Now Open! The 4realz Bookstore

Early today I was having a conversation with Eric Bryn on twitter when he said:

have you read Guy Kawasaki’s book Art of the Start’?

which was all the impetuous I needed to finally get around to publishing my very own online marketing bookstore here on 4realz. This is something I’ve been thinking about doing ever since I built a similar (Amazon-powered) bookstore for a client, but just never took the time to do for myself.

4realz-bookstore-screenshot

So far, I have three categories of books:

  • Online Marketing
  • Starting Your Business
  • Blogging

and only two books in each category.   My idea is to limit the books under each category so as to make it a “best” of breed books…

Nonetheless, I like the idea of adding a few more books to each of the categories and potentially even another category of two, so if you have a book that should be included because it’s been particularly inspiring to you, definitely let me know!

Introducing the 4realz Hotlist

I’ve had this idea for a long time about how cool it would be to open up a blog to the general public with only minimal moderation to keep out spam, but I could never put all the pieces together until the wonderful folks at WordPress created a twitter-like theme called Prologue.

It was at that point that I knew I had to move 4realz.net to a self-hosted environment so I could realize this long-held dream and open up the site to the rest of you.  Well, after messing with the code for a while to get the site to operate just how I wanted, I’m ready to release what I’m calling the 4realz Hotlist.

4realz Hotlist Screenshot
4realz Hotlist Screenshot

So, here’s the idea…   Once you register with the Hotlist you’ll be able to submit articles to be published on the site.   And because I’m going to be very liberal in what I let get published on the Hotlist, it just became quite trivial to give yourself a link from the 4realz.net domain.

Here’s one way to think about the 4realz Hotlist.   After you write a blog post that you know is great, think to yourself: why did I write this post?   If you can sum it up in one sentence, then publish that one sentence as your 4realz mini-post along with a nice link back to your site.

With that said, don’t limit your activity to simply promoting your own stuff.   You can also use the Hotlist to promote just about anything interesting you find on the web.  And if you check out how I’ve been using the tool over the past few weeks, you’ll see that I’ve been embeding YouTube videos, photos, and generally linking out to anything that catches my eye.

But here’s the catch, I really want to encourage clever, interesting and/or insightful mini-posts.  So to put the incentives in the right places, I’m going to publish the highlights each week here on 4realz.net (Carnival of Real Estate style) AND include the highlights in my weekly emails that go out to many of the most influential people in online real estate.  This means that a clever one-liner is likely to get you some great traffic, some nice inbound links, and in front of some interesting people.

But enough about the tool… You really have to try it out to get a feel for how cool it is to publish a blog post from the homepage a blog, so get over to the Hotlist, register for an account and start posting!

45 Things I Learned at RE Connect

(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)

  1. There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
  2. Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
  3. Zillow dropped their beta tag.
  4. Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
  5. Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
  6. According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
  7. comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
  8. Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
  9. Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
  10. Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
  11. With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
  12. I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
  13. Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. Don’t be evil (Jay noticed this too!)
  14. Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
  15. Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
  16. I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
  17. Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
  18. I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
  19. The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
  20. Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
  21. The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
  22. I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
  23. Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
  24. Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
  25. While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
  26. I LOVE NYC.
  27. While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
  28. Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
  29. Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
  30. Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
  31. Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
  32. The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
  33. Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
  34. Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
  35. As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
  36. BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
  37. Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
  38. People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
  39. Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
  40. Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
  41. I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
  42. ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
  43. Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
  44. Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
  45. I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!

Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!

InternetCrusade and RISMedia partner to?

The way I read the press release, RISMedia has adopted InternetCrusade’s RealTown blog platform as their social networking interface. I think this is something akin to an official endorsement, but there could also be an understanding that RISMedia will integrate the RealTown’s community content on their site. However, I didn’t see any details suggesting what this partnership will look like.

I first heard about it from Maureen, but it is Jonathan who has the first bit of analysis. His take is that the announcement is really no big deal and I tend to agree. Nonetheless, I can see how this would make sense to both companies and really plays to both companies strengths, which is in their connection to the industry. I think the idea behind the partnership is that they can use their connections to encourage real estate professionals to engage more deeply on their sites.

But as with another recent InternetCrusade-related announcement, I’m a bit skeptical that the two companies really understand the types of innovation that will be necessary to attract consumers. I believe that focusing on the benefits to the real estate professionals first is going about it backwards. I strongly believe that the next round of social networks that will be adopted by real estate professionals are the ones that get massive consumer adoption. Without consumers, the benefit to participation is simply too low for more agents.

It seems relevant to reiternate a comment I made a few weeks ago (thanks to Jim for reminding me of it!): “I really don’t care if its a new CMS, new listing tool, new social network, new blogging tool, new MLS backend, or new analysis reports… If you can get enough consumer eyeballs, the real estate agents will follow.”

Media management is tough stuff and…

I totally feel for Alex.  Getting called up by a journalist can be a rush and cause even the most savvy people to say things they regret (especially if they talk too long).

My take is that people are pretty forgiving of the occasional slip of the tongue and that journalists will continue to gravitate to those people who are more free in their answers.  Especially for a small business person that doesn’t get much free publicity, you may be better just telling it like it is.  Staying on message often results in such a bland message that you may not be quoted in the first place.

Redfin Blog Drives 9% of RE.net Traffic

4realz-referral traffic

Like Brian Brady, Jay Thompson, Greg Swann, and others, I’m shocked what people can pass off as science to the media. Just because someone uses statistics, doesn’t make it true… and any study based on the people visiting Redfin.com, or the people who use Redfin’s services, will NEVER be a valid sample for making general conclusions about the market.

The only valid reason for calling this science is that it makes great PR.