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.

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