Many of our customers have been contacting us concerned about the recent announcement that, as early as next week, Listhub will stop sending listings to Trulia. Fortunately, as I wrote last May, Flexmls has long included options for our MLS customers to give brokers control over where to send (syndicate) their listings.
Update: Trulia has posted an option for MLSs or brokers to authorize them to use an IDX feed from Market Leader. We advise against this approach for MLSs, because it takes away choice for individual brokers. We also advise against it for individual brokers, for all the reasons outlined in this post from Mitch Skinner of the Larson Skinner law firm.
We already have several customers using the Flexmls syndication tools to provide their brokers customers control of where their listings are advertised. For example, the Arizona Regional MLS, which wrote this blog post about the Trulia/Listhub news, saying, “we have you covered” with the syndication tools in Flexmls. Similarly, the Northeast Florida MLS wrote a blog post today saying, “with Flexmls, the broker maintains complete control over the decision to send listings to Zillow.Com/Trulia.com.” This will be accomplished direct from your Flexmls login. We encourage all of our customers to use these same tools, included at no additional charge, to help brokers respond to the fast-changing syndication landscape. The Trulia/Listhub news is just the most recent and Listhub also is ending its feed to Zillow in April.
One approach we’ve seen a few MLSs choosing and caution against is simply providing Zillow or Trulia a RETS feed for the entire MLS and then trusting them to filter out the listings of brokers who do not participate. One of the key advantages of the Flexmls syndication tool is that it interfaces directly with the Flexmls RETS feeds so the portals only receive listings for brokers who have approved (either by opting-in or not opting-out, depending on the MLS settings). This is a better long-term strategy as it ensures that the listings of brokers who do not approve are not accessed by the portals. In the rush to replace the service provided by Listhub, many MLSs will be tempted to provide a generic feed but we encourage all of our customers to take the few days needed to set up the broker options in the system.
Another short-term solution being proposed for the Trulia feed going dark next week is that Zillow (which now owns Trulia) will just add Trulia to their syndication network and provide listings to Trulia. For brokers sending listings to both Zillow and Trulia, this approach could provide a short-term solution but it does not work for brokers who do not want their listings to go to Zillow. Prior to Zillow acquiring Trulia, Trulia had done a good job of distinguishing their value proposition to brokers and so some brokers decided to work exclusively with Trulia. These brokers need to be able to choose to send listings to Trulia without also being forced to send them to Zillow.
The differences among the portals brings up another significant issue FBS is working on solving. We soon hope to provide our customers and brokers with an easy way to compare the license terms among the portals to allow them to make the best possible decision about which portals provide the most value with the least risk.
For example, there have been significant differences in what each portal is willing to agree in terms of how and where to display the listing agent and broker, how and where ads are sold around the listing content, and what level of clarity they’re willing to provide regarding what they’re going to do with the listing data. All of these issues should be crystal clear to the brokers deciding who gets to use their listings and for what purposes. We believe this transparency will create competition among the portals and result in better offerings for brokers. Broker choice is the fundamental objective in listing syndication and we’re pleased to offer such choices now and to be working on making the process even easier in the near future.