In today’s computer world, a Trojan horse is defined as a “malicious, security breaking programme that is disguised as something benign”. The same analogy could be applied to the latest property portal ‘Just Listed’ which in recent times has looked more like Rip Van Winkle, than a cutting edge property portal. How looks can deceive, as Alan Kohler wrote last week in The Sydney Morning Herald, ” In six months, Telstra/Sensis has signed up 1700 Sydney, Blue Mountains and Central Coast agents (80 per cent of agents) to ‘Just Listed’, by simply giving away Internet property listings for free. Next it will use the website to sell classified ads in the new print publication and start charging for Internet listings “some time” in the future”.

It was only days before, that the appointed spin doctors of ‘Just Listed’ had met with us, to unveil a comprehensive battle plan to eventually become the number one property portal, and there will be casualties along the way. Hidden away in the interior of this Trojan horse was the major player Telstra, who over the years has fought some very public battles with Optus. Who could forget Super League. Telstra, loves a stoush and this time it has News Limited and Fairfax firmly in its sights. Its battle plan using its Trojan horse ‘Just Listed’, will come from two fronts and it will be very interesting to see what firewalls News and Fairfax have in place. We predict that this will not be a short battle. It will be drawn out as the battle over subscriber rates and classified advertising intensifies.

In the red corner you have News Limited, which will be doing its all to protect its Cumberland Newspaper Group, and online business realestate.com.au. Over in the blue corner we have John Fairfax Publications, and its online business domain.com.au. In the orange corner we now see Telstra, which is aggressively launching its Sensis online information business, in hand with its new property portal ‘Just Listed’. This is all about taking ownership of those ‘rivers of gold’ which in turn will reveal the plimsoll line of the embroiled combatants. Not survival of the fittest but, survival of the wealthiest.

Telstra, Australia’s largest Internet provider, has struck the first online blow, offering agents a free subscription effectively valuing its online business ‘Just Listed’ at zero. Obviously, to be the biggest Internet provider you need a broad knowledge of the Internet and this is where it believes it will identify the Achilles heel of its competitors. By stating that the service is free, they are hoping that the agents will look at the subscriptions to realestate and domain, and view them as an added expense in difficult times. It is widely known that there is only room for two portals in real estate and should ‘Just Listed’ grab the gold, then the battle is on between realestate and domain for the silver, as there will be no bronze. We chart our property activity each week, houses units so we know better than most, how the online dynamics work.

With the impending launch of the Telstra classified colour newspaper, its aim is to mount a challenge to The Mosman Daily, North Shore Times and Manly Daily which will have to take a chainsaw to its page charges. Also, FPCCourier which owns the Sydney Weekly Courier is also at risk of survival. This battle is not just contained north of the bridge, the Wentworth Courier will come under attack as well. The ramifications of this battle are far reaching, and there will be an abundance of humble pie on offer as in times gone by many of the companies have treated the agents with total disdain. Now, they will be rallying the agents urging them to continue their support. Being the incumbent will not hold any significant advantage on these battlefields.

So how do we anticipate the blue and red corners will respond ? Given that all are playing their cards very close to their chests, we anticipate the separate entities to join forces and package new deals as one. So Cumberland will offer new advertising rates with realestate combined, and Fairfax will do the same with domain.com.au. It will be a pricing war, where the consumers and agents will benefit greatly. It will be very public with all the telling blows being well documented, and importantly one must remember there is no referee in this.

Oh, in all the excitement I nearly forgot the property market !! The good news is that our ‘Governor of Moolah’, left the cash rate target at 5.25 per cent which is good news week for the property market. With all the hoo ha about the correlation of property statistics, the agents are saying very little and not reporting the sales. The Real Estate Institute of NSW is set to make an announcement about its move to control the data, with property announcements based on exchanged contract data. Now the market will get an accurate positioning of the respective property markets, not the previous mumbo jumbo that has been the case in the past. Another agent victory !!

The bosses of Fairfax, News, Telstra, realestate, domain, ‘Just Listed’ and Cumberland are subscribers, so if you have anything to share, just send me an e-mail and we will publish it next week !! Welcome to the brave new world !! Cheers and clink ^__^

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