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Greg Ellis announced as new CEO for REA

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The Chairman of the REA Group, Richard Freudenstein, today announced the appointment of Greg Ellis as the company’s new Chief Executive Officer. Ellis is currently Marketing Director Asia Online Services for Microsoft. He will take on the new role on Monday, 8 September.

Richard Freudenstein:

The Board is delighted that Greg has agreed to lead the REA Group through the next, crucial, stage of its development. We are confident he will fully realise the strategic vision we have for the company.

The REA Group has transformed itself into the second largest online real estate advertising company in the world, largely on the strength of its Australian operations.

Greg has the online and international experience necessary to grow the business from where it is today to an even larger and more successful future. This is excellent news for the real estate agents whom we help succeed and to the consumers who rely on our websites.

Greg Ellis

There is an excellent team in place at the REA Group and they have achieved great things. I am looking forward to joining them so that we can accomplish even more together.

My Comments: Firstly I would like to welcome Greg. Coming into a role in a company that already has complete market share will be nothing new to Greg, however it will be the expectations under which he is employed by the board that we will follow with interest.

I will be interested to see what changes he brings to the CEO role and how REA are perceived by agents, this is one of REA”s weak points and they need to improve relationships with agents especially after the email fiasco, which basically drove home the point and about REA being results driven rather than core customer focussed.

I wish him well and I am sure we all will judge him on his long term vision and results.

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32 Comments

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 10:09 am 0Likes

    None of you guessed right here, out of all of the emails I received Nancy was spot on. Well done!

  • SSSR
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 10:33 am 0Likes

    From the posts I read regarding Simon’s departure, from current and previous employees, Greg’s biggest challenge will be cultural. Simon seems to have a loyal following and has created a culture that is still fiercely loyal to him and his style. Will be difficult for Greg to serve agents if he doesn’t get the support of his team quickly.

    Obviously good luck to him however.

  • Glenn
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 10:43 am 0Likes

    I predict –

    Diversification to increase revenue because the specific and superior real estate expertise has left the building.

    It will be interesting to watch it all unravel errr sorry…. unfold.

    No….HA . to be fair lets see what happens but I stand by my prediction.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm 0Likes

    SSSR,

    That culture you speak off is certainly in force. A check on the Linkedin profiles for Simon and you will see recommendations by just about every mid and senior level manager at REA in August.

    The other thing that is obvious is the amount of recommendations they are all writing for each other. There seems to be some nervous tension which is to be expected I suppose.

    A check of Greg Ellis’s profile on Linked in http://www.linkedin.com/in/gellis shows he has only spent 6 months at Microsoft after having spent 5 years at Sensis as the General Manager for Sensis Interactive and 11 years prior to that at Telstra.

    Hmmm……. Sensis is hardly an internet success story now is it?

  • snoop
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 12:28 pm 0Likes

    they must have had him the the frame a while.
    Still microsoft and sensis
    Not exactly good on internet strategy are they.

  • SSSR
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 1:10 pm 0Likes

    His profile seems to indicate that he has experience in Europe and Asia. Based on this action by REA, my only conclusion for this change in guard is that they want to be number 1 in their global market. Will Australia get the focus deserving of it being the foundation for success? Or does Greg’s areas of expertise elude a further OS focus, leaving RE.com.au to status quo?

  • Glenn
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm 0Likes

    “5 years at Sensis as the General Manager for Sensis Interactive and 11 years prior to that at Telstra”

    Mark my words and watch the decline.
    This will be quicker than I thought.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 4:18 pm 0Likes

    I am sure he will do very well as REA have a very solid business model. He just needs to me mindful that out of hours meetings with the Chairman in hotel rooms can be detrimental to ones career. A rain check would be a much smarter option 🙂

    A new website would be a great start too.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 4:30 pm 0Likes

    Sensis bought trading post for $634 million and tried to convert http://www.tradingpost.com.au into an auction site to rival ebay… FLOP

    Sensis’s search engine… FLOP

    Yellow Pages Online…. FLOP

    I know nothing about the guy himself so I dont know his role in any of the above… but Sensis is no success story to be hanging a hat on.

    World Directories is just a Yellow Pages company in Europe and here is the Google Trends information for the sites he ran.

    http://trends.google.com/websites?q=www.pagesdor.be%2C+www.goudengids.nl%2C+www.pai.pt%2C+www.paginiaurii.ro&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

    No big increase in traffic from them, actually just a loss but that is probably more from the whole decline in Yellow Pages around the world.

    The more recent work at Microsoft might be a better clue to what he could expect.. but he only just got there and now he is gone..

    Oh yeah… expect the Sensis PR people to start posting here soon.. They always do when their name is mentioned.

  • JR
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 4:59 pm 0Likes

    I am not sure if anyone tuned into the full year financial presentations however the acting CEO mentioned that REA was looking at up to 30% price increases this year … ouch

  • Craig
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm 0Likes

    Having worked at Sensis, they have a fundamental problem. There internet strategy is in direct conflict with their offline (Yellow Pages) strategy. It is impossible to do both well. If they make the Yellow web site usable (ie, making the search work), it will hurt the Yellow Pages offline by not rewarding customers and giving non-customers a leg up. I think Sensis needs to have a long hard think about their long term direction or else it will eventually catch up with them.

  • Property in Brazil
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm 0Likes

    I think it is a good move to appoint him for this post. This will be a tough time for him but I think he will prove to be a better choice than anyone else there. And if he is able to do so then he will have a great time there.

  • lee
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 10:03 pm 0Likes

    Greg Ellis’ work contributed significantly to the success that Sensis initially had. The decline mentioned was long after Greg began his work in Europe.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm 0Likes

    Iee,

    Justlisted.com.au would have been on his watch though wouldnt it?? That was sensis’ foray into the real estate classified vertical. How do your reckon that ended?

    Actually.. that was in 2004, the same year that sensis.com.au search engine launched.. Again on his watch or was he gone by then??

  • AJ
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 11:29 am 0Likes

    justlisted.com.au background is a concern

  • Rust
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 5:36 pm 0Likes

    Yellowpages.com.au ranks 63 in terms of Australian web traffic according to Alexa. Whilst I’m not a massive fan of the site (largely due to the issues mentioned by Craig) I’m not sure I would call it a flop. Truelocal is a much nicer site in terms of its usability but comes in at number 226 in the same rankings. The point is that there is more to running a business than designing a pretty website. I’m sure Greg is going to do a great job at REA. The business can only benefit from his Australian and international experience.

  • Viv
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm 0Likes

    I think you can NOT say that Sensis in not a success, the generatel well over $200 Mill in revenues in just online, and that was from my knowledge of 3 years ago. So try and point out the long list of Australian internet success stories people. Yer, there aint many, so give the guy a break, he has much experience that other don’t

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 7:50 pm 0Likes

    Rust,

    Firstly, I would not trust Alexa for any rankings. Their stats are based on collections from the Alexa toolbar and that is just not that popular in Australia. Sites that would be more popular with people from outside Australia will always show higher on Alexa. Using your example, Truelocal shows about 25% of the traffic of Yellowpages however if you use Google Trends Websites which will give you actual daily unique visitors not hard to understand % reach figures of Alexa, you will see Truelocal has about 50% of the traffic.

    On a traffic level though, I dont consider either of yellowpages.com.au or truelocal successful. In that category you have hotfrog.com.au who outperform them both. Hotfrog is only just below YellowPages on daily traffic, but that is up about 100% in under a year not down like Yellow pages. YP has a massive (but declining) print presence and a huge television and radio campaign driving visitors.

    And it is in those terms that I consider it a flop. It has the content, it has a huge advertising campaigns to support it and an unbeatable print presence and one of the worlds most recognisable brands yet their online version just fails to deliver. Hotfrog, an SEO optimised business directory that most have never heard of with no brand recognition to speak of, that is free to list your business on outperforms it hands down IMHO

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 29, 2008 at 8:49 pm 0Likes

    Viv,

    I actually didnt say Sensis as a whole wasnt a success… I questioned…….. “Sensis is hardly an internet success story now is it?”

    Sensis online makes money, no question about that at all.. Sensis upsells their print edition with online options. With regard to Yellow Pages online refer to my comments to Rust above… also, they prey on peoples insecurities with their ads implying that their business will go broke if they dont get their ad in this years yellow pages.

    No amount of hard selling salespeople or scare tactics ads will keep the business alive if the trends of their industry continue. Expensive advertising can buy you traffic but they cant buy you the goodwill that actual results bring. Just look at Myhome for that. The day the advertising campaign stopped their daily visitors dropped in half.

    With regard to your request for internet success stories there are certainly some. In fact there is one industry that is one of the internet’s most popular subjects and Australians dominate that. We dont just have one success story in that particular industry but we have quite a few, all from the same city, Brisbane. They were that successful in their particular industry that other participants around the world call them a mafia and like their Sicilian name sakes, they have even broken out to more mainstream businesses. If you have spent any length of time on the internet you will no doubt have come across a few of their sites in your travels. Maybe you closed them down quickly when in the presences of others…

    Its not really a success story that the better business bureau will boast about, and apparently although they are not all the big players they were, they are still international players in an industry that now generates an expected $US1 billion per year. One original member of the gang went public recently on how he lost a $60 million personal fortune he had accumulated from his internet business because of drugs and gambling.

    Maybe not the conventional success story you were after…??

  • Rust
    Posted August 30, 2008 at 11:49 am 0Likes

    Glenn,
    By what measure is hotfrog outperforming YP? Hotfrog has managed to fool Google into ranking its results highly but the public are not so easily impressed which is why I suspect its page views and conversions are pretty poor. Now that Sensis has all but abandoned its own web search engine and opened its YP content to the Google robot its incoming traffic is bound to improve. After all, both Sensis and Reed Elsevier (HF owners) run on the same search technology. I personally hope that neither of these models prevail and that a site like TrueLocal, which is working so hard to produce a good user experience, can win over more users and advertisers with its superior service to both.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted August 30, 2008 at 7:04 pm 0Likes

    Rust,

    “By what measure is hotfrog outperforming YP?”

    I did actually state that:

    “On a traffic level though, I dont consider either of yellowpages.com.au or truelocal successful. In that category you have hotfrog.com.au who outperform them both.” … etc etc

    I thought I was quite clear how I consider HF outperforms it. Not even just total traffic, but growth over the past 12 months as well as their minimal investment required to achieve such results.

    If YP online was blocking Google and other search engines you have to ask yourself why? They charge a fortune for their listings relative to their competitors yet they actively block the ability to significantly increase the return on investment for their clients.!! Smacks of Sensis all over.

    “Hotfrog has managed to fool Google into ranking its results highly but the public are not so easily impressed which is why I suspect its page views and conversions are pretty poor.”

    Now neither of us know that of course, and I reckon thats a guess of yours at best or can you provide some further info???… but I can confirm one thing, Hotfrog has delivered dramatically more visitors to our website than Yellow Pages…. in the magnitude of 1500% + in the past 18 months. Others could give us some feedback after checking their own stats.

    “bound to improve.”…. maybe…. but they have to, to survive. They are a dying brand and they shouldnt be if they were managed better. Whats interesting is that it appears to be the same the world over with YP.. Its like a template they all followed. They had enough market power but were blinded in favour of print and when they did start to use the net, they did so kicking and screaming .. ie.. blocking search engines.

    I agree with you over Truelocal though.. it has potential.. it is just missing something…. Maybe they should hire some of Hotfrog’s SEO people.

  • Rust
    Posted August 31, 2008 at 11:08 am 0Likes

    Glenn,
    I agree that Hotfrog’s success has been down to good SEO. I don’t agree that it’s a useful directory though. A search for real estate in Nerang for example brings back a cleaning company as the first result. Still, your agency appears 3 times in the top ten so I guess it works for you.
    Getting back to Greg and REA I think he faces a similar challenge to the much maligned managers at Sensis. How do you adapt to new business models when you dominate the existing market? His primary responsibility is to the REA shareholders who no doubt want to see a continuation of the great financial performance of recent years. I hope he can also take a strategic view on where search portals are heading globally and effectively manage the transition to a more customer-centric approach.

  • snoop
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 1:02 pm 0Likes

    dlook seems well optimised as well

  • SSSR
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm 0Likes

    True local have been advertising everywhere in the last couple of weeks it seems.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted September 4, 2008 at 3:33 pm 0Likes

    Yeah, but there are not too many web businesses that can survive the cost of traditional media advertising costs for too long. Just ask Myhome 🙂

    Honestly, all these business directories provide such little traffic to each individual business. I quoted Hotfrog got me 1500% more than Yellowpages online.. Thats because YP only provided a handful of visitors.. Truelocal brought us just 2 visitors. Add them all together and they represent about an hours worth of traffic in a year.

    In contrast our listing in Google’s Local Business Guide has got us 20 visitors in the past 30 days alone. This is because these entries are integrated directly into Google Maps and Google Search… much the way Google Base will be 🙂

  • totally
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 11:03 am 0Likes

    Got a vistit from my REA Account Manager last week. The staff are very worried about the new blokes Sensis background! Telstra/Sensis have a shocking name for how they treat their staff, sales staff in particular.

    Lets hope his aim is to smooth the business out not turn it into a churning, burning, poorly trained and clueless utility like we put up with from Sensis/Yellow Pages/Telstra.

    Look, clearly his job will be to grow the business, lets just hope we get something for the extra money we will no doubt be handing over….

  • snoop
    Posted September 9, 2008 at 10:53 am 0Likes

    hope you didnt drop him or her in the @#$%

  • Insider
    Posted September 16, 2008 at 12:42 am 0Likes

    The CIO of the REA Group has just left the business. Rumour has it that she was forced out by the Board. What next?

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted September 16, 2008 at 9:58 am 0Likes

    CIO – Chief Intelligence Officer ? Out smarted by the board ? Gotta love these clandestine operations – I wonder if it all happened in a hotel suite too! Nah it was probably the butler in the kitchen 🙂

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted September 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm 0Likes

    With Simon Baker gone, it

  • Bobby
    Posted October 27, 2008 at 2:42 pm 0Likes

    I’m a hotfrog seo. And I know all the secrets heh heh heh..

    Bribe me!

  • Richard Marrard
    Posted October 31, 2008 at 4:28 pm 0Likes

    Bob,

    I work for TrueLocal, and quite seriously we could offer quite a sum if you were keen to assist us in maximising a new focus on SEO. Our site boasts a more rounded customer focus which will no doubt fuel the very future sustainability which HotFrog lacks.

    Please consider joining our team.

    Richard

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