Two things you need to know about the new Huffington Post Australia

Huffington Post Australia pushed go on their interwebs this morning. 

JBish got the front page

A few days ago at ADMA in Sydney, I sat in on the preso from their new CEO Chris Janz and two facts turned my head

Huffington Post Australia CEO Chris Janz -seems like a nice chappie

1. “we had 1800 applications for 35 editorial roles”

You see, as much as the editorial types like to publicly snub Huffington Post (SBS referred to it recently as a ‘left wing blog aggregator’), it seems there is no shortage of talent throwing their CVs at the HuffPo. Janz has gone for a strong, former News Corp News Corp journalist and editor Tory Maguire as editor-in-chief. Tory is known for driving conversations and working across digital platforms so that all sounds very Huff Posty doesn’t it?

A dream editorial team will mean great content, even though journalists also hate the word ‘content'. 

2. “Fairfax is our local partner”

Some think that the HuffPo/Fairfax partnership will cannibalise Fairfax, especially lifestyle content.  Fairfax needs to improve in this area so any competition is good for them I think. They’ll probably just aggregate the inventory at the back-end and sell it through the Fairfax Media ad networks to agency anyway so overall, everyone wins. It means that HuffPo doesn’t need to go through the messy business of setting up account management and sales and all that handshaking business can be concentrated on creating image slideshows that you have to click on 15 times to view two photos. 

Buzzfeed and HuffPo both leaping into Australia

BuzzFeed Oz have been very active in the Australian political conversation this week with the appointment of Mark Di Stefano as political editor so get your popcorn, the Australian coverage is going to be excellent. 

Mo people, mo problems-five ways to keep trolls out

five double 0, that's my phone number

Blowing away your community because all your members are idiots who say dumb stuff is very tempting but there a few reasons why you shouldn’t. Mainly because it could be a sign that you are doing a great job:

“for human groups, a few hundred seems to be an upper limit for a group size compatible with everyone’s knowing everybody. In our state society for instance, school principals are likely to know all their students by name if the school contains a few hundred children, but not if it contains a few thousand children. One reason why the organisation of human government tends to change from that of a tribe to that of a chiefdom in societies with more than a few hundred members is that the difficult issue of conflict resolution between strangers becomes increasingly acute in larger groups” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond 1997

It’s the same thing that happens in fast growing workplaces and popular cities- mo people, mo problems. 

1. Law and order. Smaller tribes self regulate more easily due to social pressure and you don’t need to do much to calm down a little blog spat or tacky image post. As groups become larger and more anonymous (think big city versus small town), you may need more law and order and I hate to say it, rules in the form of community guidelines. A secondary login might help to keep anon posters down and put some real faces in the mix to humanise the community. 

2. In the words of the great Tony Robbins, if there are weeds in your garden, pull them out. Don’t pretend there are no weeds and let the trolls take over but also, don’t freak out after a bad hit and blow away the branded Facebook page you spent three years cultivating.  It might just be time to reassess your strategy, gear up some more people to help and think about how you can run your page for a larger audience. Identify and pull out the weeds, you may not need to nuke the whole rainforest. 

Run from the thread

3. Party in the comments. Jonah Peretti from Buzzfeed/ HuffPo discovered that people loved the crazy-sauce comments that appeared at the bottom of their stories. Depending on your community, you may want to leave some weird stuff in their for seasoning. 

4. Talk to some other community managers at other workplaces and find out what they do. Sometimes, lobbing some feel-good content like iPad giveaways and free t-shirts can reset an angry mob. Just sharing your ideas and venting frustrations can make a big difference and you won't feel like you're doing a bad job all the time. I took a beaten down team to another company for a morning and they just sat and watched another online community team working. It made a huge difference to their confidence and showed them some new ways of managing prickly customers. 

5. Reward the good behaviour. Welcome new members so the same people don’t get attention for stirring. Much like the small town/ big city thing, sometimes the founding members of a community can be demanding and expect special treatment. Look after them but don’t let them drag the community down by bringing up old stuff and family feuds from 1967 all the time. It’s important to keep growing and pruning is a part of that. 

23 reasons it's great HuffPo is coming to Australia (number 17 will surprise you)

The Huffington Post is coming to Australia and that’s great news for people like me who have sat in cubicles at traditional media companies thinking ‘this whole thing just doesn’t work anymore and I want to go home now.'

Now Australia and New Zealand media companies will have a working model of a proper new media company so that we don’t have to skip to page 110 of the Digital First Content Strategy Newsroom of The Future strategy document to try and convince editors that their fears of native content are largely imaginary and that the smiley-faced external consultancy person walking around with a spreadsheet who keeps disappearing into that meeting room that’s locked all the time is more likely to cause you pain and suffering by process of redundancy than writing a blog post for Toyota about driving a four wheel drive car up a ski field. 

HuffPo (or as the ABC charmingly calls it "the liberal American online news aggregator and blog") is brazen about native advertising, blogger friendly, and happy to talk about machines curating content through behavioural targeting.  Sponsored and branded content discussions are not imaginary but actual real-life things that happen and result in advertisers paying money to media companies so that they can pay editorial teams and journalists and everyone can pay for their groceries and maybe a new pair of shoes now and again.Great. 

The media industry gets more competition, The Guardian and Buzzfeed (oh look- they’re here already) come to Australia so talented local people like First Dog on The Moon get to develop new characters like the Westboro Baptist Hate Octopus, and we don’t all have to read about climate change being imaginary, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules rugby, and racehorses all the time. 

Koda Wang is the HuffPo person getting all the Australian stuff ready to go and he said the second quarter of 2014 generated about as much revenue in terms of native advertising than the whole of 2013. That's called growth and growth is good because the opposite of growth is decay which results in death and killing and book titles like this one:

Professional aggregator of liberal cat video bloggists Koda Wang said,"we keep the same bar of quality for native as we do for editorial. A lot of editors that create our native content come from our newsroom - they know how to create good content. It's also important to make sure native advertising is clearly labelled. And it's got to be authentic to the brand of your advertiser and to your own brand."

My thoughts exactly. Treat your audience like they’re adults and didn't just come out the Christmas cracker yesterday and they’ll be OK with some ad-supported content. 

But what about the ‘slippery slope argument’. The slippery slope argument comes from editors and usually goes along the lines of ‘if I drive a Toyota up a ski field and write a blog post about it then next week I will have to run streaming propaganda for the war in Gaza because that’s how North Korea works. It’s a slippery slope’. 

I know that’s a big separate discussion but at the heart of it I would say perhaps it’s time for journalists and editors to also be adults and take responsibility for their decision making.  The days of kidding yourself that “I don’t work for News Corp, I work for The Daily Telegraph” are over and trying to pretend that you aren’t part of the machine like everyone else…well come on.  The challenges of the media industry impact everyone and trying to cling to some romantic notion of eighties journalism is what’s causing all the pain in suffering in today’s traditional media companies where employee satisfaction ratings sit around 22-35%.  It’s not the war in Gaza but good grief I’d be gratefully taking the keys to that Toyota and getting my branded content on. 

The Huffington Post Australia plans to launch in the first quarter of 2015 and let’s hope it’s a shining light of new media that will inspire Australia and New Zealand media companies to face the realities that yes print is lovely but no, it doesn't make money anymore so let's go drive a Toyota around a ski field so that your colleagues will have a job that they actually like going to next year and if you don't want to write crappy '23 reasons' blog posts then don't write them. 

Why would anyone want to pay a blogger?

I was a mildly horrified at a recent conference to hear someone on a media panel say ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger?”

The panel discussion was angling at the ethics of paid contributors to review sites that don’t disclose their relationship with a company or organisation.

For example, a tech blogger gets flown to Sydney to the Samsung Galaxy SIII launch.

That person should disclose that they are an invited guest of Samsung. Any payment or gratuity that person receives should be made clear to their audience.

In my experience, most quality bloggers are very open with disclosure and most audiences can smell a kickback a mile away so the whole thing self-regulates.

What the ‘why would anyone want to pay a blogger” statement doesn’t factor in is the difference between a ‘vanity’ blogger and a paid journalist or contributor.

One example is the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post has salaried editors and journalists that form the backbone of their content. Those people are expected to work certain hours, attend meetings and meet deadlines with quality contributions. Those contributions can come in the form of articles or blogs. Advertising revenues pay for the wages of these people. Are Huffington Post employees paid bloggers?

Yes.  

So why would anyone want to pay a blogger?

Because there is a global market for quality content and people should be financially remunerated for producing good work.

The Huffington Post also has people that contribute content that aren’t paid by Huffington Post but are paid by their respective organisations to share ideas and get a viewpoint across. HuffPost provides a microphone for interest groups and politicians to speak to an audience. So John Kerry obviously isn’t paid to write a blog post but his motivations for contributing should be very clear.  Consultants and figureheads often ‘vanity blog’ to get their brands in front of people and demonstrate thought leadership. Nothing new there.

Sometimes I will write a post on this blog and have an editor contact me to produce a paid article for their website or magazine on the same topic. Does that make me a paid blogger? Or does that then make me a freelancer? What’s the difference and does it really matter? If I write an article for a magazine do I have to declare that I was paid x cents per word?

The overarching business model of media is quite straightforward and a blanket assumption that blogger’s contributions should never be paid for or that paying for blog content is in some way unethical is a bit simplistic.

A more useful question is why would anybody not want to pay a blogger?