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Just when you thought it was safe!

5 minute read

Just when you thought it was safe to work out your marketing budget for 2005 – Realestate.com.au is releasing its own Property Print Guide in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

According to Simon Baker, Chief Executive Officer, ” The Real Estate.com.au Property Guide brings together the best of the Internet and Print publishing to provide advertiser and reader with a low cost, easy to use and comprehensive directory of properties for sale in the selected area”.

Straight from the Horses Mouth!
The Guides listings are sourced directly from the Internet and this will cause a huge concern to other media players, particularly the Fairfax Newspaper Group (Domain.com.au) and the FPC Courier groups range of advertising papers that operate in and around Sydney. These papers traditionally generate most of their revenues from agents.

This is the latest assault on the print market in Sydney after Just Listed (Sensis) released their own property guide for this region late last year. This could start a war as Sydney already has too many paper property guides for agents liking, but my view is that any competition in newspaper markets is worthwhile for agents as prices will be driven down.

Why it will work!
Real Estate.com.au is revenue hunting, they are probably struggling somewhat to squeeze more money from agents and as their growth will slow in the coming years (they have most active agents already)so they must look for new horizons. To their benefit that not only have relationships with so many agents, but more importantly they have good advertising relationships with companies that already make money from real estate (banks, property monitors etc). This could give them the edge they need.

Why it will NOT work!
It comes during a slight lull in the market and because allot of agents in the Sydney area do not charge vendors for advertising it may be seen as just another expense. Print advertising is also very expensive game (far more than Internet) with cost of entry very high, although with the relationship with News Limited it can be seen as a natural progression.

However competition always drives per line pricing down and all newspapers will be scurrying to attract advertising, this may mean that the revenues sought and revenues delivered for News Limited maybe two entirely different levels. It also breaks barriers down which could start a costly war. In the past many of the newspapers have kept out of competitors territories because they have done very nicely from controlling their own territories.

Gutsy Mr Baker!
I think Simon Baker is a brave man, he is declaring a war of sorts and his timing may be a little out, but there is a lot at stake here. It is the timing that is of concern to me as we are entering into what traditionally will be quieter months ahead for agents sales. Is Mr Baker’s Hammer bigger and will they awake the classifieds giant in Australia – Fairfax from their heartless slumber?

Note: Any chance that these papers will compete in markets controlled by News Limited Property Guides such as Southern Tasmania are pretty slim as Realestate.com.au is majority owned by News Limited and I doubt they will try to upset markets they already dominate in the print arena.

Your Move Fairfax?
I wonder what the Fairfax owned Domain will do? My feeling is that they have been pretty spineless in this space for a number of years now and really do need to get their act together. It seems all the Domain Newspaper has done to retaliate is underline The in the title of Domain – The Property Guide…..pretty lame I must say!

Your Move FPC Courier Group?
This is the paper that will be most affected. The Homehound Guide is not consumer friendly, it just has too little information. Consumers through online real estate guides are just so used to getting a range of information with listings. I honestly cannot sit down and read the Homehound Guide, it hurts my eyes.

Another factor is that consumers actually like lying back and reading these guides across Australia each week. Grab a coffee, sit back and browse, it is our very nature!

Now the FPC Newspapers are a different story, the integrated guides are full of colour and please the consumer. Agents pay a premium for this but they also get valuable branding.

Agents Differentiators
Another problem these newspapers guides have is this. Agents by their very existence need to have a differentiator in the marketplace to attract vendors and the old way is by the quality and presentation of there newspaper listings.

Guides such as Just Listed and Home Hound do not give agents a differentiator, all listings are pretty much the same. So this goes back to what I have always said, it is the Agents website that will be the differentiator in the future and the ones that invest in this now will be the winners of the future.

Chest Thumper of the Year
Other newspapers are saying that they are the ‘Real Estate Bible’ and all this sort of nonsense, it will be interesting to see if this guide follows the same format as Just Listed (by suburb) which I have long advocated.

Summary
My feeling has always been that a Real Estate Portal which can seamlessly combine the two (web + print) will have rivers of gold running through their hands. It has long been the case that newspapers had always been hesitant to be too brave to upset their current revenues from print advertising.

At the end of the day it comes down to the consumer and they really do not care who owns what or where, all they care about is getting the information and the guides that have the most useful + quantity of information will win.

I will make a report on the guide when I receive it in the post.

Click Here to View the Press Release from Realestate.com.au (PDF File 22kb)

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