Editor’s note: This article by Merle Whitehead is a response to Brad Inman’s editorial article about the Broker Public Portal.
Brad Inman offered a sharp but off-target critique of the Broker Public Portal (BPP) in his recent editorial “Will the Broker Public Portal follow the same path as airline and book publishing portals?”
While it is difficult to respond to freewheeling criticism with much detail while we are still heads-down in shaping our product vision, we would like to point out three flawed assumptions Brad makes about the BPP project.
First: We do not intend to compete with Zillow or realtor.com
Following the product playbook of the existing portals is so obviously wrong-headed that we are surprised smart critics like Brad even make this point.
Zillow and Move are publicly traded companies that sell advertising. BPP is a product initiative supported by hundreds of companies that sell homes. Within that critical difference is an opportunity to bring a home search experience to market that is defined by simplicity, integrity and common sense — not ad revenue.
We are excited about that.
Will we ever have 140 million unique visitors per month, as Zillow does? No. Will we have access to the kind of capital the other portals have access to? No. Will we have hundreds of developers on our payroll? Of course not.
What we do have is broad support within the industry to offer consumers a quieter, simpler — and, yes, more accurate — experience. We are coming at this from a different place, with different advantages, than the incumbent players.
Second: The airline and book industry analogies don’t make sense
Amazon sells books. Expedia sells plane tickets. These companies blew up the value chain in the industries they entered. The airlines and publishers tried (and, as Brad points out, failed) to put the pieces back together.
Zillow and realtor.com do not sell homes; they advertise them. Real estate agents and brokers do the selling. Most people — including those who run the existing portals — seem to think that’s not going to change.
We are not seeking to rewrite history, put the genie back in the bottle or the horse back in the barn.
We simply seek to create a home search experience that’s different. We think the agents and brokers who sell homes will be excited to bring it to market.
Third: There’s plenty of talent involved in BPP
Brad is right to point out that the industry leaders supporting BPP are not experienced at leading high-growth Internet companies.
But underestimating the business acumen of these leaders is a mistake. Our board of managers — which represents brokerage companies, franchisors and MLSs across the country — is an accomplished and committed group determined not to “out-Zillow Zillow” but to create something that complements their own successful businesses.
We have achieved a historic consensus between brokers and MLSs around the BPP initiative. Our board has made great progress on our product vision. Soon, we will be able to share it with the industry we serve.
BPP is a project with a forward vision. We are encouraged by what we see ahead.
Realty USA, Inc
Broker Public Portal Chairman
Northstar MLS, Inc
Broker Public Portal Vice Chairman