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Huffington Post global boss says ‘philosophy’ played a part in Fairfax deal

Wang

Wang

The Huffington Post looked at a number of factors including a “philosophical alignment” with potential bidders before settling on Fairfax Media for its Australian partner, its general manager of international Koda Wang has told Mumbrella.

It will have a launch staff of 12 or 13 on the editorial side, with Fairfax looking after the commercial sales and controlling 49 per cent of the Australian operation.

Talking to Mumbrella this morning he also took a  swipe at competitors saying: “There are other players which have started out with much larger staff and a flashier message, but we’re going to approach it like a startup.”

On the decision to partner with Fairfax over other bidders, with News Corp and Yahoo7 understood to have held talks with the AOL-controlled publisher, Wang said: “It was a hard choice. We spoke to a couple of different top players in the region.

“We looked at the journalistic history and journalistic vision, the strength in the business and how well they could commercialise the HuffPost, as well as the philosophical alignment between the Huff Post and the partner.”

However, he denied the perception of Fairfax as the more politically left wing of the major news outlets in Australia influenced the decision, saying: “It wasn’t that specifically. We do not see ourselves in the traditional way, we want to be independent. We want to shine light in different parts of the media.”

He pointed to the site’s focus on bringing positive news as a key differentiator from other local media outlets, saying it aimed to highlight “what is working in society”, not just what is not.

While Fairfax will be a 49 per cent stake holder in the new operation, but Wang was coy on discussing what revenue share the local media outfit would be getting from the deal.

In terms of competition Wang said there are a number of different sites “we will be keeping our eye on”, but he said he does not “see us comparing ourselves one to one with our competitors”.

“We came into the US which is an extremely competitive news environment and became number one site there in just a few years, and we go into other competitive markets like France, Spain and Japan and have been competitive. We will go and awe’ll have fun while we are doing it,” he added.

The site will be based around the key pillars of politics, entertainment and lifestyle, which Wang said had become its biggest section in the US, which he said would be a large part of the Australian offering.

The local edition will also feature the blogging platform which landed the site a lawsuit from a group of unpaid contributors in 2011. Wang said it would be a feature on the site, with all contributors being vetted by local editors before being allowed to post on the site.

In 2013 Fairfax introduced a paywall on its main metropolitan sites, but Wang said that was not a tactic which would be looked at by the HuffPost, pointing to the range of advertising options it utilises including its native ad platforms, programmatic offering and video offering as ways it monetises the product.

Video has become an increasingly important content piece for the brand in recent years, with Wang admitting they will be looking for “video talent” among its editorial team, adding it is now as much “part of the experience as text or images”, pointing to the proliferation in video consumption by users in the past few years.

In terms of marketing the brand will utilise organic growth channels including its vast online social media presence to grow its audience, rather than spend money on marketing campaigns.

This will be the 14th global newsroom the company has opened, with Wang stressing that global footprint would be key to the success in Australia, with the site able to pull in local reports on international news. “When you look at the Charlie Hebdo massacre a few weeks ago our France office led the coverage an all our other editions were able to take that,” he said.

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Alex Hayes

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