Google vs Portals vs Printed media

Friday, December 04, 2009 by Ed Mead

Property portals vs Google vs Printed media advertising.

It’s staggering how those in the media and those who earn money by supplying services to those who advertise in the media misunderstand property advertising.

This debate has been thrust under everyone’s noses again by the eruption of a debate, started by Dan Thomas in the FT yesterday, about Google’s possible (read certain) entry into the battle for property listings.

I have no axe to grind here and like any agent will look for commercial advantage, and if Google are willing to offer a clean and useful service that, modelled on other services they provide, is free then I’ll be looking very carefully at it.

Many supposed experts, perhaps with vested interests, have leapt to the defence of the portals claiming variously that it’ll bring sellers and buyers closer and risk the agent relationship and also that the portals do a great job promoting the agents’ brands. I think their own brand comes before the agents’.

The model we’ve seen is very simple and used the already familiar interface, ie you simply type in what you’re looking for into the box, and a map appears, as you get on many websites these days, with properties on it in the area you’re looking in. You simply point your cursor at a property and you get taken straight to the agent’s website which is exactly what we as agents want.

This is win win for us, and familiar for users and should seriously worry the portals, the larger of whom have become unpopular and are perceived as bullies. Prices have edged up and let’s not forget that with 60% of agents pretty much sole practitioners these costs are important. But the portals can rest easy, no one is immediately going to trust Google to stay free and will stick with the others for several years (as in Australia), but hopefully it’ll have quite an impact on what they charge us, in a downward direction.

One of the last arguments the portals use in their defence is that it gives potential sellers the correct impression about what agents’ sell in their area. But this misses a fundamental point and is why I am not convinced that the web means the death of printed media advertising. Potential sellers read their local press and flick through magazines and it’s THIS form of advertising that persuades someone who to get in to look at their property. This misconception is common with many who advise and supply such services. It’s always been that way and always will.