RealTime IT News

Fairfax Opens Melbourne City Guide to Rival Itself

Australian newspaper publisher John Fairfax Ltd. has launched its own city guide, despite the ongoing project to produce regional Australian portals in conjunction with US-based Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch.

melbournetoday.com.au includes entertainment guides to movies and restaurants, free e-mail, breaking news from Fairfax's Melbourne Age newspaper, weather reports, electronic bill payment, events calendars, and chat communities.

However, it did not have as much content at its launch as CitySearch Melbourne, which Fairfax opened in July 1997 along with a version for Sydney, and a Canberra site added in July 1998.

The launch has further muddied the waters in an already confusing area in the Australian Net industry. The only other localised city guide, Sidewalk, is operated by ninemsn, which is a joint venture between Australian online media start-up ecorp and Microsoft.

Even though Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch has bought the Sidewalk property from Microsoft in the States, in a deal which involved Microsoft taking a minority stake in Ticketmaster, ninemsn executives have said publicly that it will continue to develop the Australian version of Sidewalk.

Fairfax has recently consolidated its online divisions, including CitySearch Australia and Fairfax Interactive, into a new wholly owned subsidiary called F2. The Asia/Pacific headquarters of CitySearch are based in Melbourne and run by Fairfax staffers, and Fairfax recently bought full ownership of CitySearch Australia.

This has produced the unlikely situation where Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch is involved in two of the three city guide networks, one of which Fairfax develops and owns, and the only other competing guide is also developed by Fairfax.

After much speculation that it would spin off F2 in the same way as old media publishing competitor Australian Consolidated Press did for ecorp, Fairfax decided to retain full ownership of its online operations.