The Empire Strikes Back: The Print vs Internet Battle Heats Up!

7 minute read

Just as complete the launch of a new web design News Limited are putting the final strokes on a strategy to strike back and one of the weapons of choice in the fight will be a video and website called “For What It’s Worth”. This tussle between the two giants for the real estate advertising revenue has all the drama of a soap opera and our current story is reminiscent of the Empire Strikes Back, the second movie released in the Star Wars franchise.

The Star Wars movie saga  featured the Jedi, who use the Force for good, and the Sith, who use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy.  In the original Star Wars movie the Sith had control of the Galactic Empire. Believing themselves invincible they built the Deathstar to literally crush any opposition still remaining to their absolute domination of the Galaxy. The upstart Rebel Alliance did not have the firepower of the almighty Empire but what they lacked in firepower they made up for with cunning and skill to win the first round in the saga.

The real estate advertising market plays the part of the Galaxy that everyone is fighting for in this story and who can better fill the shoes of the Galactic Empire than Newspaper Advertising.  Up to 10 years ago there was only print as an option for agents to use and the Newspapers ruled the Galaxy with no fear at all. Then along came the internet and from that sprang the Real Estate Portals who are playing the part of the Rebel Alliance. In comparison to the traditional media organisations the portals were comparatively light and nimble and who took the fight to their lumbering foe in guerrilla fashion.

It did not take too long before the Rebel Alliance started making inroads against the Galactic Empire and the war was on.  The battle raged and in the process the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Deathstar and in the process showed the Galaxy that the Empire was able to be defeated.

In the past few years we have Newspapers losing their aura of invincibility for the Real Estate advertising dollars to the new boys on the block  the Real Estate Portals who are fighting way above their weight class.  However just when the portals were getting comfortable with their gains the Empire Strikes Back!

The movie second Star Wars movie,  The Empire Strikes Back starts with Galactic Empire recovering from recent defeats in the original installment and attempting to drive the Rebel Alliance forces back out of the Galaxy and recover what they consider is rightfully theirs.

News Limited are about to launch a fight back against the real estate portals claim on their galaxy, the real estate advertising dollars. Apparently one of the first strikes might be News Limited to stop the branding on their property pages unless they start coughing up some serious dollars which REA are not prepared to do.

Another strike which is due for release very soon is the “For What It’s Worth” campaign which focuses on promoting print advertising to property sellers. The centre of the campaign is an 18 minute video that attempts to pass itself off as an independent advice to sellers on using print advertising when selling their house.  At a recent launch we were only allowed to preview just a short clip from the video which should be out very soon.

The premise of the video is that 5 or 6 experts discuss the advantages of using print from their perspective through an evidence based presentation.

The four key points the video highlights will be :

  1. Choose a good marketing agent (in contrast to a transactional agent)
  2. Combine Print and Online marketing
  3. Invest 1% of the value of your property in marketing
  4. Improve your styling and presentation for best results

There is an analyst from RPData who I presume will come up with statistics to show that houses will sell for more if they are advertised in print.  There is also a property stylist and Tom Panos from News Limited fills one of these expert slots himself.  Another one or two of the slots are to include real life vendors who provides a testimonial on how print worked for him when selling.  There is not a real estate agent in sight apparently and overall the production values on the video appears very high from what we were allowed to see.

News Limited will be providing all of their clients with the dvd’s to provide seller clients as part of a physical pre-listing kit. Of course many agents are skipping the traditional printed pre listing kit and are choosing to deliver digital versions and News Limited is finalising a website now that will feature the video that agents can provide vendors as part of a digital pre listing kit. There will probably be the typical brochures and like to hand out at listing presentations and open houses.

The message that was sold as part of the “show” and I assume will feature heavily on the video itself when we get to see it is:  that of course an agent has to advertise your property on the internet, that’s only natural and to be expected but only the very best agents use print advertising as an additional option and  they are able to leverage the print ads to achieve a premium price by as much as 10% because of the increased competition that a print campaign will create.  With print advertising you get to sell your house For What It’s Worth!

Given the short video that I have seen I actually think the concept works and has a great potential and it seemed to be well received by most agents. The fact that it uses video and the internet to push a print message is of course slightly hypocritical but I think overall it will be a positive move.

It might win them a few battles and keep them in the war a little longer but can the “For What It’s Worth” campaign kick the pesky rebels out of the Galaxy….. not by a long shot.

Any Star Wars fans out there know that by the end of the Empire Strikes Back movie the Rebel Alliance have kicked the Galactic Empires butt once again. In fact once the Empire recovers from that shellacking there is still a third movie in the original Star Wars trilogy called Return of the Jedi to be played out yet where the Rebel Alliance turns up the pressure, the Galactic Empire falls and the Emperor is killed.

These tactics might extend the life of print as an option for property advertising but I fear nothing can save it from the inevitable.

If print is still successful for you and is a valid option that you offer owners then you are probably going to love the For What It’s Worth campaign especially if you are an auction orientated agent. It has the potential to be a great tool to get VPA for print advertising. It wont be the saviour of the Newspaper Advertising for real estate agents that News Limited would like to hope for but it will make a difference and give you a great tool to add to your kit.

Of course to all the Star Wars fans out there I have to ask you to ignore any other Star Wars facts that do quite not fit this story however if you can come up with any other connections between the two sagas then share away!

For instance.. who plays the part of the Emperor… Rupert?

What about this… Darth Vader fathered Luke Skywalker who went on to destroy the empire which is just like News Limited and Fairfax spawning and who then go on to threaten (and ultimately destroy) their cash cow.

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  • Craig
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 4:09 am 0Likes

    Too little, too late, the ship has sailed. At best this will just be a temporary blip on the radar. What a waste of money.

  • Nick
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 2:21 am 0Likes

    “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
    ? Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin

    I’m sorry but that quote is obligatory. 🙂

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 2:45 am 0Likes

    Would print go such expense and effort ten years ago? Of course not – I like the Star Wars analogy given that was fought on strategy and technologies! So I can’t see print winning that one. Then you have Rupert running around declaring that you will have to pay for online content and the iPad will be the saviour of newspapers.

    Nobody doubts the ability of newspaper advertising all consumers are debating is the excessive costs when compared to online.Video will be the next big thing in real estate so vendors will take smaller advertisements to massage print and online costs within a campaign budget.

    Google took the guess work out of advertising given it measures consumers which explains why today it owns 40 per cent of all advertising dollars spent online. In 2007, Eric Schmidt said “that one day Google could become a hundred – billion – dollar media company – more than twice the size of Time Warner, Walt Disney and News Corporation, the world’s three largest media conglomerates. A video is not going to save print.

  • Rusty
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 3:56 am 0Likes

    Looking at the Sydney Morning Herald each weekend it is clear that Print Advertising is about selling the Agent, not the houses. Online does a much better job of helping people find the right home to buy, but print is much better at creating brand recognition amongst all the casual browsers who might sell their house someday soon. So the sellers are paying for the agents’ marketing campaign. Nice business to be in I reckon.

  • Matt
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm 0Likes

    If the print media companies would charge accordingly to the exposure/current readership & then reduce their prices accordingly, then vendors/agents may choose to continue to use this medium. Every July they pass on the same price increase, year in, year out, as if they were entitled to this increase as a default. Whereas the reality is print media readership is steadily declining yet they feel its fair to continue to increase the price. The portrals have given these greedy print media companies a dose of reality. Invest 1% of the value of your home to market your property, employ a good marketing agent rather than a transaction Agent, it seems their still lsinging their same old song. Their an old school media for real estate. The only way they will keep a hold on the real estate revenue is to drop their prices. Best way to sell a property is employ an agent who can deliver as much property information to the buyers as effective & efficiently as possible, then negotiate well. Simple as that.

  • Shane Dale
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm 0Likes

    They have to do something! Despite it being a sinking ship, print is still a profitable ship, and they want to see it profitable up until it sinks beneath the waves. Of course they will do whatever they can. This campaign is long overdue.

    As I have said before, print does work for a certain audience, but to a far lesser degree than internet. It also is great for agent profile. Its always going to be expensive but its ludicrously overpriced right now. Making a fair margin on a print service is good – print and distribution costs plus a fair margin. Not what they charge now, which is purely based on historical acceptance of super high print prices.

    In any case – has anyone done a cost per lead analysis, for getting buyers, and getting listings?

    I can say myhome as a free to agents portal can offer value on this formula, but seriously – print is simply an expensive exercise in this respect.

  • PaulD
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:04 am 0Likes

    Tom Panos = R2D2

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:05 am 0Likes


    ummm.. do explain ??

  • PaulD
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:32 am 0Likes

    It was just an article I saw some time last year. The R2D2 it totally irrelevant, but read the article, and there are a couple of things that I think are kind of funny. I think R2D2 is kind of funny as well. (you may have already seen it?)

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:48 am 0Likes

    Glenn, I’ve seen the whole video & they’ve done a good job of covering the internet v’s print debate. I understand that the response from agents pre-launch has been very good.

    PS: I actually saw the extended version a couple of weeks ago & told them to put some of it on the cutting room floor, which I’m pleased to see that they’ve decided to do.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm 0Likes

    PaulD… what is particuarly funny is the shift in position I noticed at this last launch. I did not bother recording any quotes but in general Tom’s position seems to have shifted about the internet. He now seems to understand that the internet is the future for real estate advertising at prints expense. I think he probably understook it on a personal level quite awhile ago but on a professional level it seems more of a recent shift.

    The funniest thing was John McGrath did the main talk at first as the draw card for the event. John talked about cancelling his newspaper subscription because of all the doom and gloom in it over the GFC period. It then seem to twig on him that he was there to talk on behalf of News Limited at a launch about newspaper advertising. Priceless.

    I do think the campaign is realistic. They are not trying the Print instead of the Internet message…. but Print with the Internet. I think the 1% budget they are suggesting is clearly self serving towards print and is a bit unrealistic but their video campaign is a lot more professional than recent effort..

    If you use print at all and you have a local News newspaper I reckon you are going to like it. Even if you don’t have News in your area the website might be independent enough to be still usable.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm 0Likes


    Agents have probably made comments one by one through emails and the like but the only open public display en masse by the crowd was Tom asking for a show of hands and whilst the majority of the room where in the affirmative everyone there was already a client adverting in the Gold Coast Bulletin.. sort of a rigged vote don’t you think.

    If you were to ask every agent then I think the response would be different.. but we still use some Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper (under 1 page per week) and colour buyers magazines so we were like most people in the room and appreciated the effort and believe it will be beneficial for us.

    I guess they listened when they did the tour talking one on one with agents last year and produced something that their clients can use.

  • Sid MORGAN
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 2:48 am 0Likes

    I enjoyed reading this article immensley. Over 8 years ago I vividly recall saying to my fairfax representative as I handed her a cheque for over $5000, saying the “days of print media are well and truly numbered”. I recall her smiling suggesting that I didn’t know what I was talking about…. how sweet it is!

    As any good operator, I have been religiously monitored where every one of my leads have been coming from.

    I can honestly say that despite the fact that I spend well in excess of $100K in print advertising, over 90% of the inquiries I receive on properties for sale come direct from,, or my own website.

    I hope that I am not seen as jumping on the band wagon in my agreement with this article,in fact I prove to you that is not the case.

    I have spent in excess of 2 million dollars of my own money developing a worlds first virtual office. This product that I have developed has won me the Hills Excellence in Business Awards for Information Technology and Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This product will do to the realestate industry what the auto teller has done to the banking industry… totally revolutionise it! It’s functionality is based on the power of the internet, being able to give ALL the information relating to a property to a global market 24/7.

    I would love to meet up with you and give you a sneek preview of this product, damn it I just might offer it for sale to &!

    Not only the days of print media are numbered BUT SO ARE THE TRADITIONAL REAL ESTATE SHOP FRONT AS WE KNOW IT TODAY!.



  • Peter Ricci
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 3:02 am 0Likes

    Great to see you here Sid and great to see your business getting off the ground. Would love to hear more from you, but please stick to comments and not flogging products or services as I want to keep this site clean from blatant self promotion.

    Good luck and thanks for visiting 🙂

  • Peter Hutton
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Glenn, what a great observation. I’m retired now from selling real estate (Hutton Real Estate) and was always a huge supporter of the internet over the newspaper. We even employed a full time stylist and copy writer to prepare our client’s properties for sale. I wrote about this in my book. I was also a huge supporter of but these days not so. Look, the internet is the best delivery vehicle to connect property and buyer. Anyone who tries argue against that is a fool. However, REA has had its own monopoly running and those days must end as they have totally lost the plot. I reckon there is real opportunity now for a new player to come in and better serve buyers, sellers and agents alike. The next stage of internet property marketing is coming!

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm 0Likes

    ARRGGGHHH !!!!

    The sad part of this story is that the website at least is pretty well useless for us.

    News Ltd has made a conscious choice to focus the video on the Auction method instead of showing how print advertising can work with all sales methods.

    I believe that they have made a critical mistake.

    In NSW and VIC plenty of houses might be sold by Auction but there are still alot that are not. In Queensland the clearance rates are abysmal in comparison as Auctions do not have the focus of Southern states. In fact if clearance rates in NSW and VIC were to slip even close to Queensland levels everyone would say the sky is falling in.

    I suppose that given the architect of the campaign is an Auctioneer himself and the fact that owners who auction generally spend more on advertising it was to be expected that Auctions would play a part but to shut out private treaty when most property is sold that way is very myopic.

    The website itself is also a fail. Some pages are blank, they are not using permalinks and in this day and age to have only one low resolution video.

    Greg, you intimated you had some input prior to completion. Did you mention to them that the video is primarily limited for auction orientated agents only?

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