From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Trouble in the car classies? Making money from classified advertising is increasingly tough, and we’ve heard a rumour that Carsguide — half-owned by News Corp — is struggling. Carsguide appears in News Corp papers and is also online. It contains lots of ads for cars as well as reviews and stories (sample: “The truth about grid girls“). Anyway, a mole told us: “News plans to close down its motoring brand Carsguide, the website will be closed.”

We put that to a News Corp spokesman, who said: “The claims are completely false.” There are certainly some car industry insiders who would benefit from circulating false rumours about the brand’s demise.

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But it’s true that the car classifieds market is dominated by rival Even The Australian says Carsales (which is not owned by a media company) is “streets ahead” of Carsguide (News’ joint venture with car dealers). Fairfax shut down its Drive car classifieds earlier this year. We talked to another automotive insider who reckoned the relationship between Carsguide and its car-dealer shareholders is strained. There’s apparently some manouvering by dealers to keep advertising costs down, and News Corp may be the loser. It sounds like Carsguide is becoming more independent of News, moving out of Holt Street and having a separate ad sales team. And it sounds like News might not be entirely happy with the way the JV has panned out …

Gym dispute ruling. You may remember the fracas over the gym in Parliament House — Coalition pollies want the telly on Sky, Labor prefers ABC24, and it all seemed to be heading down the path of Crimea. We can report a peaceful solution has been found (via the ABC’s Simon Cullen):

So you’ll need to watch for fitness sessions on ABC24. Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli are as lean as whippets, so they’d have some good tips. We’ve heard it’s ABC24’s turn tomorrow, so get your tracksuit ready.

Canberra media movements. The exodus of staff from The Canberra Times (the Fairfax daily) to the City News, a free weekly glossy, continues. Last week’s City News cover welcomed Lynn Mills, who has been snapping social pics for the Crimes for a very long time. Mills, a popular and friendly figure around the Crimes newsroom, has long been a fixture on Canberra’s social scene with her camera poised.

Open the cover and you’ll find arts stories by the Crimes’ former arts writer Helen Musa, who left the daily while Mark Baker was editor. Then there are gardening stories from the former Crimes writer Cedric Bryant. We’ve heard both Musa and Bryant have expressed some disgruntlement to others about their treatment by the Crimes. The back story is that The Canberra Times has been shedding sections, local coverage, reporters and subs for some years now as — like pretty much all newspapers — it struggles to make money. Its office up at federal Parliament used to have five dedicated reporters, but now you’d struggle to find one, and the paper relies on Fairfax group coverage. But there’s one stalwart who’s sticking with the Crimes — veteran columnist and former editor Jack Waterford.

Joe Hockey loves Pharrell. Is this Bill Heffernan jiving in his trunks in a musical tribute to Byron Bay?

The only reason we think it’s not the effervescent Liberal Senator is that he is a staunch advocate for the NSW town of Junee, a long way from Byron. We were alerted to the vid by Treasurer Joe Hockey, who tweeted “Really uplifting stuff! Pharrell Williams — Happy — We Are From [Byron Bay]” (Pharrell is a man-of-the-moment US musician, and the vid is set to his stuff). It’s probably a good thing Tony Abbott isn’t tweeting his musical preferences. He likes Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys.

Crikey needs you. Yesterday Crikey ran a story on some new privacy laws, which don’t seem to be all they’re cracked up to be, once you set aside the spin. One thing the laws are supposed to do is cement your right to find out the personal information that federal government agencies, and businesses, hold on you — so you could ask Centrelink, Telstra or Westpac what they’ve got on your file. But our Crikey reporter found it quite difficult to actually do this.

If you’d like to help us, do your best to find out what personal information an agency or firm has on you and let us know how you get on. We’re keen to know if these laws work. And the laws state that an entity must have an accessible and up-to-date privacy policy; if you know of an entity that doesn’t, you know what to do.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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