If a News Ltd journalist writes a story
about her employer, you can safely assume it comes straight from the
horse’s mouth. Which means this morning’s yarn by marketing writer Lara Sinclairin The Australian’s Media Section can be taken as gospel.

News
and PBL are discussing possible co-operation (or even a joint venture)
to create a “classified advertising superbrand that could dominate the
automotive market on the internet and in newspapers,” she writes.

“Preliminary
high-level discussions are believed to have looked at ways of combining
News Limited’s online and print brand Carsguide.com.au with
Carsales.com.au if PBL succeeds in its bid to take 41 per cent of the
company.

“Such a deal would consolidate three of the top five
automotive websites, dwarfing Sensis’s No.2 player Trading Post and
Fairfax’s Drive.com.au, which is ranked fourth, adding the backing of
News Limited’s dominant national newspaper footprint.

“PBL’s
Carpoint.com.au site will merge with market leader Carsales if PBL’s
proposed bid to take 41 per cent of the independent company, which has
annual revenues of $13 million, is approved by Carsales shareholders on
October 28.”

News and PBL already co-operate in Foxtel, where
they each own 25%, and in Premier Media Group, whose major asset are
the two Fox Sports TV channels supplied to Foxtel subscribers.

Now
it’s Australia’s car buyers and sellers who could be sucked in to the
Murdoch-Packer web of “domination.” All it needs to really wrap up the
package would be for the PBL-Fairfax merger to go ahead after the
federal government removes cross-media rules, and an uneasy duopoly
would become a cosy monopoly.

Peter Fray

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