Domain rejects News Corp’s porn site advertising claim as REA’s share price tumbles

Domain Photo: suppliedFairfax Media has hit back at a false report that Domain Group has taken advertising on porn sites, describing the story as “bile” and a reflection of News Corp Australia’s “seemingly endless appetite for gutter dwelling”.
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The claim, published on Monday in the media section of The Australian, as well as Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Melbourne’s Herald Sun, comes as Domain Group challenges rival REA Group as the country’s number one property advertising site.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia owns 61.6 per cent of REA Group.

The rise of Domain has seen REA Group’s share price plunge. From a peak of $65.77 in July this year, the company’s share price had dropped to just $45.50 by November. That wiped more than $1.6 billion from the value of News Corp’s holding in REA Group.

REA Group remains on the list of most shorted stocks on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said the story was “wrong” and Domain had taken out no advertising on porn sites.

“We told The Australian it was wrong,” Mr Hywood said. “We note they printed our quote. But they still had no hesitation in running the yarn. We generally ignore it. Not today.”

A spokesman for Fairfax Media said screen shots provided to Fairfax Media “appeared to be links from a porn site to Commercial Real Estate”, Fairfax Media’s commercial property site, which is part of Domain Group.

“We did not authorise any advertising, re-targeting or redirections and believe it is a malicious scam/bot,” Brad Hatch, director of communications for Fairfax Media, said.

Commercial Real Estate is challenging REA as the number one commercial property site in the country.

“Commercial Real Estate has been the focus of significant investment over the past 18 months,” Melina Cruickshank, chief editorial and marketing officer for Domain Group, said. “To suggest we are inflating metrics via bots or cheap traffic sites is ridiculous.”

Mr Hatch said Fairfax Media had undertaken a review on Monday morning.

“Our technical partners have confirmed that no advertising from us has been placed on porn or illegal sites. We have this morning asked News Corp’s lawyers to provide us with any and all information they have on this matter so our technical people and independent advisers can more fully investigate the matter.”

Mr Hatch said Fairfax Media would notify authorities of the findings and Fairfax would “fully co-operate with any inquiries that may be launched in relation to this matter”.

Mr Hatch added: “News Corp has never had any shame about using their media platforms for attacks on competitors. They dress up their bile as news and bore the rest of the industry with their seemingly endless appetite for gutter dwelling.”

Fairfax Media buys online marketing through a company called Pais Media, which has worked with the Domain team for three years.

Pais Media’s director Josh Smith said the Domain contract had strict clauses that state that certain type of advertising categories are off limits.

“Gambling and adult sites are one of many categories that are excluded from the channels we manage for Commercial Real Estate,” Mr Smith said.

“I can state that Domain has never purchased advertising through these channels.”


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