Fairfax v News property war heats up. News Limited’s REA Group is again battening down the hatches after part agent-owned Fairfax joint venture Metro Media fired up yet another portal to lure house buyers. Crikey can reveal that national listings site reviewproperty.com.au has rolled 12 leading agents and 250 real estate offices into the new business as equity partners in a deal that has been 12 months in the making. All Victorian real estate agencies will begin to be offered free shareholdings from tomorrow in the site, which will be majority controlled by agents and listings on Fairfax’s existing domain.com.au would be part of the deal.

CEO Antony Catalano, a former Herald Sun cadet, called the deal a “game changer” that would ratchet up pressure on News’ Victorian commercial arm and the News-controlled REA across the country. “It is without question the best offer I have seen in more than 20 years in the industry and clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the merger between MMP and Fairfax Community Network Victoria,” he said. He claimed REA’s realestate.com.au was increasingly loathed by agents.

Yesterday, Crikey reported that News had been forced to despatch national real estate tsar Tom Panos to Geelong from Sydney after Catalano announced plans for a new version of The Weekly Review in Victoria’s second city — with local agents also dominating the share register. The Geelong ad market is worth $10 million, a swathe of which is now controlled by MMP. The new title and website adds to the existing stable of 37 papers and mags across Melbourne, many of which were previously housed under the Fairfax Community Network banner. — Andrew Crook

US circulation figures don’t encourage locals. As Fairfax prepares to shrink the size of its broadsheets and introduce a paywall next March, and News Limited struggles with its paywall approach, the latest circulation figures and quarterly reports from the US print media contain deeper warnings about the difficulties of such a switch, despite solid digital gains for papers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The US Audit Bureau of Circulations survey for the six months to September shows that compared to the same six-month period in 2011, print and digital circulation fell 0.2% for the 613 Monday to Friday newspapers included in the survey, while sales for the 528 Sunday newspapers in the survey rose 0.6%. Digital circulations accounted for 15.3% of total circulation — a rise of more than 60% in 12 months, thanks to more papers like The NY Times going to variations on a paywall that has been in place at The Wall Street Journal for a number of years.

By total circulations, The Journal remained No. 1 with 2.3 million print and digital circulation, followed by USA Today (1.7 million) and The NY Times (1.6 million). On a print-only basis, USA was the biggest, followed by The Journal and The Times. So great was the impact on the NYT that its digital circulation now outweighs print sales. Total circulation jumped 40%  to more than 1.61 million a day, led by a 136% jump in digital subs on the past year to more than 896,000. — Glenn Dyer (read the full story here)

Kelly missed the Asian Century committee. The Australian‘s Paul Kelly has had a testy year in his usually highly professional (albeit critical) relationship with the government of the day. First there was accusations of gutter journalism for his role grilling the PM on the AWU on Sky News, followed by a frank attack from labour lawyer Josh Bornstein over his underdeveloped views on productivity. Now, senior government sources are guffawing over another Kelly effort — yesterday’s piece on the Asian century whitepaper, which sledged Labor for its lack of a plan to implement it.

The government had failed to bring out the big guns to drive outcomes, Kelly wrote, despite its appointment of Craig Emerson to oversee the process. What was needed? “Frankly an Asian Century cabinet committee would seem to be essential as a co-ordinating unit. How else can this whole-of-government agenda possibly be realised?”

Unfortunately for the gallery doyen, an Asian Century cabinet committee already exists — it was established in September last year, is chaired by the PM and includes a number of business luminaries in its ranks including Corrs CEO John Denton and Ken Henry. Google “Asian Century cabinet committee” and it pops up as the first result. — Andrew Crook

Video of the day. “So excuse me if I look a little wet.” Sandy brought out the best in US reporters as they bravely stood directly in the path of fierce winds, large waves and falling trees. And if the video below tickles your fancy, there’s more bloopers and downright media stupidity here at Gawker (watch out for Santa Claus).

Front page of the day. It wasn’t just the east coast of the United States that experienced Sandy’s wrath. At least 54 people were killed in Haiti.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey