Bitter portal battle takes surprising twist

The dispute between Australia’s two listings giants has been reignited after new research showed REA Group increasing its market lead over Domain Group.

According to Roy Morgan Research, an “apples-for-apples” comparison between the two portals shows that REA Group’s audience is rising while Domain’s is falling.

Roy Morgan said that REA Group’s total audience numbers averaged 3.6 million in the second half of 2014 – up 7.1 per cent on the previous year.

Website visitors rose 6.0 per cent to 3.5 million and app users rose 7.1 per cent to 773,000, according to the research group.

Roy Morgan said Domain’s audience total audience fell 6.4 per cent to 1.7 million, with website visitors down 6.6 per cent to 1.6 million and app users down 15.4 per cent to 367,000.

However, that research seems to contradict statistics that show Domain has recently made big increases, albeit in traffic numbers rather than audience.

According to Domain’s half-yearly results, total traffic numbers grew 19.4 per cent and mobile and app traffic jumped 40.5 per cent. Subscription numbers and market penetration also rose.

Domain failed to respond to a request for comment by publication deadline.

This report from Roy Morgan comes after last week’s controversy, when Domain threatened to report its rival to the regulator over "deceptive and misleading" performance comparisons.

Domain chief executive Antony Catalano said REA Group had falsely claimed to have made audience gains over Domain when announcing its half-yearly results earlier this month.

Roy Morgan’s general manager of media, Tim Martin, said it’s possible for audience numbers to fall even as traffic rises, if those fewer visitors make more clicks.

Mr Martin told Real Estate Business that while you could make an argument to say traffic is more relevant than audience, you could also convincingly make the opposite case.

“If I was looking to buy media against audiences or thinking about reach and frequency, then what I want to know is the number of people,” Mr Martin said.

“If I was just buying ads on the number of page views then things like frequency may not matter so much.”

Mr Martin also said that Roy Morgan’s commercial relationship with REA Group had not influenced the survey results.

“REA are a client of ours, but were in no way consulted and this was never discussed. This is an independent, separate report that we’ve put into the market,” he told Real Estate Business.

[LinkedIn: What’s your favourite listings portal and why?]

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