Zillow CEO says he was luckier than most monetizing for mobile

Monetizing for mobile is a hard nut to crack, as Facebook and Twitter have demonstrated, but Zillow CEO argued Friday that he was luckier than most in monetizing for mobile — even if getting the digital real estate company there was hard work.

“The companies that are really struggling are the ones for whom the mobile monetization is a nuisance for the user,” said CEO Spencer Rascoff at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference in San Francisco. “But with real estate, the mobile ad unit actually enhances the user experience.”

Rascoff pointed out that unlike social media sites or areas where mobile ads are just distracting for users, real estate sites are areas where they’re looking to purchase something and find information, so the advertising is a good fit rather than an annoyance. The company, which went public in July 2011, has optimized its product for mobile, rolling out 14 different apps for phones and tablets.

“That wasn’t easy, it took a lot of brute force to get a 100-plus person company to get away from desktop to mobile,” Rascoff said, noting that it meant changing the company’s name and working on prioritizing the mobile web throughout the company. “It took a year or two to find our footing from a design experience,” he said. “But it was easier for us to get into mobile because of our category.”

In talking about the race for mobile, Rascoff said he thinks some companies have actually moved too fast in trying to adapt for advertising, when they don’t yet have a total grasp on how it will fit with their business.

“I think the most common mistake would be overzealous monetization from mobile,” he said.

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2012 coverage here, and the live stream can be found here.