The start of the end for Realtor.com?

Well, if you haven’t seen the late afternoon news wires yet, let me be the first to tell you Zillow just hired Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com and chief strategy officer for parent company Move, Inc.  Errol will take on the role of Chief Industry Development Officer and will report to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

A Mask Sounds the Death Knell, to Edgar Poe 1882
A Mask Sounds the Death Knell, to Edgar Poe 1882

Some of you may recall that I once held a similar industry relations position at Zillow. Some of you may recall that I was charged with improving the business to business ties between MLSs and Zillow, particularly the effort to secure direct data feeds from MLSs to improve the quality and timeliness of the listing content on Zillow. Still others may reflect on the disappointment I expressed in being unable to accomplish that mission when I left last summer. So now some of you are likely drooling in anticipation of my advice to Errol upon taking up a similar charge. Dream on, dreamers. The road ahead will still be challenging, and will still require compromises from both sides of the MLS/Data/Zillow equation. But there isn’t a smarter strategist in the industry than Errol Samuelson. If anyone can navigate those treacherous waters, he can. And I wish him nothing but success in his efforts. (And my compliments to Spencer Rascoff and Greg Schwartz at Zillow for pulling off this coup. Well played, gentlemen. Well played.)

If this executive switch doesn’t sound the death knell for Realtor.com, I can’t imagine what it would take. Rcom has been slipping in the traffic totals for months and in some measurement services is now fourth behind Zillow, Trulia, and Homes. But traffic isn’t the problem at Realtor.com. It’s politics. Errol has been an ardent champion and exemplary spokesperson for the Rcom effort. Errol has now seen the light and made the decision to change allegiances.  That cannot portend well for Move’s chances for success if it stays on the current path with the current fence-straddling strategies guided by mother NAR.

As I pointed out in a previous post back in December, it really is time for both Move and NAR to reconsider the purpose of Realtor.com and the ongoing strained relationship between the two. If NAR isn’t ready to take back Rcom and operate it as a member service and public relations website supporting its political activities, then maybe Move should force the decision by just giving the website back to NAR and going its own way with Move.com as the lead URL and without all the continuing restraints that keep it from being truly competitive with the top players.

I’ve got a few other thoughts on some things Move might try. But I think I’ll keep them in reserve just in case Steve Berkowitz calls and wants to invite me in for a chat.

This post also appears on Procuring-Cause.com.

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