Wanted – Real Estate Agents to Blog

Before I bought my current place, Jen and I talked with a handful of real estate agents. We didn’t purchase from any of them. In general, they didn’t feel authentic, connected, credible. Felt like the stereotypical used car salesman. With a housing boom like this – I don’t blame them. Problem is, demand won’t always be this strong, interest rates this low, and the need for agents will only diminish.

At some point in the next year or so, there’s a very good chance I’ll need their services. This is what I’m looking for in the next real estate agent I work with:

  • A weblog that’s about 60% ‘business’ – properties, housing market, interest rates, mortgage stuff. With the rest of it more personal and hopefully completely off topic. Ideally, some posts will cross both sides – likes restaurants and events in the neighborhoods they really like.
  • Yes, the weblog needs to have an RSS feed filled with photos so I can automatically stay up-to-date on the home sales in the area.
  • I’d also like an iCal calendar available, so open houses can be loaded into my things-to-do this weekend.

These 3 items help me build a relationship with an agent, on my terms and without the risk of spam and unwanted phone calls. While at the same time, building the agent’s reputation, credibility, and network. This is very much the agent equivelant of Alex Stenback’s Behind the Mortgage.

Historically, real estate agents have operated in a world where market information is difficult and inconvenient to consolidate. Google Maps mash-ups like DC Homeprices, HousingMaps.com, and ChicagoCrime.org bring buyers, sellers, and agents closer to the same level. Not to mention neighbors with blogs.

Anyone out there doing this today?

Elsewhere: 20 Aug 2008:

“…consumers are accessing agents’ ever-more-common blogs, social network pages or viral video campaigns — all of the burgeoning options that have been called Web 2.0 — to tap their expertise and get a sense of their personalities” – Simone Baribeau, Washington Post Staff Writer

What if Your Customers Took Over Your Company’s Blog?

The Work Better Weblog is 2 years old this month. To celebrate, I’m starting an experiment in multi-author business blogs, community-building, and transparency – each Working Pathways client gets posting access.

That’s right – if you’ve hired Working Pathways, you automatically receive a login and password to publish whatever you’d like to the Work Better Weblog.

As I stated in the invitation email:

“Post anything you’d like. Yes, anything – your thoughts on the internet, work process, whatever’s on your mind, even about working with me, and this experiment. Everything’s fair game.”

The first batch of invitations has gone out.

There’s a good chance there’ll be some new voices here in the coming months. Keep an eye on the by-line.

Blogging – Your Business’ Back Porch

Yesterday, I had a great conversation with Matt and Jon about the benefits blogging for business. Out of it Matt brought up the very attractive ‘blogging as business backporch’ metaphor. I’ll attempt to paraphrase:

Let’s say a business is a house, and the website is it’s front door – the formal method of greeting visitors – strangers or customers.

The blog then is the backporch. More informal. Probably can’t be seen from the street. Lots of voices and lots of conversations. A place where friends, customers, and colleagues all hangout together.

Yes, some people with come through the front door – and become customers – on their way to the grill. Others, the people in the know, will come around the side yard, straight to the conversation. These people might not be customers. That’s OK.

How to Build a Business from Podcasting

“I spent the better part of last year trying to envision a business built on podcasting, and didn’t come up with anything that I believed in.” – Dave Winer

Like Dave and so many others, I’ve done the same thing and ended up with the same conclusion. Recently on the PodcastMN mailing list the conversation of making money from podcasting came up. Though there’s a big difference between making money and building a business, these are the half dozen off-the-top-of-my-head strategies that make sense to me.

  1. Build better tools and sell them – making podcasting easier.
    This is what software companies like Rogue Amoeba, Odeo, and AudioBlog.com are doing.
  2. Sell implementation of the free, open source tools you build.
    Take a look at the BetDirCaster, it ties together a bunch of open source tools, you can download it and install it yourself for free or you can pay Working Pathways (or your geeky nephew) to do it.
  3. Sell training helping people become podcasters.
    These are classes, tutorials, and other one-on-one interactions helping people use the tools they’re most comfortable with to publish a podcast. This is what we did with MOMbo.org
  4. Sell production services to companies with more money than time.
    Think professional services podcasts – I’m also a big fan of this one. Anyone that’s been podcasting for more than 9 months is an expert enough to produce other podcasts.
  5. Sell filtering services
    Help people find the most relevant podcasts for them. This is huge and yet unanswered. I’ve talked about this before in A Business Model for Abundance. I’ve heard of a couple projects in the works that acknowledge this problem, but I haven’t seen anything that addresses it in a useful way.
  6. Sell other stuff through your show like the CDs from the bands on your podcast where a couple bucks goes to your podcast.
    I’ve praised Dave Slusher for going down this road, also Kris Smith is now offering the Best of the Croncast CD & DVD. I expect more of this.

As you can tell from this list, I prefer the ‘because of…not with’ models, as in “it’s far more important (and interesting) to make money because of our blogs, rather than with them” – Doc Searls.

Advertising might work as product placement, on a one-off basis. Ad networks won’t work for two reasons:

  1. The larger the network, the more generic the ad message, the more inappropriate the ad message
  2. Any commonality across a podcast can be skipped or re-edited programmatically. If listeners know an ad message will last 10 seconds at the beginning of a podcast, a script could be written to splice out that bit upon download. Though, you could probably charge for that splicing app.

Charging to access mp3 podcasts will work once. Customer #1 will buy them, then redistribute them for free. Anything other than an mp3 (m4p, mov, etc) artificially limits reception. And if you want to limit when and where people listen to a podcast – just stream it.

IBM Employee Podcasting Guidelines

In an age when every employee and customer is a few mouse clicks from their own weblog and podcast and Forbes is spreading blog FUD it’s refreshing to see Big Blue is not only publishing podcasts, but encouraging their employees to do the same.

As a nearly hundred year-old company that no one ever got fired for choosing, you might anticipate a hundred page document signed off by every lawyer this side of the Mississippi. Nope. Just seven very reasonable, sensible points in the IBM podcasting guidelines.

I agree with 6.5 of them.

I only half agree with high audio quality. As you’ve heard me say before – if we as people were concerned with high audio quality, telephones wouldn’t exist. That said, higher quality audio quality is easier to listen to over the wind noise in my car. There is a different expected level of quality with the IBM-brand than say, MOMbo.org. IBM is admitting that.

Kudos to IBM for leading the charge for sane employee guidelines.

The Sploggy Site of the Street

There are at least 2 different internets. One with popups, popunders, spasm-inducing Flash banner ads, and the actual, unique information squeezed to the size of an IAB standard microbar. The other, without. Until now, this latter internet was filled with RSS feeds from blogs with real people behind them.

Until now. Until Splogs.

Back in August Mark Cuban outlined the splog problem. I didn’t think anything of it until today. While doing research on a vertical market I’m not versed in, the first page of Technorati results were useless, uninformative, non-helpful splogs. Blech.

Perhaps my query terms are being too generic. Asking Google for ‘digital camera’ won’t tell you answer anything more specific than, “What does Google return for ‘digital camera'”. So, I’ll try being more specific.

A tip for business bloggers out there: Running a business blog on blogger.com is the equivalent of running a business off a Hotmail or AOL email address. It doesn’t help build credibility.

UPDATE 16 October 2005: If my standing Technorati searches are any indications, yes as Tim Bray said, we have a splog emergency on our hands. I’m reading FightSplog.com right now to figure out how.

Support Your Podcast By Encouraging Listeners to Unsubscribe

It’s Wednesday and I’ve already had 3 conversations this week on advertising in podcasts or somehow monetizing podcasts to support thousands of thousands of podcasts listeners.

If a podcast is so popular that it’s running out of bandwidth on a regular basis, there’s a really good chance the vast majority aren’t listening – even though everyone is downloading. This means that even if the podcast is supported by an underwriter/sponsor/advertiser the sponsorship message won’t be heard. Putting us back to wasting (at least) 50% of our ad dollar.

Downloading and not listening to a podcast is bad for everyone involved. It hurts the podcaster by artificially inflating their listener-base and eating up their monthly bandwidth. It hurts the listener by unnecessarily filling up their hard-drive. Throwing an advertiser into this will only hurt them – and if this statement from the media buying community is any indication – advertisers are no longer interested in throwing away ad dollars (finally):

“It’s not about reaching every consumer, it’s about reaching the right consumers.” – Carat North America CEO David Verklin

If you’re struggling to cover your podcasts bandwidth bills, I recommend 3 options before exploring advertising or switching hosting plans.

  1. Include a “if you’re not listening, please unsubscribe” liberally throughout your website and shownotes.
  2. Pursue your niche so aggressively that some listeners will fall away and unsubscribe naturally.
  3. Offer a BitTorrent version of your podcast.

If you’re not listening, it’s time to start unsubscribing (or at least stop downloading). You’re taking up downloading slots from people that are listening. On my end, I’ve just flipped the switch in NetNewsWire from automatically downloading audio files to not. Then, I reviewed each of the 40+ podcasts I’m subscribed to and checked ‘use custom setting -> automatically download audio files’ for the handful I listen to regularly. In iTunes, you can do the same by selecting ‘do nothing’ in the ‘when new episodes are available’ pulldown menu under podcast settings.

Take a moment now and support your favorite podcaster by unsubscribing.

Law Firm Hosts Fashion Show, That’s Like Blogging

Tonight Jen and I attended PKR&G‘s Never Out of Fashion show. Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, our invitation was part of our 6 part PKR&G podcast series at the First Crack.

Howard Rubin kicked off the event asking, “Why does a law firm host a fashion show?”

The same reason you’d blog. Here’s the break down;

  1. Give people a reason to talk about you. (your remarkableness)
  2. Highlight the people and places you know. (their remarkableness)
  3. Connect your community of customers to each other. (our remarkableness)

Does it work?

  1. If I need a lawyer and my uncle can’t help me, you know who I’m calling. Hugh says, “25% of conversations in the blogosphere about ‘South African Wine’ are now about Stormhoek”. I only know of one law firm hip to podcasting and fashion, yeah, they’re in Minneapolis.
  2. I only know of one other law firm in Minneapolis. Why would I choose PKR&G over them? PKR&G reinforced our relationship with this fashion show event. That’s it….for now. For me, blogging is the easiest way to answer the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately question.
  3. If you ask me what the hippest hotel in Minneapolis is, it’s Graves 601. Seriously. It is.

How doesn’t it work?