Thursday, 16 October 2008

Estate Agnecy Expo - Future

My report from ringside.

Labelled future the panel consisted of Dan Lee, CEO Globrix, Ian Brown of, Lee Bramzell of and Miles Shipside of Rightmove.

The legendary Bob North was our compare and he didn't disappoint. Kicking the conference off by asking "where should agents spend their marketing budgets?"

After brief introductions and some statistic spinning Dan Lee sought to expose new comer by stating that when he last looked property index only had 2000 properties in London and asked how he planned to compete. Lee Bramzell's soon to be standard response was that many agents were signing up and they hoped to grow. Naturally he disputed the 2000 figure. A quick search confirms they only have about 2,400 in all of London.

Bob North loved this and commended Globrix for throwing "the brick in the pond". The discussion then moved on to costs and the microphone was before Ian Brown of thinkproperty who made the following statement:

"£49 [for a portal subscription] is no longer value for money and therefore I can announce that we are going to be free" Yes, you heard it here first for all non Vebra clients it is going to be free to list in the portal (an official announcement will be made soon). For current Vebra clients they will apparently receive more advertising options.

It became apparent to the writer that as various issues were explored some cracks were appearing in the propertyindex model. Mr Bramzell referred to an affiliate program they planned to introduced that would see agents receive 50% of all value that passes through the site. To the writer this was plainly a drawing board idea thrown out in a little desperation. Great in principle and discussed previously in this blog, but without any detailed explanation it didn't raise hopes.

I have to say, Miles Shipshide of Rightmove had the mannerisms of a man who didn't want to be there. He bemoaned agents who didn't use rightmove plus (he says only 50% use it). Whilst this is a valid point he then let out a vicious right hand hook by claiming Globrix was untested technology and received "less traffic than the Aberdeen Property Centre".

The discussion then took a more constructive approach with all the portals agreeing that software providers and backend solutions should do more when it comes to measuring traffic. Indeed, many comments form the floor from agents indicated they were crying out for good statistics. Thinkproperty were challenged to deliver stats back to the agent and in another scoop, Ian Brown said "yes they would". All agreed unanimously that agents should be looking at their stats, measuring their traffic and conversion rates and determining their costs per lead. Sound familiar??!!

Bob shared these views and then steered the discussion back to costs. No doubt to get a little floor show. First up, Rightmove. Question from the floor. "why in this troubled market have you increased your prices", Miles replies "we haven't". I see at least four people stand and shout "yes you have". Miles tried to defuse this by saying see me after to one disgruntled agent, but one agent then pitched in and explained that he dealt primarily with retirement homes on a nationwide basis and his costs had gone up 1000%. Wow! "ah yes" explained Miles, "we have introduced geographical charging as we had complaints from other agents and that is why you are being charged more". Geogrphical charging? That is a new one on me!

Swinging back to relationships with software providers the panel agreed again that we should all try and work together to achieve common feeds and standard measurement. Time for another announcement. Globrix announced they will be launching an analytic package for agents next month, which will help agents analyse their traffic.

In conclusion, the message from the panel was clear. To understand who best to feed your properties through you need to be able to understand what we are telling you about traffic delivery, costs per lead, conversion and everything else this blog has raised over the past 12 months. Agents need to improve their websites, improve their analytical abilities and get to grips with online marketing. 'Measuring' was the buzz word of the afternoon.

Cost was another issue and if Globrix can deliver a decent user friendly stats package for free then they are once more pushing the boundaries. Indeed, some argued after that it is the responsibility of the portals to provide this information, especially if one is paying them.

Returning to our boxing theme, I think propertyindex came out of their corner too quickly and met with a few nasty jabs that stopped them in their tracks, staggering around the ring they just made the first bell. Round 2 thinkproperty thought they had a good right hook with their announcement, but it only glanced the opponents and didn't make full contact and I fear too much energy was used in that blow. Round 3 heard booing from the crowd for the defensive display of rightmove, very much gloves up and not one for the crowd. Round 3 saw Globrix boxing clever throughout landing some nice jabs and then the killer body blow almost came unnoticed as they introduced their forthcoming analytical package. You almost hear the ribs crack!


Anonymous said...

Good write-up but not altogether accurate. I think if you check you will find that Globrix will be charging for the analytics product in, what appears to be, a desperate attempt to try to find a revenue source given that no-one is paying them for advertising.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the above, Think Property's marketshare of visits has dropped from 6.8% to 1.82% in a year, and the product is losing a substantial amount of money. Like Globrix, there is little (or no) value to agents of a free product that no-one is looking at.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous commenter, we will not be charging for basic analytics (click throughs to the site etc) but more complex analytics such as per property clicks, comparables, house price trends and the types of things you see on Rightmove Plus will be for a paid-for service.
Listening to agents we often hear that they would leave Rightmove if it wasn't for the clever tools on Rightmove Plus. So we have been working on setting up our own analytics/stats package, and yes we will charge for this, though it will be cheaper than alternatives out there. Also, if you were at the Expo yesterday then you'll know that Globrix is profitable.

To the owls :-) Great write up, it was fun yesterday and it's always good to hear a debate written up in boxing lingo!

Anonymous said...

So in other words you are charging for it, as I said.

And in repsonse to your 'profitability' comment, I expect you have decided to omit the millions of pounds of "free" space you have had in Mr Murdoch's titles from your P&L? I therefore think your definition of profitable is as questionable as some of the data you are releasing.

For example, I hear you are lauching an international product? Good luck. In the press release it says that you reach 500,000 users (nice round number) which is (and I quote) "20% of Rightmove's audience".

For the readers of this excellent blog allow me to add some fact to your fiction.

To calculate web traffic, portals use an independent measure called Comscore which whilst it is known undercounts users, it does so across all portals and therefore can be used for comparisson purposes.

According to Comscore, in August you reached 253,000 unique users and Rightmove reached 2,400,000. That is 10% not 20%. Quite a difference.

All this is ironic given Globrix's questionning of PropertyIndex's data yesterday. For the sake of everyone in the property industry, you might start releasing accurate data rather than inaccurate soundites.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous -- very entertaining write-up but not altogether accurate.

Just to clarify Miles' "right hook" for those who weren't there, according to Hitwise, Rightmove is the most visited property website with 37.8m visits in September alone -- 20.69% of all visits to property websites and more than and friendsreunited.

Globrix had 1.7m visits.

Anonymous said...

Far from being a drawing board idea, the affiliate scheme is an inherent virtue of the cost per lead model. Unlike a subscription portal, we know what the value of each transaction is, so we can therefore share that value on a 50/50 basis with referral partners. Further detail can be found at Partners will get £0.50p for a UK buyer lead, £2.50 for a vendor lead, £5 for an overseas property lead and 50% of the value of a private owner holiday rental subscription. The scheme is operated by Zanox and is covering all set up fees and ongoing management costs.

Anonymous said...

Dear Owl

Forgive me for asking, but I was under the impression blogs should be neutral forums, with no allegiance to any commercial operation about which the blogger is commenting. Right?

Assuming you agree, are you not in danger, when commenting on portals, of bias towards Zoomf, Globrix and Nestoria given on your About Us part of your site you introduce these portals (only) as "like minded partners".

Anonymous said...

Who said blogs were neutral forums?! Bloody communist.

Anonymous said...

[quote]Forgive me for asking, but I was under the impression blogs should be neutral forums, with no allegiance to any commercial operation about which the blogger is commenting. Right?[/quote]

That is an erroneous impression :)

A blog is not a forum; there is a distinct difference between a blog and a forum, forums are a community of people posting thoughts and views, a blog is - generally speaking - a personal journal and as such tends to represent the views of that individual. Those views can quite legitimately be biased or not depending on that individual.

The Owls do not seem to demonstrate any particular bias though, yes they may have 'friends' in the industry and may post links to them, but that isn't necessarily bias, even if it were it is their blog and they may do so if they wish :) .

The beauty of blogs and forums is that you may comment on and challenge posts; so enter into healthy debate, take issue, have your say; I feel sure that the Owls welcome all commentators.

Property Owl said...

Thanks for all the comments. To those who say this post was not accurate, it was as the writer witnessed and from the notes I took during the discussions (I was typing the post as I listened and watched). If your notes and/or a recording show my quotes to be incorrect please share them and I will amend. Otherwise, please note, this is how I felt it went, written in the Owl style!

To 'anonymous' who suggests I am posting favourable reports I am grateful to the other writer who rightly points out the difference between a blog and forum and says much of how I would have replied. Indeed, if I like a company and think it will benefit the industry/agent/consumer, I will say so. If I don't then I will also say so. A blog allows people to agree/disagree and indicate why through comments, just as it allows people to comment under the cover of anonymity.

By the way, you are forgiven :)

Anonymous said...

The attached comments are all very interesting but the reality is that there is only one portal that is making any profit and that is Rightmove. Ed Williams and numerous city analysts / commentators are all aware of this and when reviewed in the context of the European marketplace - they will win through once the market returns.
Globrix have no revenue model and I believe also annouced that they would be looking to charge for traffic being driven to agents sites at some point soon. This clearly is pretty much the same thing as charging for listings - but given the low traffic levels ( not sure they are even in the Top 20 at the moment ) then the revenue model just doesn't make sense. There are hundreds of portals with lots of stock - Dan Lee and his investors from NI have a big shock coming but NI have deep pockets and their commitment to Propertyfinder ensures they know about the cost / investment of playing in the UK property arena.
The poor investor from Property Index again is again at risk of losing his shirt. Lee clearly is now playing in the big league and time will tell
Thinkproperty clearly have had to revisit their strategy - they will probably end up in a much better position than Globrix - given they have spent a shed load of money on the brand and I assume will be continuing to do this - but i can only assume their software connections lead to a different strategy. Mark Goddard is a bright guy, so I'm sure there is a plan - GMG are a canny bunch and have a much broader play which will soften the investment needed

With the pressure now increasing on DMGT and Prime in particular - it is impossible to see how any portal will make money in the next few years and therefore I would expect a major cleansing of the UK portal market.

Who will be left


Anonymous said...

Lee doesnt own propertyindex, Darren Richards does and Id hardly call him a poor investor! Time will indeed tell.