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12 questions remain for Zillow’s Errol Samuelson

(Business News) Errol Samuelson recently left Move, Inc. for Zillow, and many questions remain about his departure.

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errol samuelson

errol samuelson

Move executives jump ship for Zillow, questions remain

Earlier this month, Zillow announced that Errol Samuelson, former president of realtor.com and Chief Strategy Officer at Move, Inc. became their new Chief Industry Development Officer to direct the company’s relations with the industry. Move quickly promoted Samuelson’s number two, Curt Beardsley to fill his shoes, and days later, it was announced that Beardsley too, had converted to Zillow-ism. Both figures left on the heels of Trulia announcing that they had recruited John Whitney, the VP of ListHub (a Move company) to shore up their listing accuracy.

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Some called the poaching a blow, others cited Move’s opportunity to bring in some new blood. Brad Inman, founder of Inman News recently sat down with Samuelson to discuss his exit, and we gained insight into Zillow’s culture. While we have tremendous respect for Inman and the paths he has paved for the industry, the video interview left us wanting more. Much more.

Prior to the publication of the video interview, we reached out to Samuelson, offering to tell his side of the story, even inviting him to do a video interview with our CEO who he has met with and spoken with in the past. He politely declined, citing that “right now I’m heads down with the team here in Seattle, putting together our plans for the next 6 months.”

Although our invitation stands, it may be because he knows that our policy is to not offer questions in advance, to never softball an interview, and to focus on the facts, that the interview was declined. For this reason, we were left wanting more. Much more.

12 questions remain for Errol Samuelson

Because we consider ourselves watchdogs for the Realtor membership and feel it fair that he answer to questions that impact not only Realtor-owned Realtor.com, but the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and their members. In that spirit, we have no choice but to ask these questions here.

  1. Why did you erase all memory from the iPhone, iPad, and laptop issued to you for business purposes by Move?
  2. Why didn’t you give the standard two week’s notice?
  3. Why did you resign by contacting the human resources department on a day that everyone knew your CEO would be in investor meetings and completely unavailable for the duration of the work day? Why didn’t you attend your scheduled 2013 review the next day with Steve Berkowitz and resign in person?
  4. When Berkowitz contacted you upon learning of your resignation, he asked only one thing – that you give him 24 hours before the announcement of your leaving goes public (we assume so he could finish his meeting and have his team mobilized to respond). You declined and the announcement went out just minutes later. Why wasn’t this request honored?
  5. How many Move employees did you contact after you had already left for Zillow? What was the context of those conversations?
  6. Why didn’t Curt Beardsley, your number two, leave at the same time as you?
  7. How do you feel about your actions (wiping hard drives, going to a competitor without notice) potentially impacting how Move will likely analyze Beardsley’s exit? Doesn’t this put Beardsley in an awkward position?
  8. Berkowitz noted that you were always one of the most outspoken critics of Realtor.com competitors, and to see that change overnight is like a Republican becoming Democrat with no explanation. How do you respond?
  9. In your interview with Inman, you allude to constraints at Move. Can you expound on those constraints?
  10. Were the constraints because of the company, or because in the past three years, a $90 million marketing budget was taken out of your hands, and you were stripped of involvement in day to day operations, leaving you as somewhat of a figurehead with tied hands? Is that the real reason you resigned?
  11. Zillow launched as the anti-Realtor.com, so why do you think they are recruiting talent from within the ranks of the company they once swore against and are creating products that are so similar to Move products? By joining Zillow, aren’t you just setting them up for the same failure you couldn’t control in your tenure at Move?
  12. In your new role in industry relations, wouldn’t you expect to walk into a broker’s office and receive this same line of questioning, given that the Realtor model is built on cooperation and trust?

Samuelson is a very pleasant person and not abrasive, so he is indeed a popular figure in the sector, but industry relations matters and it’s built on trust.

We look forward to getting answers to these questions, not because musical chairs aren’t common in corporate life, but because of the complexity of the Move, Inc. structure and how intertwined it is with NAR and their members; trade secrets are relevant.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Robert Drummer

    March 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Great questions, none of which will be answered except in depositions and testimony. I expect some Zillow apologists to weigh in and explain how “it’s just business.”

  2. timandjulieharris

    March 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    It certainly doesn’t appear as if this issue is simply going to go away or be forgotten about.
    The other possible question would be why Zillow would want him? Not questioning his abilities or professional track record. From all accounts he is a top level operator.. perhaps one of the best in the industry.
    Zillow must of known the fallout this would create. Perhaps they didn’t know how the exit was handled by him or possibly more likely he was operating under the advice of an attorney and all of the moves he made were strategic. Either way someone is in for big legal bills. Is Zillow picking up the tab?
    After watching Inman’s interview my big take away was that he may of misjudged the hype this would create. I honestly felt a little sorry for him. Wait until the CNBC types catch on to this story….
    At the end of the day new blood (and being a little pissed off) will be good for Move.
    Maybe we will learn that Mr. Samuelson left as he did for an excellent reason. I bet a year from now Move/ Realtor.com will have used this rather inconvenient event as a catalyst for massive positive change.

  3. rolandestrada

    March 25, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I think at the end of the day, no one will care outside of the inside-baseball crowd. The news cycle has moved on from this story, CNBC or otherwise.

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Business News

Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Ageism void

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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Business News

AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines, so what now?

(BUSINESS) Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that AI-generated content is against webmaster guidelines. What does mean for content strategy?

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Google homepage on computer representing AI-generated content.

John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, stated that AI-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines in a weekly online question and answer session.

Let’s review what that means for you and your content strategy going forward.

First of all, what is AI Generated Content?

Simply put, Medium defines it as

“[a]utomatically generated or Auto-Generated content is content that’s been created with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools.”

Tools like writesonic or jasper are examples of AI content creation tools made to create content for a blog, social media, etc. If you check these websites, you will find that Google is listed as one of the many companies that use their services.

So, Google can use it but others will be penalized for using it. Can Google recognize when a user takes advantage of AI-generated content services for use on the web?

In the video Q&A, Mueller doesn’t confirm or deny whether or not Google is capable of recognizing AI-generated content. He is quoted as stating,

“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can take action on that.”

After countless searches about the Google webspam team and what actions they can take, it’s not immediately clear, but what seems to be the consensus is that it could negatively impact Google rankings and SEO.

What can you do?

If you are already using AI-generated content, the first thing to consider is do you need to do most of the heavy lifting or are you using it to generate ideas or a starting point? If you’re using it to fully write your next blog post, you need to reconsider this position and be sure to have a human add personal touches to your online content.

According to Mueller, using AI-generated content in ANY capacity is considered unacceptable. He states,

“[c]urrently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So, from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”

Your best bet is to keep doing it yourself because right now Google has all the power over search and rankings. At least, until something changes.

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Business News

Social media and depression go hand-in-hand, studies show

(BUSINESS) Maybe this won’t come as a surprise, but the statistics sure are telling- having depression and social media usage are linked.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania believe they have found evidence of a link between depression and social media use. Many studies have attempted to show that social media use can be detrimental to your mental health, but the parameters of these studies are often limited in scope or were unrealistic situations. The UPenn study collected usage data tracked by the phone rather than relying on self-reporting.

Psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, the author of the published study, says the bottom line is: “Using less social media than you normally would lead to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

It should be noted that the study participants were college students who were randomly assigned to either use social media as they normally would or be in the experimental group that limited time on the three most popular platforms, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Hunt doesn’t believe that it’s realistic not to use social networks at all, but it is important to find a way to manage your use to avoid negative effects.

Depression is a serious problem for Americans, but is social media responsible?

The CDC reported that between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of Americans over the age of 20 experienced depression in a 2-week period. About 80% of these people had difficulty with daily activities due to depression. However, “over a 10-year period, from 2007–2008 to 2015–2016, the percentage of adults with depression did not change significantly.” On the other hand, social network use increased exponentially during this time.

There have been other studies that link social media use and depression. It might be that the more platforms accessed increase the risk for depression. Another study found that it was the way people used social media that increased depression. Using it to compare yourself to others or feeling addicted to social media increased the feelings of depression.

But it’s unknown whether depression or social media use came first. Studies haven’t quite agreed on whether it exacerbates existing problems, or creates them.

How should we approach social media use?

Another report suggests that Facebook knew from the start that they were creating addictions. The people closest to tech believe that there are inherent risks for their children to be on social media. Scary? It should make you think about how and why you use tech.

If you find yourself having negative feelings after using social networks, consider limiting the amount of time you spend on those platforms. Get out and connect with others. Relationships can often reduce the risk of depression. Get involved in your community. It’s important to find balance in using social media and having connections with others. Spend time on what makes you feel better about your life.

There are still a lot of questions about how social networks and technologies affect society. In the meantime, pay attention to how you use these sites and be conscious of not getting sucked into the comparison trap.

If you are depressed and lonely, there is help available, and we ask you to make that difficult step and reach out – call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741. You can also visit their website to find your local NAMI.

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