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Private Media’s Online Expansion

09 Jun 2011

Online publishing company Private Media is launching two new sites, Property Observer and a project currently under wraps headed by investigative journalist Paul Barry and due to launch in August.

The industry has been keenly awaiting its first look at Property Observer, which was due to go live this morning and is headed by Sydney journalist Jonathan Chancellor, officially the site's co-founder and managing editor, according to a report in The Australian this week.

Chancellor created shock waves in April when word leaked he was leaving Fairfax Media's Sydney Morning Herald, where he wrote the Title Deeds column for 25 years, to set up a competitor for its lucrative real estate readership.

Private Media is owned and run by investors including Eric Beecher, company chief executive Amanda Gome and James Thomson, who is also publisher of Property Observer. In its network of sites are Crikey, SmartCompany and StartupSmart.

Property Observer aimed to get 50,000 unique browsers in its first six months and 100,000 after its first year, Ms Gome said. The free site promises to cover all aspects of the residential real estate market and the commercial property market. It won't carry property listings but will include free data on every suburb in Australia provided by RP Data.

Readers can register for a free newsletter, to be emailed out about 2pm each weekday, with the site aiming to have 10,000 signed up within six months.

Other writers on the site include associate editor Chris Joye, who is also joint managing director of property analytics company Rismark International, and commercial property expert Chris Lang.

Despite the launch coinciding with a property market slump, Ms Gome said the company was confident its targets were conservative. "We have had great success in setting up dedicated communities aimed at specific niches and we could really identify a niche for property," she said.

"We have had quite a lot of interest from the property market saying they think it's good someone is doing something in this space."

Chancellor said: "Getting passionate about property is easy. Getting it right is trickier.

"Property Observer aims to be property central, providing the essential news and analysis on the ins and outs of property," he said.

Besides a few hints to Crikey subscribers, Private Media has given little away about the new project it is developing around Barry, whom it hired in January.

Ms Gome would only say the company was recruiting the team to work on the site, which would be based in Sydney.

"It is a secret," she said. "Paul has been doing a little bit of writing for Crikey while primarily working on this other project."

Barry has worked on TV programs including Four Corners, 60 Minutes and Media Watch and has written a number of books, including The Rise and Fall of Alan Bond and the Shane Warne biography Spun Out.

Source: The Australian

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