NEW YORK — When Zillow closes its acquisition of Trulia, which Wall Street expects to happen any day now, the megaportal will square off with realtor.com operator Move Inc., which will be determined to unseat the king of the online real estate mountain.

Both Zillow and Trulia already get more visits than realtor.com. Whoever attracts the largest, most engaged audience wins.

“That’s the battleground on which this war will be fought,” Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff  told me in a sit-down interview at Real Estate Connect New York City.

Some other stuff Rascoff told me:

  • Zillow-Trulia integration: Rascoff talked a little about unifying Zillow and Trulia. There will be one back end, with a shared listings database. The way Rascoff phrased it was that Zillow and Trulia will look like one company to the industry, but two brands to the consumer. He also said that Zillow’s MLS contracts typically allow it to share listings with sites it owns, which will include Trulia. He didn’t address whether the agreements Trulia has with MLSs will fold into Zillow.
  • Percentage of agent online ad spend: Today Zillow gets just about 2 percent. “Seems to me that today we attract dramatically less agent ad spend as compared with the size of our [consumer] audience.” He’s not sure where it should cap out.
  • On syndication: The days of “spray and pray” listing syndication display are over. Listing relationships directly with portals benefits brokers and MLSs to form partnerships with the top sites like Zillow because it allows them to be deliberate and thoughtful about how their listings appear on them.

“I like our chances,” Rascoff said. Zillow’s direct focus on building innovative technology to delight and engage consumers, and the lessons it’s learned over the last 10 years of doing so, gives the portal an edge, he said.

News Corp., which acquired Move for $950 million in November, likes its chances, too. The global media giant is also focusing its winning strategy on strengthening realtor.com’s consumer appeal, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said Tuesday at the Real Estate Connect CEO Summit.

News Corp. has plans to leverage its expertise as operator of The Wall Street Journal and its other media properties to engross realtor.com visitors by pairing high-quality journalism with listings data, Thomson said.

When news of News Corp.’s acquisition of Move first broke in September, execs at both Move and Zillow said that winning the portal race would be determined by who captured the hearts and minds of the industry.

On Jan. 6, Zillow announced that it will not be renewing an agreement with syndication platform ListHub, a Move subsidiary, which ends in early April. Zillow is now focused on securing listings directly from brokers and multiple listing services.

With the lines of that industry duel clearly drawn, the field of battle has apparently shifted.

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