As a consumer, I love Amazon. I do not consider it a callous middleman doing something evil to me. Just the opposite. Amazon delivers for free very quickly what I want — from paper towels to e-books and much more — at a fair price without taxes.
As a digital publisher, I kinda like Amazon (notice not love) because it delivers customers for my e-books. But the e-commerce giant gives me half a customer, meaning I do not get the customer data, and Amazon takes about 50 percent of what the reader buys.
Will this friction go away? No. Is Amazon an important partner? Absolutely. We work hard to keep up to speed on new developments and try to find ways to make our authors more successful on Amazon — it is critical to their and to our success.
Does its market dominance set Amazon up to be its own publisher? Yes, it is already publishing its own e-books. It has the power. That is a fact we must all live with.
When I was moderating the panel at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco about listings syndication, it was obvious that this same schism persists between content owner and consumer preferences in real estate.
With comprehensive listings, killer traffic and strong consumer tools, the big online triad — Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow ("RTZ") — is focused, rightly, on the public’s real estate experience. For that, they keep the consumer engaged and they capture as much customer information as they can.
But they depend on the home listings that brokers, MLSs and Realtors provide. RTZ knows that fact so it shares some of the customer data with its partners, and they drive leads to industry partners. Unlike Amazon, they do not take a percentage of the transaction that Realtors earn from their customers.
And for now, they are not using their platforms to build their own real estate companies like Amazon opening a publishing house. Furthermore, there is no near monopoly in online real estate like in e-books. Three great online real estate companies are competing fiercely for market share and for industry love — giving smart brokers and agents leverage.
That is why the RTZ triad yielded to industry demands in recent months about issues such as data quality and listing broker/agent promotion — representing some proof that brokers and Realtors still have an important say in this dynamic marketplace.
How should Realtors and brokers think about this situation, going into the future?
RTZ is not a threat to your core business, delivering one-on-one services to consumers. You own the customer, so focus on getting better at delivering superior consumer services, not fighting the distribution partners.
Protests, such as withholding listings, are not smart. Instead, work with RTZ to get more of what you need and to shape their product road map — get their horde of engineers working on your behalf.
Tilting at windmills got Don Quixote nowhere.
Bradley Inman is an Internet entrepreneur and founder of several online and offline companies, including Inman News, HomeGain.com, TurnHere.com and Vook, an enhanced e-book publishing company.