For those who care about such things, the big recent news is, of course, the Move.com vs. Active Rain dustup. While much of the commentary amongst Active Rainers has been supportive of their fearless leaders, there is also an underlying angst about the notion that while the content of Active Rain is provided by its 50,000-odd members, the windfall from the prospective sale would have accrued not to those members, but to the owners of Active Rain. Were Messrs. Mardini, Heaton, and Washburn indeed going to enrich themselves with the fruits of others’ labor?
The question really boils down to this: wherein lies the value of a community network such as Active Rain? I say the value is twofold:
- The community itself
- The ecosystem that provides value to that community
Without the hard work of the community, Active Rain would be just an empty shell. Conversely, without the ecosystem that the Active Rain platform provides, many of the 50,000 participants’ blogs would be a fraction of what they are now.
So is it fair for the owners of an ecosystem to profit from the contributions of the members? Fair or not, that’s the way our capitalist system works: unless Active Rain was structured as an online collective, it is unlikely that the members would have seen a personal windfall.
Think of two other similar ecosystems: Ebay and Craigslist.
At Ebay the sellers do all the work of getting a product ready, advertising it on the site, shipping it to the winning bidder, and rating the buyer. The buyers do all the work of bidding, submitting their credit card information, and rating the seller. Ebay simply provides the ecosystem that makes all this possible, and intervenes to deal with disputes and fraud. Buyers and sellers do all the work, and the only benefit they get is the ability to buy and sell stuff — a great benefit, to be sure, but nowhere near the benefit that Ebay gets of being a multi-billion dollar company.
Craigslist provides not only a platform for buying and selling goods and services, but also for matching employers and employees, renters and landlords. Again, the community does all the work. The founder and majority owner of Craigslist, Craig Newmark, could be a multi-gazillionaire many times over, but has chosen to settle for merely millionaire status. Again, its the owner to whom the economic profits accrue.
We can argue all day — and we have been — about whether Active Rain is worth $30M or not. What we cannot argue with is the notion that, whatever its monetary value, it rightfully accrues to its owners, not its contributors.
Tags: Active Rain
, Craig Newmark
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I stepped out for an hour….I came back…and the world, or at least my little piece of it, had changed, courtesy of Zillow’s upcoming product release.
Quoting Drew Meyer (Zillow PR), the new product release includes three components:
- Agents and owners can post homes for sales–for FREE.
- Added a real estate wiki that is seeded with over 100 articles–and opening it up to the community for improvement & expansion
- Make Me Move–now ANYONE can set a “dream” price for their home
Of my four predictions, only one turns out to be correct: community commentary, which is at least part of what the wiki concept seems to be. (Note to self: Keep remaining three predictions on file — maybe they’ll be part of Zillow’s next release!)
Thinking as a traditional Realtor, my thoughts on the three components above are, respectively:
Putting on my consumer hat:
And now my Web 2.0 Realtor hat:
Brilliant (if I do it right)
1. Agents and owners can post homes for sales [sic] for FREE.
Traditional Realtor: “Damn them! First they stole our data, now they’re pulling the MLS rug out from under us, next they’re going to start selling us leads or doing the transaction themselves. I will never — never — advertise there, and I’ll take every opportunity I can to bad-mouth them.”
Consumer: “Very, very, very cool. I love how I can get quick-and-dirty estimates of my home’s value. I should let my neighbor John know about this new feature — he’s having a hard time selling his home, and his Realtor should definitely advertise the home on Zillow. I mean, it’s free, so why not? And Joe down the street, who’s also selling his home (but on his own without a Realtor) should also know about this.”
Web 2.0 Realtor: “Gotta play this right, but this could be big. I’m already advertising my listings on Craigslist, Google Base, and Trulia; I definitely need to add Zillow to the list and stop wasting my money on enhanced listings on Realtor.com. In neighborhoods I’m trying to break into, I definitely need to start buying some banner ads. If this is where my potential clients are hanging out online, I need to be there too. But…gotta be careful. If the Zestimate for this home is below where I’ve listed it, not sure Zillow is the best place to advertise it. Oh, and here’s another idea: I’ll buy ads in the neighborhoods in which my buyer clients want to move — an easy way of letting the FSBO’ers in that neighborhood know to call me since I may have a client for them.”
2. Added a real estate wiki that is seeded with over 100 articles–and opening it up to the community for improvement & expansion.
Traditional Realtor: “Wiki?”
Consumer: “Nice, very nice. I love Wikipedia, but I can’t always find the really local real estate information I’m looking for. What’s the market been doing in Barron Park lately? How many offers are typically coming in on homes in Palo Alto these days? Hmmm…looks like this 3oceans guy Kevin has some of the answers I’m looking for…maybe I’ll shoot him an email.”
Web 2.0 Realtor: “Not 100% certain how to play this, but hey, I’ve got all kinds of content on my blog that I can re-purpose into some interesting Wiki-type content, and this could get me some publicity — help me get known as the local expert on Eichler homes, or on the Fair Oaks neighborhood. Realbird just started something similar at Realki.com — maybe I’ll split my efforts between the two sites and see which gives me better results.”
3. Make Me Move–now ANYONE can set a “dream” price for their home.
Traditional Realtor: “Yeah, right. Now anybody with a crap Eichler worth $850,000 is gonna put it out there at $1,100,000 and cross their fingers. If it’s my listing, they’ll probably expect me to advertise it in the paper at that price, too, and waste months of my time and thousands of my dollars while they come to their senses.”
Consumer: “It’s a bit gimmicky, but also kind of entertaining. I know my home is only worth $800,000, but you know what? If somebody really wanted to offer me $900,000, I’d sell it in a heartbeat! Can’t hurt — I mean, it takes 2 minutes of my time to do it, right?”
Web 2.0 Realtor: “Gotta watch these numbers like a hawk. If there’s a home with an unreasonably low Zestimate, and a “Make Me Move” price above that, but below what I think market value is…that could be tasty. If there’s a home with a “Make Me Move” price above market value, but not too much so, might be worth contacting that homeowner and explaining my services.”
Now…time to head to the other blogs and see what their reaction has been…
Update: (12:41am PST, Thursday, December 7, 2006) — About an hour ago, Zillow President Lloyd Frink posted the announcement. Zillow’s site itself, however, is still not back on.
Update 2: (9 minutes later) — Zillow’s David G, in his inaugural post on Active Rain, addresses one of Web 2.0 Realtor’s above issues. Apparently if a home is listed for sale on Zillow, the price that will appear is its list price, not its Zestimate.
, Google Base, Lloyd Frink
, Real estate
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