How Do You Define Value?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “value” as: 1: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged 2: the monetary worth of something: market price 3: relative worth, utility, or importance (a good value at the price).
I am a paid subscriber to a number of websites (e.g., ESPN.com, Scouts.com and Ducks Unlimited). All of these subscription services have employees who provide specialized content, tools, data, expertise and analysis that I find valuable. Where this differs from MLS subscribers paying to access the MLS is compensation. Not one of these services holds me to a professional standard or generates income for me. This makes the MLS service, and the data within, significantly more valuable and worthy of even greater protection. The MLS likewise provides specialized content, applications, support and business tools, but it also facilitates shared compensation between professionals whose livelihoods depend on the integrity of the information. If these services did not provide significant value, subscribers would not experience: 2. the monetary worth of something: market price.
In my eyes, Scout for SAFEMLS mitigates the revenue risk associated with people attempting to bypass license agreements, therefore subsidizing the service for those paying for the access. On countless occasions, Clareity Security has provided case studies demonstrating the success of Scout by capturing a portion of this “lost” revenue while also deterring and removing these “thieves.” Here is an excerpt from Clareity’s most recent case study:
Many of our customers have applied Clareity Security’s suggested best practices for the Scout service (and others that we reviewed are now implementing said practices). A recent review of twelve Clareity Security customers showed sharing decreased by almost 18%, unauthorized users decreased over 22%, and active accounts increased by almost 2%. This increase may seem modest but during the same timeframe membership in the National Association of REALTORS® has dropped 1.75%. It is obvious that these numbers would greatly impact any MLS organization both from a revenue opportunity and a cost of operation perspective. A shared account will not only cause revenue deprivation but also adds to the cost of providing service to your paying members. Not to mention your data being compromised by unauthorized users who are not bound by the standards of your Terms of Service agreement!
Yet some remain unconvinced of the value of Scout. As Stephen Colbert states, “I am not a fan of facts. You see, facts can change, but my opinion will never change, no matter what the facts.” Perhaps the numbers won’t convince everyone there is a problem. Some know there is a problem, but choose to look the other way? Then there are elements of risk and problems that may not be so easy to see.
For example, last week Ray Ewing, CEO of SANDICOR MLS, which provides MLS Services to 20,000 real estate professionals throughout the San Diego, California market area, shared the following two stories with me:
There is an agent lead generation and marketing company that we will refer to as “Company X.” Company X regularly prompts agents for their ID and password for their MLS service. Most users do not even think twice about this and quickly provide that information. Then Company X, utilizing the agents credentials, downloads the expired MLS listings along with more complementing data and feeds it back to the agent with a marketing package. Company X is not even a subscriber of SANDICOR! By utilizing Scout, Ray Ewing and his staff have been able to identify this unauthorized use and vetted Company X to confirm this abuse.
Additionally, using the tools available in Scout, Ray and his team were able to identify a user who was exploiting an automated login to run query scripts against the system for data. According to Ray, these queries would at times get stuck and continue to run, impacting the MLS system’s performance. Armed with the information provided by Scout, SANDICOR was able to add language to their LCA stating that users were not allowed to use an automated login and would be redirected to use RETS. The scariest part about this is after doing some research, Ray discovered this user was accessing more than just SANDICOR data.
We spend a lot of time talking about Scout’s ability to increase membership by forcing system abusers to pay for service, but there is a bigger picture here. There is more than meets the eye when protecting the value of paid services. No matter how you define value, if a service has a paid subscriber base and is allowing that value to be shared, stolen, or even hijacked for someone else’s profit or gain, then that service is diminishing its own value.
So I ask again, how do you define value?