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.