NEW YORK — The medium of blogging may not dramatically transform in the coming years, says Curbed.com founder and publisher Lockhart Steele.
And that’s a good thing, said Steele, who spoke today during a blogging session at the Real Estate Connect NYC conference.
He noted that one blog that he follows “still looks a lot like it did when I started reading it in 1999. We may not be looking at radical change. The medium is fairly well-established.”
Uniformity in the style of blogs can assist readers, he said. “Once you learn to read one of them you can … read any of them, once you get the format. I think blogging works because all blogs kind of look the same.”
Attempting to rethink blog design could lead to more confusion among blog readers, he also said, and he encourages bloggers not to outthink the medium in designing a blog site.
Other industry bloggers and real estate technology experts shared their insights during other conference sessions about choosing content, creating online videos for blogs and podcasts, and optimizing blog posts to get high rankings in Internet search engines.
Steele, a journalist by trade and real estate blog pioneer who in 2004 launched Curbed.com to focus on real estate and neighborhood news and gossip in New York, has since rolled out other geographically focused Curbed blog sites in other market areas.
The news value and overall quality of the content is what brings people to blogs, he said, and “the market for people’s attention is always getting more crowded. There is a constant battle for people’s attention.”
Curbed has relied on timely story tips from its readers to keep its content fresh, he said, while blogs that are not as focused on news can stay relevant by providing quality insight.
Steele cited a recent post at a tech blog that coined the term “lazysphere” and criticized tech bloggers who take a herd approach to coverage and don’t add much to the conversation about tech news.
Because the realm of blogging has become more crowded, “the quality of insight gets even more important,” he said.
Curbed.com has positioned itself to monetize its content through advertising, and Steele said there is potential for other blogs to make money, and even for real estate agents with successful blogs to breakaway as independent brokers and build their own real estate brokerage companies through their blog branding.
Blogs can be a powerful tool for capturing the conversation in a given market area, he said, and engaging readers in news stories that evolve in real-time and take shape with users’ tips and comments. And even short posts can fuel an evolving and far-reaching online discussion about a news item or topic.
Kris Berg, an agent for Prudential California Realty who writes for the San Diego Home Blog and the Bloodhound Blog, agreed in an earlier conference panel that “every post does not have to be an epic.”
Steele and Berg cited examples of blog items based on a photo of a humorous or unusual sign, for example.
“The important thing is keep mixing it up: You don’t want to alienate the guy who wants the stats and you don’t want to alienate the guy who wants the pretty pictures and the fluff,” Berg said.
Effective bloggers know what their clients want to read about, she also said, and for real estate professionals blogs can serve as a segue to introduce themselves to clients.
Berg said she’s not afraid to relate personal stories in the blog, as that could help to make prospective clients more comfortable and lead to actual face time with those consumers.
“Knowing what your clients want to hear is the key,” she said.
Dan Green, a mortgage professional who created Bring the Blog, said the goal of his blog content is to simplify complex mortgage matters for consumers and to talk to people “in plain English terms.”
He typically draws topic from recent news headlines and analyzes the potential impacts of the news events on consumers.
Another panel examined the use of online video in real estate marketing.
Rachel Natalie Klein, founder of IntoTheBox.tv, a daily online real estate video site that focuses on the New York City market, said “content is king” with online video.
“If your content isn’t good, none of it matters. It has got to speak to your audience, it has got to be compelling and visually interesting. Video needs to be entertaining,” she said.
“Make it educational and do it in a very entertaining way.” Also, don’t take yourselves too seriously and don’t forget to smile when you’re shooting video, she said.
Several panelists had wildly different approaches to video. Douglas Heddings, senior vice president for Prudential Douglas Elliman, said that he pays for professional camera work, editing and production costs, while Realtor Daniel Rothamel of the RealEstateZebra.com Web site shoots his own videos with a $150 handheld video camera.
Mike Price, president of MLBroadcast, a company that offers video technology for the real estate industry, said it is the “message more than the medium that becomes important” in creating good video content.
All of the panelists noted that video can take a lot of time to produce and edit, compared to text blogs.
In another conference session focused on optimizing blog sites for placement on search engines, Eric Hersman, principal at Zungu LLC, said bloggers should consider including relevant keywords in blog posts that might draw the attention of consumers searching for real estate information online.
But blogging should be more about supplying interesting information for readers than tailoring items specifically to get a boost in search-engine results, he said. “I’m not really writing for search engines — I’m writing because I think it’s going to be interesting for people.”
Hersman said that descriptive titles for images in blog posts can also help draw in readers to a blog site, and other panelists noted that descriptive keywords in the header coding of blog posts can assist in search-engine placement.
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