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I Don’t Have a Vendetta Against ActiveRain

In an article for the New York State Realtor Association about real estate blogging ( pdf is here, page 17 ) I wrote this in a sidebar: If you don’t mind ceding all of your traffic and branding to another company, take a look at Active Rain. … What was missing from line above was context. (and this is not a post about quality ) I like Active Rain for what it is, but I stand by the above statement for the simple reason that I, as a Realtor, want my brand to be me.

In an article for the New York State Realtor Association about real estate blogging ( pdf is here, page 17 ) I wrote this in a sidebar: If you don't mind ceding all of your traffic and branding to another company, take a look at Active Rain. ... What was missing from line above was context. (and this is not a post about quality ) I like Active Rain for what it is, but I stand by the above statement for the simple reason that I, as a Realtor, want my brand to be me.

Quality matters



In an article for the New York State Realtor Association about real estate blogging (pdf is here, page 17) I wrote this in a sidebar:

If you don’t mind ceding all of your traffic and branding to another company, take a look at Active Rain.

The line has caused some consternation, as well as a great phone conversation with someone else. What was missing from line above was context. (and this is not a post about quality)

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I like Active Rain for what it is, but I stand by the above statement for the simple reason that I, as a Realtor, want my brand to be me. My cell phone number is on my business cards, my blog URL is on my cards, my personal website is on my cards, and my brokerage’s name is only where it is required to be by applicable laws. I want my clients to remember my website, phone number, my name. This may sound selfish, but my business is me – my expertise, my relationships, my time.

One of the reasons I tell new Realtors that their primary domain should not be their name is this – what kind of viable exit strategy exists if the domain name is

The traffic that you generate when writing at AR (and the rest) is for Active Rain, while the traffic generated for one’s own blog is for you. The AR/author relationship is mutually beneficial. Think about the various brokerage models out there – some are designed for the Realtors to get a 50-50 split, some up to 100% to the agent. The point is, all agents make a choice. I choose to write at “Agent Genius” because I know the quality of the others who share the title of Author.

AR is a great tool for many of the agents out there – in the same vein that I choose to run my RSS feeds through FeedBurner. The tools provided by WordPress are fine, but the features of FeedBurner work better for what I’m doing (and I am fully aware that by using Google’s tools, I am selling my soul and information to our overlords at Google).

So – the takeaway is this – we are all entrepreneurs, and we all make choices. Thankfully there seem to be enough options to go around.

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Written By

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.



  1. Bill Lublin

    May 10, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Jim; Nice post – I am not quite sure (as a noephyte blogger) why so many people run to the defense of AR as a place to blog – I have one there (its really dusty though since I write here) and I’m playing with a blog at blogspot, but having been in business as long as I have, your point is as they say in the UK “spot on”

    The benefit of the weight of Active Rain’s community behind your blogging efforts is probably a good thing for many people. And the choice to pass on that benefit in favor of owning your place in the blogosphere (or blogiverse or whatever – i wish someone would make a definite call on what that is ) so that you control your content, name, brand or whatever is just what you posit- a business decision that you chose to make for business reasons. And one that I would support (though as a blogger on training wheels I can see the beenfot of the AR deal) because I think that over the longer term of a career the possession of your name is the best move
    In the words of Ludacris

    Start up ya own company, trademark the name
    That’s gon’ run ya bout a grand so start savin’ ya change
    Open a bank account quick, and then follow these steps
    Sign yourself to yourself and start signin’ ya own checks

    Interesting reference for an old guy from Philly isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Loren Nason

    May 10, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Jim, you are so “spot on”

    I will never say that Active Rain is bad.

    But I ALWAYS say:
    “If you are going to put in all this work into a blog, make it your own blog”

    The AR author of the post also states in the comments that AR and Localism sends me traffic. I would rather that Google sent traffic directly to my site instead going to AR first and then my site.

  3. Susan Hilton - Texas Aggie Realtor

    May 10, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Just recently I started a blog site and have blogged regularly. I posted everything on my own site and a little on AR. My concern with AR is that since I did not “get into it” in LONG ago no matter how much I post I can never even come close to the rankings of many others in my community unless they die off. AR is very point driven for marketing especially through Localism. I think I would rather spend my time on something I know I can reap beneifts – My Own Blog!

  4. Chris Griffith

    May 11, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Active Rain is great “training wheels” for bloggers to learn and grow. I was once very active on A.R. and was shamed into my own blog by friends. I waited far too long to start my own blog. The twists, turns and success that has sprung from my blog [affectionately known as Betty] has been fantastic. I now have articles syndicated to the Naples Daily News and Bonita Banner newspapers, I’ve been asked to speak on a blogging panel at NAR next Wednesday and I just did an interview with Kipplinger’s yesterday. Of course, I wish I had started Betty sooner.

  5. Teresa Boardman

    May 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Nice to see that there are people who get it. I won’t put my local content that drives my business on someone else’s web site. They have to come to my blog and read it and they do. It is the only source of the content. Putting similar content on active rain would put them in direct competition with me. I would be competing against myself for traffic.

  6. Jim Duncan

    May 11, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Chris –

    I like the “training wheels” analogy.

    Teresa – Amen. Why compete against yourself? I don’t get it.

    We’re all writing for the consumer and ultimately Google.

    For some it’s clearly the best option; for me, and those I advise, no way – for the reasons listed above.

  7. Miriam

    May 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I agree Jim. The thing was that your article was an introduction to blogging explaining what it can do for you. AR is a great place to learn and shouldn’t be put down. One is not exclusive to the other. You can have your blog and your branding and still particate and learn on AR – especially for newbies. The idea that you might use your “brand” on AR I don’t get.

  8. Sparky

    May 11, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Jim – I truly enjoyed our conversation the other day. Discussions like this are extremely vital for all of us. Ultimately, we have to intelligently decide to invest our time, energies, and resources in endeavors that are going to benefit our bottom-line. For me personally, my involvement on ActiveRain has been a excellent choice, for a number of reasons. First, I have received business as a direct result of my AR profile ranking. Secondly, I have learned a lot more on AR than in just about any continuing ed class I’ve ever attended. It’s free, and I don’t have to travel! Lastly, the networking relationships I have developed through AR are nothing short of priceless. Thanks again for a very meaningful dialogue, one that I trust will be ongoing!

  9. Ken Smith

    May 13, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    “First, I have received business as a direct result of my AR profile ranking.”
    It’s interesting when agents say this because their own site could easily be ranking as well if not better. Just put the effort into your own site instead AR (partially owned by a lead generator) and you become the authority instead of AR.

  10. Rich Jacobson

    May 13, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Ken – that was simply one benefit among many that I have derived from involvement on AR. Now when you say ‘their own site,’ I assume you mean their own local blog site, or are you referring to a static website? Many agents do not have the wherewithal (time, technical ability, resources) to create their own stand-alone platform. Granted, they could jump onto Blogger, talk to themselves until they’re blue in the face, and have something that no one would ever find. In addition to the information sharing and networking value, AR does provide a means for people to get their blogging feet wet without too much intimidation. And just to clarify, AR isn’t owned, partially or otherwise, by anyone other than the same folks who founded it and have always owned it.

  11. Ken Smith

    May 13, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Rich any agent can start up a wordpress blog. Any of the technical stuff can be done by a VA at very reasonable prices. There are multiple wordpress real estate themes out there that can be downloaded for free and hosting will run an agent around $150 a year. Any agent that can’t figure out how to set up a WP blogsite and wants to get started feel free to visit my site and fill out my contact form. There are a group of agents that will be happy to help you out without payment.

    I understand that many agents may feel there are multiple benefits to AR, I just seriously question the cost to the agent. It may not be monetary, but there is a cost. Actually in the long run I feel it will come down to a very high monetary cost to agents that focus on building up their AR profiles over building up their own blogs or websites.

    As for Active Rain they sold part of the company to HouseValues for $2.75 million in Jan. It was talked about on Inman News, on BHB, and explained on Activerain.

  12. Rich Jacobson

    May 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Ken: What do you consider to be the cost for participation/involvement on AR, aside from one’s own personal time, which obviously has a cost associated to it.

    Maybe my previous office environment was an exception. I was the only one out of 50 agents who understood the value of blogging. As an industry, we have a poor track record for adopting and embracing new technology. We’re certainly getting better, but there are still droves of agents out there beating each other up over ‘expireds,’ cold calls, and FSBO’s, and don’t even yet have a static website, let alone a local blog! I realize that the tools are readily available and fairly inexpensive, but there are still a large segment of agents out there who find stepping into the Rain a much easier transition.

    As per the Inman article you referenced:

    “The funding from HouseValues is structured as a minority investment, Heaton said, which carries similar terms to a venture capital funding.”

    HouseValues did not ‘purchase’ any part or portion of AR. They ‘invested’ in the Network.

  13. Jim Duncan

    May 14, 2008 at 4:55 am

    I think there is a time and place for AR, and I don’t think that “any agent” can start a WP blog – even a blog – look at how many don’t/can’t take more than one photo of a house, or type emails in ALL CAPS, or still use print 🙂

    The HV thing is one reason I prefer to be on my own – there is less risk that my content is going to be used for something I don’t agree with. I can go after sploggers, but not those who control my content.

    I said a while ago somewhere else that if AR embraced open source and enabled contributors to download their content and take it with them, I’d probably have a better feeling about it.

    As it stands, they clearly fill a void, and luckily they have good people running it and proselytizing for them.

    What I have found to be good and bad is the “circling the wagons” mentality of some of the AR folks – any negative criticism is met with “then don’t come here” in some cases, rather than disagreeing on the merits of the discussion. Again, it’s a reason I personally choose not to participate there. But that’s just me.

  14. Rich Jacobson

    May 14, 2008 at 10:35 am

    “look at how many don’t/can’t take more than one photo of a house” ….my point exactly!

    Whenever you contribute your own original content to a platform you don’t own or control, there are similar inherent risks. But I can certainly appreciate your hesitancy regarding HV.

    I am not aware of anything that prevents a member from extracting/removing their content from AR, if so desired.

    Bottom line, we all participate and invest our time/energies in what we feel is most beneficial to our business and personal development. There really is no ultimate right or wrong answer….

  15. Jim Duncan

    May 14, 2008 at 11:12 am

    There really is no ultimate right or wrong answer….

    So long as we acknowledge that I’m right. 🙂

    On the downloading data – right now I could theoretically take my wordpress database and convert it (albeit PAINFULLY) to Typepad, Moveable Type, etc. That’s what I meant.

    And also, the community at AR is most rewarding for a lot of the contributors there, and that should not be minimized.

  16. Ken Smith

    May 14, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Rich in the venture capital deals I have been part of the venture capital company always gets part ownership of the company they invest in. No company gives money for fun, they do so to take part ownership in a company they feel will generate them a solid ROI on their investment. HouseValues owns part of AR at this point in time.

    From Wiki “Venture capital investments are generally made as cash in exchange for shares in the invested company.” and “The downside for entrepreneurs is that venture capitalists usually get a say in company decisions, in addition to a portion of the equity.”

    As for what do agents invest besides time, time is by far your most valuable asset. The time many invest into AR could be much better spent IMO with other business generating activities. But to each there own.

  17. Joseph Ferrara.sellsius

    May 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    One’s energy should be directed to a place (or places) which will produce “results desired by the individual”. AR may be a place for an education or advice (which may help one become a better agent) or improving communication skills (the massive commenting may, in fact, hone one’s communication/writing skills– useful since realtors are in the people business– maybe one learns how easy it is to piss someone off by choosing the wrong words) or networking (referrals are nice). So AR has its place for those who find they get these, or other results, there. Maybe one interacts in a real estate forum for similar reasons.

    But….since I am also a big believer in building one’s own brand, I advise folks not to put AR above their own blogs– rather use AR to establish a presence there and drive traffic to their blog or website. AR is a tool but it should not be your workshop.

    BTW, Jim, you are always right in my book 🙂

  18. Rich Jacobson

    May 14, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    “AR is a tool but it should not be your workshop.” ….well said

  19. Jennifer in Louisville

    May 15, 2008 at 7:44 am

    In my opinion, it boils down to this: You can either create stuff that YOU own & control, or that someone else owns & controls. If you are going to be the “once every month or two” type of blogger, you need the exposure that a larger more established site can bring like AR. If however you are going to get more active and serious about it, then stepping up and creating your own site is the way to go.

    Besides, I get too nervous about what POTENTIALLY can happen with sites like AR. The rules with how they function today, can get changed immediately without warning – particularly if someone else buys a large stake within the organization. Too much risk IMO.

  20. Bill Austin

    June 29, 2008 at 9:17 am

    You make some excellent points Jim. The most notable for me is the one about Feedburner.

    I can’t imagine going back to the days when all of that additional feed functionality was not available.

  21. Andrew Mooers

    May 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Have many outlets on line to market. Blog posts, more than one for your niche, target audience. Active Rain one great resource but you need multiple websites, video platforms, and to work the magic of linkage with SEO skills on all of them. It is not enough to be on the Internet these days. You need to have more than one of your sites coming up on a front page search engine index screen.

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