The Huffington Post will proceed with plans to set up an Australian arm, with the AOL-owned behemoth advertising for an “editor in chief” to pilot its Sydney-based operation.
A non-public position description for the local role, obtained by Crikey, reveals the internet heavyweight is spruiking for an “immediate opening” to take on a cabal of established competitors including Crikey, The Drum and The Punch.
Previously, rumours of HuffPo‘s domestic ambitions were just that — with local media relying on an off-the-cuff mention of “Australia” from founder Arianna Huffington at the Cannes Lions festival last month. But the position description confirms Huffington and AOL’s Down Under plans are for real, with the website set to go live before year’s end.
The local salvo is being piloted by HuffPo‘s impressively-named senior international editor Alana Elias B. Kornfeld. According to her website, Kornfeld is a former editor at HuffPo”s Living section and before that an editor at religious portal beliefnet.com.
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“You’re passionate about the news and have spent your [sic] in pursuit of excellence,” the perky pitch begins.
“Your focus on quality editorial is ingrained from years of writing, editing, reporting and learning. You made the shift to digital ahead of your competition and have evolved with the medium. Online is where you have been and want to be, and you’re ready to raise the bar for Australian online news and information. You’ve led an editorial team to excellence before, and you’re excited by the opportunity to build an editorial voice and team from the ground up. You’re looking to work with the best in the business, because frankly, that’s who you are.”
The “ideal candidate” requires 10 years’ editorial experience and five years of experience online. They are also expected to become “the face” of HuffPo Australia, suggesting Huffington might be seeking a “name” to lend her offering local credibility.
HuffPo is in the midst of a global roll-out in an apparent bid to convince multinational advertisers that her tentacles reach into all conceivable markets. In Cannes, Huffington hinted at the road ahead: “We are planning to launch in France after England. Then we are going to announce the roll-out of other countries; Latin America, Australia, India … we have to be in 12 countries by the end of the year.”
AOL, which had been struggling in its news endeavours, purchased Huffington’s baby for $US315 million in February and installed its founder as president and editor-in-chief of a new Huffington Post Media Group division.
The UK portal launched two weeks ago, and this morning featured blanket coverage of last night’s Murdoch parliamentary committee shenanigans. A Canada version launched last month and Huffington will soon visit Brazil to kick off that country’s chapter. This morning, the URL huffingtonpost.com.au was redirecting to HuffPo Canada.
The Huffington Post relies on online advertising for the vast majority of its revenue. It will compete for the fledgling $2.3 billion Australian market for ad sales and search revenue, but will also give global advertisers like Hewlett Packard a local “hub” to spruik their wares as part of a package deal.
The site has traditionally sought to keep editorial payments as tight as possible and maintains a controversial policy of not paying the majority of its contributors. If it continues that strategy here, it may struggle for content with The Drum, Crikey and New Matilda all offering at least $100 per item. (Like HuffPo, News Limited’s The Punch pays nothing).
The local online advertising-driven space has become more competitive in recent months with the emergence of Wendy Harmer’s venture The Hoopla and the impending launch of Monica Attard’s elegant Global Mail. Ex-Cosmo editor and Land Rover spokeswoman Mia Freedman is also attempting to make a splash with her site Mamamia.
However, Harmer told Crikey that sites like The Hoopla, focused on over-35 women, would fit a “niche” that 800 pound gorillas like HuffPo would struggle to match.
“There will be advertisers I hope that will want to target older women specifically. Unlike the HuffPost we’re not trying to be a broad church and all things for all people. We wanted to put a stake in the ground for Australian women … with the coming onslaught of these big international groups that market could easily be lost in the avalanche,” Harmer said, noting the majority of HuffPo‘s UK bloggers were men.
Other online competitors, including Private Media, have suggested HuffPo would run up against severe cultural problems if it tried to run its local arm through a US lens.
“Australians aren’t like Americans who spout opinions in their sleep,” CEO Amanda Gome said this morning. “This is a much more nuanced market.”
HuffPo‘s local editor-in-chief would have a momentous task securing a reliable advertising-based revenue stream from the domestic market, Gome added.
The Huffington Post was contacted for comment on this story and we’ll add their response when we receive it.