Is HuffPo coming to Australia?
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Is HuffPo coming to Australia?

Now here’s a story that has pricked up a few ears in the Australian media, involving the Huffington Post, the highly successful aggregated blog website that was sold earlier this year for US$315 million:

HuffPo’s Aussie ambitions were revealed by founder Arianna Huffington at the Cannes Lions festival last week when she confirmed that a British edition of the site would launch on July 6, to be followed by a rapid multinational expansion.

“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,” Huffington said. “We have to be in 12 countries by the end of the year.”

The news seems to have turned some people all defensive with comments like this:

“How are they going to make money from it? It’s obviously going to be advertising driven. Are they going to be running advertising teams out of the US? What is their model?” she asks.

And this:

Sounds like a flippant comment. AOL doesn’t have the cash to indulge in trying to create a site like HuffPo in a market that won’t warm to it. Everyone talks big at conferences.

Well, first of all, Asian Correspondent for one has demonstrated that it is possible to run a profitable website purely through advertising. Not only, by the way, is it a profitable website, it does what the Huffington Post did not, and compensates contributors.

This simple concept seems difficult for many on the Left to comprehend, however, with sites such as the Conversation, The Drum and New Matilda either suckling from the taxpayers’ breast or owing their existence to mysterious sugar-daddies. Websites like these that survive on guaranteed funds almost inevitably descend into unreadable stodge.

The suggestion that AOL who, after all, had $315 million in spare coin to buy the site is short of funds also seems unlikely.

The truth is that online advertising in Australia is one of the fastest growing areas of the advertising market, with a reported spend of over $2.6 billion in 2010.

The ramifications of an Australian Huffington Post would be fascinating as far as what it means for News Ltd and Fairfax websites with plans to go behind paywalls, but I would suggest that while this online ad-spend continues to grow, there is room for everybody.