The Huffington Post will launch its 17th edition in South Africa in November in partnership with South African media company, Media24. Andreij Horn, the general manager of 24.com, the digital news website that will complement The Huffington Post South Africa, told the World Editors Forum that this venture is not just good for business, it’s good for Africa.
With a focus on citizen journalism, The Huffington Post (HuffPost) South Africa presents an opportunity for the media group to “give voice to the voiceless and seek out the voices that are already there”, said Horn. The Huffington Post South Africa will function independently of the South African digital news site 24.com, but not in isolation – the two will promote each other’s content when fitting.
Media24 is currently hiring for top-level positions at The Huffington Post South Africa such as editor in chief, associate editor, and deputy editor. (Charlene Beukes has been appointed the head of Huffington Post South Africa.)
Horn expounded upon his excitement about this venture, even after the departure of founder Arianna Huffington; predictions for the future; and what he hopes this means for the future of media in Africa.
Responses and questions have been editorialised and shortened for clarity.
Q: What are your general thoughts about the venture?
A: The HuffPost South Africa is additive in a certain way because they’re bringing a slightly different perspective to the table. We will have a wide and deepening offering to put in front of our already large digital audience, which is good for our users – if it’s good for them, it is also good for our commercial partners.
News24 is foremost focused on breaking news first, this is what people trust us for. Whether it’s hard news or politics, if it happens, they will get it from us first and they will get the perspectives equally fast. We’ve invested heavily in good quality digital journalism. We passionately believe that digital journalism should conform to the same standards as an industry we’ve always held dear.
The HuffPost is more about taking those stories where they believe they can have an impact and bringing their users the whole story. It’s more journalism with a mission than fast journalism.
To the HuffPost, it’s very specifically about creating deep, authentic relationship with their users. They will not shy away from difficult topics, they will actually specifically seek them out – giving voices to the voiceless and seeking the voices that are already there.
Q: How do you feel about The Huffington Post’s editorial strategy?
A: This focus on really doing meaningful journalism that makes a difference in the lives of its users and in society resonates very well with how we look at journalism. It is complementary to the breaking news environment, when at the very best we are creating very long explainers on the topic, but we never have the time or luxury to go into big topics in more depth. I’m looking forward to adding that to our environment as we launch this in November.
Q: How will it be to run a startup essentially within Media24?
A: We are running it as a stand-alone business with its own tone of voice, its own focus, its own journalists, its own management, and its own commercial people. From a larger Media24 perspective, it will sit within 24.com and it will digitally benefit from our established audience. It will run completely separately, but we will feature Huffpost stories on the News24 homepage and they will aggregate breaking news from us. It is not going to live in isolation, it is joining our digital family.
Q: Who are you hoping to attract?
A: From our perspective, we are not positioning it to attract a millennial market or more mature market. I’m sure it will find its audience. A lot of the pre-work is strategic in how we’re approaching our launch. There are a number of broad strokes that are important. Specifically the plight of the poorer sections of society, a couple of years into democracy, that are still holding on hope. Education is certainly a big focus area, like parents across the globe, South Africans are very focused on that. We have very particular challenges in this country around that.
Q: Why do you need The Huffington Post to elevate voices, when you have a functioning digital media company with a platform for editorials? Why do you think that South Africa needed its own edition?
A: It has a very digital-centric culture – very entrepreneurial. In that respect, the HuffPost joining that portfolio should contribute to how quickly it actually gets off the ground.
To a certain degree, I’m quite sure there will be strong and healthy competition from a variety of voices and from a growth perspective.
We have issues that need to be aired in more depth. We have voices that need to be heard more and that can benefit from the HuffPost. We will definitely create a South Africa edition that is authentically South African, yet bring the HuffPost’s way of covering news.
Q: You’re hiring new people to take on this launch, what kind of people are you looking for?
A: We have very specific requirements around the editor in chief and a lot of that has to do with understanding the brand values and the approach to journalism. It must be somebody that is grounded in traditional journalism but also has a good understanding of what the digital world is all about. HuffPost experiments very effectively with storytelling and storytelling. In video it is growing in audience, just like everywhere else.
Q: What do you hope other companies will take away from this?
A: If we as media companies keep on believing in good quality journalism, and we invest in it, and we do it in such a way that it contributes meaningfully to society, the benefit will come over time.
I know media companies are in a difficult mix where, in most instances, the decline in print is faster than the growth in digital, but we, as Media24, believe and invest in our digital future. We believe in Africa and in the power of good quality journalism. We believe that if we continue to deliver that promise, our readers will grow and commercially we will benefit more and more over time.
Q: What do you hope this represents to Africa?
A: It certainly sends a strong signal of the faith we have in the continent and in the media industry specifically. I hope it says something about our commitment to serving the people of the continent and our readers. We are equally investing in other countries outside of the border of this country because we believe in this continent and its future.
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