‘Cool’ to chilly
CMLS ponders how to clean up syndicated listings
About two years ago, our MLS began facilitating the spread of your property listings on the Internet.
That was cool.
But what’s been happening lately is not so cool. In fact, there’s a downright chill in the air.
To understand, check out this quick overview of how we set up syndication: We partnered with ListHub, an online service now owned by Realtor.com, and began sending ListHub a custom data feed that is a modification of our MLS listings for the Internet.
Each MLS Member Participant (MP) who chose to participate logged into ListHub, created an account and selected which Internet portals, or syndicators, they wanted to receive their firm’s listings (entities such as Yahoo, Trulia, Zillow, etc.).
MPs could hit “Select All” for the approximately 100 syndicators available or pick individually. They also could link their websites to neighborhood searches by consumers at syndicator sites.
Today, while your listings are still flowing to ListHub, confusion is growing. Our custom data feed is not the only way syndicators are getting information. They are also getting it directly from agents and brokerages or, in some instances, other syndicators. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course — only that the information is increasingly wrong, outdated or duplicative. We stand by the quality of our MLS data and know it is the most accurate in the marketplace.
Furthermore, some syndicators are posting your listings but showing contact information not just for you, the listing agent, but for other agents as well.
Totally not cool.
These problems are occurring with MLS members all over the country. CMLS has been tracking the issues with growing concern. Inaccurate, often contradictory data about the same listing puzzles the consumer and reflects a lack of professionalism in our industry. Plus, who wants other agents promoted using your listings? That’s hardly fair.
One survey of brokers-in-charge (BIC) and agents showed little concern about the inaccuracies, noting that even wrong data may prompt a consumer to call. While I understand that thought, I think it’s “little-picture” thinking. Our industry needs to focus on the big picture. Ultimately, if consumers can’t trust the data they access about listings via the Internet, the tool is marginalized and so is the effectiveness and reputation of Realtors®.
Questions for syndication
We think it will require action among industry players to reign in this problem. Currently, CMLS has a committee headed by 2011 President-elect Jennifer Frontera that is reviewing our entire MLS in light of these issues. The committee is also looking at consumer-friendly MLS language and other key topics. At a Nov. 3 Visioning Session for CMLS, we expect many questions about syndication. Among them:
- Should we stop facilitating syndication?
- Should we provide data directly to the syndicators and not go through ListHub?
- Should we loosen IDX rules to allow MLS members to display their listings in more ways on their own websites, as syndicators — not bound by our rules — do?
- Should we limit which syndicators get our listings? A July 2011 study by WAV Group shows that the Top 10 syndicators based on consumer traffic get 91 percent of the online attention. The Top 5 (Yahoo, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com and AOL) generate 80 percent of the traffic. Furthermore, notes our Chief Technology Officer Steve Byrd, “Most of the problems come from the bottom 90 percent.”
Will syndication go back to being cool again? We hope so. But only if all of us — ListHub, Realtor.com, syndicators and MLSs — figure out how to clean up the situation. None of us can do it alone.