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How many times have you heard the pros and cons of listing syndication in the last five years, and the resulting question…”should you or should you NOT syndicate?” More times than you care to remember, I am sure. Unfortunately, that is not the right question. 2013 is the year to begin to ask the right questions and to advance to the next phase in the distribution of listing data. It is time to move toward control, specific licensing and eventual monetization.

Syndication is distribution. As it is currently deployed in the industry, syndication is the ability to conveniently distribute listing information to a multitude of destinations of choice, having only to enter the listing information once, into one data repository (your MLS). Speed, convenience, choice…who could ask for anything more?

Syndication is an industry evolution, not an industry revolution. The first serious syndicator of listing data was®, which syndicated to AOL, Alta Vista, Lycos (remember Alta Vista and Lycos?) and a few other sites.® was “syndicating” listings in the 1990s. No one referred to®’s distribution of MLS data as syndication at the time, but today, that is exactly what we would call it.

Today, the concept and the benefits of having the ability to distribute your listing data through a single point of entry should be well understood. The questions for MLSs, associations, brokers and agents to ask now, in 2013, are:

1. To what entities should I allow my listings to be distributed?

2. What is the real value proposition offered by destination sites? Is the “exposure” promised by the portals all that they claim it to be, or is it more hype, made impressive because it is reported in large, aggregate numbers?

3. How and what does each portal do to de-duplicate when it receives the same listing data from multiple sources? What are a portals determining factors in deciding which source is its authoritative source?

4. What, if anything, are the portals doing to reduce the chances of non-featured listings, those where the listing agent pays nothing to the web portal, from being found on their sites by interested consumers?

5. How are the search results manipulated by the portals?

6. Is it in my best interest, the best interest of my customers, and in the best interest of the industry to allow these sites to use my listing data to make commerce for themselves, perhaps at my present and future expense?

7. What are some of the unintended consequences of listing data being freely available to destination sites under current terms and conditions of those sites?

8. What are the destination sites doing with the data that they should not be doing?

Of course the answers will depend on who you ask. There are many stakeholders in this game, more than just those consumers interested in buying or selling real estate in the next few months. It is an entire eco system, where lots of different players have a lot of different motivations.

Points of significance and topics for further discussion are:

1. Diversion of leads away from the listing agent, a practice used by most portals in one way or another.

2. What, if any derivative rights and works should be licensed to portals and others, and maybe, at what price?

As the industry wakes up to the value of listing data, and the value of the data created by consumer while searching for the listing and property data, the discussion of data licensing and potential monetization of listing data will take begin to take center stage. The value proposition offered by portal sites must be re-examined and re-evaluated. Why should the destination sites be the only ones to reap the benefits of the hard work of the army of REALTORS who toil in the marketplace every day to obtain the listings?

Listing rights management and data contract alignment – it will make a difference

Point2 Technologies, a division of Yardi, is moving forward with an initiative started at the end of 2012, referred to as Contract Alignment. Point2 is clarifying all aspects of its data contracts with both MLSs and destination sites such as Zillow, Trulia, and the rest. It is the common sense next step in the saga of listing data distribution. The key tool for this program is Point2’s Listing Rights Management Solution which was built and deployed for the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) in 2012. Point2’s Listing Rights Management Solution has been adapted for the US, and it will be rolled out in Q2 of 2013. The MLSs establish the terms of use for the distribution of their data.

– Contract Alignment is the process of further defining the roles of the participants in the licensing and distribution of MLS listing data.

– Contract Alignment defines terms and conditions of use from source to entity receiving data.

– Contract Alignment insures the data rights Point2 receives under contract with the MLS, match the data rights received by the portals and vendors that request that data from Point2.

– Contract Alignment creates a mechanism for destinations to acquire more rights, with the informed consent of brokers and MLSs, leading to opportunities for data providers to monetize MLS data.

– Contract Alignment helps the MLSs and associations (data providers) extract value or compensation for the value the data bring to the destination entities. This is a major objective of Contract Alignment.

As the value of listing data becomes more apparent, the industry will be in a position to participate in the value created by the data, for the benefit of all. That is the purpose of Point2’s Contract Alignment Program.

The horse is on its way back to the barn…and you can take that to the bank.

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