Nine Network’s digital arm Mi9 has announced a new joint venture with the world’s most-visited news website, the Mail Online giving the British newspaper a local presence down under.
The surprise announcement comes just a month after Nine bought out partner Microsoft to take full control of Mi9, and will see the site use its local editorial team to create content for the Mail Online.
Recruitment for the new venture, which will be staffed by 50 journalists, will start immediately, and the www.dailymail.com.au URL will go live in early 2014. The team will be based alongside the NineMSN unit in the company’s Sydney base, with ad sales coming out of Mi9.
Mi9 CEO Mark Britt told a press conference this morning the aim was to make the brand “the leading mainstream newspaper site in Australia,” and build the largest digital editorial team in Australia, and said it would not go behind a paywall, as Fairfax and News Corp have done.
He added: “The Mail Online has brought a passion to online news which I think is unique in the world.”
Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke said the Australian launch was a “naked” play for global scale and that he was not worried about other new online players such as The Guardian, which launched in Australia six months ago to the day, and Buzzfeed.
“I think the point is that we will be bringing so much new content that we will be making the pie even bigger,” he said.
“There are different readers in different markets and they can be monetised in different ways, but we made the decision to keep content free, we are going very nakedly for a scale play and this fits in with that strategy.”
Clarke also said that the type of reporting on the new 50 person editorial operation would be much the same as its UK counterpart but with a significant portion of Australian content.
Britt said the deal would position Mi9 to take advantage of declining print revenues, adding: “There has been this battle for the last couple of year over who the number one news site is in Australia. It is basically between News.com.au, SMH and the Nine news site and all of us sit around 2.6-3m visitors a month in an audience population of 17 million.
“None of us in that context are reaching true mass market mainstream news.”
The Mail Online claims a global readership of 57.3 million monthly unique visitors, and is one of the most profitable digital news sites in the world. While the newspaper has a reputation in the UK of being right-wing it has built a global fanbase through what has become known as the “sidebar of shame”, a constantly updating newsfeed featuring global celebrity stories.
Nine CEO David Gyngell said in the statement: “At NEC we want to entertain and inform Australians. We’re no longer just a television network on the East Coast of Australia, but a diverse national digital media, entertainment and events company. We’re proud to offer leading television programming through Channel 9, Gem and Go, and the most trusted and timely news coverage across Nine News, ninemsn and in early 2014, Daily Mail Australia.
“This joint venture, the recent acquisitions of the WIN television stations in Adelaide and Perth, and taking control of Mi9 have reinforced our strong commitment to providing a continuous source of news and entertainment across Australia.”
Earlier this year The Guardian launched an independent Australian operation, recruiting local sales and editorial staff and making it into the top ten most viewed news sites in the country. This morning editor Katherine Viner took to Twitter within minutes of the Mail news breaking accusing them of being “copycats”, a claim rejected by Clarke who said: “We won’t be copying them.”
Update: A News Corp Australia spokesman said the company which owns current most read website in Australia welcomed the competitor.
“We revel in the competition” said the News Corp Australian spokesman.
Nic Christensen and Alex Hayes