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Jun 19 / Nick Teel

zPro: Fresh cheese for the mousetrap!

Zillow’s head of “Partner Relations,” Bob Bemis, sent an email to brokers last week, urging them to “commit to sending Zillow a direct MLS-sourced data feed including agent photos and contact information.”

At least indirectly, the email acknowledged some key broker complaints about Zillow, such as how the site biases its listings to steer consumers toward advertisers rather than listing agents, and how its listings data is frequently outdated and stale.

According to Bemis, this “beta” program (called zPro) is evidence that Zillow has listened to brokers’ grievances, wants to try to address some of them, and is “ready to make this work.”

Well, wait just a minute.  Reading between the lines in Zillow’s latest PR barrage, I had to stop and ask, What is really NEW here?   And the answer is, not much.

Imagine if a website published inaccurate information about a celebrity’s personal life.  But instead of apologizing, taking down the information and adopting controls to stop such errors from happening again, the website demanded a firsthand interview digging for even more personal details about the celebrity.

Would you call that blackmail?

If anything,  zPro sounds like an backhanded effort by the mammoth listings aggregator, which thus far has shown little interest in assisting brokers, to get its hands directly on an even bigger slice of valuable broker data.  Data that would provide fresh cheese for the mousetrap Zillow has set to catch lead-hungry agents in its CRM program.

In taking listings data from syndicators, Zillow is restricted in how it can use that data.  But, if it can find a way to go around the syndication middlemen and convince brokers to just turn over all their data, Zillow will be able to leverage various broker information such as agent contact info in order hook them on services such as its CRM program.

So is zPro just a Trojan horse to get inside the brokerage tent?  Is it Zillow’s strategy about trying to appear like it’s making nice to brokers while it further undermines brokers’ value to their agent network?  That’s sure what it looks like to me.