As the Mail Online starts to ramp up its Australian content the newest entrant into the Australian online news space has been raiding the corridors of News Corp.
Mumbrella has learned the Mail Online has hired associate editor of the Daily Telegraph Simon Wheeler, afternoon editor at News.com.au Chris Paine and News Corp reporters Candace Sutton, Sarah Michael and Nathan Klein. The UK newspaper also hired Sydney Confidential reporter Maria Lewis in early January.
The hirings come as former News.com.au editor and now Mail Online Australia editor Luke McIlveen remains on gardening leave, preventing him from making offers to his former staff. McIlveen was a long term News staffer who worked at News.com.au and as chief of staff at the Daily Telegraph.
It is understood some of the departing staffers being “walked” off the premises at News Corp.
“It’s not good, (Mail Online) been poaching a lot of our best online people”, said one News Corp insider. “There’s not much we can do, but he is taking some of our best online guys”.
News Corp has yet to appoint a new editor for News.com.au some two months after McIlveen’s surprise defection in early December.
Both Nine’s digital division Mi9 and News Corp declined to comment on the hirings. Mi9 has also yet to officially confirm the hiring of McIlveen however, in late December the defection nearly saw Nine and News end up in court with a dispute over an “oral agreement” as to when he could start work for the competitor immediately.
Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke has told Mumbrella there will be no official launch date for the full website in Australia as the plan is to build gradually, as it did in the US with a few landmark events, but a geo-targeted ‘sidebar of shame’ has already gone live.
At an event celebrating the launch of Buzzfeed, fellow Mi9 editor Hal Crawford, who edits Ninemsn, noted that competition in the online news space was about to intensify in 2014.
“What is going to happen with Buzzfeed and The Daily Mail and so forth, coming in? I think Scott (Lamb) is downplaying (Buzzfeed’s) competitive impact on this environment. It is taking what I would describe as an insanely competitive environment and is only going to make it more competitive,” said Crawford.