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The Conversation OS: Jaspan’s academic site to expand

The Guardian may be setting up down under, but it’s not a one-way street. The Conversation is preparing to launch a British version of its site.

Fresh from luring Michelle Grattan from The Age, Andrew Jaspan is preparing to launch a British version of The Conversation website.

The Conversation, which publishes news and analysis by academics, has acquired a UK website — www.theconversation.org.uk  —  which informs visitors: “We launched in Australia in March 2011. We are now looking to launch into the UK.”

A source familiar with the expansion plans told Crikey the UK site could be launched as early as May and that at least 10 universities were already on board. City University London, well-known for its journalism program, is one of the institutions that has signed on and is playing a key role in co-ordinating the effort. A UK co-ordinator, Will De Freitas, has been appointed as well as a UK project director.

The Conversation’s executive director, Brit and former Age editor Andrew Jaspan, says the UK push is still in an “exploratory stage”. The Manchester-born news veteran has strong connections to the motherland following stints editing The Observer in London and The Scotsman.

Should an opportunity arise [to launch in the UK] we’d be interested,” he said coyly, telling Crikey this morning that he’ll have more to say on The Conversation’s global ambitions at a later date.

The Conversation has proved a hit with local web users since launching a little over two years ago and now attracts 312,207 monthly unique browsers. Its global reach is already strong: over 720,000 people around the world clicked on the site in January, according to the Australian Bureau of Circulations.

The site’s selling point is that its articles are written by academics who are experts in their field and are based on facts and peer-reviewed research rather than opinionising. A team of editors and journalists — including many former Fairfax staffers — is employed to prune jargon from the copy to make it readable to the masses.

The Conversation  — which has drawn funding from universities, the CSIRO and the federal government —  operates under a creative commons licence, meaning all its articles can be republished free of charge. Fairfax’s metro sites, in particular, have taken to republishing The Conversation’s content — including a recent piece by Michelle Grattan, who left the company earlier this month to join the University of Canberra and The Conversation.

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  • 1
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I bet Fairfax didn’t reprint the comments section of Grattan’s article. Ninety percent of which, lambasted her ‘political analysis’ and and denigrated her inclusion on the Conversation editorial team.

  • 2
    David Stephens
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    This is a bit slim. Worth a look at the reaction on The Conversation to Michelle Grattan’s first few articles: along the lines of “Mainstream Media hack lowering the quality of the site by continuing with biased gossip columns a la Fairfax.”

  • 3
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Mother superior has nodded off again.

  • 4
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    It seems strange that a site on the *world* wide web should consider establishing a site specifically for the UK. Why not simply broaden the material on the current site to include material from UK universities?

    The announcement of Grattan’s recruitment by the Conversation was criticised by many Conversation commenters as transferring to the Conversation the tired ‘horse race’ political commentary of the mainstream media. However, many of those commenters responded with surprised approval of Grattan’s first few posts for the Conversation.

  • 5
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    DAVID STEPHENS: That’s not quite right, IMHO. I perceived it to be a case of people criticising her recent negativity in The Age. (Fairfax)

  • 6
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    They have the most terrible censorship rules though. They treat readers like morons and allow the most spurious and false allegations against people to go through.

  • 7
    AR
    Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Apart from being almost as boring as Global Mail, it is the ‘appeal to authority’ - writers must have some “position” (apart from heads-up-arse) - of the Condescension that makes it unappealing.

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