Yes, that is right!  REALTORS who look around can get some high quality technology for Free.

But is free really Free?

One of the more successful business models on the Internet today is making money by giving things away.  Much in the same way that Newspapers and Television have done for years.  Unlike those counterparts, the cost of distributing digital media is so cheep that 1% of people paying for premium services is usually enough to justify giving it away to 99% of the user group.

In researching the cumulative effects of the NAR strategy to dole out blogs to agents for FREE, it became apparent that the value lies in aggregating content by agents to bolster organic search engine traffic and expand the footprint.  This allows to get more eyeballs, and sell agents more advertising.

This is a great strategy.  In fact, the New York Times deployed a similar strategy in September when they released their archived stories written after 1987 or before 1923.  In a move that I do not completely understand, they still sell the stories between 1923 and 1986??  (If you have any thoughts on this, please chime in and leave a comment).

What makes the New York Times strategy especially wise is that now, anyone can refer to those articles and link to them.  It will create a huge data footprint for The Times and generate millions of inbound links for SEO.

Other technologies that are free –

Listingbook – contact management and CMA
Trulia Voices – more blogs
Homegain – more blogs
Your MLS – property search.

What’s next – Sold Data

In our industry, making archives available would be tantamount to making sold listings available.  That would be a tremendous asset for anyone in the real estate industry to pursue.  Of course, there are many areas where this behavior is not permitted either by law or by rule.  In some way, Zillow has done this for some of the sold data available from their feed sources.  But the mother-load of sold information would be MLS archived data – whereby complete listing information and multiple photos could be made available along with historic days on market information and CMAs of relative value to other inventory of the period.  This would definitely not be a zero-sum game.

But are these things really free?

There are a few critical items to consider when you consider Free.

1.    Service and Support – not included in free
2.    Company Dies – you loose everything
3.    Facebook Fatigue – all of this participation comes at a cost of time
4.    Your participation builds value to the service provider more than it provides value to you.

Be careful when you use Free.  Like and tulia, there is usually some point in time when they reach critical mass that they will force you to pay.