Someday My Princess Will Come …

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate AgentThe time has come. After much deliberation, I’ve come to realize that I’ve spent too much time selling real estate and not enough time working on a full-fledged acquisition strategy. I want to be bought out. That, my friends, is the dominant theme of Real Estate 2.0.

It’s not about transparency. It’s not about the consumer. It’s not even about the agents for many of the third-party interlopers. It’s all about the benjamins.

Case in point: Active Rain, an online real estate community that provides free blogs to its members, has sued Move.Com because Move.Com’s folks allegedly promised to buy out Active Rain’s folks but then changed their mind.

Active Rain once was a kinder, gentler version of the RealTalk listserv – a great deal of information for real estate agents without the risk of being flamed into cinders. But then word got out. And people started looking at how you could accumulate points and get an SEO bonus to boot. And so they started writing posts for the points rather than because they had something to say. And as of this moment, at least 90% of the blogs on Active Rain suck because the writers never learned there’s a larger point than getting points.

Move.Com is in much the same place, only with fewer blogs and a higher degree of sucking among the authors. Again, almost none of the authors have any idea why they have a blog but the price was right and REALTOR magazine told them that they needed one and so they started writing.

In some ways, this would have been a marriage made in hell – a powerful website from an SEO perspective being purchased by a company with no clue what real estate blogs really are about … consumer education, hopefully without the dizzying spin so prevalent in all things touched by NAR.

The details soon will disappear behind Inman news’ subscription wall. If you care about the he said, she said then go to Athol’s blog where he’s got links to the whole fiasco.

As for what really has my goat about the whole thing, it’s the utter lack of transparency in the entire process. Real estate agents are beaten about the head and shoulders for the mere to desire to make a buck yet that’s all that the majority of the real estate 2.0 folks are looking to do. And they’re doing it with our “product” – whether it’s our inventory, our writings, our photographs.

How far would Trulia Voices go without agents answering questions (even agents who have never visited the state about which they’re answering?) What about the listing feeds? Would Redfin have anywhere near the cache if we didn’t waste our time talking about it?

Active Rain wouldn’t exist if not for the writers. Localism, AR’s stepchild, never would have gotten off the ground if agents hadn’t leaped like lemmings to post their photographs and intellectual property for a few points. MyHouseKey didn’t get the contributions and fell through.

We provide the content. The designer wonks get all the cash.

Screw it … send me the check and the website’s yours. Hell, I’ll even through throw in Captain Morgan and a half-eaten Sparky from ASU for an extra $25.

It doesn’t get much more transparent than that, does it?

UPDATE: Here’s the thread on AR. I understand some measure of support but it doesn’t seem like most of the folks there get what’s happening.

Joel Burslem at Future of Real Estate Marketing does get it – the content you add to these sites isn’t your own.

Kevin Boer also weighs in at 3 Oceans. As does Brian Brady. And, of course, Odysseus. (And I finally beat Greg to a post on something. Maybe the man does sleep after all.)

UPDATE TWO: Grammar corrected. Oy vey. Thanks to Brian for the comment which made me aware of my rant-induced error. And I also fixed the link to the AR thread.

[tags]real estate blogging, real estate technology[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Sock Puppet 10 years ago

    And lets not forget around half the Active Rain inner core of bloggers already have their own stand alone blogs and have been to an extent duplicating content between them. All that lovely content can up and leave on a whim.

    I’m just wondering how they possibly thought they would get $30 million for Active Rain. And if they did, exactly how they imagined recouping that $30 million. $10 fee per post to post to your spiffy Active Move blog? Banner advertising ghetto? Kidney donations?


  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Active Rain is a great starting point but the time comes when you’ve got to leave the next and run solo.

    The same argument can be made for the new Realtor.Com blogs. And for RealTalk by Internet Crusade.

    There comes a time when you need full control, when you need to brand your own business more than the conglomerate blogs.

    Maybe Move temporarily envisioned people paying to have a blog there, which never would have worked. Think AR would have thousands of members if they had to pay to write that schlock?

  • Carolyn Galant MBA 10 years ago

    Agents get the short end of the stick. I notice you have a lot of points, but the whole thing of working to get more points and giving time up to get points? Only real estate agents would go for it, they are so conditioned to chase stuff down to compete without thinking about it –I want to be #1 in my county!!! I moved up today. Very shrewd setup by the braniacs. You are the ONLY ONE who told it like it is. If they paid agents $1 per blog post, they wouldn’t do it because it is too little money. But make it free for points!!! and that is another thing. It isn’t even for PAYPAL money.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Thanks, Carolyn … I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but there definitely is a Pavlovian response to the points based on our competitive streak.

    Maybe its because there’s so much in this business that is effort without tangible return that when you can see a return, you grab onto it like my beagle chewing on a stuffed animal.

    I went after it for a while, too. Then someone figured out the system better than me and blew us all away. And as I stood back choking on the rooster tail he’d kicked up, I realized it just was not that important.

  • Brian Brady 10 years ago

    “Hell, I’ll even through in Captain Morgan and a half-eaten Sparky from ASU for an extra $25”

    THAT is pretty funny.

    Carolyn, the number one thing we can sell to real estate agents (and loan originators) is the dream. It’s not even the money; it’s the dream. That’s why Amway succeeds, that’s why Buffini et all succeed.

    Blogging is the new purple pill. Blogging on AR was the prescription. Like Jon, I fell for it , too. I’ve made it work well for me. The difference? I’ma vendor. As much as AR strives to talk to the consumer, it’s Realtors and Originators talking to each other. That’s not all that bad, either.

    However, blogging is not the wonderdrug we thought it was 18 months ago- bit it still feels good.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    I wouldn’t say that, Brian … it’s not a wonder drug and if anyone thought that anything in this business is the miracle cure, they’re in for a rude awakening.

    But it can work for you … whether it’s enhanced SEO, whether it’s being able to answer a question on Trulia Voices with an existing post as I did today, whether it’s the people who read the blog and decide you will be their agent before they do anything else.

    That’s been the thing missing from the “I have to blog” rush this year. All of these agents are running willy-nilly to get their names everywhere with no real idea and no real idea who they’re going to be getting into bed with.

    Teresa Boardman (I believe) was one of the first to argue against posting pics to Localism because it’s your content you’re surrendering. The message got lost somewhere. Hopefully all of this will help it sink in now.

    People call real estate agents greedy, money-driven, etc. But right now the real money’s being chased not by the agents but by those trying to make a buck off of our intellectual property.

    Screw that.

  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    Full disclosure up-front: I have a ton of Active Rain points (most fromm referrals) and was once quite active in posting there.

    The sheep at Active Rain never cease to amaze me. I don’t mean to be demeaning, as it really is a matter of ignorance, not stupidity. (Ignorance despite countless posts on AR and elsewhere explaining fundamentals). But clearly the bulk of the AR users simply do not get it.

    You can’t be on AR for five minutes without seeing comments about “My blog” this and “My blog” that. What the sheep never seem to realize is it is not THEIR blog — it’s AR’s blog.

    There’s an outpouring of “WE SUPPORT YOU! STICK IT TO MOVE.COM!!” from the sheep. They support their beloved AR rulers — WHO WERE SELLING OUT to the dreaded Had the deal not fallen through, the same heard of sheep would have been writing content for Move instead of AR.

    Just look at the comments on the AR post about the lawsuit. Last I looked, the score was about 82 – 3. That’s 82 for the sheep, and 3 for the ones that get it.

  • Brian Brady 10 years ago

    “I wouldn’t say that, Brian … it’s not a wonder drug ”

    I was joking a bit, but people did believe that.

  • Sock Puppet 10 years ago

    Blogging is definitely not a wonder drug. It can work, but ultimately only for a few and they have to work very hard.

    Sheep is exactly right Jay. I called them battery hens myself. 🙂

    Active Rain was planning a sell out from the start, it’s all a colossal bait and switch.

    If I was a serious Active Rainer, I’d be making back up copies of everything I ever wrote there tonight and calling Tomato, RSS Pieces, Ubertor or similar on Monday.


  • Broker Bryant 10 years ago

    Man you guys are brutal over here. Sheeep, battery hens, ignorance! My goodness. I guess things are what we make of it. For me AR has always just been a place to share what I know. And completely unexpected I started making tons of money from my efforts. So it certainly hasn’t been a waste of my time nor have I just blindly plowed forward. In fact I’d be happy to match net sheets with anyone on here with bucks made from blogging.

    As for who owns my content? Well I do. Fortunately, I was smart enough to have all of it back upped. In fact I could delete it all right now and just repost it elsewhere. Maybe some day I’ll have to do that but for now I’ll just keep rolling in the bucks.

    What I have found interesting the last couple of days is all the folks that feel blndsided. How could anyone not know that AR is a business with the intent of making money? Hell I’d sale to anyone for 33mil. As a long time member I don’t feel cheated in the least. I got mine and I’m still getting it. And all it has cost me is a little time. Time that I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from. It’s all good from where I’m at.

    Plus without AR I would have never met Brian Brady:)

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    I agree with you in as much as you could pull your content at any point, BB. There is no exclusive license.

    But still … what were they selling? Not the nifty software package, I assure you. Else the complaint wouldn’t have talked about confidential info about the members.

    Move wanted the software. It also wanted all of the content. Our content. That we provided.

    If it’s truly mine and mine alone, then write me the check when the sale goes through.

    I’m with you on the people who felt blindsided. I’m just glad I’m not close to being that naive.

    You’re one of the masters there, sir. Sincerely. You’ve shared and continued to share long after the whole thing shifted directions and went to a grab for points. You’re one of the few there whose blog is RSS Reader worthy, in my opinion.

  • Sock Puppet 10 years ago

    Agree with Jonathan about BB. Though I have his outside AR blog in my reader.

    Whatever AR is (was?) would have been markedly changed for the sale to Move.

    Obviously all that bandwidth and effort has to turn a profit at some point. I doubt many AR people thought that Move would be the desired buyer though.


  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    BB – you are a brilliant writer/blogger and would be successful if you wrote your posts on a roll of toilet paper.

    My concern with the “sheep” is that they (for the most part, there are exceptions) don’t seem to grasp that they are adding content with every post to — and possibly some other yet to be determined domain — when they could be generating content for themselves on their own domain.

    AR is a great community. I too have met some fabulous people there and generated referrals from them (but no direct leads). I don’t blame Matt and (formerly) Caleb for monetizing AR. I’ve wondered since Day 1 how they were going to do that (and I was one of the first to join AR). If people feel blindsided by the fact that AR could at any moment change ownership, then that’s just further evidence that they clearly don’t get it.

    I haven’t regularly been on AR in a awhile. What annoys me the most about it, by far, is the all the “point grabbing” comments. I can’t even subscribe to comments on a post any more. Someone posts about the tragedy of Aaron Anglin and a comment comes across like — “That video rocks!! Great post!!”. Obviously the person didn’t read the post, could care less about what happened and only wanted points.

    Then you see the people that say, “I tried writing my own blog. No one ever comments. So I come here and people comment!”

    BFD. Get a clue buddy, they aren’t commenting for you, your writing, or your thoughts (or to contribute theirs). They are commenting for points.

    It just gets old, and to me, AR is a mere shell of its former self.

  • Broker Bryant 10 years ago

    Thanks guys. Jay you have been a member of AR for longer than I. So you know there has always been issues with gaming the system, plagiairsm, cut and paste and the such. It’s been that way since day one. And that was when there were only about 50 us that were actually participating!! I guess laziness is just human nature. Now with 50,000+ members the crap is much more visible, all though I’m not sure the percentages have changed.

    With out doubt the value of AR(to a purchaser) is in the content and the SEO benefits. The value to me is different. The value I have taken from AR is more in the intangibles(friendships, knowledge etc).

    I agree Move would have been a terrible match for AR IF the AR guys also gave up control. That may or may not not have happened. I tend to believe that Move is smart enough to know that if they made a complete take over of AR the members would delete content and leave. Of course we don’t know since we have no clue what the terms of the purchase agreement were.

    Providing content to AR has always been a two way street. I provide content and they provide me with a great tool to get it out there. No one can argue the awesome SEO abilities of AR. I would venture to say that I personally have made much more money from AR than they have made off of me.

    I learned a long time ago that I can’t predict the future nor can I control it. BUT I can take advantage of the now and cover my ass for the future. That has always been my approach towards AR or anything else for that matter. I’m smart enough to not look a gift horse in the mouth over something that may or may not happen. I prefer to grab opportunity in the present.

    AR has never been the “cure all” for success in real estate but it certainly can open doors to many other opportunities if used properly

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    For me there came a time when I had to decide whether to keep working AR for the SEO and the business that would follow or to set out on my own …

    I already was a month or two in on my own blog on RealTown and once I moved to my own server (wonky as it seems to be these days) the die was cast. Maybe I lost some opportunities in the choice … it’s not something I dwell on.

    Most of the friendships I started to develop on AR translated just as well to the outside world. And the list has been expanded once I stopped playing in the sandbox and checked out the rest of the playground.

    AR works well for some. For others, not so much. But I don’t see where there’s a real monetary value you can attach to it. Charge people to blog and they’re out the door. They’ll chase silly points but they won’t pay for them.

  • Broker Bryant 10 years ago

    Jonathan, You are probably right about a lot of folks not being willing to pay. I would pay. I have at minimum 1 closing a month that is a direct result of AR. So I can put a monetary value to it. Close to 6 figures before this year is out just from AR. Not bad for a freebie! In fact if I paid $100 a month it would be well worth my cost.

    But I do agree it doesn’t work for everybody. Of course nothing ever does.

    BYW, your site looks great. It has a really nice feel to it. Someday I need to spend some time on my own blogsite. Just been too busy to give it the attention it needs. For now I’ll take the easy route, blogging on AR.

  • Linda Davis 10 years ago

    I agree with everything you say except for “at least 90% of the blogs on Active Rain suck”. I believe that should be closer to 95%.

  • Jon Loren 10 years ago

    Enjoy what I, enjoy A “GREAT” Lead generator *&* Refferal source ~~~~~~~~~~However, its not “FREE” ;We, need a Agt/Broker/Lender in every zip code and by-pass the Leaches (non – Real Estate )

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Too funny, Linda … I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    Jon – nice try, but I don’t keep blatant spam comments.

  • Sock Puppet 10 years ago

    >> For now I’ll take the easy route, blogging on AR.

    Back your content up somewhere BB.


  • Teresa Boardman 10 years ago

    Many of the people who have blogs on Active Rain don’t understand that they can just create a blog of their own. They beleive that they need active rain to succeed and may also beleive that they have their own blog. It has been a great platform for those vendors who market to us.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Open Sac –

    1) I’m not sure how you made the leap to “rubbing salt in the wounds.” My point is, was and forever will be that the sale was going to be made off the backs of those who have created the site’s content. If not for the content, there would not be anything to sell. Only a handful of agents – mostly those who moved on from AR at some stage – seem to get it.

    2) I’d have added this as a comment to your blog but you don’t have comments enabled. Say what you will about what is written here but comments and opposing viewpoints always are welcome (even if I think they’re wrong.) Maybe it’s not a need that qualifies as “the highest ethical standards” but it’s good form nevertheless.

    In fact I still can’t figure out who the actual author of the post is …

    Going back to AR … I don’t care that they sell. I don’t care if they don’t sell. I do care that so many seemingly intelligent people don’t understand the real dynamic there – give them all of their content so they can retire on a beach while you keep typing.

  • Sparky 10 years ago

    A correction: ‘All’ of the articles on ActiveRain ‘SUCK’ except for mine!

    I knew from the gitgo that AR was designed to be eventually sold to the highest bidder. I have always had my content stored elsewhere. But regardless, AR has had a tremendous positive impact on many of us, propelling us out into the greater blogosphere, offering a fairly safe proving ground before venturing onto our eventual ‘other’ blogsites.

  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    Jon Lorewn – how about doing all the readers of this blog a favor and don’t post your blatant self-promoting ad here?

    How does your ad possibly contribute to the discussion here? All is does is waste space here, and in my email inbox.

    Sorry to rant on your blog JD. I just grow weary of people that think this practice is acceptable…

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    No worries, Jay … I deleted the second BS comment that was nothing but spam from Jon. Funny, but didn’t I just write that I’ll do that yesterday?

    Rant all you want … it’s a pathetic effort at marketing.

Comments are closed.