REALTOR Magazine Q&A with Move/realtor.com CEO Ryan O’Hara

January 27, 2015

Move Inc.’s new CEO Ryan O’Hara is in New York this week meeting other real estate industry players, many for the first time, at Real Estate Connect New York. O’Hara has been living and working in New York—most recently as president of the technology and marketing partnership division of Madison Square Garden Co. But the California native and Stanford graduate will soon relocate back to his home state. Move, which operates realtor.com® through an operating agreement with the National Association of REALTORS®, is based in San Jose.

O’Hara took over the helm of Move/realtor.com® Jan. 5, shortly after the company’s acquisition by News Corp. REALTOR® Magazine caught up with him on the eve of Real Estate Connect to learn more about both his background and the company’s plans for realtor.com®.

Q. Why did this job interest you?

A. I found it interesting for a few reasons — the two principal ones being real estate and the company’s new ownership.  Real estate, the buying and selling of homes, is among the leading contributors to an

d bellwethers of the American economy.  And home ownership is not only an important part of our cultural fabric; it’s part of our national identity. To play a part in how this happens, leveraging the real advantages of technology to continually improve the process for both the industry and consumers, is a huge opportunity.  The combination of assets and skills possessed by Move/realtor.com®, REA Group [which operates leading real estate listing sites in a number of countries], and News Corp positions us to be innovative and grow.  This is a market and a company full of potential, and that’s what attracted me to the job.

Q. What in your professional, or personal, background equips you for this position?

A. I’ve spent the majority of my career in consumer products and media.  These were mainstream markets driven by content, an appeal to the end-user, and providing value to advertising or trade partners.  That experience carries over to the online real estate opportunity.

I like to help companies and industries with choice and value.  For instance, at Fox Sports Networks, we competed with ESPN, a powerhouse brand with consumer attraction to match, and took a tailored, local-market approach.  At TV Guide, we competed with E! and Yahoo, and differentiated the offerings through creative content plays. I also borrow from the horseracing industry through my experience managing the TVG television network and tvg.com website. It gave me a deep respect for the importance of associations and other constituent relationships in the vitality of an industry. 

On the personal side, I grew up in Southern California, played on a state championship volleyball team at Palisades High School and attended Stanford University on an athletic scholarship.  I learned early that I like to work hard as part of a team united in the pursuit of a common goal.  I continue to draw on those experiences. 

Q. What is your initial assessment of realtor.com®?

A. That there’s a lot to admire and to build on. We start with some tremendous assets — our longstanding partnership with the NAR, the best and most accurate listing information available in the market, and the industry’s No. 1 position in terms of lead quality. We have strong awareness among consumers, and we come into 2015 with accelerating traffic growth. However, our product development has sometimes trailed the marketplace or been slow to evolve to consumer needs. And we need to become quicker and more agile across the organization. That will be key in areas like product development and in partnering with News Corp to cross-promote across platforms and boost traffic and time spent on our sites.

Q. News Corp has said all along that an improved user experience is a priority.  What steps will you take to improve the user experience at realtor.com®?

A. It starts with building great products and features, faster than we’ve done before.  We’ll be looking at simple product improvements, like enhanced agent profiles that work harder to connect consumers with local real estate professionals and search function improvements that better respond to the way people intuitively use realtor.com to find homes.  We’ll also explore some big, bold ideas. It’s critical that we develop a great experience.

Q. Will Move continue to view realtor.com® as its flagship site?

A. Yes, we will.  It’s our core site.

Q. How do you respond to some practitioners’ concerns that News Corp is a big, profit-centered organization simply looking to "monetize" the real estate transaction?

A. While we are a commercial enterprise, our success depends on doing things right and adding value for customers, partners, and consumers. That means providing value that most directly leads to our customers’ success — what we deliver that makes realtor.com® the best return on their marketing investment.

On that score, our biggest differentiators are the accuracy of our listings — we have, hands down, the best and most comprehensive data in the business — and our belief in the indispensable role of the REALTOR® in the transaction cycle.  We will win by partnering with the real estate industry to provide consumers with the content, tools, and professional expertise they need to find, buy, or sell the perfect home. Consumers and professionals will want to work with us more and more over time.

Q. Are you giving yourself a timeframe for progress?

A. We will make steady, sustained progress, and I expect it will be an exciting journey for the company.