ABC to relaunch opinion site Unleashed

In a move that will put the ABC directly up against News Ltd and Fairfax’s online comment sites, the broadcaster is relaunching ABC Unleashed to form part of a new commentary and analysis site that will for the first time aggregate the public broadcaster’s commentry content as well as feature original material.  

UnleashedThe move will see the public broadcaster provide a direct challenge to newly launched opinion and aggregation sites from commercial media like News Limited’s The Punch and Fairfax’s National Times, both of which launched earlier this year, and Crikey which refocused its website onto aggregated opinion this year too.

As part of the changes, Unleashed editor Catherine Taylor will report to the new editor of the still-to-be-named opinion site, Jonathan Green, the outgoing Crikey editor. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Annabel Crabb will also join Green’s team. There are currently three commissioning staff – including Taylor – on Unleased, which primarily features content from external contributors. editor Bruce Belsham told Mumbrella the launch of the new site is part of its efforts to provide analysis and commentary that its broadcast equivalent has long offered, with programmes such as Four Corners and Background Briefing.

However, the comment is likely to be less free-ranging than its rivals as ABC staff views will still be subject to the organisation’s editorial policies.

The site, which will be launched early next month, will also aggregate all the analysis and commentary currently found across the website, while featuring original analysis pieces from Green and Crab.

Asked if the site would be a competitor to the Punch, National Times and Crikey, he said: “Unleashed already sits in that space and with the exception of Crikey, it predates those sites. Clearly it’s an area a number of people have invested in. But we’re not beginners in this area, we’ve simply stepped up our efforts.”

Belsham said Unleashed, which launched in 2007, currently attracts 175,000 unique browsers a month and it is hoping to grow this figure, with its beefed up new site.

By comparison, according to latest Nielsen figures The Punch had 209,201 unique browsers during October, Crikey attracted 192,902. Despite Fairfax previously saying it would offer an audited figure for the National Times, it is still not listed on Nielsen.

Punch National Times CrikeyAlexa figures (which tend to be cruder than Nielsen’s) suggest that the National Times has struggled to find a direct audience, although it will also get traffic via Fairfax’s masthead sites such as and

Meanwhile, Crikey’s co-owner Eric Beecher told Mumbrella that a successor for Green is yet to be decided.

While some observers believe that Green’s deputy Sophie Black is a strong candidate, it is understood that a number of external candidates have already signalled their interests to Beecher.

“Jonathan’s still here, it only happened last Friday, so were looking at how were going to approach this,” Beecher said.

The merger of Smartcompany and Crikey’s owner Private Media Partners, is also underway. The new entity will be headed by Smartcompany CEO Amanda Gome.

Beecher maintained that there would be no major changes to Crikey as a result, which will continue to “evolve”.

Prior to joining Crikey in 2007, Green worked as senior editor and columnist at The Age.


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