Technology

Online real estate is about to get more competitive, and that’s good for everybody

Insights from 1000watt's Brian Boero on News Corp's play to acquire realtor.com operator Move

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News Corp (or “Rupert Murdoch,” if you’re feeling more dramatic) is buying Move.

A few quick thoughts …

This is a good thing

Move was eating Zillow’s dust for too long. As part of News Corp, the company (and, most notably, realtor.com), will get a shot of energy and talent that it needs very badly.

Put aside your Myspace jokes: The people at News Corp know how to run and grow media businesses.

Put aside your belief that the U.S. real estate market, just because it has an MLS, is forever and unassailably unique: The people at REA Group, the News Corp subsidiary that runs realestate.com.au, know how to make tons of money in online real estate.

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Serious people — some of whom possess deep real estate experience — now own Move and operate realtor.com.

The online real estate category is going to get more competitive again, just as it seemed that Zillow might run away with it.

This is good for everyone — even, ironically, Zillow and Trulia, whose pending merger is still under review by the FTC. The argument that a combined Z and T will have unacceptable market power just got a lot weaker.

NAR is happy now, but …

In the future, they will have a diminished ability to dictate what realtor.com is and isn’t.

Yes, NAR could have effectively blocked this deal, but that wasn’t a realistic option.

Yes, News Corp is still bound by NAR’s realtor.com operating agreement.

But this is News Corp. This is Rupert Murdoch. Do you think he has time for trade association politics? Do you think he’s going to let Chicago dictate to him, whatever the operating agreement says?

No, he’s not.

And this, too, is a good thing.

ListHub

ListHub is the squirrely little detail in this deal we should keep an eye on. The fact that Move owns the pipe supplying Zillow and Trulia with most of their content has always been a bit of a mind-bender. But things could get weirder. Steve Berkowitz and team were never willing (wisely, in my opinion) to blow up ListHub in order to hurt their bigger competitors. News Corp management may not be so even-handed.

The other possibility is that the FTC, in reviewing this deal, and taking into account Move’s recent acquisition of Point2’s syndication business, decides that ListHub really needs to be spun out on its own.

Either way, how listings get from brokers and MLSs to the big portals is, shall we say, in flux. This is going to ratchet up the already-intense portal battle for industry hearts and minds.

The long term

This deal, while big, is about companies that advertise homes, not sell them. And that may make you feel that this doesn’t really impact the agent on the street. And in the short term you’re probably right. But longer term, I think you’d be wrong.

News Corp buying Move, or Zillow buying Trulia, may seem like the distant dealings of rich people peddling ad impressions to Realtors, but these things shape how consumers touch, interact with and evaluate our industry in the digital world.

We have only just begun to see where that may lead us.

Brian Boero is a partner at 1000watt, a marketing, design and strategy firm focused on real estate. Move Inc. is a former 1000watt client. Republished with permission from 1000watt blog.