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A rant and appraisal

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 03-Nov-09 02:51:40 PM

OK I’ve spoken to enough people over time to know I’m not (entirely) alone in this, so I’m just going to spew it out: Estate Agent Today (EAT) sucks, big-time…on several levels.

Strong words. Allow me to elucidate.

One pet peeve I have with “news media” websites arriving late to the internet is the arrogant lack of general netiquette; EAT is no different. What I’m talking specifically about here is linking-out to sources.

Let me give you a for-instance: Estate Agent Today has published several stories over time which have so obviously emanated from postings made on the Home Inspector Forum (HIF), yet it neither credits the source, nor assists its readers by providing links (clickable links) so they may “dig deeper” into a story. This is rude. And unhelpful, to everyone (yes, including EAT and its advertisers).

I’m a moderator of the HIF, so you might say I’m bound to cry foul. But I am coming at this from both a web-developer and good neighbourly bias, rather than seeking more traffic or fame for the forum.

Let me turn this around to demonstrate what I mean. As a mod, I have made enemies of members whilst striving to protect the copyright of third-party websites - including Estate Agent Today - by chopping full articles they have pasted onto the forum into ‘fair use’ snippets, and insisting they link-back to the original source… legalities aside, it is just part of being a good neighbour and ensuring the work of others is justly credited= netiquette.

But sometimes I can’t help thinking: why should we throw traffic at EAT (and its advertisers) when it refuses to be a good neighbour in return? (The observant amongst you will note my lack of linkage here, though I wouldn’t dream of enforcing a no-link policy at the HIF (to credible sources, anyway!).)

There are a lot more technical subtleties on this subject but there is more terrain to cover; so I will just say this: The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks.

What goes around, comes around.


Oh boy, I have to say, the adverts on Estate Agent Today are so intrusive I actually set-up filters months ago to specifically block them in my browser.

But for the purposes of this post, I disabled them today to see what is going on. Here’s what I discovered:

  • The page I clicked took 26 seconds to finish downloading!
  • I counted twenty adverts sprayed like vomit around the page with just a smudged hole in the middle for the actual article.

Three of those ads are from the same advertiser (in different sizes), and two of them contained just a single letter: “F”!

(Oh, hang on, I’ve just found another five ads under “popular links” – Come on: popular? Or paid-for?)

The Pièce de résistance, though, has to be that bloody annoying “peel” in the top-right corner which unfurls when you mouse-over it – right next to your scrollbar, deliberately!

There’s no doubt EAT has been very successful in attracting advertisers since its launch but the sheer weight of them now is ridiculous and makes the site (more) ugly, slow to load, and annoying to navigate.

The nuance coming across from the site is one of being constantly ‘sold to’.


Several commenters on Estate Agent Today (and people I’ve spoken to) have expressed cynicism over the articles it publishes, citing a bias towards stories featuring prominent advertisers and accusing it of being a “press release distribution service” (AKA: churnalism).

I have thought the same myself on occasion, although I can appreciate the political and financial complexities from EAT’s point-of-view, if true (hedging – but it’s all about perception, innit!). In magazines, which enjoy more space, such “articles” stand out less – and indeed can add value. But on the web, where, like 24-hour TV news outlets, the pressure is on to “come up with something new” in an on-demand world, the lure of a press release landing enticingly on the desk can help to quickly fill a journalist’s quotient.

Unless the website is adequately staffed to throw out loads of articles each day, the concentration of such “fillers” will likely stand out more.

But let’s face it, your average high-spending advertiser is probably amongst the principal industry “news-makers” anyway. So striking the right balance of articles, with a small staff bombarded with press releases (from said advertisers), presents inevitable problems of conflicting priorities and interests.

This is a major problem for the smaller “news media” websites reliant solely on advertising to survive. As the traditional print media lose market-share to these digital – and free – alternatives which cater to every conceivable niche you can dream of, so the advertisers will follow. And because the staff is smaller at these websites, there is little-to-no separation of departments; as you might find at The Telegraph, for instance.

There is, therefore, likely to be acute awareness amongst staff as to the importance of advertisers.

But Estate Agent Today need to deal with this perception, IMO, because, at the end of the day, the publication needs to work.


Oh yes, hardly a week goes by without a helping of HIPs on the news menu. A cynic might say it is to deliberately wind-up estate agents ;)

Experience shows that agents will almost always respond to stories with ‘HIPs’ or ‘Rightmove’ in the headline, but you can never quite tell what will draw most response.

Rosalind Renshaw, editor, Estate Agent Today, speaking to theRatandMouse - London's property blog

She’s right, HIPs do usually attract the most comments on its website – and that sells well when pitching eyeballs to advertisers!

I am not a strong supporter of HIPs so have no axe to grind when I say, IMO, some of the HIP stories published there are not newsworthy stories at all. There was one last month which suggested - then un-suggested - that HIPs were about to be abolished on 1st Nov, without warning.

It began:

A rumour sweeping the industry that the Government is poised to make a major announcement on HIPs has been denied by Communities and Local Government.

A “rumour sweeping the industry”? Really?

I originally read it on the HIF a few days earlier from a member claiming to have received an email from a civil servant about it; but it gained little traction - it was barely noticed. For a fleeting moment I did consider blogging about it myself, but just as quickly dismissed the idea after thinking-through the sheer impracticality of execution (in the manner framed), and the certain caning this Govt. would suffer.

The piece went on to “report”:

However, HIP providers – whilst bracing themselves for the possibility – said yesterday…

…but without saying who.

Rumour, speculation, a faceless body of HIP providers (not even AHIPP or IPPA) and an un-named CLG spokeswoman who said: “We know of no plans to abandon Home Information Packs.”

A story?

Or bait?

But hey! It works: 31 comments flowed from that article (I know, a link would be really helpful now, wouldn’t it!)

So alongside the nuance of feeling constantly sold-to, there’s also a subtle feeling of manipulation at play.

Here’s one for ya: “Government denies rumour estate agents are aliens!”

Website Spaghetti

This is turning into a long post, but I just want to finish off with a rant about the website itself…

Urgh! Who designed this?!

It’s ugly, unpredictable (sometimes there is an ugly green or red background), bloated and slow (no doubt, in part, because of the 66 instances of JavaScript I discovered on one page alone!).

Pages are not titled and internal linking is a mess, spewing out duplicate content left, right and centre - Google must love this site!

It reminds me of my first ever website, arrr :D


Pah! Forget posting anything more than a short paragraph if you want to be read (by me at least) because it’ll just look like a black wall of dense text.

I don’t know who built this template (used across sister websites too) but seriously guys, it desperately needs addressing… and the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to transfer.


I realise I’ve been a bit strong here. Is it because I hate these upstarts? No, I wouldn’t waste my time writing this if I did.

It’s clear it serves as a useful medium to its audience and advertisers. But it’s also clear there is very little “internet savvy” on-board there, so maybe this counterpoint to their own self-congratulatory overtures will serve as a wake-up call to “up their game”.

I do kind’a like it in a quirky way – the operators have chutzpah and enterprise - but there is a lot still to fix:

  • Be a good neighbour;
  • Tackle perceived advertiser bias in stories;
  • Feeling ‘sold-to’;
  • Feeling manipulated;
  • Fix the website and enjoy better search engine and reader love.

Get listed on the DEA locater - FREE!

Posts: 6
Reply #1 on : Tue November 03, 2009, 15:26:16
Surely a below par website is appropriate for the audience it serves!

Agree with all the points you make, the site looks like junk, as does every site and spam eminating from the Angels Group. It's frightening how much traction they have got, just goes to show that even the weakest can survive when there is a lack of competition!

Posts: 6
Re: A rant and appraisal
Reply #2 on : Wed November 04, 2009, 00:35:47
Nail on head

Posts: 6
here here
Reply #3 on : Wed November 04, 2009, 15:52:38
i have been studying the recast of epcs for several weeks and i agree with what your saying. What i would say to you though is: What else to you expect from a pack of ignorant fools?

Posts: 6
Reply #4 on : Sun November 08, 2009, 21:06:33
I had been wondering about EAT and the recent parallels it had with the content of the HIF. It seemed almost uncanny how many threads on the HIF would end up on EAT a couple of days later.

Perhaps we could use it to feed a little misinformation back to the EA community :)

Posts: 6
Estate Agent Today is Rubbish
Reply #5 on : Mon November 09, 2009, 19:08:47
I agree that EAT is a dreadful publication. Other than the obvious visual and functional shortcomings that you identify, my biggest problem with EAT and it's editor is that the site is journalistically bankrupt. EAT's "stories" range from sloppily regurgitated press releases to virtually fabricated, sourceless and biased gossip. Sources are almost never cited (unless it's a press release) and the frequency of non-stories about HIPs is highly suspicious.

Recently, I have had my comments deleted when I point this out. As any self respecting online journalist knows, to delete or otherwise moderate comments should be avoided where possible but when it absolutely must happen, an explanation should be given. EAT's editor simply deletes anything she doesn't like or is critical of her or her potential advertisers. This is unforgivable in any serious online forum.

My other gripe is that EAT systematically fabricates its site traffic/readership. It has previously bandied around an entirely unsubstantiated and highly unlikely readership of 40,000 estate agents. Other commenters have suggested that they publish their Google Analytics data to support this but of course, as communication with EAT is a one way street, these requests fall on deaf ears. The claim of 40,000 readers is made all the more ludicrous by the fact that EAT shows a hot counter on each story. This counter seldom rises over 1000 'reads' per piece, rather throwing into doubt the 40,000 claim.

On a final note, any journalist that proclaims themselves to be 'The Voice of the Industry' clearly has a thing or two to learn about, well, everything.
Posts: 2
Re: A rant and appraisal
Reply #6 on : Mon November 09, 2009, 21:01:26
Good post, Martyn.

I've also had serious doubts about Estate Agent Today's claims of traffic. The 40k figure was cited in its ad rate card shortly even after it had launched (and before it even featured large in Google; which it still doesn't unless you search for its title.)

Of course, it's very easy to look at the wrong column in the stats, I suppose ;)

@Pete K: LOLs at feeding misinformation :D

Posts: 6
Green eyed monsters here
Reply #7 on : Mon December 14, 2009, 21:05:18
Well although I agree with some points here do I detect a bit of 'I wish it was my site'. They have cleaned up and noone reads the offline press any more. BTW Martyn 30 days x 1000 reads plus a bit is 40k? Is it me? Bt its the 40k readers that matter NOT the reads.
Posts: 2
Re: A rant and appraisal
Reply #8 on : Mon December 14, 2009, 23:59:20
"do I detect a bit of 'I wish it was my site'."

Heheh, well it depends what you mean. Aesthetics, usability and credibility aside, if you wanted to setup a rival to EAT, here's what you would do:

- scrape (or otherwise source) a particular members' website for email addresses;

- re-word or just straight re-publish press releases;

- setup Google News Alerts for industry keywords;

- write, making sure to regularly include topics that wind your readership up;

- spam/hit email addresses, one/two/three times a week with "ADVERT" in the title (legalities).

- rinse, repeat.

If you should want to do it "better" than EAT, re-read article ;)
Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 00:00:26 by admin  

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