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The Illusion of Value

October 9, 2015

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No potential client has ever said to me “I found you through Porch.com”. This is distinct from HOUZZ which has become the Google of home design web surfing.

Loews has “partnered” with Porch: meaning there is a lot of cash for sponsorship: if Porch.com was ever an independent media platform, it would be as if the New York Times was “sponsored by” the Democratic Party. That slide into full advertorial status had its next step where a broadcast email this AM begged me to be one of the 4 regional “Porch Guaranteed Professional”‘s.

The “Porch Guaranteed Professional” guarantee involves a “back ground check” and an oath that I would stand behind my work. If those are forthcoming, Porch says that when you ascend to the “Porch Guaranteed Professional” Porch will “promote you at the top of our placements across Porch.com. You’ll be able to show off your work in the neighborhoods you serve and land more jobs than your competitors.”

But, of course, there’s more: money.

A long rambling “Terms of Agreement” link describes “payments” being owed as services are contracted: – a finder’s fee, vigorish, pimp share, whatever: the bottom line is that “new journalism” has virtually zero rules, ethics, canons or “standards and practices” that give any platform any credibility. Money gets exposure as if there was no money exchanged: no “sponsored by” no tiny “advertisement” typed into an upper right corner of the “top placement”.

HOUZZ’s program of swapping cash for editorial focus, https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2015/07/19/houzz-rules/ also offers anyone coughing up the cake will get the placement, the exposure, the featured presence independent of expertise, creativity or a track record beyond, in Porch’s case, a “back ground” check…

Just like HOUZZ, Porch seeks to channel every human’s desire to better their cave by offering access to info: but if “placement” follows dollars then its not about expertise, credibility, or creativity: its about cash.

A local architect sponsors a local NPR station, the firm’s name pops up several times everyday, meaning my friend has forked over some serious coin: but a local radio station has no claim to insights into the best architect might be: and NPR is nominally a not-for-profit – unlike HOUZZ or Porch.

Amid all the fundraising for local NPR stations you would have to be deaf not to know that money equals name dropping: and if you love that station then you like those that give money to support it. HOUZZ and Porch are for-profit companies, but they want you to love them enough that they can parlay that love to get professionals to pay for its association with their product or services.

Monetizing: its the American way: but the hidden greasing of palms while proferring objective recognition of excellence is disingenuous at best and, in fact, is basically deceitful in its hidden economics.

Credibility is hard to get: HOUZZ has it and is humping its worth hard. Porch has not much: and has humped its “reach” to Loews and now other advertisers to stay afloat.

Maybe I am just deluded, but the emotional wrench to make a place yours, to create a home out of an anonymous place is a tender place in the human heart. When banks exploited that emotion to create insane mortgages that led to bankruptcies and foreclosures it was criminal.

When HOUZZ and Porch exploit that softly desperate quest to live in a place you love to generate ad dollars in the guise of providing hope to homeowners, its not criminal, but it is cynical.

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