Interview with Marlow Harris of the 360 Digest

I feel very lucky that for my final interview of the season, one of my favorite bloggers in the world has agreed to answer my questions. One of my Seattle real estate blogging failures has been that I’ve never managed to convince her to start blogging on Rain City Guide and instead she’s gone off and done wonderful things on many other blog platforms. 🙂

What inspired you to start blogging?

I have several websites, including SeattleDreamHomes and SeattleNeighborhoodGuide, but I was unable to have a conversation there so I began the blog 360Digest which has since morphed into a personal and real estate-oriented blog. I’ve also created another site, Unusual Life, where I’m having fun sharing information about unusual homes and architecture and selling books that interest me via Amazon.

I also contribute to several other blogs, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Real Estate Professionals and Inman News and a few others like Realty Blogging and My House Key.

I have actually started and discontinued at least a half-dozen other sites over the years, adding and taking away those that didn’t work or that were ineffective. Expect a culling of these sites too, over 2007. This is still a relatively young field, so some editing and natural selection is inevitable.

I think we’re all watching to see where this new medium will take us.

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

Well, I like to be around and work with creative people. Therefore, I enjoy writing about creative people, their homes and creative approaches to real estate, art and popular culture. You can’t really write about your listings, that’s boring. And there aren’t that many “stars” in real estate. You’re left with dry prognostications or dull mathematical calculations. Or you can try to make connections between real estate and other endeavors. For me, that’s art and popular culture. My favorite magazine is Juxtapoz and the word “juxtapose” sums up what I like about making connections between the relationships of art, real estate and popular culture. It’s the intersections, random connections and juxtapositions that I find the most fascinating. One’s home is often a reflection of self, ones values and desires, and I love to see the choices people make.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

I write like you and I were sitting in the same room having a chat. I write about things that interest me. And I hope it will interest others.

Do you have any favorite posts?

Well, I think it’s funny to try to see how often I can mention Elvis in conjunction with real estate. It’s just so stupid, a bad joke that’s got out of hand. It’s absurd and it makes me laugh.

And one post that’s on my mind this week was the time I was asked by a movie location scout to find a place to film the true story of the local guy who, uhmmm… uh… loved horses. The film just debuted at Sundance this week and the reviewers fell all over themselves praising the aesthetic v.s. salacious approach to the film. I love the local angle of the story, it’s bizarre, strange and perverse….. all the things I love.

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

Oh, you mean besides Rain City Guide (smile) and all of these? I like Grow-a-Brain, Boing Boing, Fark and Unique Daily.

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

There are very few people who have anything remotely interesting to say, let alone write. Perhaps everyone will be blogging and instead of a couple of dozen really good blogs, there will be tens of thousands of mediocre blogs out there that no one reads. (Actually, I think that’s already happened.)

I think for many writers, the blog is just a big energy suck and a huge waste of time.

It’s fine that blogging is getting all this attention, but I’m concerned about the predictions of the end of traditional journalism and newspapers. Not many bloggers are going to attend school board meetings, city council meetings, and other important (and, perhaps boring) community meetings and events. Without paid reporters, there could be a huge hole that unpaid bloggers will never begin to fill. We need paid reporters — who’s going to follow those political candidates around, attend labor meetings, and report on local and national news if newspapers cease to exist and paid journalists disappear? Volunteer bloggers cannot possibly fill the void left by newspaper and professional journalists and they both serve different purposes. Professional journalists at least strive to be impartial, even if they are not always successful.

Blogging is an interesting endeavor, but I think it’s important for bloggers to keep what they’re doing in perspective. It’s usually marketing or ego gratification. It’s rarely journalism.

Thanks again Marlow for the wonderful insights!

Lots more to pick up via osmosis from these real estate bloggers:

As this is my last interview of the season, I figure it is only fair that I let others know that my interview from last year where Andy Kaufman subjected me to the same questions is still live on his blog.

Interview with Mary McKnight of RSS Pieces

[photopress:mary_mcknight.jpg,full,alignright]As the online face of RSS Pieces, Mary has quickly become an influential member of the real estate blogging community by freely giving her expertise on many technical areas of real estate blogging. She’s fun, interesting, opinionated and intelligent… What more could we ask for?

What inspired you to start blogging?

I actually started blogging years ago on a number of fitness sites because it was a passion of mine and blogging was a way of connecting with other aficionados and sharing my experience and knowledge. That’s where I developed my unique voice and my strategy for driving traffic and penning posts that keep readers coming back. believe me, I crashed and burned many times when I first started blogging. Back then, there wasn’t a manual for how to do it- it was all trial and error. But over time, I came up with a formula that worked. So, when we entered the real estate market with a blogging product, I applied the same successful
formula I used for my fitness articles.

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

I love anything about emerging technologies so topics covering web 3.0, the semantic web, FAOF and SIOC are what I’m interested in covering now. But my roots are definitely tutorial posts. I like writing them and I love knowing that in some way I have helped Realtors to build their knowledge base so they have the tools to grow their business. I’m a big believer in giving people the tools to build their business regardless of which blogging product they use.

[photopress:rss_pieces.jpg,full,alignright]What have you done to personalize your blog?

I always try to use a conversational tone and talk to my readers rather than type at them. I hate to be lectured or read dry technical manuals (which I read a lot of), so I like to keep my posts fun and often campy. I also like to share little bits of my life in posts so readers can connect with me directly. I find that when people feel that they know you and can connect with you they are more likely to contact you or share themselves with you. I receive the most comments and emails from posts where I share bits of my life. Here is an article I wrote about humanizing your blog for intimacy.

Do you have any favorite posts?

By far my favorite post was the meme- I loved watching that virus spread throughout the industry and beyond.

I also have a special place for each post that I penned as a guest host on other blogs because I can’t believe anyone would trust me with their blog!

My favorite tutorial posts are:

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

Good question. A blog has to be stellar to make my feed reader and here
are the top 5 feeds in my reader from Real Estate and Other.

Real Estate:


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

The RSS Pieces system was built by the ground up by our own staff so all the tools we need for SEO and add-on functionality are already inside the system but here are some of my favorite development and free SEO tools:

Macromedia Homesite, Widexl, NUAH, iWebTool, Zen Studio, W3C, RSS Pieces SEO tools. We also are always looking at what the power bloggers are doing and what the industry thinks is on the horizon.

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

Blogging is an essential component of our marketing strategy since we are a blogging company. I think as a blogging company you have to prove that your system works by making it work for your own company. I hope that our little blog does show clients and prospective bloggers that you can build success with blogging in a fairly short period of time through strategic content, a little bit of home grown marketing, quality SEO and a lot of attitude.

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

  • Implementation of the semantic web in our blogging platform so each of our blogs will web 3.0 enabled
  • Drag and drop template configuration so users can rearrange the way their sites look without having to call the developers to recode them.
  • Better online image editing and gallery management in our editor
  • Better support for people using cell pones and PDAs

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

Better support for people using cell pones and PDAs.

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

I think the line between blogs and websites will be blurred so much that people won’t be able to tell the difference. Blogs will take on more traditional website features like listing searches and mortgage calculators. They will begin to replace their website counterparts. This is the direction in which RSS Pieces has been moving. Traditional blogs are pretty featureless by nature, more and more companies will begin to add features to their blogs so they can become their central on-line presence. Also, once FAOF and SIOC are in place, blogs, forums, aggregators and other social media sites will become more interconnected giving blogs a firmer foothold on the Internet as information resources.

I also think that natural selection will occur and as the blog population grows, weaker blogs will die off and the overall quality of the remaining blogs will increase.

Thanks, Mary, for taking the time to answer these questions!

Everyone else, feel free to leave a comment or peruse these other interviews with other influential real estate bloggers…

Interview with Kristal Kraft of the Denver Real Estate Blog

As some of you may already know Ardell and I have been playing on ActiveRain lately. My personal goal in taking part was to learn about the group dynamics and see how and why people are active on the site. [photopress:kristal_kraft.jpg,full,alignright]Interestingly, one of the things I decided to do was ask the group who was the most influential person on ActiveRain so that I could interview them on RCG.

The results were loud and clear in that Kristal Kraft is not only the point leader on ActiveRain, but the most influential person for many members of the site. I spent some time following Kristal’s posts and I found her to be consistently informative and interesting. Armed with that knowledge, I decided to ask Kristal a little bit about her blogging influences and experiences.

What inspired you to start blogging?

Blogging has been a natural progression for me; ten years ago I published my first real estate website. Then in the year 2000 I took a year off from work to travel around the world on a bike. That year I was biking and blogging (without a blog platform). At the time I thought of if as a travel/photo journal of my experience, the site Bike Tracks was written often times in a tent with a flashlight attached to my head. I would publish as soon as I could find a land line. OK, so it wasn’t really a blog, but I had a huge audience. In fact at one point in Africa I didn’t publish for a couple weeks. Everyone was in a panic worried I had been eaten by a lion or something awful! After that, they got used to my irregular postings. Funny how things work, I took my position seriously when I found out people were reading my site. Riding a bike 80 to 105 miles a day can get boring! There were times when the journey got very difficult, but my “responsibility to my audience

Interview with Drew Meyers of the Zillow Blog

[photopress:drewmeyers.jpg,full,alignright]Drew is one of the most frequent contributors on the Zillow Blog, which is considered to be one of the best corporate blogs around. I was fortunate to spend some time with Drew at the Blog Business Summit this past fall where I was also turned on to his personal blog where he takes on all types of technology issues. Drew has all the attributes of a great blogger… interesting, smart, opinionated… so I was particularly happy when he agreed to tell us about his blogging experiences.

What inspired you to start blogging?

We decided to start blogging at Zillow for a couple of reasons, well before the site even launched. We felt that blogging was, and still is, a powerful way to communicate. It allows us to talk to people; to give them insights into our site and the industry overall, while also gaining feedback directly from our users. Additionally, we believe in being transparent with our users (and the industry) and we try to do this by blogging about what is important and top of mind for the company. It’s real. It’s refreshing.

Personally, patience isn’t one of my strong traits (though I’m improving). Everyone who has worked in a software/web development environment probably knows that it takes time and man power to make an idea a reality. By blogging, I feel like I’m making an immediate impact to help build and strengthen Zillow’s brand one post at a time. Blogging is also a very creative way to express myself through writing.

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

There are a number of personalities amongst those of us who are regular contributors to the blog, all with preferences on topics we like to write about. This is great for our readers, as we like to believe that there is something of interest for everyone on any given week — it is one of the perks of having a group blog. As for me, there isn’t one specific topic that I like to cover. I have many interests and real estate is a very broad category, giving me freedom to write about a wide range of issues – if I HAD to choose one, I’d say the technology side of real estate.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Audiences increasingly want companies to provide some insight into the personalities behind a brand, a concept that blogging allows us to do. We encourage as many employees as possible to contribute. As you can see on our blog, there is a range of levels, departments and variety of topics that our contributors tackle. It can be our tech guys trying to explain the Safari issues, it can be our general counsel talking about the significance of the Craigslist ruling, it can be an intern pitching the widget he just created or Lloyd announcing that “we’re opening it up.” This range of contributors adds a dimension of personalization.

We’ve also recently added MyBlogLog’s “Recent Readers” widget to make it even more personal. We think this helps our readers connect with each other. We like the picture feature so much we are thinking about adding this to the site for our contributors in the near future.

Do you have any favorite posts?

There have been a ton of great posts since we first launched the blog in February. A few favorites that I have posted include:

  • Why Do You Blog? — Along with many others in the real estate industry, I have grown to really enjoy blogging. With this post I tried to get inside the heads of some of real estate’s most intriguing bloggers regarding why they are compelled to blog.
  • The Shire in Bend, OR — I really do like finding interesting or odd stories related to real estate that interests a wide audience. And seriously, I’m not including this just because it focuses on my uncle’s development — I would have written about the Shire even if the developer wasn’t a relative.
  • Seattle During a Windstorm — Zillow employees are down-to-earth people and sharing some personal stories is essential to building relationships with our users (even if those relationships are only virtual).

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

If you asked our blog team this question, each person would likely have very different answers (which again, makes us pretty unique). For me personally, my favorites include:

  • 3 Oceans – Kevin is an incredibly smart guy (our Blog Team even got to meet him while he was in Seattle) and likes to write about the technology side of real estate.
  • A VC – David Gibbons (Zillow Director of Customer Support) and I are both pretty avid readers of Fred Wilson’s blog focused primarily on the Web 2.0 space.
  • Scobleizer – What I really love about Robert Scoble is that he is REAL. He says what he thinks and doesn’t hide from any issue. He’s definitely a 1st mover in social media by revolutionizing corporate blogging while at Microsoft with his Naked Conversations book. His new company, Podtech, is an early front-runner in the podcasting and videocasting explosion.
  • Trizoko biz journal – This is an business blog that definitely has its own style. If you’re looking for some business advice mixed with a good chuckle, this one’s for you.
  • Guy Kawasaki – Guy is simply a fantastic communicator who always seems to write interesting stories.

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

I would say the team overall is the greatest tool. We tap into each other to bounce ideas around or to brainstorm new angles & then make them a reality through collaboration. We all have different news sources that we read regularly which mixes things up a bit. I’m a pretty big fan of regularly reading posts on Active Rain to find interesting perspectives on different topics within the industry.

Technology-wise, I do Technorati searches and have an RSS reader, both which help monitor the blogosphere to track industry blogs.

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

Very heavily. As many of you know, Zillow has not spent any money on traditional advertising. Yet, we’ve managed to attract between 3 and 4 million users a month strictly via PR and word of mouth efforts. That said, the Zillow Blog is our primary communication tool with the outside world and thus has been very important to us from a marketing standpoint.

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

In 2007, Zillow is planning to upgrade the site in a number of ways. The Zillow Blog team certainly has no shortage of ideas, but we always like to hear feedback as to what features would make our blog more interesting and engaging. Any ideas?Some features we are thinking about include:

  • Effectively surfacing recent comments and most popular posts
  • Author bios and photos
  • Burning feeds for each category of our blog
  • Giving the Zillow Blog team a better way to surface links we find interesting, but don’t have time to write a whole blog post about. Basically, a link-blog within the Zillow Blog structure.

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

We’d love to have a blog widget for the Zillow Blog that allows a reader to pull a Zestimate (via our API) right from the sidebar of the blog — hint, hint to the developer community. Between this and the features above, I would be a happy camper.

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

I see it being different in four key ways. 1.) Real estate blogs will add multimedia, both audio and video (video blogging will explode in the next 3 years), to become more interactive. Many realtors will probably have short overview videos detailing all the neighborhoods that they cover available on their blogs. 2.) I think that about half of the influential industry bloggers today will remain highly influential – the ones that don’t tire of the time required to blog. 3.) I predict neighborhood blogs will all but overtake local neighborhood newspapers in the vast majority of major cities as consumers continue to turn to online news sources. 4.) I certainly agree with Sellsius’ response to this question — that a blog will be attached to EVERY real estate web site.

Interview with Joel Burslem of the Future of Real Estate Marketing

[photopress:joel_crop.jpg,full,alignright]When I first started reading Joel’s blog last Spring, it was like reading the type of posts I wish I was writing… He was covering a huge swath of the real estate technology field every day and making me look lazy! Needless to say, I always enjoy his writing and I consider him to be today’s gatekeeper of real estate technology news.

In terms of real estate technology, if it doesn’t go through the Future of Real Estate Marketing, it probably doesn’t matter.

What inspired you to start blogging?

I’ve always enjoyed writing as a way for me to help get my thoughts together on a particular subject and I’ve had a personal blog in one shape or another for about four years now. My first blog in fact was simply a way for my wife and I to keep our friends and family informed of our travels throughout Asia.

I have worked in different marketing roles over the years, in several different industries, but real estate was a new challenge for me. I quickly realized I had a lot to get up to speed with and started doing a lot of research online, which meant stumbling across and reading some of the existing real estate blogs, including RCG.

Naturally, after a while, I felt compelled to jot down a lot of what I was thinking about and so The Future of Real Estate Marketing was born.

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

I find it fascinating reading about and reporting on how the Internet, social media and technology are changing the real estate business. I’ve always tried to steer clear of market analysis or commenting some of the more pressing structural changes facing the industry. I prefer to leave that to the experts.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

I’ve always tried to have my own voice be heard through my writing. That’s by far the most personal side of blogging for me. Also, I’m fairly selfish on the things I write on; I tend to focus only things that interest me. But because I come from the high tech/consumer marketing world, and not strictly a real estate background, I think that I bring a fairly unique perspective.

From a technical standpoint, I use WordPress 2.0 with a heavily modified Qwilm theme. I did all of the design myself. I don’t consider myself a web design guru, but I can muddle my way through HTML, PHP and CSS. I love WordPress’ extendibility and am constantly installing and playing with new plugins. You can expect to see the sidebars on my site change fairly frequently.

Do you have any favorite posts?

Not any in particular. But I do like to think really big picture at times. Those are the posts that I really enjoy sitting down and hammering out.

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

RCG of course. I’m not just pandering to the host either. Dustin was definitely a driving force in getting me to put my thoughts out there. His encouragement early on was what helped me stick with it too.

I love the Bloodhound, Greg’s prose constantly amazes me, even if it takes me a couple of times to read it and understand it. The guys at Sellsius do an amazing job of pounding out useful posts day in, day out. I’m especially excited about some of the newer voices on the scene; Mary at RSS Pieces and Pat at TransparentRE in particular.

Some others in my newsreader:

Required Daily Reading

Guilty Pleasures

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

I swear by Firefox and its extensions. I collect links and interesting articles with and compose my blog posts with the Performancing plugin. I usually have several tabs open at the same time and I never have to leave my browser.

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

I never saw blogging as a way to improve my business when I first started. I just started writing. It’s grown to a point over the last little while where it can support itself financially (advertising revenue covers my hosting costs now) and it’s definitely helped raise my own profile in the industry I guess, but I think I’d still keep writing even if no one was reading it.

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

Maybe another redesign? Who knows… I’ve always more or less done things on a whim with FoREM. I love the challenge of pulling something down and recreating it in an entirely new form. I’m not happy unless I’m constantly innovating. That’s led to a lot of sleepless nights.

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

Honestly I think there’s going to be a shakeout. People are dipping there toes in right now and I expect over the next 6-12 months we’ll see a big rush of Realtors trying out blogging. But I’m guessing most will quickly tire of it. Those who are still at it in 3 years time will be the ones who persevere and stick it out.

I also hope we’ll see a lot more netcasts/vlogs – right now there’s a real lack of decent real estate-related content outside of the written word.

Thank you Joel!

If you liked this interview, you may find some of these appealing:

Interview with Michael Simonsen of Altos Research

I first met Michael in person back at the Real Estate Connect conference in SF last summer and was immediately impressed.

[photopress:mike.jpg,thumb,alignright]The Altos Research blog has been rolling full-steam ahead with really solid analytical posts about changes in neighborhood value up and down the West Coast. At the same time, I could tell that his business running Altos Research must have been taking off because his widgets that track market value by neighborhoods were showing up all over the real estate blogosphere.

Needless to say, Michael’s posts just keep getting better and I’m extremely excited he agreed to this interview…

What inspired you to start blogging?

In mid-2005, the Altos Research platform was really kicking in for the first time. My co-founder, Jason, and I loved seeing the output of the analysis – geeking out on the data. The blog seemed like the best channel to start letting people know what we had. So in October 2005 we started. The process of blogging, it turns out, is crucial for me to actually figure out what we had and how people like to consume it.

[photopress:altos_logo.jpg,full,alignright]Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

Altos Research is all about analyzing real estate markets in real time. I think our blog is at it’s best when we identify and publish market information that no one else has.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Despite the fact that our blog is first and foremost a marketing channel to interact with our customers, the content is intensely personal.

There’s a fascinating disconnect between traditional corporate marketing and sales processes. Corporate marketing (or real estate marketing for that matter) is planned, structured, and homogeneous (read: stiff and impersonal). But everyone knows the adage that people buy from people they like. Sales is about personality. The blog is really the first time a marketing channel leverages personality. Many of my customers know me before they ever speak with me.

Do you have any favorite posts?

A couple months ago I did a quick post on our stats tracking flipped properties in a market (quick remodel and back on the market for more money.) I cited San Jose. The post got picked up in and some other heavy-traffic investment sites. We had huge (huge for us) traffic spikes.

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

I read Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed every day. I’m an unabashed Silicon Valley-phile. I love the ethos and dynamics of the technology startup/venture capital culture and Paul is like mainlining for that addiction.

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

I’m a huge fan of HitTail. More than any other analytics tools I’ve found, HitTail provides a clean, clear presentation of how people find you and guides thinking about what people want you to write about.

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

Blogging, believe it or not, is nearly 100% of our marketing to date. Our sales come either from our passionate clients recommending our services to their friends or from people who read the blog. We’ll augment our marketing with other techniques as we grow, but it’s hard to imagine any single approach more effective.

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

The biggest key for me is to post more. I tend to be a long-form poster: I try to find a topic, formulate a thesis for a post, construct the argument, get supporting images and links, edit, edit, edit. That process takes me several hours, when I’m thorough. I need to sleep less or something.

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

I wish the damn system of trackbacks or Technorati or something worked reliably. The effectiveness of these types of features is just plain random.

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

We’re still really, really early in real estate blogging. Real estate is a relationship business. You know how to build relationships off line. But the Internet is where 70% of people start the home search. The blog is the premier mechanism for building relationships over the Internet.

The good news is that the real estate blogosphere will never be overcrowded. It is self regulating. Many Realtors will never start because the evidence of lousy performance sticks around for ever. If you are a lousy networker off line, that’s ephemeral, no one ever knows. The fear of failure will keep this space open to those who are dedicated and enthusiastic. Rock on.

Thanks again to Michael for your insight!

Want more interviews? Try one of these on for size:

Interview with Rudy and Joe of the Sellsius Blog

In terms of real estate bloggers, Joe and Rudy are at the top of their game… Follow their blog for a little while and it becomes obvious that these are two guys who are committed to understanding, tracking and promoting the real estate blogosphere. I can’t be the only one to wonder if I’ll ever get a sneak peak at the money-making side of their operation (which was first announced on RCG in August 2005), but that is besides the point because this interview is about blogging and there is no doubt these guys have played a pivotal role in shaping the connections between real estate bloggers as it exists today!

What inspired you to start blogging?

We started blogging very early. As Silver Sponsors of the Inman Connect NYC in January 2006, we attended several conferences on blogging and caught the bug. We were readers of RCG, Matrix, Inman & Property Grunt. Property grunt & Inman gave us positive press and encouragement and you gave us life as vaporware 🙂 We never forgot it. This really inspired us. In the beginning it was easier, since we had no readership to answer to. We felt, heck, no one is reading us so let’s do what we want. So, in a sense we inspired each other. We decided early on we’d break some rules, go our own way and see what happens. We’re still learning.

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

We enjoy marketing , branding, advertising, technology and personal stories. Our business is promoting our members, helping them attract more clients and improving their bottom line. We are always looking for anything new and innovative that can help them.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Hopefully, our personality comes across in how we write, comment and choose our images. We try to interject humor and put the Sellsius° spin on a topic. We look for the exception to the rule and go against the grain when we feel it’s right. We stand up for the consumer’s right to informed choice, we advocate for professionals and want to improve the industry we love.

Do you have any favorite posts?

We love all our Zillow posts, especially Unzillowable, To Coin a Phrase and Mining The Elusive Unzillowable, where JF debates David G. We are also proud of the Bell Labs posts where we collaborated with Ryan Block of Engadget to save a piece of technology history. We felt like journalists covering a story. We liked Realtor’s Allan Dalton Calls Zillow Carnival Act because we got to create our best Selltoon°. We also like our promo pieces (Mary Kay Gallagher and Willie Williams). We did a Year’s Best Posts so you get an idea of what we liked. We like a lot of what we do because we’re having so much fun.

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

We try to keep up with everyone in the real estate blogos. We would not choose a favorite because at different times we follow different blogs. It depends on the topic discussed. Zillow posts always get JF’s attention. Copyblogger is a must read. We also like Lifehacker, Micro Persuasion, TechCrunch, PronetAdvertising. There are so many more. We still visit grow-a-brain and Joe likes some Russian sites. We find a lot of great writing & commenting on Active Rain.

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

Bloglines, tabbed browsing, the Wire Services, YouTube, Wikipedia (often better than Google), Firefox extensions like AIOS & Stumbleupon, Google’s Images, Alerts, & News. Fast Stone Capture for screenshots & resizing images is a MUST. Tiny URL, CoComment & Commentful are useful commenting tools.

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

The blog helps build the Sellsius° brand and we will use it to promote our membership. We are big believers in branding. We want the Sellsius° brand to represent trust, honesty, caring, knowledge and PASSION.

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

We can’t be too specific other than saying we are going to better promote others, including other bloggers. We will also partner with other bloggers for new ideas we have for the genre. We have already collaborated on a consumer facing blog called

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

We invented the Blog Surfer to help retrieve archived posts in a new way and increase page views. The blog surfer is a random remote control, a blog post stumbleupon. We would like it to be tag or category specific so you could surf only marketing posts, for example. Our page views skyrocketed with the surfer.
A tool I’d like to see is an automatic Table of Contents Creator where each post title would be sent to a categorized Table of Contents, with a corresponding link to the post. Blogs are like books and a Table of Contents is necessary. But keeping a Table of Contents up to date is cumbersome. If you visit our Table of Contents, it needs updating.

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

Blogs will be attached to every real estate website. Every blog will have advertising of some kind. That won’t even take 3 years, maybe only 1. More contributing writers. More hired writers. Payment gateways to transact business on the blog. Blogs will be more varied. Skype on every blog. Blogoholics galore.

Thank you both Joe and Rudy for indulging me in this great interview!

Want more? Here are some more interviews with other influential people within the real estate blogosphere:

Interview with The Greg Swann and his Pack of Bloodhounds

Last year around this time, I published a series of interviews with the real estate bloggers that most influenced me of which I was really proud because I learned a lot and it felt like it helped bring the real estate blogging community together in a new way… This year, I’d like to continue that tradition by publishing the same set of interview questions with a new set of influences. With that said…

Sit down, take a deep breath, and prepare for a wonderfully long and informative interview with the top-notch crew over at the Bloodhound Blog.


Q: What inspired you to start blogging?


  • Greg Swann: I’ve been writing all my life, but my goal in trying to start a workable real estate weblog was the same as other Realtors: I thought it would scare up business. We tried and failed with two other weblogs. We didn’t know what we were doing — in the sense of “linkation!” — but, by being overtly promotional in content, they were boring to me, anyway — contributing greatly to their failure. BloodhoundBlog works, at least for me, because it is fundamentally indifferent to the idea of milking the readership for leads. I’ve come to believe that a real estate weblog with a large, regular readership is a lousy way to generate leads, in any case, but I don’t care anyway. I want to write what I want to write, come what does.

    Rain City Guide has always been a guide for us, of course, but when I decided that we needed to become a group blog to get where we want to go, we pushed for coverage national in breadth. If our luck holds, we’re defining a new idea in real estate weblogging: Commentary by, for and about real estate professionals on a national level.

    I can’t speak for the other contributors, so, in bald-faced defiance of the form you have established for these interviews, I have invited them to speak for themselves. Five took up the challenge: Kris Berg, Brian Brady, Dan Green, Doug Quance and Russell Shaw. Many of them have their own weblogs, and the answers they might give you there could differ from their answers here. But I want to hear — and I thought your readers would be interested to hear — their thoughts on this real estate weblogging cabal we are building here.

  • Russell Shaw: I have been interested in blogging ever since I read the book, Blog, by Hugh Hewitt. It really got me to thinking about how mainstream media no longer controls what is “worthy” and what is not.

    What got me started was Greg was gracious enough to invite me.

  • Dan Green: I began blogging to educate my clients about home loans in a way that they’d never hear from major news outlets. Two years later, I remain true to my audience and I think about The Mortgage Reports like a TV channel. I joined BloodhoundBlog because it exposes my loyal readers to broader issues in real estate and financing as a whole that wouldn’t fit TMR’s “broadcast” menu. BloodhoundBlog is a different channel. My readers may not agree with everything that BloodhoundBlog’s bloggers write — I know I don’t! — but the site’s aim is to present a perspective that readers may not otherwise hear. In this way, BloodhoundBlog is very similar to The Mortgage Reports — the information is not meant to persuade for sales, it’s meant to educate for understanding. The affiliation was a no-brainer to me.
  • Doug Quance: I was getting ready to redo my website, and I felt that a blog format would allow me to get personal with my visitors. When Greg invited me to contribute to BloodhoundBlog, how could I refuse? That’s like the President asking you to serve your country — you can’t turn that down.
  • Kris Berg: My original motivation to begin blogging was slightly less than noble. It was my attempt to keep up with the Jones’. In my business, I have always tried to keep things fresh and innovative. In a business where competition is fierce, it is essential to constantly reevaluate and reinvent. I have seen too many agents with the potential for greatness deliver mediocre results because of their inability to distinguish themselves as leaders. When Greg tagged me from my own baby blog, I saw it as an opportunity to gain additional exposure and a wider audience.
  • Brian Brady: I wanted to write with the best of the best. I started reading Bloodhound about three months ago. I was impressed with the collaborative authorship. When I noticed that we wanted new authors, I decided to “test my mettle in Yankee Stadium.”

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


  • Russell Shaw: Yes. Making my fellow agents more successful. Helping them to navigate the real obstacles and also to recognize those that exist just because someone “created them.”
  • Brian Brady: My efforts are mostly aimed at Realtors about mortgage lending. I find that by educating them about how to do better business with lenders, I can make a contribution.

    I like to write about hard money loans because it is an under-served niche in my industry.

  • Doug Quance: I enjoy myth-busting the best. Most of the public gets bamboozled by what goes on in the real estate business.
  • Dan Green: Many Americans don’t care about European politics or Chinese monetary policy because they don’t make a connection between international news and their personal life. By contrast, I am fascinated by it. Economics is truly a global game and any event — no matter how small — can have drastic consequences on the lives of everyone in America. My favorite topics to cover are those that show the connection and help people to understand how something buried on page 18 in the front section of a newspaper can cause their retirement portfolio to gain (or lose) tremendous amounts of value.
  • Greg Swann: I like technology and the comical kind of hypocrisy. Although I work in residential real estate, I have a deep interest in certain kinds of innovation in commercial real estate development, and I may devote more attention to this in the future.
  • Kris Berg: Ironically, unlike Greg, I never particularly enjoyed writing — until now. It took me several months to find my voice, which finally happened the day I stopped blogging for business and began blogging for kicks. Somehow, my role has evolved into that of the resident humor columnist, the Real Estate Mom if you will. The most successful agents have a hard time separating their work and their life, and this is where I find the lion’s share of my inspiration. I have the most fun relating those silly, everyday events in my personal life back to the business of real estate, because it is all about people.

Q: What have you done to personalize your blog?


  • Greg Swann: There are two answers to that question. In terms of appearance, I took a theme designed by DL2Media and rewrote the Cascading Style Sheets to fit our look and feel. I can hold my own hand in PHP, so I was able to make the modifications I wanted without breaking anything. For example, our Frequent Contributors list runs out of a PHP program using the WordPress Users database. If I add a user, or change some detail, the change is reflected instantly on the web page.

    But taking the question the other way, when we added those Frequent Contributors, I went to some pains to remove my own (very) peculiar personality from the weblog. I built the weblog originally as a subdomain of, and there’s nothing I can do about that, by now. We’re too well known, too well linked. But I’ve done what I could to avoid giving our own brokerage an unfair advantage on the weblog. Six of our ten contributors are Realtors, and, if there is any lead-prospecting benefit to real estate weblogging, I want for us all to share in it.

    I own and, but I didn’t have the wits to buy when we started this weblog, last June. That domain is owned by a software company in Texas, and, had I known that at the time, I probably would have called the weblog something else. I may end up owning that domain in due course, and, if so, I will set it up to redirect to our current sub-domain. I’m already using, redirected, for our nascent podcasting overtures.

    The point of all this is, we’re big and getting bigger. My goal is to promote the people who have joined us as much as I might promote myself.

Q: Do you have any favorite posts?


  • Kris Berg: I am my own worst critic, and I am never totally pleased once I have hit the “publish” button. If I have to pick a favorite from my short time with the Bloodhound, it would be a post I did on Louis Vuitton and the French Revolution. The title words actually came out of my 14-year-old daughter’s mouth, and I was somehow about to relate it back to Zillow and real estate marketing. I absolutely love it when, as Jeff Brown once said, I can stick the landing.
  • Russell Shaw: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.
  • Brian Brady: I like Greg’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie stories because Willie and I share some similarities in background (I think) and ideology.

    Any Russell Shaw post is bound to attract the whackos; I like reading their aimless rants.

  • Greg Swann: My all-time favorite is Apprehending Realtor 2.0: Seven essential skills of the 21st century real estate agent… I can take both sides of that argument, but the long-run trend is in the direction I take in that post: If you are not moving up the technology tree — and fast — you are moving out of the personal-services real estate brokerage business.

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


  • Greg Swann: Totally unfair question: I have over 160 weblogs in my feed reader. From the, you can bet we like the weblog if we’ve recruited its author as a BloodhoundBlog contributor. There are people we can’t approach (such as RCG’s very talented talent pool), and some we love — such as vendors — who would compromise either us or their employers by working with us. By now, a significant part of my attention, in reading real estate weblogs, is devoted to recruitment.

    Away from the, I read a lot of weblogging blogs, marketing blogs, SEO blogs, Macintosh-fanatic blogs and techno-geek blogs in general. Lately, TechMeme gets a lot of my time, simply because it links to such interesting content.

  • Brian Brady: Active Rain Real Estate Network. I’ve developed online friendships and a reader following there. I love Freakonomics Blog because of the off-beat hypotheses they formulate to otherwise explained problems.
  • Doug Quance: BloodhoundBlog, of course… and I have many others, but I wouldn’t want to offend those who, because of brevity, wouldn’t make the list.
  • Dan Green: My non-real estate blog list includes a strange mix of PopSugar, Olson’s Observations, Sabernomics, and Copyblogger.
  • Kris Berg: At the risk of sounding gratuitous, Rain City Guide was the first blog I encountered that really made sense to me. Since then, I have discovered many, many others that seem to strike the same, often elusive balance of having local and national appeal, of being instructional and entertaining, and of speaking to industry professionals and consumers. My first stops each morning include Sellsius, The Real Estate Tomato, 360 Digest, 3 Oceans, Bawldguy Talking, The Phoenix Real Estate Guy, Real Central VA, RealEstateUndressed, Blue Roof, and (of course) The San Diego Home Blog, to name but a few. My feed reader includes about forty blogs at the moment, which is far fewer than for a lot of bloggers I know of, but barely manageable for me. I have been slumming over the holidays and currently have 433 feeds to catch up on.

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


  • Brian Brady: Reading other blog stories inspires some of my topics. Articles in “Broker” or “Mortgage Originator” magazines help to a lesser extent. Real life issues that face me everyday are fun to write about.
  • Kris Berg: I subscribe to Inman News, which I find essential. And, of course, a good feed reader is a must.
  • Russell Shaw: Google. 🙂
  • Doug Quance: Google… but I could always use more tools…
  • Greg Swann: I think like a programmer. I write in TextWrangler, the free version of BBEdit, a Mac-based programmer’s editor. I’ve been writing in versions of BBEdit since the betas of version 1.0, coming on twenty years. Tremendous search power, including GREP, so I can reformat just about anything in scratch time. This group interview is being put together from multiple email files. The end-product will be assembled, a file at a time, in TextWrangler.

    As a front-end to WordPress, I use Ecto, which allows for multiple accounts on multiple weblogs, with categories and Technorati tags implemented. A number of the BloodhoundBlog webloggers use Ecto.

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


  • Doug Quance: It hasn’t, yet… but I believe that the blog will be the preferred way that the public will determine how compatible a particular Realtor may be for them by reading their posts. You can learn a lot about someone by reading what they write.
  • Dan Green: BloodhoundBlog has a different audience from The Mortgage Reports so it has a different place in my broader marketing plan. BloodhoundBlog helps me gain “name recognition” in the real estate space. BloodhoundBlog fills a unique role in that even folks who disagree (or even dislike) the writers still come to visit just to leave comments. There is no other real estate blog that makes as big a footprint at this point in time.
  • Kris Berg: I have never seen blogging as a lead generator in the strictest sense. Any good marketing plan includes a wide variety of activities. In my case, it is unusual when a new client can tell me precisely where they got my name; it is the marketing effort in its entirety that was responsible. Blogging is but one component. What I have found to be most valuable personally is the knowledge I gain from being in touch with issues on a broader, national level and through exposure to varying perspectives among agents on these issues. Of course, improved search engine rankings don’t hurt.
  • Russell Shaw: I don’t believe that blogging has much of anything to do with me “getting business.” I don’t think the general public is reading BloodhoundBlog every day. Other agents and people in the industry are “the public” I write to and for.

    BloodhoundBlog has a much larger audience than I would ever have on my own. All of the technical aspects are handled by an expert, and, if I don’t post for three or four days, people coming to the site still always have something interesting to read.

  • Brian Brady: Blogging has become the “X” factor in my marketing plan. What started as a hobby has become the leading contributor to our loan production, either from direct response to a post or an indirect referral from the real estate blogging community at large. I commit no money but do commit 2-3 hours a day. I’m still figuring how to fit it into my 2007 marketing plan.
  • Greg Swann: Practically speaking, it doesn’t, but I don’t think that way. What we’re really up to is an idea I call The Third Career. Most of us came to real estate from something else, and, as we are wise, we know this is not our last stop in the world of work. My immediate goal for BloodhoundBlog is to make it the best-read, most-rewarding real estate weblog in the Further out, I want for our contributors to be so well known that they can pursue other opportunities: Public speaking, freelance writing, books, seminars, television shows, etc. I don’t know that we will attain this, necessarily, but the goal itself is definitely attainable: Witness Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

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


  • Greg Swann: We’ll be adding both audio and video podcasting, and we’ll be doing a lot more original reporting. We’ll add new writers as we find them or they find us. BloodhoundBlog has 334 Technorati links right now, which is nothing to sneeze at, but one of the things I want to do in the coming year is to swim our way upstream, to become the authoritative real estate resource for technology, political and general interest weblogs. Like RCG, we’re a given in blogrolls for new real estate weblogs. I want for us to be routinely blogrolled higher up the Technorati food chain.

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


  • Brian Brady: I don’t know… a live chat button? I think a live chat button would help a reader ask a question to an author. I think some readers are hesitant to post comments or questions because of the “Jim Rome” type environment that exists. That said, the “Jim Rome” environment is effective, though, and shouldn’t be replaced.

    The “sanctity of the confessional” sometimes inspires honesty.

  • Doug Quance: A killer mash-up page.
  • Russell Shaw: A list of killer post ideas. 🙂
  • Dan Green: Actually, I am happy that BloodhoundBlog has only a few features. There is a fine line between useful add-ons and gimmicks and I am happy that Greg Swann lives by one of the basic rules of technology: Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Junked-up Web sites remind me a lot of the Flashing Text Syndrome on Web sites circa 1997.
  • Greg Swann: I’d love to know how many RSS subscribers we have. Our on-site traffic is very impressive, but I’d like to know how many people are seeing us through their feed readers.
  • Kris Berg: Spell-checking — and a laugh track!

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


  • Dan Green: There will be distinct dichotomy in the blogging world and it won’t be limited to real estate blogging. One group will be defined by community-based blogging, complete with deep and engaging conversations about anything and everything; the other will be defined by presence and access to good information for readers. Both groups will feature high quality writing and that will benefit readers immensely. It’s the latter group, though, that is the most intriguing to me.

    Blog-For-You services such as Bring the Blog are removing the roadblocks to blogging and allowing non-technical (and time-crunched) salespeople to include blogging in their marketing plans. Even though their blogs are updated for them daily, these salespeople are adding to their blogs when they have something important to say — this may be once a day, once a week, or once a month. These blogging entries would otherwise have remained hidden from the world if not for Bring the Blog.

  • Russell Shaw: More and more real estate blogs will exist. There will still only be a select few that are actually being read by a wide audience. As more and more companies that sell blogs to agents come into existence more agents will “blog.” Most of the blogs available are not interesting to anybody, including the people who post on them. The exceptions are those writers who have something worthwhile to say and those who post relevant information (that others want).
  • Kris Berg: I said it a year ago, and I say it today. Blogging for the real estate agent will become as necessary as a website and, as in the case of agent websites, there will be some terrific, unique blogs with great appeal to the consumer and there will be many more canned, static blogs with little value. Blogging takes an extraordinary amount of time, energy, creativity and thought. The agents that choose the easy route, that hire others to do their writing and simply throw their checkbook at a template blogging platform with no customization, will find the exercise as effective in generating business and credibility as door-dropping notepads. I believe that those who make the effort, however, will find that they are more knowledgeable, better respected and more effective as agents. And they might just have a little fun along the way.
  • Doug Quance: It will be far more prevalent… perhaps 10-15% of the mainstream agents will have a blog — though far fewer will take the time to keep it current. Even then, so many agents write such boring drivel… and others use each post as if it were an advertisement.
  • Brian Brady: I think blogging will follow the MySpace popularity curve. That is, a HUGE increase in 12-18 months (as in exponentially increased readership to the 15th or 20th power) followed by a tapering off. I think we’ll have 10 times as many eyeballs on BloodhoundBlog in 3 year as we do now. That number should be consistent for years to come.
  • Greg Swann: It looks to me like there is going to be a strong trend toward local content this year, and, obviously, we intend to buck that trend entirely. Day-by-day, month-by-month, we’ll push more in the direction of an on-line magazine — original content presented in arresting prose. In three years, there may be zero, one or two real estate weblogs like BloodhoundBlog. The rest will be something different, I hesitate to guess what.

    I do think the webloggers’ ideal of transparency is at huge risk in the, not alone because too many of the people who will come on the scene in coming years will want to avoid the time commitment that good weblogging requires. To the extent that the gets flooded with for-pay or overly-promotional content, it will tend to self-destruct. Consumers may not always be able to tell a hawk from a handsaw — or a Bloodhound from a Bichon Frise — but they will never fail to spot — and switch away from — yet another commercial.

Thank you to all the Bloodhounds for this wonderfully informative interview! Once again, Greg, you’ve outdone yourself! Thanks again!

And if you can’t wait until tomorrow to read another interview, check out these posts from last year: