Zillow and realtor.com know it and so does, apparently, the New York Times: Content is king, but when it comes to web traffic, real estate listings are the gold in the royal coffers.
In effort to boost the publication’s revenue and users — and mirror the city’s unpaid listing display norms — NYT will no longer charge real estate brokers to list NYC-based properties on the real estate section of NYTimes.com and will start taking a listing syndication feed from the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), a group representing more than 17,000 real estate professionals in the Big Apple.
Under REBNY’s deal with the NYT, the paper will link back and send all leads to the listing broker and agent and only display the listing agent on property ads, both of which the paper said it has always done. The NYT, which is not compensating REBNY for the feed, will also display full listing information free of charge.
The move could position NYTimes.com as a more mainstream listings portal and comes at a highly-charged time for NYC real estate industry politics around listing display. That the NYT won’t feature or send leads to competing agents was likely a factor in REBNY’s acceptance of the deal, while these issues remain at the heart of an ongoing feud between some New York brokers and Zillow Group’s StreetEasy portal.
Zillow Group rejected REBNY’s Residential Listing Service (RLS) feed, citing content licensing terms the company said would “degrade and limit the consumer experience.” The RLS syndication feed launched in August after outrage ensued over StreetEasy adopting a paid agent advertising model, an experience listing agents and brokers in the rest of the country have mostly gotten used to, if sometimes grudgingly. Meanwhile, in addition to the NYT, REBNY has found a partner in realtor.com.
The fight for real estate consumers online continues
The NYT anticipates the deal with REBNY will boost its own listing offerings, potentially attracting more real estate consumers to its website.
“New York City is home to the most lucrative, fast-paced and unpredictable real estate market in the world,” said Andy Wright, The New York Times Company’s senior vice president of advertising, in a statement.
“For decades, buyers, brokers, developers and curious readers have turned to The Times to keep up with industry news, seek guidance on how to choose the best property and discover more about living here.
“Adopting REBNY’s syndication feed means that our listings will be as comprehensive as our coverage, making The Times’s Real Estate section the definitive source for everything you need to know about New York real estate.”
The paper declined to say how much traffic the real estate listings on NYTimes.com currently receive.
The move means brokers, who previously had to pay for listing exposure on the newspaper’s website, will likely save some money, though how much is unclear. The NYT said the paper previously sold its listing advertising in bulk packages and rates varied based on the number of listings, but declined to provide additional details.
Brokerages have been sending the NYT data feeds of all their listings, updated throughout the day, but “the goal of the RLS feed is to send one unified and accurate feed for members of REBNY” and replace the individual broker feeds, Brendan Walsh, the NYT’s executive advertising director, told Inman.
The RLS feed will provide the NYT with about 8,000 listings that brokers have chosen to syndicate. The NYT currently has about 5,300 listings in Manhattan, so the RLS feed will increase the paper’s coverage in Manhattan and some of the outer boroughs, Walsh said.
“We are in the process of deduping the RLS feed and our expectation is that the RLS feed will contain the majority of listings we already have, and add an additional 20 percent in NYC from firms currently not listing,” he added.
According to REBNY, more than 600 real estate firms are participating in the RLS and more than half of RLS listings were syndicated within 30 days of its syndication rollout on August 1.
“There are nearly 19,000 listings in the RLS, which should grow as we invite landlords to contribute open listings,” said Sandhya Espitia, REBNY’s deputy senior vice president, in a statement.
“Over time, more and more of these listings will syndicate. Brokerage firms and landlords submitting their listings to syndication have discretion about where their listings go. We expect our members will be very enthusiastic about the NYT as an option.”
“We will continue to add more public-facing websites to the syndication network. This effort, combined with the accuracy of our data, will make REBNY the single most trusted source of residential listing information in New York City,” she added.
‘We’d love for StreetEasy to accept when they’re ready’
Although REBNY declined to answer questions regarding its relationship with Zillow Group’s NYC listing portal, REBNY President John Banks told Inman in a statement: “REBNY’s efforts in this area go back a couple years, so the StreetEasy phenomenon that took place over the last six months really didn’t play a role in our decision to [launch RLS syndication]. Nonetheless, we’re now able to make this listing feed available to a broad group — and we’d love for StreetEasy to accept the feed when they’re ready.”
Banks refers to Zillow Group’s rollout of its Premier Agent program for the first time on StreetEasy in March, which prompted objections from some New York City brokers who opposed lead forms next to their listings that went to paid agent advertisers.
StreetEasy and Zillow Group have said this type of advertising is the nationwide norm and benefits consumers by encouraging buyers to use agents who exclusively represent their interests, rather than working directly with a listing agent.
Several NYC brokers — including Brown Harris Stevens, Town Residential, Compass and Stribling & Associates — responded to the StreetEasy change by cutting off their direct feeds to Zillow Group websites, making them available only through REBNY’s RLS feed.
But the boycott suffered a major setback last week when Realogy extended a listing feed agreement with Zillow Group that allows its New York City brokerages — including big dogs The Corcoran Group, Citi Habitats and local Sotheby’s International Realty brokerages — to feed listings directly to StreetEasy.