My Stand: On Brad Inman. Inman News should rebrand to Inman Advertorial.

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NOTE: Inman News has COMMENTED on this post and it materially affects my commentary. As I stated at the beginning of the post when I made it, my opinion of this relies on the accuracy of what Lani posted. Inman News has contradicted several of the points that she made in her post. 

Ok. I am going to couch what I am about to say on a couple of things.

#1: I am relying on the fact that this report on AGBeat is accurate. I believe it to be so. I have known Lani Rosales for a number of years and respect both her reporting and commentary on the real estate industry.

#2: I am taking for granted the fact that REALTORS do NOT understand the complicated financial arrangements that often take place between Vendors, “Journalists”, and Marketing folks inside of an industry such as the residential real estate brokerage industry.

Ok. With that said. Brad Inman asked Industry Leaders to take a stand. While he was CLEARLY on the side of agent data, he was clearly out of line (in my opinnion) for not disclosing that he had an ownership interest in a competitor product to AgentMatch. I have no idea if I am an industry leader. I would like to think NOT.  But I AM willing to take a stand. When it comes to ALL of the people clamoring for TRANSPARENCY in OUR industry, it has long been my contention that they would not stand for a minute under the same microscope.

Brad Inman is no different. In Lani’s post on AGBeat, she clearly describes a number of instances where Inman News, referred to hereinafter on this blog as Inman Advertorial, tells the industry his position and writes “news”. She articulates that his position was seemingly designed to insulate a company that Inman HAS a stake in, along with Google Ventures, while the Move, Inc. product was catching all of the grief.

OF COURSE Brad wants everyone in the real estate industry to support Agent Match and other agent ratings sites. He apparently owns a piece of one. (For the record, I do NOT have an ownership stake in one now, nor will I .) C’mon, Brad. How about some doggone TRANSPARENCY?? Seems pretty hypocritical that you want to go after agents with your standards that everything should be totally transparent. Meanwhile you are apparently having your marketing arm and your news arm cozily in bed together STEERING the industry in a direction that financially benefits YOU?? WTHeck? Is this what it appears to be?

So I am taking a stand.

How about Inman News (Advertorial) applies the same journalistic standard that OTHER news organizations have. Better yet, how about they apply the transparency that they require of REALTORS. To wit:

  • When Inman News (Advertorial) or Brad Inman have any financial holdings in a company. For transparency’s sake how about that be disclosed much as NBC Universal and the other major news and business news channels do.
  • When Inman News has a MAJOR advertising / marketing agreement, in my mind we can no longer trust them to be objective in their reporting. (this is my opinion). For transparency’s sake how about these relationships being disclosed to make sure that REALTORS, Google, and others understand that it is likely an advertorial relationship or at least COULD be such rather than an objective news report. When Brad Inman PERSONALLY uses Inman News to TAKE a STAND on something that will undoubtedly in my mind benefit his investments, those investments need to be disclosed.

And I am taking another stand.

I want to send Kudos for Lani and Benn at AGBeat for having the courage to report this in light of the fact that Inman News is a powerful force in the industry. They couched it carefully, but the implication is clear. Brad was NOT being a journalist, and while it COULD (I guess) have been repeatedly unintentional, going forward that needs to change.

Yes AGBEAT has advertisers as well. When they first started Agent Genius, I chimed in with the rest of folks back in the day about advertorial relationships. To their credit: Yes, I think they have tried, where possible to disclose their relationships. No one is perfect, but they have made far more of an attempt at a reasonable separation of the Editorial room and the Advertising sales department and disclosed where possible the potential conflicts.

That said, perhaps what is needed going forward is a source of actual reviews and ratings that ARE NOT FUNDED nor OWNED by Vendors. Full disclosure. I MAY WELL invest in one of those types of companies. Brokers and Agents NEED CLARITY, not more advertorials.

I personally, have had enough of the same people simultaneously:

  1. Telling us how untransparent REALTORS are.
  2. Telling us to visit their trade shows
  3. Filling those trade shows with Advertorial content from Syndicators, Vendors, and every other person who wants into the REALTOR’s pocket
  4. Telling us Industry News (ostensibly OBJECTIVE news).
  5. And telling us we should disclose how we are paid, when they do not disclose how THEY are paid.

I think it is time that in this industry, if we cannot be objective AT LEAST the VENDOR / PROMOTER cozy little relationship should be TRANSPARENT.

What do you think?

 My Stand: On Brad Inman. Inman News should rebrand to Inman Advertorial.

About the author

wrote 110 articles on this blog.

Eric Blackwell owns and operates EricOnSearch, LLC , a growing online marketing company as well as Eric On Real Estatea consulting firm for teams and brokerages. He has been married to his wife Jen for 25 years and they have 4 children.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Eric, Thanks for your feedback on Inman News, unfortunately Lani was incorrect in her reporting. I wanted to correct a few items for the record. It would be great if you could update your post to reflect these facts. I have also posted these on Lani’s blog as well.

    1. HomeLight is an Inman Incubator company but Inman News has no financial interest in HomeLight. We do not take equity stakes in the incubator companies and the incubator companies pay no fees to Inman News.

    2. HomeLight is speaking at Real Estate Connect, but so are people on the other side of the agent data issue including Mark Willis, the CEO of Keller Williams, who has come out strongly in opposition to the idea.

    3. Inman News has many customers (advertisers, sponsors, exhibitors, members and attendees of our conferences) on both sides of the agent data issue. Our coverage has been careful to balance all points of views. See below for a list of news stories over the last couple of weeks that discuss the issue in depth.

    4. Neither Brad Inman or Inman News is an investor in any of the incubator companies (such as HomeLight) or any other real estate related company.

    5. Brad Inman did not endorse any of the companies that offer agent data programs his article http://www.inman.com/2013/11/27/taking-a-stand-on-agent-data/. He did endorse the idea of exposing agent performance data and his article was clearly described as an opinion piece by the publisher.

    6. Inman News takes seriously the separation of church and state (editorial and advertising). Our independent editorial team headed up by Matt Carter is always very diligent about giving no preference in coverage to companies who may advertise or do business with Inman News.

    As far as I am aware, Lani did not reach out to us for clarification ahead the story to ensure it was factual. I (or anyone on the team) are happy to answer questions about how we operate. We encourage anyone who has questions about how we work to reach out to us at any time.

    Morgan
    Inman News

    A selection of articles on Agent Match over the last two weeks:

    http://www.inman.com/wire/agent-launches-change-org-petition-to-stop-realtor-coms-agentmatch/
    http://www.inman.com/2013/11/22/franchisor-keller-williams-realty-strongly-urges-agents-to-oppose-realtor-coms-agentmatch-tool/
    http://www.inman.com/2013/11/19/realtor-com-seeks-more-agent-feedback-on-controversial-agentmatch-ranking-platform/
    http://www.inman.com/2013/11/15/can-realtor-coms-bold-experiment-with-agentmatch-survive-agent-backlash/
    http://www.inman.com/2013/11/13/neighborcity-hits-move-with-cease-and-desist-letter-over-agentmatch-tool/
    http://www.inman.com/2013/11/11/errol-samuelson-realtor-com-experimenting-with-agent-matching-tool-powered-by-mls-data/

    • says

      Morgan -
      Thank you for your timely response. As I said at the top of the post, I based what I said on what was reported. Hmmm… something tells me that there will be either a correction or a retraction correction or a change somewhere. Agent Match is a hot topic. Brad taking a stand on it is a significant thing, hence Lani reporting that would be significant as well.

  2. says

    Morgan, thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful response. After further consideration from my original editorial, I have removed the phrase “labeled as news rather than opinion,” as I consider that a fair update as it has no bearing on this editorial whatsoever.

    I never said Inman News or Brad Inman takes an equity stake, but Inman News’ Incubator is invested in HomeLight’s success to the tune of “$100,000 in-kind promotional support from Inman News” and a bevy of other valuable assets according to the Incubator website, none of which was ever mentioned in any of the seven articles related to AgentMatch, including Brad’s editorial.

    We’ve never said Inman wasn’t fair, but in seven articles, true fairness would have been disclosing that Inman News was involved with an AgentMatch competitor that has a distinctly similar offering.

    I stand behind my editorial.

  3. says

    And as I said in my post it would seem less hypocritical if those relationships were (in fact) disclosed. I would agree with Lani on that. The first comment by a REALTOR on Brad’s taking a stand post complains that he “did not have a dog in the fight”. Actually, I think it is only correct to let people know that Inman actually was offering six digits worth of support to a player in the fight. So apparently he DID and DOES have a dog in the fight.

    What are your standards for disclosure? (I am now curious about that.)

    The entire idea of these Agent Ratings sites is at stake here. And the entire concept denegrates the value of a REALTOR in the consumers eyes while offering NO meaningful way of getting the homeseller to a “better” or “best” REALTOR. Screening off 90+ percent of the agents to find “the right” agent means that HomeLight et al think that they can algorithmically find the right agent. Technology is not capable of that.

    How about some transparency for the algorithm? If Brad supports transparency in the form of Agent data being syndicated… then how about the algorithms of the people using it being transparent? Does he support that?

    Just my opinion that the Real Estate agents and brokers out there should have a transparent view of not only where people stand but WHY they might take the stands that they do.

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