Interview with Jonathan Miller of Matrix

[photopress:jonathanm.jpg,thumb,alignright]Jonathan Miller is definitely one of the hottest real estate bloggers around. With a constant flow of interesting insights, Matrix has quickly gained a national following. For me, he personifies the image of a blogger who is able to demonstrate their expertise through blogging.

What inspired you to start blogging?

Actually, it was podcasting. I got excited about podcasting last year and toyed with the idea of starting my own weekly podcast. Early podcasts like Slacker Astronomy, Evil Genius Chronicles and Rock and Roll Geek Show (before commercial media entered the arena) showed me that given enough passion toward your craft, the average person can develop a following without a whole lot of funding. That’s democracy in action. I still listen to various podcasts everyday and very little radio. With a wife and 4 kids and a business, the whole idea of time slicing is very appealing to me. However, when I sat down to actually do it, I realized this would not be a practical venue to deliver information to my clients and the public on a regular basis. I wanted a more spontaneous medium and I love to write. All the while I had been reading a few blogs up until that point, but I hadn’t considered doing my own blog. At the point I realized that running a blog was the way to go. In fact, I run two. Matrix which covers the national real estate economy and Soapbox which covers the real estate appraisal industry. On Soapbox, I have two appraisers who contribute some posts every week (not unlike RCG).

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

Lately its been real estate jargon – the communication of real estate information. For such a big investment, communication is not really standardized and its pretty low-brow. Basic terminology, broker speak, media characterizations of the market, etc. Its all fair game. Prior to that, I was all jacked up about the stats that we rely on from NAR, OFHEO and the Commerce Dept.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Well, for one thing, I insert my own personal experiences as they relate to the post to let the reader know the level of my familiarity with the topic. I took the photo on the masthead of the post and I try to use my own photos as much as possible. Myself and my firm collect photos of New York and put some of them in our photo gallery on our company web site. One other thing that I enjoy and helps personalize Matrix is the title of each post. To be contrarian, I make them long and show contrast with a little sarcasm. Its the highlight of each post for me and the last step.

Do you have any favorite posts?

Definitely. My favorite post was done as a result of the release of my 3rd quarter market report which was covered in the front page of the NY Times. That story was largely credited with signifying the change in the market from frenzy to stable (so I am told). I was so inundated with calls for several days from government agencies, Wall Street investment banks, lenders, appraisers, real estate brokerage owners that I wrote this post so I didn’t have to say the same things over and over. The surge in traffic was an amazing. Manhattan After The Hoopla Over A 12.7% Drop: What Really Happened In 3Q 05? A number of brokerage firms printed the post out and distributed it to their brokers to help them answer questions about the market and Big media linked to it. Very gratifying.

What are some of your favorite blogs (real estate or otherwise)?

There are simply too many real estate blogs to name all of them here. I check in with about 100 blogs every morning using Of course, RCG has become a daily read. Curbed gets special mention because they have been very supportive from the very beginning and opened my eyes as to how creative you can be in the delivery of real estate information. I write a weekly post for them called Three Cents Worth which has been a lot of fun. For New York stuff, I like the Gothamist for general NY activities, The Real Deal for NY Real Estate News and Property Grunt for his insight. For bubble sites, I like Housing Panic, Housing Bubble and Northern NJ Housing Bubble. For Big Media, I enjoy The Walk-Through (NYT) and Businessweek’s Hot Properties. For financial/business/markets I like Big Picture (amazing volume of content), The Stalwart (very sharp insight), Daniel Gross’ moneyblog (always great content), underthecounter (for perspectives on the financial markets), Calculated Risk (the best charts on the internet). For humor I like: Dave Barry (The king of short but hysterical posts) and the Dilbert Blog (amazing volume of content and insight). For marketing I like Seth Godin’s blog and Guy Kawasaki’s – full of common sense insights.

What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

Nothing in particular. My developer took care of setting the sites up in WordPress and I requested certain tweaks to the features.

How does blogging fit into the overall marketing of your business?

It fits very well as far as indirect marketing goes. It extends the reach of my expertise which then benefits both my residential and commercial valuation forms. But honestly, that is a fringe benefit. I just like the idea of being able to share my ideas on a topic I never grow tired of.

What plans do you have to improve your blog over this next year?

On the technology side, I plan to upgrade to the new version of WordPress which will add more admin controls. On the user side, probably more user interaction, but I am not sure yet. I suspect most changes will come on impulse rather than some type of strategic plan – that’s the fun of it. Its really all about the content though – fresh insight rather than regurgitating what’s already out there..

What is the one tool or feature that you wish your site had?

I’ll know it when I see it. I think I am set for now.

What do you think real estate blogging will look like 3 years from now?

I imagine there will be a crash and burn of a large number of sites as their owners lose interest or market conditions change. They will be replaced by a slew of new sites. I can see how many webmasters make it their life’s work for a short period of time and then lose interest. For example, whether or not there is a housing bubble that bursts, I can’t see bubble blogs leading the way 3-4 years from now. It will be old news. New real estate topics or causes will take their place. Thats the beauty of blogging. There is virtually no startup costs other than time, so the response to various issues can be immediate.

3 thoughts on “Interview with Jonathan Miller of Matrix

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