Barton: Advertising Takes Focus Away from Quality of Websites

Ten years ago, Rich Barton was the CEO of Expedia, which at that time was the dominant travel fare search website. Today at Phocuswright, a clip was played of a young Barton up on stage being asked a question by investor Carl Icahn, about reading a balance sheet.

In the ten years since, Barton has done a lot. He founded the wildly successful real estate site, and a site called that provides uncensored copies of employee reviews and confidential salary information.  He started another site called that rates lawyers.  Another site called RealSelf provides ratings and values to plastic surgery. “Anything that’s out there will become public,” he said.

He spoke up on the center stage and told a packed house that the problem with advertising is that when companies do this, they forget the more important work of making their sites compelling.  All of the sites he launched were done with no advertising spend.  It makes a lot of sense—find information people want and the sites will become popular. From the first day, Zillow became a sensation because it filled such an important need–finding out how much houses were worth.

Barton commented on Facebook. “The problem is that people have too many friends.”  Hear hear. I often lament that so many people who have friended me I don’t personally know…Barton echoed this, saying that he has just 31 friends, but at least he knows that his children’s photos are safe and since it’s only relatives, his personal info is safe too.

It’s been seven years since Rich Barton took the stage here, and now he’s working on a huge new project, But I’m sure there are a lot more sites in his brain, which we’ll see in the years to come.