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News In Online Clash With PBL
Helen Westerman, The Age

THE online property publisher realestate.com.au, majority owned by News Ltd, will take on Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd with the launch of a new website promising free advertising to property agents.

property.com.au goes live today as a "beta" or test site offering realestate.com.au's listings at no extra cost, along with enhanced search tools and local mapping from Google.

The launch by the market leader is being interpreted as a move to counter the threat to property listings from PBL's myhome.com.au, due to be launched next week.

The Nine Network has also begun promoting a cross-promotional television show to accompany myhome.

"It's a myhome blocker, no doubt about it," said Darryl Nelson, research manager with online advertising analysts Frost & Sullivan.

realestate.com.au, 58 per cent owned by News Ltd, generated about $50 million in advertising revenue last year, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The online property market is worth $91 million and, though smaller than employment, grew faster at 85 per cent last year.

Domain.com.au, owned by Fairfax Digital, an arm of Fairfax Media, has also responded to PBL by launching Adore Property, aimed at the premium property market in Sydney. Fairfax Media owns The Age.

realestate.com.au managing director Simon Baker said development of property.com.au website had begun six weeks ago.

But he denied the launch was in response to recent speculation myhome was close to launch.
"We knew about myhome ages before that," he said. "We knew they have been working on that for six months; it has been kicking around for ages."

Mr Baker said he was not concerned about myhome overtaking realestate.com.au, which he said had 3.8 million unique visitors. "Starting from the zero visits to get to 3.8 million is a long road," he said.

realestate.com.au bought property.com.au from RP Data in June 2004. It closed the website and redirected traffic to its own site.

A realestate.com.au spokesman said the mapping deal with Google was separate to a recent deal by News Ltd with Google to meld maps with its TrueLocal directory listings.

Shares in the publicly listed realestate.com.au rose 5¢ to close at $5.85 yesterday.