The Huffington Post has named Fairfax Media as its partner for its Australian launch in the second quarter of the year.
Fairfax has been chosen above several other local players as the launch partner for the news site, a move which has been delayed several times since it was first mooted in 2011.
The exact details of the new tie-up are unclear at this point, but it is thought Fairfax will provide back end and sales support for the site, similar to Mi9’s arrangement with the Daily Mail.
The US site, founded by Arianna Huffington, had been slated to launch in the first quarter of the year, but a media release this morning confirmed it was looking to set up shop with an independent team of editors and journalists in the second quarter of the year in Sydney.
Founder Arianna Huffington in a media release this morning: “It’s not only a milestone in HuffPost’s global expansion – we are now in 14 countries, on six continents – but a tremendous opportunity to expand our global conversation.
“Fairfax’s independent values, proud journalistic heritage and digital expertise make them the perfect partner as we pursue our shared mission of telling Australia’s most important stories and providing a platform for Australians to tell their stories.”
It sees another global digital competitor open up its operations in Australia, after rivals Buzzfeed and Daily Mail created local presences in the past 18 months.
In an exclusive interview with Mumbrella last year Huffington dismissed those players as competitors, saying she expected to see more digital players enter the space, and adding ‘all the editors” of the local edition would be from Australia.
“They would all be rooted here and that’s very very important,” she added. “That’s why we would prefer to do it with a partner who is steeped in Australian culture, that’s really important. The content is all local but they have complete access to all our international content.”
The move will also be a welcome boost for Fairfax which is looking to diversify its revenue streams, and has been transitioning to a more digital focus over the past few years.
That plan drew criticism from mining magnate Gina Rinehart who sold her 14.9 per cent stake in the company on Friday taking a shot at Fairfax management through John Klepec, chief development officer of Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, who said in a statement: “We have come to the conclusion that the senior leadership of Fairfax Media has no workable plan to revitalise the company and address the declining business and circulation numbers.”
The move is also the latest tie up for Fairfax, whose CEO Greg Hywood has stated he sees the company’s future as a subscription business. It has also taken a stake in video streaming venture Stan with Nine Entertainment Co.
Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said in a statement: “We’re delighted to be partnering with leading global digital news and opinion website, The Huffington Post, to launch an Australian edition.
“HuffPost Australia will be part of Fairfax’s expanding portfolio of digital assets – providing great journalism and content to audiences, and valuable connections to those audiences for advertisers.
“We look forward to working closely with The Huffington Post to build the brand and bring its digital media innovation to Australia.”
“We expect big things from Australia,” said CEO of The Huffington Post Jimmy Maymann. “It is a rare combination of both a digitally advanced economy and a relatively young digital media market.
“Australia is the third largest digital ad market in Asia, and has the third highest rate of social media penetration in the world. At the same time its shift to digital news consumption is still in relatively early stages, with digital media readership continuing to grow at 11 per cent annually and still only 50 per cent of all readers regularly consuming news online.
“The combination of these characteristics make Australia a very exciting destination for our latest Huffington Post edition.”
Executive editor of International, Nicholas Sabloff, and general manager of international, Koda Wang, will spearhead the launch.
Wang had previously told Mumbrella they aimed to make the HuffPost the number one site in Australia despite launching later than its closest rivals, adding: “It’s not about missing the boat. It’s about being not just the right site at the right time, but do you have the right audience, the right content and the right strategy.”
HuffPost’s integrated global newsroom has hundreds of editors collaborating in real-time across 13 markets to create content in eight languages using a custom unified tech platform with more than 85,000 bloggers contributing their own views.