The Uberfication of Real Estate

We are a society of ultra-convenience.  We use our smartphones for instant information from giant search engines like Google and Bing, we stay connected to friends and strangers all over the world on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter and we can get a ride with push of a button from apps comparable to Uber and Lyft.  We live an on-demand lifestyle with the ability to order almost anything online from websites similar to Amazon and Zappos and have it delivered within a few days to a few hours.  We watch our favorite movies and televisions shows on streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu.  It’s even possible to purchase a used-car online from private sellers on eBay or auto dealers such as CarMax.

How far away is a reality where we make much larger, life-event purchases online – like buying a home?  How will the home buying process evolve in this convenience economy?  While there’s still a long way to go, the uberfication of real estate has begun.

Mobile App Home Search

The National Association of Realtors® suggests that 89% of home buyers used the internet to search for homes.  Shoppers are using sites like New Home Source, Zillow and to search properties with all the features on their wish list that are available in the zip codes they desire.  They can view floor plans, photos, videos and virtual tours from their mobile phone to explore a home before ever visiting the actual location.  They can also find and hire a realtor with plenty of experience in home sales and knowledge of the community to guide them through the process of purchasing a new or resale home.

the uberfication of real estate

Many home buyers are out and about doing their own home search in the neighborhood they want to live in.  According to the National Association of Realtors latest data, 38% of home buyers drive by properties they found online.  For this type of home shopper, mobile apps like HomeSnap let the user snap a photo of a home and pull up all the pertinent sales info from its estimated value to what schools are in the area.  I’ll show you how it works in the video below.


Virtual Reality in Home Buying

Real Estate is slowly moving from the virtual tour, where users can see a 360-degree view of each room inside a home with the click of a mouse, to a virtual reality tour where buyers wear goggle-like headsets and walk around the property from anywhere in the world.

In the tweet above, Microsoft shared a New York Times article where real estate buyers in New York City sported Samsung Gear headsets to experience a property that was not built yet.  Developers are hiring designers to create virtual renderings of their buildings based off architectural plans.  Their hope is to be able to sell the homes before they ever begin construction.

An online marketing firm out of Texas, BDX or Builders Digital Experience, is beginning to demo a virtual reality tour for national home builders to use on a larger scale.

A “fully immersive interactive tour of a model home” could be very useful for home builders as well as relocation services and realtors.  This “self-navigation through the home gives a more realistic sense of flow and layout” than the current virtual tours offered online.   With this technology a home shopper can do more than get 360-degree view of a property.  They can virtually walk through a new home step by step.

For homebuilders, this wouldn’t negate the need to build a model home.  Many home buyers enjoy the experience of touring a fully-merchandised model to see built out options and upgrades or simply to gather décor inspiration.  But a virtual reality walk-through would be a welcome tool for buyers purchasing a home from another state or country.

There are several different virtual reality headsets on the market that can be used with a smartphone, computer or gaming system to view virtual or augmented reality content.  Samsung Gear VR was mentioned in the New York Times article and currently sells for $99.  To name some others, there’s Oculus Rift, which is owned by Facebook, and will cost around $599.  The PlayStation VR Headset will be released this fall and is expected to run you $399.  The Microsoft HoloLens, which will have a full Windows 10 platform integrated into the wearable device, has a whopping price tag of $3,000.

For now the most cost-effective option I could find is Google Cardboard.  I bought one online for about $10 and you can check out my quick demo below.


Push Button, Get Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans debuted during Superbowl 50 in February 2016.  Their slogan is “Push Button Get Mortgage”.  A very simple and direct message implying home buyers can apply for and get a decision on a home mortgage from their mobile phone.

However, their commercial caused quite a controversy on twitter.  Many people implied that a mortgage is just one of those things that shouldn’t be easy or convenient.

There definitely seems to be concern and possibly confusion among these social media users that offering a convenience product somehow relates to less- stringent loan decisioning models.  Quicken Loans was quick to respond the following day that it was not changing its guidelines, but Rocket Mortgage makes the process of applying for a mortgage less intimidating and easier to understand.

And to be fair, there were also many users in the Twitter-verse that thought the Rocket Mortgage Superbowl commercial was very well done and some who seemed excited to simplify the dreaded process of securing a home mortgage or refinancing their current loan.


Overall, the smartphone has dramatically changed our way of life and will continue to do so with emerging technology and applications that focus on convenience and user experience.  It will be up to each individual to weigh the pros and cons of these new processes to determine if they are helpful and effective in their personal life.  It’s definitely exciting to see what products will become mainstream and which will fade out into obscurity.


Google Backs Digital Journalism

Google.  A revolutionary idea that turned a noun into a verb by connecting the world through zetabytes of data and information.  The answers to almost everything you ever wanted to know at your fingertips and accessible to billions of people around the globe.  What started as a small tech start-up out of Stanford University in 1997 single-handedly changes the digital landscape.

Now Google is turning its attention to digital journalism.  The billion dollar company will invest €150 Million in the Digital News Initiative in Europe.  This initiative is a partnership between Google and many publishers to help advance electronic journalism by funding new and confident ideas.  It was this collaboration that helped create Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which is comparable Facebook’s Instant Articles.

Last summer, Google introduced News Lab.  It is an extensive resource where news and media professionals can access tools and programs related to the research and distribution of information.  Some lessons help you set up google alerts while other tools help you determine what topics are trending and popular like in the tweet above. 

There is a popular debate as to whether technology has simplified our lives or just made them more complicated.  Well, Google has undoubtedly streamlined the work of media professionals.  These latest advancements are incredibly valuable to journalists who not only report the news but are responsible for the production of their stories across multiple digital and social media channels.

Google purchased the phenomenon that is YouTube in 2006.  There are more hours of video uploaded to YouTube in one month than was broadcast on ABC, CBS and NBC in 60 years.  And thanks to YouTube, user-generated content has become a major part of reporting on current events.  However, a journalist cannot just type a topic into YouTube’s search bar and then share any video they find.  To remain credible and trustworthy sources, the media must verify the authenticity of any UG video they broadcast.  This video by Storyful explains how they use YouTube and other Google services to mine social media channels for news worthy stories.

Some other tools that can help in this process are the YouTube Data Viewer by Amnesty International’s Citizen’s Evidence Lab and Storyful’s YouTube Newswire.  These vehicles assist journalists in obtaining eyewitness videos and in finding original content using reverse image search to locate earlier versions of the same video.

Another great contribution from Google that significantly altered how a journalist manages their day-to-day workload is Google Maps.  It’s all about location, location, location.  Google Maps is a helpful resource in verifying whether digital content is genuine.  The media uses Google Maps street view to compare landmarks from cities on the other side of the world to landmarks seen in videos sent in by users to establish whether or not they are real.  They can also enter the latitude and longitude of a city to find social media posts from users in that area.  This can help the journalist find sources for a developing story as well as user generated content directly from where the event is taking place.

As the media evolves in a digital and social space, Google continues to step up with the tools journalists need to maintain their accuracy and integrity as truth seekers.

How a Social Profession Embraces Social Media

Journalism is a social profession.  From an interviewee to a source to your audience, reporting the news requires communicating with many people.  It’s a vocation of asking the right questions and really listening to what is being said.  It is a career built upon community.  Therefore, it’s completely logical that social media would be an ideal tool for this collaboration.

Newsroom culture is decisively evolving with a considerable emphasis on digital and social media.  Its not uncommon for traditional journalists to be resistant to implementing social media into their daily routine.  They often view it as a new technology rather than a medium of sharing information.  One way of overcoming newsroom opposition to social media is to show conventional reporters how these tools can make their job easier and more effective.   Here we look at three specific newsroom roles and how they can get the most benefit out of these powerful channels.

Foreign News Correspondent

A foreign news correspondent needs to report news from a country different from where their news organization is based.  This journalist can overcome geographic barriers as well as report the news at a rapid speed using a social platform such as Twitter.  They can easily reach millions of people around the world, find new sources to help develop stories and present their content in real time on this channel.

Clarissa Ward is a senior international news correspondent with CNN based in London.  Below is an example of how she uses Twitter to share information she gathered in Syria.  This particular post was retweeted 19 times so far.

Local Beat Editor

This type of journalist needs to reach out to their local community.   A platform like Facebook could be very beneficial for social listening and connecting a journalist their audience.  It can provide answers to “What is your community talking about right now?”, “What concerns do they have?”, and “What are they most interested in?”.  Social media can assist a local beat editor in getting to know their audience so they can better serve them.

Dayna Roselli, local news personality in Las Vegas, uses Facebook to interact with her community.  In this post, Dayna is introducing a new feature to KTNV’s website where viewers can upload surveillance video from their home to help police identify burglary suspects in the area.

Submit your surveillance or phone video to our NEW “Caught On Camera” section. You will be able to see what’s happening in your neighborhood! I explain how it all works in this video.

Posted by Dayna Roselli on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Television News Cameraman

A photojournalist could find many benefits in using social media to showcase visual images and video content.  They can give the audience a behind the scenes perspective or help them tell a story in a new way.  Channels such as Vine, Instagram and Periscope are becoming increasingly popular for reporters to share photos and videos.

Vines are extremely sharable and since they are only six seconds long, they can quickly be uploaded and shared via social media.  Here is a look at how one journalist used Vine to record the aftermath of a suicide bombing of a US Embassy in Turkey.

How One Reporter is Enhancing Her Journalism with Social Media

Saima Mohsin, an international correspondent for CNN based in Bangkok, Thailand, is using social media platforms to distribute news and information around the world.  From Pakistan to Palestine, Mohsin reports of the unrest in war torn countries and breaking news across Asia using her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.  She does more than just observe and report; she participates.

Here is a look at how one journalist is using social media to report the news.

Real Time Journalism

Mohsin has covered significant news events including the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash and MH370 disappearance, the attack on Malala Yousafzai and the Karachi terror attacks.  With each of these stories, Mohsin has been able to quickly circulate information about these events on social media without having to wait for the nightly news broadcast.

This new technology has placed more demands on today’s journalists.  They have to work faster and do much more than those who came before them.  For instance, they need to do research, interviews, record video, edit video, and distribute their stories on several different mediums from blogs to social media.  And they need to do it all right now.  The tweet below exhibits how increasingly demanding audiences have become and how accustomed we now are to receiving our news the moment it occurs.


Behind the Scenes

Journalists use social media to not only share their assigned stories, but also to gather information on developing stories, contact sources and give viewers a behind the scenes look at the subject that they may not be able to share in their network package.  This is demonstrated on Mohsin’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

In 2014, Mohsin arrived in the Philippines as Typhoon Hagiput was making landfall and shared this photo on Facebook.  Mohsin and her team were headed into the storm in Lezgapi as hundreds of thousands were being evacuated.


Mohsin’s Instagram account is an artful collection of stunning images.  Scrolling through them could be considered a crash course in geography, politics and world affairs.  Below are some clips from Mohsin’s Instagram profile.  Each tell their own captivating story without the need for many words.






Journalism and Advocacy

The way Mohsin uses social media puts her journalism on a different level than most of her fellow journalists.  In the Twitter post below, Mohsin shares a very graphic image of deceased bodies following a horrific heatwave in Karachi, Pakistan.  Saima goes further by tagging the Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party in the post.  Did she do this to seek help for those affected or to hold someone accountable for their part in this tragedy?


Her personal outrage at how many people needlessly died during the heatwave led to this op-ed piece where she fiercely calls out the Chief Minister of Sindh for not doing enough to help the people of Karachi.


Mohsin clearly took this story very personally and used her position as a journalist to advocate for the people of Karachi.  Much of this activism was done through social media and demonstrates the power of this medium.

It is clear from these examples that Saima Mohsin’s journalism is enhanced by her use of social media.  While social media may never replace traditional broadcasting methods, it is sure to continue to be one of the most desired ways to consume the news because it is fast, concise and just as compelling.



Engagement Through Emotion on Social Media

Social media was flooded with posts following President Barak Obama’s announcement of an executive order on gun control Tuesday morning. Rather than the posts being littered with information about the proposed laws, the conversations focused on Obama’s demeanor during his speech. Most posts contained a short video clip of the President wiping away tears as he spoke of the victims of mass shootings.

obama fb post

An image of a social media post shared Tuesday on MSN’s Facebook page

The most captivating thing about these reports was that the executive order played second fiddle to the President’s emotional moment. Our Commander-in-Chief, the embodiment of strength and power, displaying vulnerability took the lead while the proposed laws were buried in the copy. This structure indicates it was considered information of lesser importance. Information that could or could not be included depending on the space and time available to deliver the report. The five W’s (who, what, when, why, where), a fundamental of journalism, did not refer to guns or executive orders. The five W’s instead emphasized that the President of the United States cried on Tuesday during a speech about murdered first graders.

Social media is about connection and engagement. Therefore, social journalism should not only educate and inform, but invoke sentiment of some kind. This video humanized a world leader and made this government action something that could be related to by many. It was reported that many people in the audience cried right along with the President, including comedian, Amy Schumer, who has actively supported stronger gun laws since a mass shooting at a movie theater showing her film, Trainwreck, last summer. Likewise, the video audience could also share in this experience and connect with the content in a meaningful way.

President Barack Obama cries during speech on gun control

Multimedia content, such as this video, allows people to consume journalism in many different forms.  Videos are particularly shareable because they can tell a story in a fraction of the time it takes to read a written article.  Through video, viewers can experience an event firsthand rather than have it described to them.  While video is not a new concept, using social media as a delivery system to broadcast visual journalism, is rapidly evolving on a daily basis.

Check out this recent CBC interview on how social media videos changed the biggest news stories of 2015.