The digital leaders of the real estate advertising industry have been battling each other for a number of years. Both realestate.com.au and Domain have established successful businesses, but for the scope of this article we will avoid the war of words and statistics about who is biggest and best.
The Fairfax Domain business will potentially be floated later this year and has recently launched a high-end print offering which was covered in Mediaweek recently.
The News Corp-backed REA is another success story with a core focus in digital via its realestate.com.au. This week it launches its new Lifestyle product which aims to offer a complete online experience that will complement the property search. Or as realestate.com.au puts it, “once you’ve found your house, you can now create your home”.
To explain the initiative, Mediaweek spoke with Elizabeth Minogue – realestate.com.au executive general manager media and marketing – and Mark Roppolo – realestate.com.au executive manager content and production.
Roppolo has been at REA for seven months, joining to help kickstart the Lifestyle offering. In those seven months he has been busy hiring content creators and building the realestate.com.au team.
“Over the past couple of months we have been executing our video, editorial and social strategy to make sure we establish ourselves as a nationwide authority on property news,” he told Mediaweek.
The content offer includes hard news around property and guides about buying, renting, selling and investing property. “That is the first half of the property journey, which REA has always excelled at. Lifestyle completes the property journey. For 20 years we have mostly been about helping people buying a house. Now we are really about helping them create a home.”
Before joining REA, Roppolo spent six years with Foxtel as the head of digital for the Lifestyle channels which included managing lifestyle.com.au. He said his experience with TV content has been a big help in developing the realestate.com.au video offer.
REA now has a content team numbering 18 with the number doubling over the past year.
Before the launch on Friday this week, all the content on realestate.com.au was accessed by clicking on the News tab. That will now change and there will be a new Lifestyle link on the home page which will house all the expanded offerings. “You will see a lot more video on the site, which is now a key pillar for us. In the next three months we will be publishing over 200 individual pieces of video content. A cornerstone of that will be six hero web series, which has been a huge undertaking.”
One of those series sounds like it will build an audience – The Converted. The series promises to look at Australians best home conversions. The first episode visits a butter factory in Newstead, Victoria. “We go into the space and meet the homeowners and they take us through the history of the property and then the renovation they undertook. They also talk about the property’s importance to the community. That is something that will be key in the content we create: How homes and location are tied to community and a sense of identity that people have about where they live.
“We will be telling stories that Australians can relate to. We are a truly national brand and we speak to all Australians,” added Roppolo.
The former MCN subscription TV executive moved to REA in January 2016 to run the media division. “We wanted to expand REA beyond listings and to do that you need to connect emotionally with audiences,” Minogue told Mediaweek. The role has expanded since her arrival and now also sees Minogue leading the company into the content space.
Minogue explained that launching the new Lifestyle offering is two-pronged. “Firstly to extend our brand recognition and reputation beyond listings. If you look at our site, a destination that draws close to 6m people monthly, 30% of them are not looking to rent, buy or sell. They are not really outcome focused.”
“That 30% however might not be outcome focused at the time of their visit, but it can lead them to later become outcome focused.”
The revenue opportunities opening up for realestate.com.au with the launch of Lifestyle include native content around video and social. “Lifestyle has been built around a digital content experience first and foremost.”
The new opportunities are all available to customers using realestate.com.au for its listings too, like the addition of video or insights about the suburbs where the property is being offered for sale.
“REA offers impressive data and insights and it has been quietly building a significant news business,” explained Minogue. “Our offer is about information, insights and inspiration. The insights are our data piece, the information is listings and property data and valuations, while the inspiration is everything around what does a new property mean for your lifestyle.
“We have seen huge growth in our numbers and we had a record month in January in terms of new content with 3.7m people visiting the news pages. That was up 23% on the previous month.”
The relationship with News Corp sees REA house all the masthead real estate content from individual News Corp mastheads around Australia at realestate.com.au. “The content is housed on new state and local sites we have built,” said Minogue.
To tell the market about the changes, REA has a marketing strategy across print, digital, social and outdoor too.
The company has a number of property experts who help educate visitors looking for specialist information. They include The Block’s Shannon and Simon Vos and organising and cleaning guru Peter Walsh.
“When we talk about our brand it is really important that it is uniquely Australian and that it is accessible.
“In a lot of the research we undertook last year we found Australians feel it is really important that they think they could do it if they really had a go. Our experts are all very real and relatable to our users.”
Lifestyle will be a completely digital offering. “That is where the market is,” said Minogue.
The launch of Lifestyle is expected to attract even more advertisers to the realestate.com.au brand.
“When I joined, most of our advertising partners and clients were focused on financial services. If you look at our data offering we are able to offer great ways to tap market segments. We can tell for example where people are in their property journey and the likelihood they will spend on interior decoration or an outdoor upgrade. We also know when they are highly likely to buy a new car. We now have proof points in data to support moving beyond finance into retail, auto and travel.
Lifestyle fact box
• At launch, realestate.com.au/Lifestyle will also house over 720 articles with over 100 new, bespoke articles created each month.
• A team of in-house journalists and editors sit alongside expert contributors and well-known lifestyle faces.
• realestate.com.au will launch a multichannel social strategy with both realestate.com.au/lifestyle and realestate.com.au/news social pages launching across all major social platforms.
• realestate.com.au reaches 30% of the 15.5 million Australians on Facebook each week. The new multichannel strategy aims to reach millions more Australians with tailored content, targeted to each user’s interests.