South Africa 16.7.2018 04:07 pm

Is HuffPost SA no more?

Ariana Huffington. Pic: Facebook.

Ariana Huffington. Pic: Facebook.

Media24 and HuffPost SA have split up. With the SA media company parting ways with the US publication, the SA version will likely cease to exist.

Media24 and HuffPost will be mutually ending their partnership in South Africa, Fin24 has reported.

In a statement, Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman praised the South African arm of the popular US publication.

“HuffPost SA was an important new voice in South African journalism and attracted a fresh new audience”, she said.

“We regularly review our portfolio of brands. The HuffPost SA audience numbers are strong and consistently hold steady on the list of top-10 news sites in South Africa,”  she said, suggesting that despite this, the publication’s advertising revenue had not been sufficient.

“Advertising revenues for HuffPost in South Africa have however been challenging. As an innovative and responsible business, we will continue to respond effectively to the market’s needs and explore new digital opportunities.”

The two companies launched HuffPost South Africa as a partnership in November 2016, with Media24 operating the newsroom and driving the commercial aspect of the partnership.

HuffPost SA was ranked the ninth biggest news site in South Africa in June with a readership of 1.6 million unique users, according to online audience measurement platform Effective Measure.

The CEO of 24.com, Andreij Horn, said staff at the site are being consulted.

Jared Grusd, CEO of HuffPost globally, said in the statement: “We are proud of the editorial work and journalism from the South African edition and commend its ability to scale a loyal audience in such a short period of time. We continue to invest and grow HuffPost’s capabilities and audience, both globally and in the African continent.”

The site was dogged by controversy in 2017 when then-editor Versashni Pillay was forced to resign, following her publication of a controversial blog “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?” which turned out to be written by a man posing as a female feminist activist to illustrate the lack of fact-checking in South African journalism.

Pillay defended the initial post in one she published shortly afterwards, before it came out that the blog’s author was not who he said he was.

Pillay was somewhat vindicated by a ruling in August 2017 by the Press Council’s appeal judge overturning ombudsman Johan Retief’s ruling that the blog had constituted hate speech. She nevertheless did not return to the post.

It hasn’t been all bad for the SA version of Ariana Huffington’s website. They won eight IAB Bookmark awards for excellence in digital media and marketing earlier this year.

Editor Pieter du Toit expressed his disappointment.

“It is a sad day for all of us at HuffPost. We’ve built a loyal audience and we’ve enjoyed growing an international brand in South Africa,” he said.

“We operated in a difficult commercial environment, which underscores the situation journalism finds itself in. I’m happy that we have been able to build a large audience and that we are bowing out as a growing title.”

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