By Angela Hawksford; reposted with permission from AIM Group’s Classified Intelligence Report. 

Domain, the Australian real estate site owned by Fairfax Media (ASX: FXJ), reckons its transformation from the “other” property site into a serious contender for the market-leading spot was due to a renewed focus on its parent company’s specialty: journalism.

It might just be right.

Appearing at the marketing and media conference Mumbrella360 last month, Domain’s editorial director Toby Johnstone said the real estate site grew its traffic by creating unique, relevant content and by getting to know its audience.

“We don’t just use our digital marketing platforms to push ads through the web. We use a lot of the ad spots to push content. Why? Because we know content works,” he said.

“There is a value exchange, pushing content through ad channels there is the difference between clocking an impression and making an impression.”

Johnstone said Domain made the choice not to target cookies because, while it might have increased reach (“We would have hit 1 million different devices, different browsers, different people logged into different computers”), it ultimately wouldn’t have delivered any clarity about what Domain’s audience wanted.

“Our frequency would be nowhere, and we would have had no idea if we were annoying people. We wouldn’t have had clarity,” he said.

So, Domain spends a lot of time trying to figure out what its audience wants and what it is likely to want next.

If someone decides to move, Domain works out what they are going to need during the moving process — an agent, mortgage, insurance, removalists and so on.

It’s been active on social media, using Facebook Live to stream auctions, which delivered not just greater reach but also increased audience engagement through likes, shares and comments.

Two years ago the company entered the video-production fray. Working with well-known Australian actors and producers, Domain created
an original eight-part video series called Avalon Now, a send-up of the idiosyncratic residents of Palm Beach, a suburb on the northern beaches of Sydney that’s often frequented by Hollywood celebrities, but remains, well … idiosyncratic.

(For the record, this writer lives on the northern beaches, and Avalon Now was spot on.)

Avalon Now, streaming auctions on Facebook Live — it’s all part of Johnstone’s rule of thumb for content, namely “Give people content they haven’t seen before.”

And it seems to be working.

Back in January 2015, Domain’s monthly audience lagged a whopping 63 percent behind its main competitor, the REA Group-owned

By November of that same year, Domain had substantially closed the gap, reaching just 34 percent fewer unique browsers than its competitor.

At the time of writing, SimilarWeb showed visits to and Domain at 25.4 million and 19.8 million in May (last month) respectively, although Domain’s time-on-site still lags significantly behind’s, with each visit lasting around three minutes, compared with nearly eight and a half minutes for

Perhaps realizing Domain was onto something, launched a content platform of its own (called Lifestyle on earlier this year, increased its staff of journalists and content producers, and also created a lifestyle-focused web series that covers home renovations, gardening, cleaning, styling and so on.

Johnstone said Domain’s ability to produce “cut-through content” puts it in a somewhat enviable position (perhaps even to none other than its parent company Fairfax, which continues to struggle with monetizing its content), as it can now speak to brands and advertisers that are willing to take risks with its digital marketing.

“To put us in a position where we could crack content, we needed to build a modern newsroom, we needed to get to know our audience, we needed to diversify where we distributed our content, and we had to nail a content strategy that would actually play to our strengths,” he said.

Domain is due to be separated from Fairfax Media and to be listed separately on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) later this calendar year, while Fairfax expects to receive formal offers from its two private equity suitors by the end of this month.

© 2017 Advanced Interactive Media Group LLC / Classified Intelligence, reprinted with permission

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