After years of delays, The Huffington Post has finally landed in Australia.

It launched with an exclusive interview with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. In the interview, Bishop signalled her support for a same-sex marriage plebiscite, saying the issue “hadn’t been fully debated” in Australia. The front page also includes an opinion piece by federal Liberal Ewen Jones explaining why he’ll cross the floor to vote on for a same-sex marriage bill, provided it has exemptions for religious institutions, and another piece by Anthony Albanese on his passion, public transport.

How Huffington Post US greeted the Australian edition

The rest of the website has the same mix of news and lifestyle content jumbled together in the style the Huffington Post is famous for. Interestingly, one item on the front page, which looks exactly like a HuffPo story, actually links to a piece on The Guardian. Crikey understands this is intentional — which is an unusually generous approach to content produced by a rival.

Writing on the Australian website, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says the website will have a special focus on Australia’s work culture. This isn’t a surprising editorial focus — Huffington has been on a global speaking tour on the importance of sleep and work-life balance, a subject on which she has written a book. It’s an editorial focus for The Huffington Post globally as well.

“Finally, I’m thrilled that we’re launching HuffPost in Australia in partnership with Fairfax Media, a leading independent, digitally-led media business and publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, among many other publications,” Huffington continues. “I especially want to thank Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood and Group Director of Digital Ventures Guy Reypert. We couldn’t have asked for better partners as we’ve gone about the work of building HuffPost Australia.”

Interestingly, Fairfax’s leading website, The Sydney Morning Herald, hasn’t teased or taken copy from the HuffPo’s Julie Bishop scoop, at least not yet. While Fairfax owns an array of digital sites, Huffington Post is the first non-niche joint venture. How it exists with Fairfax’s largest mass-audience websites will be interesting to watch.

Earlier this year, media buyers and analysts told Crikey HuffPo would probably cannibalise Fairfax’s readership to some extent. But, by giving the company a financial stake in a competitor likely to do well, they figured it was probably worth it. — Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

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