Just whose reputation got smeared in the property porn battle?

Domain’s catch-up in commercial real estate would easily provide a trigger for more aggressive tactics by News Ltd. Photo: Pat ScalaFairfax is calling it dirty.
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At the very least it’s intriguing that a particularly salacious porn site that was found to contain pop-up redirects to the Fairfax-owned Commercial Real Estate property website has been discovered by The Australian newspaper.

The paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch’s, News Corp, is also the majority owner of the website’s arch commercial rival REA Group, which runs realestate南京夜网南京夜生活.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that The Australian newspaper’s information came from an executive at REA.

There is nothing wrong with healthy competition between these two media groups.

But if Fairfax correctly states that it was not behind this move to redirect porn watchers to its real estate sites, we will see the mother of all investigations.

In a statement from Fairfax on Monday that makes it abundantly clear that it sees The Australian’s editorial attack  as commercially motivated it said: “News Limited (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.”

The gist of the story published in The Australian on Monday was that Fairfax’s real estate portal, Domain, was buying advertising space on porn sites to inflate audience figures.

But inspection of the screen shots from these sites – which News Corp supplied to Fairfax on Sunday – show that they did not contain advertising but redirected those on the sites to Commercial Real Estate.

In the world of digital media – where advertising or redirects can be generated by algorithms rather than by the decision of an advertiser – things are less easy to control. But Fairfax says it has in place systems to prevent this kind of event.

The story in The Australian initially claims that, “it shows how Domain is using greasy tactics to lure internet users from sites advocating ­por­no­graphy and other illicit actions”.

Then, however, it goes on to say: “There is no suggestion that Fairfax, led by chief executive Greg Hywood, and Domain knowingly funded these sites. It is likely the ads were delivered to the sites by intermediaries ­including ad networks and ad ­exchanges.”

Fairfax IT technicians were unable to find the redirects from the sites – an outcome that only adds fodder to theories that  their appearance was maliciously generated.

If one ignores for a moment how these click-throughs ended up on porn sites, the other question that needs addressing is how that has impacted audience levels.

Fairfax says spam or bot traffic (from these kind of sites) is a tiny fraction of total sessions.

The growth in traffic that has pushed the Fairfax site to be almost level pegging with its News Corp rival has come from organic traffic, Facebook and referrals from Fairfax mastheads such as  The Age, SMH and The Australian Financial Review.

“As we do with many large and small businesses in Australia, we work with Domain to ensure that its content is targeted and that it resonates with audiences that are valuable and relevant to their business”  a Facebook spokesperson for Australia said.

“The growing success of Domain can be attributed to the high calibre and focus of Domain’s digital marketing team, the quality of Domain and the considered use of the Facebook platform.”

“We’re proud to play our part in their continuing success.”

While The Australian claims that the rising Fairfax real estate online traffic bolstered the audience numbers, the fact is that the official measurements taken by Nielsen ignore any traffic from these sites.

Thus, Fairfax would have no reason to push traffic via these sorts of sites.

The fact that the ferocious competition between the two  media operators is being played out on the digital property battleground is no accident.

With the decline in print-based advertising, both companies are increasingly reliant on revenue from their growing online real estate business.

Domain’s catch-up in commercial real estate would easily provide a trigger for more aggressive tactics by News Corp.

Meanwhile another motivation could have come from speculation that Domain would be spun out into a separately listed company.


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