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HOUZZ Rules – update 10/1/17

July 19, 2015

So, seeing the TV adds for new videos of celebrity home remakes taking “Pay For Play” to new heights at HOUZZ I received this note below. Personal, focused – a great algorithm but when I RSVP’d than I never pay for advertising, silence followed…


Note: 8/3/15 HOUZZ announces first ever national ad campaign: pay-for-play journalism needs to add value (hits) to get paid:

HOUZZ is the single blockbuster success in shelter media: Millions upon millions of hits and growing. I jumped in early and created a full site per the instructions of my publisher: – I have 166 Followers! (is that good?)

I wrote a few pieces for them, in theory for tiny fees (that I received after this piece was first published a year ago) – but they were useful briefs, not captioned house porn, so when my pieces did not “get the response level” they wanted, they more or less required me to write about random HOUZZ images that I had zero knowledge about other that their visual presence. I noted I could not do that. There response was no response: they went dark to my emails requesting clarification.

Last year the site ratcheted it up “HOUZZ IS THE NEW WAY TO DESIGN YOUR HOME!” – a new mantra with an activist message…an ominous thought if I wanted me to be the way to design your home…

This sloganeering now seems to have a sales pitch attached. A friend of mine in Ct has been just been hired by them to sell-sell-sell as the site gears up to actually make money off that popularity – just like every other web-based media outlet:

When I visited their offices in Berkeley 2 years ago when they were interested in fleshing out a “contributor” relationship, I met with one of their founders who was clear they were not clear how to make money off a wildly successful visual resource: Virtually every one of my clients uses the site just as my previous clients used magazines: as a clipping service.

And like those paper magazines HOUZZ is shifting its economic model. Just as the remaining magazines are drifting to “Advertorials” (vanity press “pay-for-play” instead of editorial independence choosing feature subjects that gain readership that allows higher ad rates), HOUZZ and any other number of websites are morphing from content-filtering neutral platforms for exposure and interactions to “pay-for-play” – featuring those subjects who pay money to have featured content. I know this because I was personally approached this spring, (as I was by HOUZZ competitor “Porch” two years ago) to throw money at them for the gloss of their imprimatur.

In a note, based on an editor’s personal referral, I was pitched this:

Below is a brief description. Typically we set up a 15 min call to go over a broad overview of the program. Please let me know if you have any time in the next couple days or next week. You have done a great job with your profile.

• Geo-targeted local exposure in the photo-stream for your company, including sponsored photos and featured local pro banner.
• Enhanced placement in our professional directory, i.e. you will show up much more often on the first page.
• Detailed analytics on your Pro + Program, i.e. visits to your profile from sponsored photos, featured local pro banner and professional directory.
• Dedicated Houzz Client Services Account Manager to work with you throughout the year.
Below is a screen shot to give a feel of how local Architects are targeting homeowners in your surrounding areas.

Note there is no mention of money. So I replied, factually, that I have never, ever, paid money for advertising except in buying ads in not-for-profit events programs. Now, I do think my existing HOUZZ page is pretty cute, and its generated 3 potential clients in the last 3 years out of the 150 inquiries about using my services that I received in that time. The actual jobs that resulted from those inquiries is about 40 gigs. The net actual work generated by the HOUZZ interest is zero – maybe because “HOUZZ IS THE WAY TO DESIGN YOUR HOME.” – not moi…

So I RSVP’d to the note with this piece I wrote for the AIA last fall: where I noted that hype does not sell: good work sells.

Just like the dead silence after refusing to caption house porn, there was no “sorry, this won’t work”. No “we can make this work” or just “I understand” – just the internet’s universal RSVP when self-interests do not mesh in cynical mutual manipulation: just dead as a doornail silence. There are no crickets on the interwebnets.

So those millions upon millions of “HOUZZERS” will now see hundreds, if not thousands of web presences of architects heavily featured as they passively meander thru HOUZZ’s pages: not knowing that whoever “pays their money, they gets their promo”.

How can you blame HOUZZ? Advertising is a very strange thing these days: it used to be clear that sponsors had a place in distinct advertisements: now NPR, scores of regional shelter mags and newspapers and every other website scrambles to get money: above board, below the table, recognized or covert.

Money makes the world go ’round, and is now behind the HOUZZ architect, designer or product that you see popping up as a featured page: it/they may be great, or its just that their check cleared: who is to know?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2015 9:44 am

    I get calls everyday by people who are gonna get me some work, forcing me to simply let the answering machine monitor the calls ——–

  2. Don permalink
    October 1, 2017 3:35 pm

    Hi Duo, good article,
    We were aproache this year to buy placement priority on Houzz,
    It was sold by the county where we wanted preferential placement. Our metro area is 5 counties, and then we have several in resort NC counties as well. The cost was way to high so we declined and will stay organic.
    I like you buy adds for charity functions. Charlotte has several publication where features articles are pay to play, and you get an add.
    I wish we made the discretionary money to place adds and articles.
    But we do not.
    I am a fan of Houzz, I wish them success. I would be a bigger fan if they wouls separate architects and designers into separate caragories.


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