ForRent.com had an interesting press release today regarding an exclusive partnership with Oodle and their Marketplace on Facebook. It’s an interesting play for the apartment marketing company and the continued syndication of their listings across the web. While the press release doesn’t go into detail regarding what the exclusive partnership means, a representative from For Rent has shared with me that come March 1st, 2011 other ILS companies like Apartments.com, ApartmentGuide.com, Move.com, etc. will no longer have the ability to syndicate their listings to Facebook Marketplace or the Oodle network. I’m curious what kind of debate that will spark, or if there will be loopholes in this somewhere.
If this strategy sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Publishers of print guides like For Rent Magazine, Apartment Guide, Apartment Finder, etc. have traditionally paid big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger, Meijer, and others to have exclusive print distribution racks in their stores. These exclusive agreements cost millions of dollars for the publishers each year. It actually makes a ton of sense we’re now seeing a shift in how the publishers are investing their dollars for exclusivity. I have no evidence For Rent or other publishers are pulling out their marketing investments in the big box store racks all together. What I do know is publishers in many markets across the country are eliminating print and going to Internet only options for listing apartments. It only seems logical for these publishers to reinvest their money elsewhere to try and increase exposure for apartments listing with them.
[UPDATE: I had a chance to speak with Erica Campbell at ForRent.com and she clarified a few things I would like to ad. For Rent has not reduced print distribution in their markets like some other publishers have. What they have done is reduce the size of their publication to a digest size and negotiated less expensive contracts with the stores. These savings have helped them reinvest in more web spaces.]
So what does this all mean to apartment managers & marketers? In my opinion, not much when it comes to improving your leads. I say this mainly because print leads continue to diminish, and they are just being replaced. Also, if you’re not a For Rent customer this is more of a negative as those other providers you list with will no longer be syndicating your property listings to Facebook Marketplace or the Oodle Network. In addition, while overall traffic to these sites is fairly large, I haven’t seen evidence people are consistently using Facebook to search for stuff to buy (at least today). Sure, if they hear about something from a friend they might research it (as For Rent’s video example illustrates), but just listing apartments on there using a syndication service isn’t going to help someone to build a better brand online for their properties. Time will tell of course, but I’m not confident a site built around connecting with friends is the savior for apartment listings. Of course, I thought Craigslist was going to be a bust, but it’s still going strong. However, it’s also a dedicated site for marketing goods and services and not a social network. Who knows what Marketplace might turn into, but this deal isn’t critical to the apartment marketer today in my opinion.
[UPDATE: According to Erica, this relationship brings more integration than just syndicating posts. Properties with listings going to Facebook will also get new tracking and analytics associated with the Oodle and Facebook activity. It appears there is much more to this exclusive relationship than just exclusive syndication. That's definitely promising, and while she could not comment specifically, Facebook and Oodle have some interesting plans over the next 6 months to make things even better with the Marketplace. Looking forward to seeing what comes around.]
To me, this is definitely a sign we’re continuing to put more nails in the coffin for print marketing. It’s also a sign the ILS’s will have more reason to push their prices until they get back to income levels matching the golden years of print. They may actually already be there as their profit margins from digital media have to blow away what they did with print. Just another great argument for why building your company a better online brand, better websites, and better social media resources can help you reduce your marketing spend and reap the rewards of those savings. Don’t get me wrong, ILS’s have their place in the marketing mix, but as an apartment marketer I believe it’s critical to build better online assets for your company first and monitor/measure your listing spend closely.
[UPDATE: After my conversation with Erica my position is still skeptical with Marketplace, but Facebook never ceases to amaze me. More reason for companies to understand Facebook more and how they can use it for their business separate from the Marketplace.]
[UPDATE: I have updated a couple areas referencing syndication for the other ILS's. The Facebook/Oodle agreement is exclusive and other ILS's will not be able to syndicate their listings with the Oodle network and Facebook Marketplace.]