The Perils of Talking with the Media

I was contacted by Inman News a few weeks ago and asked about a service our company uses. Unfortunately, the reporter seemed to have missed the point of our 30-40 minute conversation. When asked if we would consider another service to replace a solution we use, I said something to the effect of: “If there was [sic, I suppose] a better product available, we would look at it, because our responsibility to our associates is that we consider everything that might work well for them.”

Disappointingly, he quoted me as saying, “If there was a better product available, we would look at it.” The assumption from the quote in the article is that we would gladly jump to another product if a better one came along. I think he assumed that “better” in my mind meant better from a technological standpoint. But bells-and-whistles do not a better product make.

The product concerned is a contract and document management system that many REALTORS use. Apparently, there is a very good solution from the technical perspective, but it is missing necessary content features. For example, it doesn’t integrate well with the existing contracts we, and almost every other residential real estate agent in our state, use. First and foremost, a better product must include the contracts that everyone is familiar with.

The lesson for me when I put my developer’s hat on is that whiz-bang features aren’t of much value if you aren’t able to use them with the desired content.

When I’m wearing my business operations hat, I always must ask what the switching cost is. In the case of this product, the real switching cost is the loss of the combined familiarity with the existing forms. It’s almost like moving from Facebook to Tent.

Finally, I learned a lesson about how Inman News works. I never received a call from an editor verifying my comments. If the conversation was recorded, I would request a copy of it. Accuracy and verification are two important points in journalistic ethics. Principle 3 in the Principles of Journalism found at the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism points out that the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. The time between my interview and the article’s publication was well over a week. The reporter and his editor had plenty of time to verify that the quotes attributed to me were in context, but they didn’t.

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