How real estate site Domain uses journalists & scripted video

The Fairfax property brand that’s building web traffic through a digital data strategy and a spirit of experimentation

Avalon Now

Australians are almost as fixated on real estate as they are on sport. With rising real estate costs and seemingly never-ending discussions about whether young people are being priced out of the market, property is very much front of mind in Australia right now. Driving a lot of the thinking and web traffic surrounding the property market today is Domain, which is using content marketing-style data journalism to drive significant traffic to its online properties.

While the main draw of the Domain site is its search engine enabling its users to find properties to buy or rent, news and property advice articles are bringing readers to the site.

“Analytics has definitely played a huge part in our success because we’re responding to what the audience wants” – Cruickshank

Domain chief editorial and marketing officer Melina Cruickshank explained that the site is run like a standard newsroom: “We’ve recruited 15 really great, smart, entrepreneurial journalists in our team. They’ve come out of The AFR, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newsrooms and sit alongside our experienced reporters who have been focused on property for a period of time. Those guys have a news conference every morning where they look around the city, the community, globally, they look at international trends. They then come up with stories and ideas that they feel will resonate with our audience. It is also based on recent analytics. The journalists are actually highly focused on analytics. They look at what works and what doesn’t. That then feeds onto their next set of stories.”

Melina Cruickshank

The stories featured on the site are varied, encompassing every experience associated with property. On average, six or seven original news stories are published to the site daily. Straight news stories are featured, focused on areas like economic trends, property prices, interest rate modelling, and auction clearance rates, alongside lifestyle content aligned with property such as guides on how to deal with housemates or how to protect your home against a dog.

The metrics are absolutely fundamental to the growth of Domain, with the team of writers examining the site numbers hourly to see what is working on the site and its other points of distribution. The numbers are measured across all of Domain’s channels – the website itself, social media, and on Fairfax’s mastheads.

A sense of experimentation is also encouraged, leveraging off the team’s digital experience. While this extends to editorial content, the team has also been embracing new distribution platforms to connect with the audience.

Domain

“One of the elements that we’ve brought into our team is that you can just try things. We try different stories surrounding video and social. We were the first to put out auctions with Facebook Live. We were live streaming auctions. There is generally quite a bit of that but, having said that, having the experience and the analytics behind a lot of these stories is really useful nowadays.

“It means we know exactly what our audience wants. We’ve moved away from days where journalists can write for themselves or write what they think the audience wants. We can actually respond to what the audience is interested in reading. Analytics has definitely played a huge part in our success because we’re responding to what the audience wants,” Cruickshank said.

The auctions are streamed online via Facebook Live. On average, the team is streaming two to three auctions a week direct from a reporter’s mobile phone, usually with one auction in Sydney and another in Melbourne with auctions from other states when possible.

“We have a lot of different real estate agents and auctioneers phoning us to broadcast to our Facebook audience, which is the largest in Australia for property now. We actually have the largest social media following in Australia for property. That is something we’ve worked really hard on and it’s really valuable,” she said.

Video, live or otherwise, continues to be an experiment for Domain. While Facebook Live video has proven successful, Domain also found considerable benefit from a satirical scripted web series it produced, Avalon Now. Produced by Felix Williamson and Bruce Walters, the videos offered a different way of communicating with the audience. A second season is set to launch soon.

“It was such a viral success,” Cruickshank said. “It went so well that we were really surprised. It connected with people who might not be interested in looking or buying property, but look at Domain now as a different type of brand.

“Video has become a huge part of what we’re doing now. We had our sales team say to us, ‘We can start selling video. Can you get us the inventory?’ Last month we hit 1.2 million streams. That’s definitely an area of focus for us in the next 12 months.”

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