Fairfax dumps F2 brand - changes course online

Fairfax dumps F2 brand switches course online

John Fairfax Holdings is attempting to fortify its online advertising business, re-naming its Internet brand and flagging improvements to its online classified sites.

The re-branding exercise announced today will see the "F2 Networks" moniker crowning Fairfax Web properties mycareer.com.au, drive.com.au, and news sites smh.com.au, theage.com.au and afr.com replaced by "Fairfax Digital".

The decision to change the name was to capitalise on consumer familiarity with Fairfax Holdings' name. However, Fairfax Digital chief operating officer, Mike Game said the re-branding exercise was primarily a marker for a shift in the division's direction.

"The re-branding just a draws the line on the sand so to speak just to acknowledge that we've stepped out in a significantly different strategy," said Game.

Fairfax Digital will concentrate on fortifying its online classified brands (mycareer.com.au, drive.com.au, domain.com.au) and beefing up its broadband content.

"We want to build the Google of car [bulletin] boards and the Google of house [bulletin] boards," said Game.

The strategic shift may also be viewed as Fairfax's retreat from the lucrative pay-per-click market -- predicted to be worth around US$7 billion by 2007 -- and a move to protect its classified businesses from recent entrant to the online advertising market, Sensis.

Telstra launched its multi-channel one-stop search service last month with the aim of taking a share of the local paid search market from market incumbents Google and Overture by offering highly localised search and directory services.

Fairfax signed a deal with pay-for-performance search advertising giant Overture in May but Game today said that Fairfax Digital didn't view search based pay-per-click advertising as a core part of its strategy.

"That is really the heartland of the search engines -- be that Google or Yahoo -- and now Sensis is trying to break into that area. That substantially sits outside our core business strategy," he said.

Sensis combines well-known offline commercial and residential directory mega-brands Yellow Pages and White Pages with algorithmic Internet search. It's also nudging at Fairfax's territory with its recently acquired classifieds business, Trading Post online.

Game said that Fairfax Digital would simply use its experience to provide better Web sites than newcomers to the online classified space.

"We have sufficient knowledge of the marketplace and critical mass in terms of the size of our business to build better Web sites," he said.

According to Game, the Trading Post's online performance has been weak to date.