Huffington Post’s Middle East Challenge

Huffington Post’s Middle East Challenge

The Huffington Post is set to roll into Australia in 2015 but before it arrives Down Under, the plan is to conquer India and the Middle East.

Yesterday B&T revealed the digital news brand has “aggressive” plans to be active in Australia by quarter one 2015.

Koda Wang, general manager of international at The Huffington Post, said the local launch complexities “cause far fewer heart palpitations” then many other potential markets.

While Australia might be one of the more straightforward markets HuffPo has considered, the same cannot be said for its plans to launch in the Middle East in quarter four this year.

“The Middle East is fragmented from a linguistic perspective, from a religious perspective, a geographic perspective and from a political perspective – as you can imagine it is going to be pretty complex,” said Wang, who will be in Sydney next week for ADMA’s Global Forum, part of B&T’s MAD Week.

The site will be in Arabic and will cover the whole region but the location of its headquarters is yet to be revealed.

Wang said the Middle East is an interesting opportunity because of its large population (the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has a population of roughly 300 million) and digital advertising is growing rapidly.

According to PwC money spent on internet advertising – including mobile, display, search and video – in the Middle East is set to rocket from $US707m last year to $US2.46bn in 2018. The rapid growth is driven by Saudi Arabia, Egypt the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) with mobile internet ad revenue forecast to reach $US494m in the U.A.E. alone by 2018.

Wang said news consumption among Middle Eastern youth is “dramatically” swinging towards digital.

“If you see a generational gap in Australia between older generations and younger generations in terms of print versus digital consumption in the Middle East that gap is even starker.”

Wang also believes The Huffington Post can have an impact on the region as an “independent and influential voice”.

The Huffington Post will also launch in India in the final quarter of 2014. A partner for its Indian-based operations has not been announced.

The site will be English speaking and its strategy is to attract a “more educated, affluent and influential” audience.

Wang described India as a “super interesting market” ripe for the picking.

“It is a place where ironically print is still growing,” he said.

“Eventually print will slow down but we want to get into India early when the digital market is more nascent and much less competitive so we can go in and have that early advantage.”

India has a population of 1.27 billion and, according to a 2013 comScore study, an online population of 73.9 million.

Wang said India’s attractiveness as a future market is compounded by its rapidly growing digital ad spend and its young online population.

ComScore’s India Digital Future in Focus 2013 report said 75% of India’s online population is under the age of 35.

At the end of 2013 online ad spend in India accounted for 9.9% of total advertising but between 2014 and 2018 online ad spend is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 34% to hit $US3.4bn by 2018 and account for 32.8% of total ad spend.

Wang said that both The Huffington Post India and Arabic will carry the Pulitzer prize-winning brand’s bold and creative style.

“We are not going to sacrifice the Huff Post DNA when we enter a new market,” he said.

The two launches will see The Huffington Post active in 12 markets outside of the US by the end of 2014. The 2015 launch of Huff Post Australia will be its 13th international.


The ADMA Global Forum is in Sydney from 28 July – 1 August and is part of B&T’s media, marketing and advertising festival MAD Week.

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