Can the media business model, "free content - sell ads", used to great success by network TV, radio and now Google, work well for Zillow in Real Estate? Zillow's other model is Expedia, which drove traffic first then drove revenue. Zillow has certainly driven traffic, being steadily in the top 10 of Real Estate sites since its beta start in 2/06. But can Zillow make money? If paranoia in the Real Estate Industry is any gage, Zillow should make a ton of money. Brokers and agents fear Zillow will become Real Estate's next NRT, Home Services or REMAX when, by all appearances, Zillow will become Real Estate's first Google. Zillow already has Google ads and Pictometry pictures through Microsoft. Check out Zillow's organic Search Engine rankings, with no advertising budget. What will happen when someone invents a mash-down, combining Zillow street address Web pages with both lists of the homes for sale in an area and targeted Google ads? Any home-sale related company could advertise on any or all of the homes for sale in their market by location, price or feature, down to the individual home.
Google, Yahoo and MSN have been struggling with issues of Local Search, Vertical Search, Geo-coding and Tagged (Semantic) Search for years. Zillow will soon have a Web page tagged to the street address of every residence in the United States. A business, local or national, can now advertise on a Web page next to the street address, tax assessment, value estimate (Zestimate), schematic map, aerial map, integrated map, and neighborhood assessments of any home or Zip Code (90210). (Great for targeted Real Estate advertising.) How soon before Google and the Google wannabees see Zillow can offer a potential solution to their Local Search and other problems? I like the 2 Venture Capital firms, Benchmark and Technology Crossover Ventures, which put $32 million of their post dotcom-bust bucks into Zillow. By joining Zillow they could make Zillions.