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Realtor.com pulls the plug on internet portals, focus is on mobile

(Business News) Realtor.com nixes relationships with internet portals as the race for mobile users’ eyeballs heats up.

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pull plug on portals

Making a big move and pulling the plug

Realtor.com will be announcing later today that they plan to pull the plug on internet portals to focus on their own portfolio of online and offline channels, representing the first of the Big Three (Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia) to make such a move, effectively ending their agreements with all portals, including MSN, so you’ll no longer see Realtor.com-powered listings on various sites across the internets.

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The strategy shift means that the company will be focusing on their own mobile and desktop products to drive traffic, which sheds light on their finally agreeing with our long-held assertion that the best proof in the pudding is if consumers actually visit your native website rather than counting traffic as people who saw your listings somewhere floating around the web, even without knowing the source.

A shift in tone and wording

Realtor.com operator, Move, Inc. is using phrases like “the most accurate U.S. residential listings,” which saves consumers from the “anguish wasting time with listings that are off the market or priced incorrectly,” and they assert that their marketing is the effectively attracting “transaction-ready consumers” to their services.

Sources inside Move tell us that they’ve been in research mode for some time, and Move, Inc. CMO, Barbara O’Connor tells us, “In my role as CMO, I’m responsible for driving brand, audience growth and engagement. This strategic shift in our marketing acquisition strategy has been taking place for well over the past 12 months. My recommendation to shift our strategy was based on key metrics, new channel performance testing, and optimization driven by the results.”

We take this to mean that this is not a knee-jerk reaction to any staff changes, and done regardless of former staff potentially knowing their shifting strategy. Also regarding timing, because of the confidentiality of agreements with portals like MSN, Move cannot comment as to who initiated the severing of ties, so this could either be a bold move by Realtor.com to focus internally, a reaction to a major portal initiating the end of the relationship, or it could always be mutual.

The world is going mobile and the race is on

The truth is that consumers are shifting to mobile search through apps, and as for Realtor.com, residential listings viewed on mobile devices overtook the number of views on the desktop site by January 2013, just three years after the launch of their first mobile app. In a statement, the company emphasizes the shift toward mobile, with nearly 60 percent of all Realtor.com residential listings being viewed on mobile apps, citing that mobile consumers spend more time reviewing listings and photos in a single session, “which is a strong indication they are more ready to buy or sell than desktop computer users.”

The world is going mobile. Guess who’s winning the mobile race by an insanely wide margin? Zillow. The race isn’t even close, and while there is a behind-the-scenes race between Trulia and Realtor.com for the number two spot, when it comes to mobile, it’s going to take big moves like this to narrow the gap between Zillow that the competitors they’re leaving in the mobile dust.

What Realtor.com plans to do

Instead of sitting on their hands, Realtor.com will be focused exclusively on their own apps and sites and will “regularly enhance native applications for Android, iPad and iPhone as well as create native mobile applications for new platforms.” They will also invest more time and resources into marketing, particularly with their co-branded venture with the National Association of Realtors.

“Integrated marketing across all devices coupled with brand awareness not only builds a larger audience, it also creates brand advocates,” said Barbara O’Connor, chief marketing officer of Move, Inc. “Creating an ongoing emotional connection with our brand’s unique ability to deliver accurate, real-time listings is key to growing and retaining our audience. Our advocates reward us with referrals and keep coming back to realtor.com® for services and information.”

Will others pull the plug?

If the focus is now on marketing and mobile and the value of internet portals is diminishing, will the others follow suit or will they slide into Realtor.com’s old spots in hopes of branding or driving traffic? Zillow wasn’t always number one in traffic, and as the ebb and flow of business goes, they may not always be in that spot, but unless Realtor.com and Trulia make more moves of this nature (instead of assuming the tide will change), the gap is going to widen, maybe even at an accelerated pace.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Drew Meyers

    May 8, 2014 at 1:59 am

    So they are essentially going to give all MSN’s traffic to either Zillow or Trulia? Surely, one of those two will pick that deal up, and all the traffic that goes with it.

    • JoeLoomer

      May 8, 2014 at 6:51 am

      Drew, that was my first thought too – that, and it’s an SEO win for the rest of us?

      Navy Chief, Navy Pride

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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Business News

Scammers are taking advantage of the unemployed

(BUSINESS NEWS) In a country that’s been stricken by higher-than-ever levels of unemployment, scammers have found a unique way to target this vulnerable demographic.

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With unemployment rates reaching unprecedented levels in recent months, it’s a fairly safe bet to say that there’s something that many of us currently have in common: we need a job. While these levels are slowly starting to decline, already down to 11.1 percent in June from an all-time high of 14.7 percent in April, the need for steady gainful employment is still great for many Americans. That’s what makes the newest scam making its rounds particularly vile.

There’s a common misconception that people who get scammed largely deserved their misfortune. Whether it’s presumed that they got greedy, they fell for something that was too good to be true, or they were looking for an easy way out, it’s both unfair and unkind to make these snap judgements of victims of scammers. When it comes to scammers, there’s only one party to blame for these wrongful actions — the scammers themselves.

And with literally millions of people looking for a job right now, these scammers have found a new round of susceptible people to target. It’s a fairly well documented fact that scammers have a knack for knowing who will be easy prey, and this latest scam is no different. According to a report from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers have ramped up their efforts to separate desperate job seekers from what’s left of their meager funds.

This scam is nothing new, but it has surged in popularity with the sheer number of people looking for jobs in today’s economy. Dubbed the “employment scam,” it can take on many forms, but the end result remains the same. At the end of the day, if a person is bilked out of their money, then the scammer has won.

What does this scam look like, and how can you safeguard yourself from falling prey to it? Please note that anyone — from all walks of life, no matter your age, your sex, your race, or any other factor — can become a victim of a scam. The only way to protect yourself is to be aware of the scam and recognize the signs of it. If a potential employer asks any of the following of you, then there’s a good chance they’re a scammer:

  • You are required to pay the so-called employer for your own training up front.
  • You are expected to give up your banking/personal info for a credit check.
  • You are overpaid by a fraudulent check and told to wire back the difference.
  • You are told that you need to pay for expensive equipment to work from home.

Please note that these scammers can spoof legitimate companies. They may try to pass themselves off as real-deal businesses; they’ve even tried to emulate the BBB itself. And when you refuse to follow through with their demands, they will double down and might even become hostile and aggressive, resorting to threats and cajoling. It’s important to not cave in; once they start bullying you, they know the gig is up.

The BBB also notes that coronavirus has created a “perfect storm” for scammers, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. They advise that you avoid social isolation, as that can make you more vulnerable to scammers. When in doubt, seek out a friend’s feedback. Sometimes a reality check can make all the difference in whether or not you become a mark. Do a little bit of digging online before you accept an “offer” or share personal information. And finally, be prudent. No matter how many warnings the BBB puts out each year about scams, the only person who can really protect you from getting scammed is just one person…yourself.

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Business News

American Express’ cash back program helps members support small businesses

(BUSINESS NEWS) Between now and September 20th, AMEX is providing $50 in credits to their cardholders to support local businesses.

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cashback program

It’s no secret that coronavirus has been nothing short of devastating for small businesses. Even with the Small Business Administration (SBA) offering financial relief in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), many small businesses are still struggling to keep their doors open. So far, the numbers have been astronomical — to the tune of some 100,000 small businesses closing down permanently, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research — and they’re expected to continue to rise as the pandemic drags on.

With that in mind, American Express has come forward with their own disaster relief program of sorts. Between now and the 20th of September, the credit card company will be offering a cash back rewards incentive for their cardholders. The program is fairly simple and straightforward: for every $10 (or more) that you spend at a small business, Amex will give you a $5 statement credit on your account. This can be repeated up to ten times, for a total of $50 in rewards. Not bad, huh? But the question remains: what’s a mere $50 in the grand scheme of things, and will it actually help out small businesses in the long run?

Well, first and foremost, $50 is no small chunk of change. For most of us, it’s a fairly decent perk, especially since it requires us to do what we would have done anyway (shop at local businesses). Whether you feel like getting takeout from your local mom-and-pop restaurant, you’re going to pick up a few groceries for dinner tonight at your corner market, or you need to take Fido in for a checkup at your neighborhood veterinary clinic, these activities all count toward the reward program. You’re literally getting paid for shopping locally. Easy peasy.

And secondly, historic data does prove that these incentives do work. Amex rolled out their first small business reward program back in 2010, called Small Business Saturday®, as a response to the mass consumerism of Black Friday. In 2015, the SBA decided to get in on the fun and joined forces with Amex, sponsoring the program. Even better, a study from 2019 revealed that a whopping $19.6 billion was funneled back into local economies thanks to the initiative. So while “just” $50 may not seem like much, it adds up to impressive numbers when seen from a more macroscopic perspective.

This isn’t the only program that has Amex’s name standing behind it, either. The company is also the driving force behind the Stand for Small program, which unifies larger businesses who are offering their own helping hand to smaller businesses. Whether you’re looking for assistance in managing your expenses, or you’re in need of help in growing your online presence, the Stand for Small program was designed to help make this possible. Large names like Amazon and eBay are included in the ranks that have rallied behind Stand for Small, lending clout to this program.

So what’s a little extra $50? Is it worth it to you? Sure, the intentions of some of these companies may be somewhat less than magnanimous — there’s no arguing that there’s something in it for them, as well — it doesn’t change the fact that in an economy that’s been crippled by COVID-19, they’re actually doing something instead of just sitting there idly and waiting for someone else to take action.

That, at least, has to be worth something. And if you’re wanting to get your hands on a share of the cool fifty bucks courtesy of Amex, they’d like to remind you that you do need to enroll in the rewards program no later than July 26. If you don’t, you may miss out on your opportunity to help keep small businesses afloat (while also enjoying an extra $5 in your pocket here or there), courtesy of American Express.

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