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Australian opinion site The Big Smoke expands to the US, covering American election

The Big Smoke's US website

The Big Smoke’s US website

Australian opinion site The Big Smoke is expanding into the US two years after its local launch and has already signed a number of contributors including a Purple Heart awarded Iraq War veteran and drag queen Bianca Del Rio.

In Australia the site launched in November 2013 and has since published pieces by the likes of Anthony Albanese, Maggie Beer, Adam Spencer and Derryn Hinch.

Founder and publisher Alexandrea Tselios told Mumbrella the company looks to create a “fair playing field” for a variety of voices by purposely not hiring journalists and instead working with a network of 200, mostly unpaid, contributors.

“I launched the company The Big Smoke in 2013 and basically we’re an opinion site and the one thing we don’t do is we don’t hire journalists. We’re about opinion pieces from every-day Australians. We try to have that fair-playing field for everyone,” she said.

“We pay some contributors, it just depends. We have writers submitting pieces to us all the time. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people writing regularly for us.”

Tselios said the site’s coverage of the US election was getting traction both in the US and in Australia.

The Big Smoke election coverage

The site has also said no to traditional display advertising with Tselios of the belief display ads do not work.

“We have no display advertising at all because I just don’t think it works and it doesn’t work for a site like ours. Our commercial model is on commercial partnerships,” she said.

“We’ll have different sections of the site that are partnered for a period of time.We just finished a three-month campaign with the People’s Choice Credit Union and they owned our Ladder section which is our business section.

Alexandra Tselios“We then also have a virtual marketplace on the site called The Emporium and that is a marketplace for small businesses.”

Commercial partnerships sees brands “own” sections of the site through sponsorship with native content also created for the brand while businesses then can also pay a fee to be listed in The Emporium.

“We work with them to shape the narrative around a particular story they want to promote. We’ve been very fortunate that the brands we align with are pretty in sync with what our readers like anyway,” explained Tselios.

The Emporium is yet to launch in the US with Tselios saying the brand’s main focus at the moment is building its US audience.

“The Big Smoke in the US just launched and we don’t have the numbers to sell to advertisers. We wanted to create a platform and first of all ensure we’ve got a good base of readers before we started to open that door,” she said.

On the site’s competitors Tsleios was coy, saying it takes elements of the publications and sites they love and make them their own.

“It might be a little bit of The Huffington Post and a little bit of Politco in the US,” she explained.

The US site is being driven by Greg Gerding, a Portland, Oregon based indie-press publisher.

Gerding is currently flying solo in the US as he looks to build his team and is supported by The Big Smoke’s Australian team of six which consists of a commercial team, editors and sub-editors.

On what’s next for The Big Smoke, Tselios said: “I see a Big Smoke in other major cities. I see it as an opportunity for local writers and people who lead interesting, quirky lives who don’t necessarily have a platform to come on and be part of it. I see us more of a curator of conversation. ”

Miranda Ward

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