A friend has chickens


Posted in NZ Business | 1 Comment

Why are Harcourts not yet on Trade Me?

There’s a fun discussion happening over on the Unconditional Blog – which if you have not found it yet is well worth following. I commend Alister Helm for not only his writing, but also for balancing the real estate industry (and their archaic ways) and the dot com approach to things.

However Alistair write a post on Harcourts that was just a wee bit too fluffy for my sensibilities – so I asked the question “.. are these change leaders <Harcourts> even on Trade Me yet?” (I knew that they are not – and they are missing out on 600,000 browsers each month)

If you go to that post now then stop reading – I’ve just copied and pasted. Indeed join the conversation over on Alistairs blog raher than starting s new one here.

To his credit Alistair gave a comprehensive reply, but it does not fly with me.

1. Realestate.co.nz – the most comprehensive single property portal in NZ – 95% of all listings by real estate agents are featured, the site receives 370,000 unique browsers per month with over 120,000 of these from overseas. This single portal provides the most comprehensive source of real estate – test it on Google which is were the majority of real estate searches start – type in “property in …” on Google NZ.

2. Harcourts.co.nz – the number one company website with over 160,000 unique browsers per month, close to double the web traffic of any other company website.

3. Google adwords – the opportunity to promote property online with pinpoint accuracy and cost effective visitor traffic.

Harcourts have never used Trade me property for all of their listings, they are not alone. At this time realestate.co.nz would have over 20,000 more listings than trade me property. As well there are over 200,000 unique browsers a month who go to realestate.co.nz who do not visit trade me property. (these are all Nielsen Stats)

Harcourts judge that their clients properties would not be presented in the best manner on a website that focuses on second hand goods auctions after all do real estate agents in Australia or US use eBay? – certainly not. Harcourts have adopted this strategy and it has not effected their market share – their share is growing.

I would judge that Trade me is not the sole answer to advertising anything in NZ – just look at jobs, Seek is still the number 1 jobs website – some high value items like jobs and houses may not long term fit the image and profile of trade me – cars, beds, shoes, CD’s and mobile phone – certainly core for Trade me.

My reply was as follows:

Realestate.co.nz had 354,357 UB’s in April, of which 145,000 odd also went to Trade Me. Another 621,080 went to Trade Me and not to Realestate.co.nz.

Harcourts.co.nz had 161,891 UB’s in April, of which 83,500 also went to Trade Me. Another 679,945 went to Trade Me and not to Harcourts.

These are total traffic figures- I should have used domestic, but actually from memory the total numbers make realestate.co.nz look better. I would say though that the impact of those overseas browsers is pretty minimal – after all how many houses are sold each month to overseas buyers?

While UB’s are over-counted (e.g. I have multiple browsers and computers so count many times) this is still a pretty compelling market that Harcourts misses out on. There must be more to it.

And there is – Realestate.co.nz is partially owned by Harcourts, and the Harcourts CEO is the chairman of Realestate.co.nz. Isn’t this a more likely reason for them not to list on Trade Me?

Almost every other real estate agency on Realestate.co.nz is on Trade Me. The last hold outs were/are the shareholders in Realestate.co.nz.

I have no problem with Harcourts holding out, but the reasons are clear, and they are not based on statistics but on ownership.

There are 365 Harcourts listings on Trade Me right now – placed, I understand, by individual agents. If I were a Harcourts agent I’d be pretty annoyed that 600,000 Kiwis were not able to view my listings, and I can understand why they would do an end-run behind the corporate policy.

Meanwhile Barfoot’s have over 2000 listings on Trade Me. Do we think that Harcourts are looking at Barfoot’s recent success in Auckland and wondering just how much of that relates to their presence on Trade Me? Remember that Trade Me attracts sellers, not just buyers.

Actually I’d love to see a chart of sales by agency versus number of listings that month on each of the sites. It would make interesting reading for the entire industry. I suspect you’d better be on both main sites to maximise your chances of a sale.

I do believe there is a place for both Trade Me and realestate.co.nz, but if Harcourts are really scathingly positioning Trade Me as a 2nd hand goods market then they show a very poor awareness of what exactly Trade Me is to Kiwis.

eBay is a poor cousin to Trade Me – they never figured out how to do Motors or Property, and certainly not Jobs. In Australia the market for cars is pretty fragmented, but is mainly on independent listing sites. Similarly the market for property is all over the place, without one dominant player (it varies by region and realestate.com.au is pretty good).

Not only are 40% odd of Trade Me’s items on sale new, but Trade Me is the marketplace for cars and bikes (due to poor online competition back in the day), getting close to the same for property (where realestate.co.nz is good competition), and still in progress for Jobs (where Seek was a very strong incumbent).

As an aside (and red herring) – what happens to the other 5% of real estate agent listings that are not on realestate.co.nz? Are they listed anywhere?

Disclosures: none – I have not worked for Trade Me for quite a while, and I know both Alistair from Realestate and Brendon from Trade Me Property, and they are both good guys.

Posted in Business, Internet Business, Trade Me | 5 Comments

Let there be light

A simple idea – cover a 55,000 sports stadium with solar panels, and use them to power (75% of) the lights. This is in Taiwan, ready for the World Games, and, more importantly, Rugby sevens.

When there is no match then the power is fed into the grid – to the tune of 1.14 Gigiwatt hours per year. New Zealand uses about 42,000 GWh per year, so it isn’t a huge amount of electricity – but it is wonderfully sustainable. (I guess in wellington we could use windmills instead)

They built this with no recordable accidents – which is also a stunning achievement.

Plenty more photo goodness, and even a video, at deputy-dog and at the Worldgames09 site.

Posted in Business | Tagged , ,

Make it easy for me to leave you – unsubscribing

Like Rowan, I’ve been unsubscribing from a lot of list emails recently. Let’s see what we can learn from the process.

The Good

The best email subscriptions are easy to unsubscribe from – requiring a simple click from inside the email, which bounces to a web page with a confirmation message.

This is exemplary – at the bottom of each WSJ news alerts message is a one click “stop this now” link. (There is also another link where you can go to the website and manage all of your emails)

Next best is a return email to unsubscribe – something like this from the OECD.

Less good but still ok-ish are email lists that give you a unsubscribe link, direct you to a page and make you hit a confirm button on that page, sometimes answering a question while you are there. This is painful, but I guess you can spend a few more seconds to help them understand why you are leaving, and you don’t have to remember a login or password.

I had to laugh at this “why did you unsubscribe” pick-list from a sporadic email list that I signed up for some client research.
This drop down list actually made me feel a lot better about the particular organisation, even though I never read their spam. I’m guessing that the information they gather isn’t really  that valuable, but it is clear that the list owners understand the state of mind of people that have resorted to unsubscribing.

This is an important lesson – by the time you want to unsubscribe you are annoyed with the cumulative impact of all the messages, and therefore you don’t really like the senders. You are not happy, and want out.

It also means that email senders don’t want the customers anymore either. The recipients  are not reading, and if they are reading then they are not enjoying – so advertisers will get negative vibes.

Therefore it is important to do three things as an email sender:

  1. Make it really easy to unsubscribe, so messages will never annoy customers again
  2. Try, even, to make customers enjoy the process – so the last taste is a good one, and they will consider signing up again later or for something else now.
  3. Ask for feedback – so you learn and customers feel they have their say. Do make it optional though.

The Bad

The bad unsubscribe links aren’t what they advertise – they send you to the website, make you do something and then send a (one or more) “are you sure?” email, which is doubly annoying as you’ve just told them never to send me messages again.

The worst offenders are links that direct you back to the originating go to their site, require you login and then ‘manage your email options’.

This is simply unacceptable today. I’ll often be on a computer (e.g. the iPhone) where I don’t have my password for that site stored, or maybe I’m simply too lazy to go through the process so I won’t unsubscribe.

While some ’email marketers’ may want to keep expanding their email lists, I say “NO – you do not want me on your list”, and here’s why:

  1. The cumulative annoyance directed at your company will continue to build up until I am mad when ever I see your contemptable unstoppable spam
  2. I will desperately try to consign your crap to oblivion in my junk mailbox, and thereby never see any of your messages again. Your email list is vapour.
  3. I’ll get really mad and tell people about it, and maybe even blog about it…

So let’s name and shame, and I’ll direct this to a company that actually does know better: Trade Me, and specifically OldFriends.

The Old Friends emails have been getting spammier* and spammier, and I am getting really annoyed*, angry even at the spambot* that keeps sending them* – so I want to remove them.

*refer to above three points for linguistic context

However to remove myself from the OldFriends spambot requires a login:

OldFriends is not a site made for constant hanging out – so chances are that the login screen will draw a blank when it comes time to remember your details:

Of course we know the email address – it was just spammed – and so we can ask for yet another email to send you your password. Umm – no thanks – that is going to take too long.  (and I won’t mention the giant page-long “do you know these people” brick wall after you log in)

It’s the same with FindSomeone**

so I’ll keep getting spam from Findsomeone as well.

**(are you single, cute, smart, ridiculously weathly and have low standards? – get in touch :)

Trade Me can do it right though, as you’d expect.

Here’s how easy it is to unsubscribe from Mod’s Motors. First – click on the unsubscribe link in the email:

and that’s it – done.

Trade Me also make it trivial to sign up again for the email – which I quickly did.***

***I hope I never have to do this for real – Mod is leaving Trade Me but I trust that the appeal of 250,000 righteous readers will keep his classic quotes coming:

The thrill of fettling a neglected beast and turning it into a minter is special. Some people try to do this with the opposite sex and get disappointed when they fail.


So what have we learned?

  1. Make it easy to unsubscribe
  2. Make it easy to subscribe
  3. Make it fun

To me the best unsubscribe approach is:

  • a link that unsubscribes me instantly
  • lands me on a professional, branded and fun page
  • that thanks me, tells me I’m now unsubscribed and offers me an optional one to three question survey to fill out.

Which is just common sense.

Posted in Internet Business, Trade Me | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stuff – remove the TVNZ video on Bridget Saunders

I’d heard about the Close Up interview with Fairfax’s recently departed Sunday Star Times About Town gossip columnist Bridget Saunders. It looked like it was a bit of a hit-job.

The last place I would have thought to see it was on Fairfax owned Stuff. I found the link to the video from the homepage – just beneath the banner.

The video itself has a one line article attached – leading me to infer that this is just one of many pulled over from TVNZ:

I understand that Bridget has made a few people uncomfortable over the years, and I guess TVNZ relished the chance to do a bit of an ambush on her. Close Up asked her bluntly about plastic surgery (yes botox), whether she had slept with a married politician (no married man ever) and whether she was fired or chose to leave (she called the meeting). To her credit she answered all the questions, though it was clearly a difficult interview for her, and the editing room did her no favours at all.

I think it was a bit over the top by TVNZ, but I guess I can understand that they wanted ratings. However the interview was amateurish – confronting Bridget with unsubstantiated gossip instead of substantiated facts, and thatapproach backfired for me as it looked like TVNZ was trying to smear Bridget, and she came across as very human and open.

It wasn’t journalism though – it was a fishing expedition, and they came home with an empty bucket. For Bridget, well I guess that’s part of the game of being a gossip columnist – you get to take some licks as well as give them. Shame on you TVNZ though – you could have done a lot better.

But I feel strongly that Fairfax, through Stuff, overstepped the mark tonight by placing this online, and by linking to it from the front page.

Bridget is not only a former Fairfax writer, but Stuff itself publishes Bridget’s work in her About Town blog. You can still read the blog – with the last post  on 6 May – yet sadly there was no goodbye from Bridget.

I’m guessing (hoping) that the night editors at Stuff just grabbed the TVNZ videos and placed them on the site.The ‘article’ is just the video description. I’m hoping they didn’t realise that Bridget was in their shoes a week earlier.

The video even ends with a victory salutation to the new Queen of gossip – who works for rival APN’s NZHerald.

I have absolutely no idea about the circumstances surrounding Bridget’s departure and I’m not too clear on how you balance the news-worthiness of an item versus loyalty to your own contributors. I believe that publishing this was unintentional, but this is unacceptable to Bridget, and must raise questions amongst other Fairfax staff and contributors.

Whatever the cause, the effect of seeing this on Stuff must be pretty rough on Bridget, who could feel that Fairfax is disowning her with prejudice. That’s not a nice way to end a seven year relationship.

I feel for her. I did meet Bridget once or twice during my tenure at Fairfax and she was delightful. I wish her luck in her new venture – writing a book on bad sex.

Oh – and I think it would be wise for those with sharp knives to remember that being included in a gossip column is a minor inconvenience compared to a starring role in a book on bad sex.

Posted in fairfax | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Negative political tactics make you look dull

I admire democracy – after all the alternatives are much worse. I also believe that a robust ‘loyal’ opposition is a necessary part of a healthy democracy.

But it all falls apart when an opposition chooses vindictiveness and obstruction over constructive opposition and collaboration.

Two recent examples:

The US Republican party apparently plans to add 450 amendments to a climate change bill, in order to slow it’s progress down to a crawl. This is a climate change bill – a rather relevant piece of legislation for the entire world. So why not engage in a constructive debate and work out the best solution – rather than simply opposing it?

The second case is closer to home. NZ’s Labour party just used the same tactics to obstruct and delay the passage of the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) bill. If you happened to tune into parliament in the last few days it was a sad indictment of the system, and morever an appalling way to use the Maori language as Labour and colleagues used the language and resulting required translation to slow things down even more.

Sure Labour wants to get the bill to committee, but their petulant behaviour in this instance makes them lose face, and though they may crow about parliamentary victories, to this listener they just sounded like ignorant obstructionists.

And yes National didn’t do the ‘right thing’ by operating under urgency, and they could have accepted an offer for a fast committee pricess.

The parties have argued themselves into a corner on this one.

It’s particularly galling as clearly both sides clearly want a single Auckland council. They differ on the details, but the situation is exacerbated by the Mt Albert by-election and the adversarial tactics used by both sides.

So please – both sides – grow up and govern.

Posted in NZ Business | Tagged ,

eBay UK stacks it high and watches it fly

eBay have taken a leaf out of 1-day‘s playbook and have launched a Daily Deal on their UK website. The idea is simple – offer a compelling deal from the homepage, drive traffic to the site each day and sell the bargains by the thousands.

Meanwhile once you arrive at eBay.co.uk each day, why not check out the rest of the site – this should increase overall sales.

For once this is something that Trade Me could actually copy from eBay.

There are 3 key questions that remain to be resolved though.

  1. How do you select the products? They have to be real bargains from sellers that will deliver fast. It’s also an administrative burden to manually select those products, so it there some sort of auction each day for the space?
  2. How do you compensate Trade Me for the home page slot when  the margins are so tiny? The home page slot could be sold for cash, but Trade Me does clip the ticket on the increase sales of the bargain anyway. Do you offer lower fees to get the prices even lower?
  3. How do you manage the fallout from smaller sellers who compete (poorly) with the products on offer. This is especially bad if the front page sellers get a cut on fees, but bad even if their fees are standard and they pay a home page placement fee. This could even cannibalize entire categories as members wait for the deal rather than shopping.
Posted in auctions, Trade Me | Tagged