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4 Big Move Inc Changes That May Determine Its Future Fortune

by James F. McClister

Zillow has been stealing headlines, but Move Inc is quietly making moves to try and stay ahead of the industry.

Move-Inc-News-Corp-realtor-FTC-SEC-O'hara-berkowitz

Barely a week into 2015, and already we’re tracking what’s bound to be one of the bigger, more impactful real estate stories of 2015, which is the ongoing shuffle between the industry’s largest syndication sites: Zillow and realtor.com – Trulia will also play a major role, but not until February when the Federal Trade Commission announces whether to allow the Zillow-Trulia merger.

In December, Move Inc., operator of realtor.com, was acquired by leading media company News Corp. In the immediate aftermath, it’s been mostly Zillow stealing headlines, largely a result of the ongoing anti-trust investigation. However, now that the final paperwork has gone through for the News Corp-Move acquisition, Murdoch and company have waded into the pool and are looking to start making waves.

Here’s how:

1. Under New Management – Since 2009, Move has been helmed by former Microsoft executive Steve Berkowitz, who helped boost traffic to realtor.com from approximately 11 million in 2009 to over 20 million in 2014. In December, the company quietly announced that Ryan O’Hara, president of the Madison Square Garden Company and former CEO of The Topps Company, would be taking over as Move’s chief executive on January 5.

In a statement following the announcement, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said the company was exited to have O’Hara on board and pointed to “his record of transforming businesses in the digital age and his clear determination to accelerate the growth of the company” as motivation for the switch.

“I’m grate for this exciting opportunity to join the team at Move and help make realtor.com the best in the business,” O’Hara told HousingWire, adding that real estate’s online market is “poised for rapid expansion.”

2. WSJ Partnership – According to Thomson, O’Hara isn’t the only big change coming to Move. Starting this week, News Corp will be introducing a new marketing campaign to help funnel quality, online traffic from The Wall Street Journal’s digital platform, which News Corp owns, to realtor.com. It’s an effort to, as Thomson described it, “turbo-charge” realtor.com.

In a November interview with HousingWire, Thomson further celebrated the decision to combine media forces, saying the partnership with WSJ would help make realtor.com “the most popular and profitable property site in America.” A bold prediction considering the implications of successful Zillow-Trulia merger.

3. Going Global – Prior to his departure, Berkowitz told the news source that with News Corp backing, as well as the major corporate resources that come along with the partnership, realtor.com is on the cusp of extending its presence well beyond the borders of the U.S. and elevating the industry.

“This is really important for Realtors as well,” he said. “The integration benefits the entire industry.”

Though Berkowtiz is no longer with the company, he remains steadfast in his support of realtor.com, saying, “Move is well-positioned for the future.”

Agreeing with Berkowtiz, Thomsen added that with the addition of Move to News Corp’s portfolio, the company can now work towards extending its operations both globally and digitally, saying that the acquisition “substantially bolsters the real estate pillar of its business.”

4. ListHub and Zillow – On Tuesday, we covered the supposed split between Zillow and its listing syndicator ListHub, which currently supplies a large portion of the syndication site’s listing data. Through a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Zillow claimed there was no dispute between the two companies and claimed it would now “incur any early termination penalities as a result of the agreement’s expiration,” set for April 7.

A Move spokesperson told HousingWire in a statement that the company was still pursuing a renewed agreement with Zillow, but all signs point to a spring split.

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