Earlier this month, Airbnb published a quantitative glimpse into the company’s New York City listings — part of the company’s push to portray itself as a good civic citizen.
The press release provided borough-level statistics that the company hadn’t previously released, such as the median nights booked and revenue per listing. But the press release also promised more: “Today, we are honoring our Compact by making available more than 170,000 rows of data about almost 60,000 listings in our community in New York City.”
A reader might, fairly, have assumed that “making available” meant “making available for download.” It did not. In order to examine the detailed data, members of the public would have to visit the data in person, under the supervision of a company representative. If you didn’t happen to live near an Airbnb office? Tough luck.
Despite the hurdles, "many people have already had a chance to review” the data, according to a statement an Airbnb spokesperson sent BuzzFeed News. When asked for a rough estimate of “many people,” the spokesperson said “dozens.”
Airbnb also forbade downloading, copy-pasting, or photographing the data, which took the form of a large spreadsheet on a laptop utterly cut off from the internet. (Its rationale: User privacy. None of the data, however, appeared to reveal any personal information.) But — and here’s where Airbnb’s approach veers from restrictive to absurd — the company doesn’t mind if you manually copy the data.
So, over the course of three visits and many hours, BuzzFeed News transcribed the most interesting parts of the sacred spreadsheet. You can see the fruits of our labor here. (Warning: While BuzzFeed News attempted to transcribe the data faithfully, our version may contain typos not in the original.)
Here are a few things we learned:
Although Airbnb’s press release focused on the “typical” host, the outliers are just as interesting.
The “typical” (i.e., median) Airbnb host in New York City rents out only one room or home, for about 41 nights of the year, and is paid about $5,110 for doing so. Airbnb, understandably, likes to highlight such figures. One possible reason: “typical” hosts draw attention away from Airbnb’s more controversial power users — the folks who’ve turned hosting into an industry. For example:
As of mid-November, 46 NYC hosts each listed six or more full apartments or homes.
At least 127 NYC listings had earned their hosts more than $100,000 in revenue over the previous year.
And at least 793 entire home/apartment listings had been booked for more than 270 nights.
Hosts with multiple rentals account for a large chunk of total revenue.
Between November 2014 and November 2015, hosts with more than one entire-home listing in NYC accounted for more than 30% of all NYC revenue. (And that includes share-home and shared-room listings.) And hosts with at least three entire-home listings accounted for more than 18% of all NYC revenue.
Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights border is a prime location for Airbnb hosts.
The median full-home/apartment listing in ZIP code 11233 earned its host $15,448 in revenue and was booked more than 120 nights of the year between November 2014 and November 2015. Both figures were the highest of any ZIP code with at least 25 such listings.
Here’s a map of the median revenue for listings, for ZIP codes with at least 25 entire apartment/home listings:
And a similar map for median nights booked:
Jeremy Singer-Vine is the data editor for the BuzzFeed News investigative unit and is based in Washington, D.C. His secure PGP fingerprint is E2B0 63DB 0601 D634 1E9E F9AE 9F24 768F 9B4A EFB0
Contact Jeremy Singer-Vine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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