Newspapers and Realtors

It’s not often that I agree with (or read, really) Daily Kos. But … the parallels between the recent decision by the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors (MIBOR) to prevent Google (and other search engines) from indexing IDX results and this proposal to “save” newspapers are remarkable.

The potential of this rule interpretation could dramatically impact how buyers search for homes, the visibility of sellers’ homes on the web and how Realtors (not “big brokers”) do business. This isn’t a plea for Realtors’ survival – we have enough of that – but a chance to educate the public about the impact of this seemingly insignificant decision.

In a nutshell –

1 – The interpretation by the National Association of Realtors and MIBOR prevents search engines from indexing IDX results from Realtors.
2 – Buyers go to the internet to search for homes. Duh.
3 – If you’re searching for a home in Charlottesville or Albemarle (or anywhere really), you’re likely using an IDX search tool to search. Like this one. Or this one.
4 – If other Realtor Associations and MLS adopt this rule interpretation, it would set the groundwork for placing home information further back behind closed walls – likely those of the MLS and Realtor.com – and limiting the ability of Realtors to compete.
5 – Third party aggregators (TPA) such as Zillow and Trulia and Cyberhomes and and and … are not subject to this rule – putting Realtors at a significant disadvantage to these competitors.

Now …. with that preface out of the way, let’s return to the newspapers and the legislative proposals to “save” them. Taking liberties with Kos’ post: (my edits in bold caps)

– Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the “fair use” doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts — republishing a quote to comment on it, for example — is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Yeah, Google driving traffic to the REALTORS‘ sites are the reason REALTORS are in trouble. This line of argumentation is not only idiotic beyond words, but newspapers have a simple solution: block Google from crawling their sites with a “nofollow” “disallow” tag in their robots.txt file. Now if that sounds complicated to you, it’s not: it’s literally one single word in an HTML page that tells Google “stay the HECK out because we’re too DARN stupid to want people to find our material via search engines!”

Here’s the problem, 1) the REALTORS AND SELLERS don’t want Google to stay the HECK out, and 2) REALTORS are actually not so DARN stupid that they want their sites blind to potential BUYERS. The issue is, they want Google to PAY them for the privilege of sending people their direction. Why? Who knows! Maybe because they’re DARN stupid?

We have quite the conundrum here – sellers don’t care where the houses are marketed. They just want them dispersed as widely and as accurately as possible in every attempt to get it sold.

Some Realtors and Realtor associations and MLS’ want to limit Realtors and consumers’ access to information. The time for that battle has passed.

And here’s the thing that’s applicable to both Realtors and newspapers – you need to compete on equal ground. Don’t try to stifle competition, or use taxpayers’ money to shore up a shifting business – just compete.

This is a frightening time for a lot of people and businesses, and there is no God-given or Government-promised right to survive.

More reading:

TechCrunch

BuzzMachine – First, stop the lawyers.

Not being able to analyze an entire page would mean that search engines could not reliably send searchers (aka customers) to relevant pages and that would mean that the owners of those pages would not be discovered. It would tear about the very essence of the web. This is so dangerously ignorant of the architecture of our new world and how it operates as to be stunning.

This is an issue that will not be solved tomorrow or the next day, but it is an issue that will likely pit the “boots on the ground” Realtors (of which I am one) against the “establishment” of the National Association of Realtors.

To be clear – the National Association of Realtors – staff and many members – fought for this interpretation to be clarified. MIBOR – one person – asked for them to stay their decision – and the members on the Board of Directors voted to approve the delay. When the MLS Committee had unanimously voted to approve the change/clarification. Shameful. Realtors working against Realtors.

Background:

The proposed rule changes were that were deferred for six months by one person asking:

1 - Multiple Listing Policy Statement 7.58, paragraph 2, Policies Applicable to Participants’ IDX Sites, Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) Policy: “Participants must protect IDX information from misappropriation by employing reasonable efforts to monitor and prevent “scraping” or other unauthorized accessing reproduction, or uses, of the MLS database. This requirement does not prohibit indexing of IDX sites by search engines.

2. Section 18.2.2, model MLS rules: “Participants must protect IDX information from misappropriation by employing reasonable efforts to monitor and prevent “scraping” or other unauthorized accessing, reproduction, or uses. of the MLS database. This requirement does not prohibit indexing of IDX sites by search engines.

More Background:
Agent Genius (372 comments as of this writing)
Agent Genius
Bloodhound
Realtor Magazine
Or … just Google it.


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