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Wall Street Journal busts Realtor.com embargo on iPad real estate search app

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Honoring press embargoes

In 2008, TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington articulated his frustration with public relations professionals, embargoes, and the failure of companies to actually penalize those in violation of press embargo agreements (press embargoes are typically issued by public relations companies or departments and are designed to assess if a story will be picked up and by whom. Written agreement typically takes place prior to agreed media approval to participate in closed presentations that the “news” will not be released until a time specified by the company releasing the statement or product). Arrington explains eloquently in his article that the failure of PR companies to actually enforce violations of the embargo agreements is frustrating, and that TechCrunch would no longer honor them. From a publisher’s perspective, I heard the message Arrington sent to read, if it’s not exclusive to us, it’s useless and a waste of our time. If you want an agreement, make it an exclusive. Whether or not he was bluffing didn’t matter, word traveled quickly.

Fast forward to April of 2009 where an alleged leak surfaced from the Wall Street Journal that they will no longer honor embargoes “without prior approval of a deputy managing editor,” said Nick Ragone. Kyle Austin of the Racepoint Group quotes an unnamed source at the WSJ, “We can still work on advanced stuff with a certain publication date in mind, but we can’t accept an embargo that ties our hands to a particular time, particularly one that isn’t exclusive.”

How AG handles press embargoes

We’re consistently asked to cover products, services, and launches and we are held to embargoes which we’re happy to honor, but we have a very simple clause within our agreement that essentially states that if any entity breaks the embargo or we find the product live and in the public domain, we will run the story. It only seems fair. PR companies and departments aren’t typically concerned with the manpower it takes to run down embargoes, so our claim to fame is that we only write about the releases we believe matter to our niche, and if the news is exclusive and we decline to publish, the PR person is told at the time of presentation, but the bottom line is that we honor our word.

This past week, AgentGenius (AGBeat) was contacted by Realtor.com to participate in a product preview call conducted by Errol Samuelson, Chief Revenue Officer and President of Realtor.com about their new iPad real estate search app in which the story was to be released no sooner than 6:35 AM EST on Tuesday, April 26th. This time was agreed to by all participants of the call in writing which included a who’s who of news organizations and to our knowledge, all have kept their word except for the Wall Street Journal who released the story at 4:47 PM PT on Monday April 25th via the WSJ’s All Things Digital website at significant risk of future exclusion to stories such as this one (or greater) where Realtor.com may foresee it as a leaky risk of competitive information. AGBeat was the first to find and report the breach to Realtor.com.

WSJ benefits from breaching embargo

What’s the problem? So what? The Wall Street Journal got a scoop and ran with it? No, the Wall Street Journal did not. They stole a story, they did no work, and they’re already profiting from it in terms of traffic and revenue as Google sees the Wall Street Journal as the original source of the story. AG contacted both the journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Tricia Duryee, as well as the communications department for Realtor.com for comment and neither have responded on the record, however, we were asked by Realtor.com to abide by the embargo and we have, but only because we had already agreed with the understanding that the app would go live in the iTunes store early so journalists could test the app. Realtor.com is a site advertiser at AGBeat, as is the Wall Street Journal but we have opted to terminate our agreements with the WSJ publication. Our position is simple- if we at AGBeat deem an entity to be unethical, we have a duty to our stakeholders (our readers) not to promote that product. It’s not the first time we’ve terminated or passed on a relationship we could not endorse, and we doubt it will be our last.

Like Arrington, we’re frustrated with embargo breakers, and a lack of any real teeth to the good faith agreements PR companies hold media to, but we believe keeping our word is above and beyond that issue. Punishment is likely better handled by exposing unethical behavior by media, bloggers, and the like, beginning in this case with the Wall Street Journal.

The other side of the coin

There is a flip side to the argument that the Wall Street Journal Editors are acting in an unethical manner as presented by the JagWire Group in an editorial on embargoes. They cite a senior lecturer at Boston University, “on the face of it, it sounds like someone is trying to control the news for their own agenda…I’m guessing that most editors would find this practice to be unsavory.”

To that end, we respond that media outlets should be up front and honest as journalists and simply say, “no, we do not honor any news embargo.” This is absolutely the only ethical response possible if asked to violate one’s own integrity. Not maybe, not yes but mean no, but absolutely no thank you.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. hermanchan.com

    April 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    how come realtor.com has not responded? do u think it is possible realtor.com at the last minute gave wsj the greenlight behind everyone's back?

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Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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