The Northeast Florida Multiple Listing Service is the newest member of the MLS Domains Association, a nonprofit company formed in March to create and manage a new "generic" top-level Internet domain: .MLS.
ONLINE archaeology can yield surprising results. When John Kelly of Morningside Analytics, a market-research firm, recently pored over data from websites in Indonesia he discovered a “vast field of dead blogs”. Numbering several thousand, they had not been updated since May 2009. Like hastily abandoned cities, they mark the arrival of the Indonesian version of Facebook, the online social network.
Such swathes of digital desert are still rare in the blogosphere. And they should certainly not be taken as evidence that it has started to die. But signs are multiplying that the rate of growth of blogs has slowed in many parts of the world. In some countries growth has even stalled.
Blogs are a confection of several things that do not necessarily have to go together: easy-to-use publishing tools, reverse-chronological ordering, a breezy writing style and the ability to comment. But for maintaining an online journal or sharing links and photos with friends, services such as Facebook and Twitter (which broadcasts short messages) are quicker and simpler.
Charting the impact of these newcomers is difficult. Solid data about the blogosphere are hard to come by. Such signs as there are, however, all point in the same direction. Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook’s traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter’s by 47%. Growth in advertisements is slowing, too. Blogads, which sells them, says media buyers’ inquiries increased nearly tenfold between 2004 and 2008, but have grown by only 17% since then. Search engines show declining interest, too.
People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs’ monopoly. Even newer entrants such as Tumblr have offered sharp new competition, in particular for handling personal observations and quick exchanges. Facebook, despite its recent privacy missteps, offers better controls to keep the personal private. Twitter limits all communication to 140 characters and works nicely on a mobile phone.
A good example of the shift is Iran. Thanks to the early translation into Persian of a popular blogging tool (and crowds of journalists who lacked an outlet after their papers were shut down), Iran had tens of thousands of blogs by 2009. Many were shut down, and their authors jailed, after the crackdown that followed the election in June of that year. But another reason for the dwindling number of blogs written by dissidents is that the opposition Green Movement is now on Facebook, says Hamid Tehrani, the Brussels-based Iran editor for Global Voices, a blog news site. Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the movement’s leaders, has 128,000 Facebook followers. Facebook, explains Mr Tehrani, is a more efficient way to reach people.
The future for blogs may be special-interest publishing. Mr Kelly’s research shows that blogs tend to be linked within languages and countries, with each language-group in turn containing smaller pockets of densely linked sites. These pockets form around public subjects: politics, law, economics and knowledge professions. Even narrower specialisations emerge around more personal topics that benefit from public advice. Germany has a cluster for children’s crafts; France, for food; Sweden, for painting your house.
Such specialist cybersilos may work for now, but are bound to evolve further. Deutsche Blogcharts says the number of links between German blogs dropped last year, with posts becoming longer. Where will that end? Perhaps in a single, hugely long blog posting about the death of blogs.
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Google Reveals Top Real Estate Sites
June 1, 2010 by Alice Allan
Google has just released a list of the 1,000 most visited websites on the Internet, and the highest-ranked website in the real estate category is China’s soufun.com.
Overall, soufun.com came in at number 141 on the list, which is based on unique visitor numbers as measured by Google Ad Planner. soufun.com had 18,000,000 unique visitors, a reach of 1.2 percent, and 250,000,000 page views for the month of April 2010.
Google has classified a number of other websites in the “real estate” and “rentals and referrals” categories, including China’s koubei.com, which came in at 398th place, and the Ukraine’s yandex.ua in 698th place. However, the two websites focused specifically on real estate to make the list are both from the US.
realtor.com came in at 786th place, with 5,100,000 unique visitors, 0.3 percent reach, and 340,000,000 page views. In 934th place was zillow.com with 4,200,000 unique visitors, 0.3 percent reach, and 310,000,000 page views.
The number one website on the list was facebook.com with 540,000,000 unique visitors and a reach of 35.2 percent. Google says the list excludes adult sites, ad networks, domains that don’t have publicly visible content or don’t load properly, and certain Google sites.
- Google Reveals Real Estate “Vision”
Since Google first began adding real estate listings to Google Maps in mid-2009, the world of online real estate has been monitoring the company's every move. Each upgrade brought more speculation on how Google was planning to change things for property portals, real estate agents, and property hunters. Now, we have a clearer idea of where Google is headed....
- Real Estate Added to Google Maps – What it Means for Australian Property Portals
In Australia and the US, Google has added properties for sale to its mapping site – maps.google.com. Users of Google Maps are now able to see a selection of homes for sale and rent plotted on the maps. These homes for sale seem to be sourced from Google Base – Google’s classifieds engine. It is free for anyone to upload a listing and this can be done through an online interface or through an XML data feed. The inclusion of property listings from Google Base onto Google Maps has some parts of the Australia real estate world abuzz with thoughts of the end of market leaders’ realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. However, while this launch is new and innovative in the Australian market, a lot has to fall in place before realestate.com.au and domain.com.au are truly affected by the “entry” of Google into the Australian real estate advertising scene....
- Google Real Estate in Europe – What is All the Fuss About? Lessons from Australia
The news yesterday that Google was “entering” the UK/European market sent the share prices of Rightmove and Seloger into a tailspin. The Seloger share price closed down 5.7% at €23.50 while the Rightmove share price was hammered a whopping 10.3% to 499.9p. So let’s look at what happened. An article by the Financial Times (Dec 2 titled “Google set to enter UK property market”) seems to have set the cat amongst the pigeons. The article stated that Google is in talks with British estate agents and that “experts” say that an entry by them to the market could pose a serious threat to existing property websites. The article didn’t talk about what Google was going to do and Google didn’t comment. So there is really not much to go on. So the only guide we really have as to what Google may do in the UK and Europe is what they have done in Australia. Did Google really have that much impact on the Australian market?...
- The Challenges for Google Real Estate
The launch of Google Real Estate search on Google Maps in Australia, the US and New Zealand has shaken the property portal world. It is expected that Google Real Estate will make an appearance in the UK and German markets shortly. Last week we published our initial thoughts on what the launch of Google Real Estate will mean for the existing portal sites in Australia. These thoughts are equally applicable for portal sites around the world. Having followed the debate about Google Real Estate and its potential impact on portal sites, we thought it would be good to outline what we believe has to fall into place for Google to truly impact the property portal market leaders around the world....
- Google Rumoured to be Hiring Online Real Estate Sales People
Rumours emanating out of Sydney today indicate that Google is aggressively looking to hire a field sales team to target the Sydney real estate market. Sources said that Google had approached a number of sales people from domain.com.au in an effort to hire them as field sales people for the Google real estate initiative. Sources also believed that Google may be initially targeting the Inner West region of Sydney. If these rumours are true, is Google entering the traditional online classifieds space with a traditional online classifieds model?...
How to Save the News
Plummeting newspaper circulation, disappearing classified ads, “unbundling” of content—the list of what’s killing journalism is long. But high on that list, many would say, is Google, the biggest unbundler of them all. Now, having helped break the news business, the company wants to fix it—for commercial as well as civic reasons: if news organizations stop producing great journalism, says one Google executive, the search engine will no longer have interesting content to link to. So some of the smartest minds at the company are thinking about this, and working with publishers, and peering ahead to see what the future of journalism looks like. Guess what? It’s bright.
Photos by Robyn Twomey/Redux (Above: Hal Varian, Google's chief economist)
From "How to Save the News" By James Fallows
An incredibly provocative article about Google's apparent intent to move into the news industry, in an attempt to incentivize, rather than stifle content creation.
By DAWN WOTAPKA
At least three major Manhattan landlords have decided to stop paying broker's fees on some rental properties, signaling that many tenants need to brace themselves for extra expenses when apartment shopping.
This is a shift from last year, when landlords—desperate to fill empty units—would cover the broker's fee, typically a month's rent.
But with demand for rentals rising and vacancy rates falling, some of the city's biggest landlords have notified brokers that they will no longer pick up the fee. That, of course, means renters must pay up.
"The pendulum is swinging back to a landlord's market," said Gary Malin, president of brokerage Citi Habitats. "Owners are going to do what's in their power to stop overpaying, in their eyes, to attract clientele."
In a recent email, Ogden CAP Properties LLC said it won't pay fees at several properties, including Normandie Court on East 95th Street and One Lincoln Plaza on West 64th Street. It declined to comment.
Pan Am Equities Inc., another large apartment owner, intends to stop paying the fee on June 1, according to brokers. Pan Am declined to comment.
The rental unit of Related Cos., which has about 5,000 units across Manhattan, will stop paying the fee May 31. "There has been a serious uptick in the market. We have seen across-the-board a strengthening in the marketplace," said Daria Salusbury, a Related senior vice president. Related's vacancy of less than 1%—down from about 3.5% a year ago—"is better than projected," she said.
Vacancies are low across Manhattan, which is in its peak leasing season.
April's rate came in at 1.23%, the lowest since June 2008, according to Citi Habitats. That was down from 1.38% in March and 2.28% a year ago. The average rent for studios and one-bedrooms – which make up most local rental stock – rose 2% from March to $1,799 and $2,390, respectively. Studio rents haven't been this high since December, 2008. Two bedrooms saw a slight rise to $3,299, from $3,289. Related is modestly increasing monthly rent in Chelsea and downtown, Ms. Salusbury said.
AvalonBay Communities Inc. in most cases is no longer paying the fee for leases in its seven New York City communities—including four in Manhattan.
The company, with 6,900 apartments in New York and New Jersey, says the Big Apple's improvement is being felt in suburban markets: Many of its communities in New Jersey, Westchester County and Long Island, typically not big broker fee markets, have seen rental increases in recent months.
"Regionwide, market conditions have improved over a year ago," said John Christie, senior director of investor relations and research.
To be sure, some local landlords continue to cough up the fee. The LeFrak Organization, which owns about 2,500 Manhattan rentals, pays the broker fee in buildings with several units available or with larger apartments, which rent for more and can take longer to fill.
Still, LeFrak's occupancy is about 99% currently, meaning it's unlikely to have to pay out much in broker fees.
"The fee is something that comes and goes based on supply and demand," said Jamie LeFrak, a company principal. "If it makes reasonable sense to pay brokerage commissions, we'd always prefer not to cut out the broker. Keep the brokers happy because that's who brings you customers."
Not surprisingly there's some consumer resistance to renters having to pay the broker fee. Some prospective tenants won't look at properties if they are responsible for the fee.
Write to Dawn Wotapka at email@example.com