Are Inline Video Search Results Really The End Game?
Instead of focusing on today’s benefit of having real estate video inline with search results, I’ll pose the question of “what will happen when potential visitors won’t need to go past Google pages for real estate information?”
Thinking About Today Is Easy: Take The Next Logical Step
Imagine an expanded Google universal search with listings presented inline with search results from Google Base for your search term, listings in adjacent areas geolocated with GeoRSS, real estate video from YouTube, and photos from Google’s photo search. Are we really that far right now from this scenario and, if we are not, why will people even visit real estate websites in the not-so-distant future if all of the information that they need is inline?
Possible Impacts on Real Estate Technology Industry
The future of running a viable business in real estate technology isn’t too hard to see. Here are some places where viable business models will be hard to find:
– Presentation mechanisms: what percentage of people will click through to sites once competing listings and videos are presented in line with search results? If the business model is primarily dependent on a presentation mechanism for listings or video, that business will be disintermediated rather quickly.
– Mashups of freely available data: The biggest issue here is barrier to entry – if the business model isn’t based on some new and not-so-easily acessible data (also qualifies as “content”) then even new approaches will quickly become commiditized. Example: encoding US address information is commiditized. However, gaining access to unique and helpful datapoints such as public transportation stops isn’t so easy to gain. Unique and difficult to gather content will always bring users.
If we think about the conceptual process for content as the following:
1) Conceptualization => 2) Access To Unique Content => 3) Content Creation => 4) Metadata Generation => 5) Search/Sort Capability=> 6) Presentation Mechanism
It is then reasonable to assume that the only areas not susceptable to disintermediation in the near term are #1, #2, and #3. Google for example is hard at work improving #4, #5, and #6 – not much successful business model to be left there…
Unique Content Remains King
So unique content creation will clearly remain king (for a long while at least)…visitors will continue to value and seek out unique content thusly provide the foundation for viable business models. Content in the form of written and multimedia blog posts, articles, photos, interviews, and local information will become the differentiator among organizations not the presentation mechanisms. I suspect that NAR understands this with respect to the recent interactions between Move.com and Google (this also strengthens my suspicions as to Google’s motives above). NAR’s unique content is their listing database with controlled access – far different from the average FSBO listing.
Legitimate Winners In The Syndication Space May Be Close To Being Crowned
Although there is clearly a renewed call for the creation of real estate video, the syndication winner in this space might already be in the process of legitimately being crowned (especially if the above scenario were to fully play out). Hint: the winners aren’t real estate video companies but large search companies. (UPDATE: I have received confirmation that the only results to be displayed inline in search result will be YouTube or Google Video for the moment though this could change.) The key point is that people have to get to a page to see *your* listing, mashup, or video player – if the visitor gets the info that they need before arrivig to your page, your ranking results won’t matter too much because you’ll never be seen.
Competing With “Free” And “Easy” Doesn’t Make Sense
Without a sustainable independent syndication business model, only the content creators and those with access with unique content will be left standing in the real estate video, mashup, and re.net listing spaces. It isn’t about being a “play” – it’s about building a business. Those that focus on easily commiditized presentation mechanisms will likely fall on hard times; those that conceptualize and create unique, hard to access content will survive. Those that don’t create content and base a business model on simply taking a revenue percentage from content creators are ultimately competing against “free” and “easy” – something that content creators will soon figure out.
Post script: Here’s an interesting extension of this line of thinking…what if the “price” of a free real estate mapping mashup was that the data presented is stored for later use by Google? As such, the real estate industry would have become the largest free labor pool for geolocating updated data about real properties and other related content throughout the US….with less effort and more participation than the big “Z”.