There is a War being waged between the leading portals today. They are fighting with all of their might to be leaders in consumer website traffic. Today, Zillow is in the lead with Realtor.com on their heals and Trulia not far behind. Homes.com is pacing with the pack too, and perhaps showed just how strong they are by climbing the rankings at a remarkable pace in 2012. In an announcement released yesterday, Move proclaimed victory at retaining their relationship with MSN.com, the portal operated by Microsoft.
I tried to get information about the battle, but limited facts were made available. We do not know the details of the agreement, its price, or the length of the term. We just know that Realtor.com won. I can only suppose that Zillow and perhaps Trulia were in the bidding. There was a lot at stake in this battle. Had Zillow won, they would have distanced themselves far afield of Realtor.com. Had Trulia won, they may have been lifted beyond Realtor.com into second place for overall traffic.
By no means am I an historian for our industry, but I do remember that Prudential Real Estate had a similar relationship with Yahoo.com. If my memory serves me correctly, the eRealty strategy cost Prudential about $35 million. I tried to find press releases about this to confirm or cite the facts, but failed – so take the $35 Million with a grain of salt. I do know that the Prudential paid handsomely to buy the position on Yahoo Real Estate, and that Zillow now maintains that important foothold.
The REALTORS® of National Association of REALTORS® should be joyous, and join MOVE in celebration. Had the battle gone another way, a key member benefit would have been reduced, and the REALTOR® brand marketing may have been diminished. It is hard to say how these things work out. But there is an important appreciation of strategy here.
Like our Nation, our industry rests on the foundation of the Freedom of Choice. The one thing that we know about portals is that none of them make very much money. What money they do make comes from agents and brokers. For sure, consumers flock to these sites at a pace of 100 million per month. It is a great hunting ground for buyers and sellers. You have a choice about where your listings go. You have a choice about where your advertising dollars go.
As a consultant, we always ask fundamental questions like “What would happen if one or all of these portals went away?” For me, the passing may be like the loss of Cyberhomes and the many other property search portals that have passed with time. Consumers would find other websites and agents and brokers would move their advertising dollars. However, the failure of Realtor.com may be a bit more iconic. NAR leaders and members should take a moment to think about that. MOVE is fighting a battle for NAR and its members to keep Realtor.com competitive in the market place today. It will be curious to see how the membership will support their troops. For sure, there are more fights that are ahead. Perhaps MOVE can turn the tables and win back some important outposts like Yahoo. Then again, perhaps not.