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HuffPost’s Tory Maguire rejects suggestion the site commissions journalists to work for free

Maguire

Maguire

The Huffington Post Australia editor-in-chief Tory Maguire has rejected the notion that Australia’s newest media news website commissions journalists “to do work for free”.

Speaking to Mumbrella on the morning of the official launch of the local version of the news and commentary site, after a soft launch yesterday, Maguire said the blog platform and its journalism platforms are two very “distinct” things.

“The blog platform is not for journalists,” she said.

“We’re not going out and asking people to work for us for free, we’re inviting anyone who has something they would like to share with other Australians to use our platform if they so chose.”

Maguire said the local version of HuffPost is “starting up” and “very quickly” is going to have “30 full-time paid journalists”.

“Around the world there are more than 850 Huffington Post journalists working and producing journalism every single day,” she added.

HuffPoHuffington Post has been on a hiring blitz ahead of its launch in two weeks on August 19.

Among the local team are assistant Daily Mail editor Chris Paine and 9news.com.au supervising producer Nicolette Logue as news editors; former executive producer of video at AAP Tom Compagnoni who will lead its video content; and experienced former ABC and SBS political reporter Karen Barlow, who will be the local Huffpo’s political editor.

The comments follow on from professional writer, media commentator and advertising executive Dee Madigan slamming an unsolicited approach from the publisher to write for free as insulting.

To coincide with today’s official launch Huffington Post Australia announced Lisa Wilkinson was joining the team as editor-at-large, a role which Maguire said would help shape the tone and helps promote the site.

Wilkinson's first post on The Huffington Post

Wilkinson’s first post on The Huffington Post

Maguire described Wilkinson’s appointment as a “no brainer”.

“Of all the people in the Australian media market Lisa Wilkinson has an unparalleled combination of credibility and profile.

“She has decades of experience in building an audience, in understanding what an audience wants and catering to them instead of telling them what they need and obviously she has a great reputation, a high social media profile and she’s absolutely the perfect person for this role,” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to having her not just doing her own content but also being a sounding board for me. I come from a much more political and news background and Lisa comes from  broadcasting and magazines. She has loads of experience and I’m really looking forward to being able to tap her experience and insights.

“We get on like a house on fire,” she added.

HuffPoYesterday the site launched with an exclusive video interview with Julie Bishop, following that up today with an exclusive video interview with Bill Shorten.

Commenting on the site’s clear multimedia strategy, Maguire said the HuffPost Australia team is “thinking about the video element of every story”.

“Arianna [Huffington] has said publicly that she is aiming for Huffington Post to be 50-50 between written word and video, which is a boldly ambitious target,” she said.

“When the journalists pitch a story at Huffington Post Australia, they are pitching not just to me but are also pitching to the video team.”

Maguire said HuffPost Australia is one of the first international editions to launch with a fully-formed video team, and this is one of the key elements to the site achieving local CEO Chris Janz’ aim of being in the top five Nielsen online news sites  within three years.

“It’s totally central. it’s a very old-fashioned idea that the video strategy sits outside everything else, it it is totally integral to everything we do,” Maguire said.

Native advertising is another part of the publisher’s strategy, however it sits outside the editorial team.

“It’s part of the commercial operation. The native content is not written by the editorial team,” Maguire explained.

“Partner Studio is the in-house production studio that does native and they take care of that part of the operation.”

When challenged on whether thePartner Studio is up and running locally Maguire said it was “getting there”.

FairfaxThe Huffington Post has launched here as part of a joint-venture with Fairfax, with Fairfax taking a 49 per cent share and HuffPost holding onto the remaining 51 per cent.

Quizzed on the help HuffPost is receiving from Fairfax in terms of cross-promotion, and the potential for rivalry between the two publishers, Maguire admitted it was something she had not thought about.

“We’re editorially independent, Fairfax are being incredibly supportive as our joint-venture partner. We’ve just been focused on what we need to do,” she said.

On the issue of Huffington Post needing a boost from Fairfax cross promotion to succeed Maguire was non-committal, saying: “Huffington Post gets an enormous amount of its traffic through social referral, we have to do that ourselves.”

However she rejected the idea that Huffington Post may cannibalise some of Fairfax’s audience.

“It’s an old fashioned view to think there’s a cap on the number of players in this market. The way people consume news has changed,” she said.

“I recently taught a subject at UTS and those young people that I dealt with they get their news from a vast array of authors. There’s no more of this idea that you grew up in a Tele house or a Herald house. It just doesn’t work that way anymore.”

Maguire was appointed to the editor-in-chief role back in April, after working with News Corp Australia for 15 years, holding roles as national opinion editor and deputy editor of opinion website The Punch.

Commenting on how roles like editing opinion website the The Punch prepared her for Huffington Post Maguire said: “I couldn’t do this job if I hadn’t done that”.

“The Punch was amazing. it was the most fun job. We started it in 2009 when it was still seen as unusual for journalists to go digital only which is amazing because it’s not that long ago,” she said.

“The Punch was unashamedly about expanding the range of voices and appealing to people on a digital only platform. I honestly couldn’t do this job now if I hadn’t spent all that time building up a site from scratch as I contributed to at The Punch.”

Miranda Ward

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