Updated: 01/31/2014 01:39 | By Agence France-Presse

Philanthropist-funded Australian news site seeks new patron

Australian not-for-profit news site The Global Mail sought a new partner for its survival Thursday after philanthropist founder Graeme Wood pulled the plug on its funding.

Philanthropist-funded Australian news site seeks new patron

A woman (L) walks past a street stall in central Sydney on March 9, 2010 - by Greg Wood

The site was launched in February 2012 with a Aus$15 million ($13 million) grant from Wood, founder of successful online accommodation register wotif.com, under the slogan "our audience is our only agenda".

At the time, then-editor Monica Attard said it would "last as long as the money's there".

But The Global Mail's 21 staff said Wood had informed them on Wednesday that he would be pulling his funds effective February 20, leaving them in a battle for survival.

"Graeme Wood advised the management and staff of The Global Mail yesterday that he is unable to continue funding the digital journalism producer after February 20," the staff said in a statement.

"However, he also agreed that the staff is free to seek other investors or philanthropists who may wish to see the success of TGM continue and expand."

"This allows us to pursue ambitious plans for the future. With the support of key figures in media globally, The Global Mail team is exploring various models –- both philanthropic and commercial."

"Accordingly, the management of TGM is seeking expressions of interest from potential partners."

Speculation over The Global Mail's future had been building since last July when Wood pledged an undisclosed amount to underwrite The Guardian's online launch in Australia.

According to Fairfax Media Wood was concerned that the site, which has a focus on long-form, international content, had failed to meet audience targets.

Staff said the site's subscriber base more than doubled in 2013 to 18,000 and its average monthly audience was 120,000 people, with a "substantial and engaged social media following –- all without paid marketing or advertising."

They also highlighted the site's role as the "first institutional member" of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- a small group of member reporters in more than 60 countries.

The ICIJ scored a coup last week with revelations that China's elite are parking money in offshore tax havens -- the result of a six-month investigation cloaked in secrecy by the non-profit organisation.

"We are pursuing editorial and publishing partnerships in Australia and beyond," The Global Mail's staff added.

"Today we are finalising copy for an ebook authored by a Pulitzer Prize winner. A partnership between TGM and a US publisher, it will be launched soon aimed at the US and global market."

The Global Mail has won several Australian media awards for its coverage and boasts a number of celebrated senior journalists on its staff, including chief executive officer Jane Nicholls, former editor-at-large for People magazine in the US. 

Australia's media landscape is dominated by Rupert Murdoch's News Australia and rival Fairfax, but they are both suffering from falling advertising revenues.

The Guardian launched locally online last May and Britain's Daily Mail is due to follow suit this year. 

While the Global Mail is in trouble, a new weekend newspaper, The Saturday Paper, is due to launch in March with a staff of renowned Australian writers, produced by the company which publishes arts and current affairs magazine, The Monthly.

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