Cooperation and transparency: Solving the syndication conundrum

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There is a lot of intensity around syndication/online listing distribution right now: long and interesting discussions/debates occurring on blogs, career changes, compelling YouTube videos and landmark decisions. There is interaction from the key players, insight, opinions and wisdom being shared. Perhaps most important: discussion/open conflict is happening and definitive action is being taken. As I read, observe and participate in a number of discussions around this topic lately, there are two words that rise to the surface for me: cooperation and transparency. And while I am certain that there are a number important and related topics, these two resonate with me personally: first, because I believe they are essential, fundamental requirements - prerequisites that must occur before others and second, because at Onboard, we are front and center in transparency and cooperation discussions as we approach the full launch of our Insight360 Advisor . So, here are my thoughts.

Cooperation

Cooperation and in some cases co-opetition is necessary for our industry to progress; compromise, communication and commitment to getting past the issues must be driving forces behind our actions.

The industry is at a critical time: all stakeholders and benefactors must work together, candidly assess problems and cooperatively develop and implement future focused solutions. This may mean two competitors in the same room hashing it out; it may mean compromising or re-thinking a product/partnership that was previously not an option; it may mean abandoning some of our existing processes; it may mean the death of some products that have been outpaced by this dynamic and complex business environment. One thing is for certain - Brokers and MLSs are making breakaway, tough decisions – all with potential impacts and outcomes of those decisions. I believe that all players working together with the goal of future proofing our business will produce the most sustainable outcomes. I also believe that a starting point for collaborative discussion is the topic of transparency: gaining a true and comprehensive understanding of what’s happening online as the foundation to making informed strategic syndication/publishing decisions.

Transparency

Transparency and measurement are the hinge-pins to solving the syndication conundrum by enabling performance-managed syndication/listing distribution strategies.

The industry demands transparency and measurement in many other parts of the business; why not this one – with so many collateral impacts?

At Onboard, we identified this “transparency and measurement gap” in the online listings distribution model and developed Listing Insight360 Advisor - a comprehensive online listing intelligence platform that tracks and reports performance and usage activity across all sites where listings appear. Compliance also needs transparency and as an example, Clareity’s Syndication Bill of Rights and SAFE Syndication platform contribute to that transparency movement. On the flipside, exposure delivers truth in performance – so for some, this transparency model may prove threatening and they will buck cooperation.

Until today, MLSs, Brokers and Agents have not had a comprehensive understanding of online performance.  MLSs

and Brokers have been relegated to disparate reporting and “speculation” as their primary measurement and decision making tools with regards to syndication/online listing distribution. And while I applaud those syndicators, vendors and publishers who supply usage information, numerous reports from different partners containing disparate measurement criteria have little collective value; they are a narrow peek into a very large and complex picture.

Agents have no comprehensive information about how their listings are performing online; the tools they do have lack relevance in today’s on-demand, real-time information universe. And finally, the most important party in this equation – the consumer - is excluded from the online performance discussion. It is high- time that he veil of secrecy is lifted and clients are welcomed into the dialogue.   A comprehensive problem requires a comprehensive solution.

One question to gauge our success: is what we are doing fair and enhancing the consumer experience? The Clareity Bill of Rights shows that there can be a path to revenue that does involve transparency and making sure the best data is being posted and reacted to by buyers during their search process.

Transparency will provide the facts necessary to make critical business decisions opening the door to solving the additional components of the syndication/data distribution puzzle. I surmise that immersion into performance managed syndication or - “syndication by information” (compliance, performance, usage, etc.) will progress into more astutely managed syndication strategies. The licensee “list” will most likely shrink as licenses are granted only to those publishers who uphold compliance standards, provide transparency in the facts and deliver online results/ROI. The number of “data integrity” issues will taper off and the glaring issues will be handled in a more exacting, cooperative manner.  While I certainly I don’t mean to oversimplify or create a syndication utopia here, I think we can agree that cooperation and transparency certainly paves the way to a future of performance managed syndication/online listing distribution strategy.

I believe the industry can indeed flip this into a win-win-win scenario. Right now, the trifecta for progress has emerged: momentum, available innovative solutions and at least a handful of willing, cooperative participants to begin discussion. The alternative is obvious and has been stated and restated: the industry can consciously choose to remain here in a variety of adverse situations (standoffs, stagnation, shoot-outs, etc.) maintaining the current negative syndication environment while the business and the consumer evolve and progress.

I vote for the former (move the trifecta for progress forward). Who is with me? How can we take the next steps and pull together a high level discussion?

Image Credit: Will Ockenden