Syndication is NOT IDX nor is it VOW – By Saul Klein
This is a critical distinction. Syndication is NOT IDX. “Repetition is the mother of learning,” so let’s repeat that. Syndication is NOT IDX. They are different types of intended data distribution, each with its own set of “rules.”
People often get confused on this point because, at face value, the concepts appear to be very similar, and to the untrained, they seem identical. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Syndication is the term that has come to describe the distribution of listing information for the purpose of advertising, usually to multiple places on the Internet, with a “single point of entry” (the MLS). Today, syndication models are moving toward “Opt In,” which means your listings will not be distributed to any site, unless you select where you want the listing to appear, and allow the distribution of your listing (informed consent).
IDX is a way of displaying your competitor’s MLS listings on your website. It is a form of syndication (remember, syndication is merely distribution). Because it entails the advertising of a competitor’s listings on your website, permission is required of the listing broker, and IDX rules facilitate these permissions in a “blanket” way.
So, syndication is not IDX. Syndication focuses specifically on where you want to advertise your listings, whereas IDX focuses on an authorized participant’s ability to display (advertise) other broker’s listings (competitors) on their website.
Syndication is NOT IDX
IDX (Internet Data Exchange)
|Allows you to advertise your listing on online marketplace websites (these listing portals are not licensed brokerages). Typically there is no charge.||Allows agents/brokers to display the listings of others on their own website (these websites are owned by competing brokerages). Typically there is a charge for the IDX solution.|
|Bound by the terms and conditions of the Syndication Agreement.||Bound by the IDX Rules of the MLS.|
|You grant permission for a Syndication Partner to display your listings.||Other agents/brokers grant permission for you to display their listings.|
|The listing agent is the contact person and receives the leads.||The leads go to the site owner, regardless of who the listing agent is.|
When you post your listings to your local MLS, you often have the option of using IDX (Internet Data Exchange). This means you are giving permission to other members of your MLS to be able to display your listings on their sites. Every MLS has different rules about how the listing must be displayed (built around a set of NAR “Model Rules” in which some aspects are mandatory, and others left to local MLS discretion) and how the leads are handled, but you are more or less opting to give your direct competition the ability to advertise your listings and possibly gain leads by using them. This works both ways of course, but you generally don’t get the option to choose who can and cannot display your listings. Ask yourself: do you want your nearest competitor to advertise your listings? Do you want to advertise theirs?
In every jurisdiction that I know, one cannot advertise another broker’s listing without the consent of the listing broker. IDX facilitates this process by allowing brokers to grant blanket permission rather than have to obtain consent on a listing by listing basis. IDX is broker to broker advertising and is reciprocal (as a matter of fact, it was first known as Broker Reciprocity). Syndication –the term as used in the industry today– is distribution to non-licensed publishing entities such as property search sites.
IDX is an agreement the broker or agent makes with the MLS, allowing you to leverage the listings of others as a means of attracting more consumer eyeballs to your site. Keep in mind that this also allows others to benefit from your listings. If you opt in to use IDX, you are sharing all of your listings (except those the seller does not want displayed). If you don’t opt in, you are sharing none and won’t be able to display other broker listings. IDX is all or nothing.
The main difference is that with syndication, you are sending out, or distributing, your own listings to as many publishing channels as you choose. You aren’t displaying the listings of others on your website like you do with IDX. You are just getting your listings more traction by displaying them on many different sites across the web, at no charge and no extra effort on your part assuming the listing feed is generated by your Multiple Listing Service (MLS) under an arrangement with an approved syndicator.
The other main differentiator is that (in most cases) syndication services will let you pick and choose which of your listings are syndicated to which sites, at multiple levels within the listing ownership and management chain. The MLS is typically at the top of the chain, then the brokers, who can opt to not allow agents to syndicate to a particular site. The agents can then exercise further control, based on their own and their seller’s decisions. Ideally, this is an option right down to the listing level. You can decide to not show a specific listing on a specific site, while showing the rest of your listings on the same site. It is not “all or nothing” as it is with IDX.
With syndication YOU are given the control. Controlled Syndication is all about choice and control. As opposed to blanket syndication, controlled syndication (also known as strategic syndication) refers to the use of a syndication engine in which the user controls where and under what conditions the listing is distributed to advertising channels.
Now, how are Virtual Office Websites (VOWs) different?
IDX is a way of advertising and marketing listings. VOWs, on the other hand, are a way of doing business over the Internet by providing useful information to a customer or client. It’s a question of Information vs. Advertising.
A VOW allows the display of all listings (except if seller refuses). No broker permission is required; i.e.,the opt-in/opt-out procedures with IDX do not apply to VOWs. Unlike an IDX that displays only a subset of data, a VOW will display all non-confidential listing data, including SOLD data (except in non-disclosure states like Texas, Utah, Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico).
A VOW requires the visitor to register and provide an email address. A Participant may provide brokerage services via a VOW, but only to clients and consumers (“Registrants”) with whom the Participant has first established a lawful consumer-broker relationship in compliance with state law disclosures. Visitors to an IDX site do not have to register to gain access to the listings.