offers are not new to real estate; they were around long before Zestimates.

    13. Greg Swann August 2nd, 2007 8:37 am

      > Greg, you have totally missed the boat here.

      Have I? Three posts so far, all of which are promos for their authors’ products.

      > If you really think we’re trying to control the conversation about Zillow, you’re obviously not reading the discussions we host on the site.

      I didn’t say you’re trying to control the conversation about Zillow. I said you’re trying to control the conversation. In fact, judging by the content posted so far, GeekEstate Blog is a Trojan Horse vendor blog, a way to do product promos at a remove from the vendors’ own sites, where their product promos belong.

      > GeekEstate is a technical resource for Real Estate professionals

      Red Ocean, BTW. Y’all should have known better.

      > As you know, low-ball offers are not new to real estate; they were around long before Zestimates.

      This much I agree with. In negotiation, a Zestimate is an interchangeable prop, a pretext used to gain leverage.

    14. Greg Swann August 2nd, 2007 8:38 am

      > By the way, can anyone tell me the point of Zillow from an investment standpoint? I just don’t see what will make it a profitable venture. Advertising?

      That’s the plan. I’ve been meaning to write something about this, not just regarding Zillow. Maybe later this week.

    15. David G from Zillow.com August 2nd, 2007 9:11 am

      J. Ferris -

      Yep, advertising. It’s working well for us and the likes of GOOG and YHOO have obviously proved the viability of the model. Zillow has a massive and affluent audience and Zillow’s brand recognition is unparalleled in the online Real Estate industry. We’re delivering tangible value to Zillow’s advertisers and early ad revenues have exceeded expectations. Check it out;
      http://www.zillow.com/ezads/GetStarted.htm?s_cid=ez-site-adwithus

    16. J. Ferris August 2nd, 2007 1:31 pm

      The new Zillow blog is dry and reads like an advertisement so you get no points for that but with the mass migration of advertising dollars from newspapers to online sites (the newspapers won’t shut the hell up about losing the advertising… it’s evvvvverrryyywhhhhere) I can’t fault Zillow’s investors for what they expect it will become. My only advice to Zillow, a new company in a constantly changing industry, would be not to branch off into five million different things at one time. Take a page from Apple’s book and perfect one product first and then move on to the next. Otherwise you’ll collapse under the weight of your own “genius”.

    17. [...] I’m back at the office, missing all the fun at Inman Connect and only able to watch the blow by blow through the RE.net as everyone parties and parries, all of which has me thinking about the need for some long-term perspective. I’m reminded of childhood and the ads in comic books for see-through glasses. I need a pair of those now, only they need to see through all the hype. I often find myself getting caught up in every announcement, press release and blog entry, and worrying about what’s next. Yet, the truth is only told over time, and, even then, is fleeting at best. While one cannot ignore what others are doing, strategy cannot be reactive either. So, maybe I’m better off back at the office working on stuff our clients need, rather than partying at Connect. But, it sure does look like fun and I’d love to meet in person some of the bloggers I’ve met online over the last six months. Maybe next year. [...]

    18. Brendan King August 4th, 2007 1:05 pm

      Greg, usually I respect your point of view and sometimes insightful analysis. That said, I find that you sometimes jump to incorrect conclusions when given insufficient information to draw a meaningful conclusion. If you care to read my blog at http://point2agent.wordpress.com/ you might find some “independent balls to the walls analysis”. Just an FYI I certainly didn’t get a “windowed office” because I was able to tailor a response to the demands of marketing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you would have taken the time to find out a little bit about Point2 you wouldn’t have characterized us as a “low tech vendor”. If you would have taken the time to find out a little about me you would also know that I say what is on my mind

    19. [...] Greg Swann wrote a rather scathing analysis of his impressions of the GeekEstate idea. Don't get me wrong here. I respect the hell out of Greg. He's a marketing wizard, an innovator, and he's the best writer in the RE.net — arguably one of the best writers anywhere. I probably agree with 98% of what Greg writes. This just happens to fall into that 2% I disagree with. Who knows, he may wind up being totally correct. Time will tell… [...]

    20. Maureen Francis August 12th, 2007 9:52 pm

      I noticed the same thing as surprised. Isn’t there one female RE blogger qualified to write about RE technology?

    21. Cape Coral November 17th, 2007 12:16 am

      I don’t know about low tech, but only one knows anything about selling real estate.