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|Type of business||Not-for-profit|
Type of site
|Analysis, commentary, research, news|
|Available in||English, French, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia|
|Owner||The Conversation Trust|
|Key people||Misha Ketchell (editor)|
Lisa Watts (chief executive officer)
|Alexa rank||3,961 (as of 11 October 2018[update])|
|Launched||24 March 2011|
The Conversation is a not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from academics and researchers.
Its Australian website launched in March 2011, and has expanded into editions in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013, United States (U.S.) in 2014, Africa in 2015, France in 2015, Canada in 2017, Indonesia in 2017, and Spain in 2018. The Conversation publishes all content under a Creative Commons license and, as of May 2018, reports a monthly online audience of 10.7 million users onsite, and a reach of 35 million people through republication. In 2015, the site claimed 27,000 academic authors worked with The Conversation's websites.
The operating company The Conversation Media Group is a not-for-profit educational charity owned by The Conversation Trust. The Conversation is funded by the university and research sector, government and business.
The Conversation was co-founded by Andrew Jaspan and Jack Reijtman and launched to the public in March 2011.
Andrew Jaspan first discussed the concept of The Conversation between 2004 and 2008 with Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor at The University of Melbourne. Jaspan wrote a report on the university's engagement with the public, envisioning the university as "a giant newsroom", with the academics and researchers collectively providing authoritative and informed content that engaged with the news cycle and major current affairs issues.
In June 2009, Jaspan outlined the concept for a new media service to John Brumby, then Premier of Victoria, who was intrigued. In August 2009, Melbourne University and the Victorian State Government both agreed to provide a small financial contribution to facilitate the commencement of work on the website—these agreements were contingent upon the involvement of other organisations. The State Government then introduced the Commonwealth Government Department of Innovation into the process; in turn, the Department of Innovation proposed the inclusion of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.. In November 2010, Jaspan and Rejtman secured first-round funding to cover The Conversation’s operating costs for three years. Initial funding came from the Commonwealth Government's Department of Education, the Victorian Government's Department of Innovation, CSIRO, Australian National University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and University of Western Australia (UWA). Finally, The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) joined the consortium as a Technology Partner, while Corrs Chambers Westgarth joined as a Strategic Partner and agreed to provide legal services.
The Conversation Media Group opened its Carlton office in November 2010 with a small team of professional editors and developers, and launched to the public in March 2011.
From its Melbourne-headquartered Australian edition, The Conversation has expanded to a global network of several editions, in several languages.
The Conversation's co-founder, Andrew Jaspan, raised initial funding in 2011-12 from five UK universities to develop the Prospectus and business case for the launch of The Conversation UK. Jaspan hired Jonathan Hyams to help develop the project. Jaspan led the UK fundraising initially securing 13 universities to allow the launch. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) matched that sum and the site launched in the UK on 16 May 2013.
Jonathan Hyams was appointed in 2013 as chief executive, Stephen Khan as Editor and Max Landry as chief operating officer.
As of 22 October 2014, the Founding Partners group of The Conversation UK consists of: University of Aberdeen, University of Birmingham, University of Bradford, University of Bristol, Cardiff University, City University London, University of Durham, Glasgow Caledonian University, Goldsmiths London, University of Lancaster, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of Nottingham, The Open University, Queen's Belfast, University of Salford, University of Sheffield, University of Surrey, UCL, and University of Warwick.
As of 22 October 2014, the Strategic Partners group of The Conversation UK consists of: CBA, Wellcome Trust, Kingston Smith, SAGE Publications, Alliance for Useful Evidence and Macfarlanes. The website's Media Partner is the Press Association. The Funding Partners group of The Conversation UK consists of: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, HEFCE, HEFCW, Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, Research Councils UK, The Research Councils UK Digital Economy Theme (DET) and Scottish Funding Council.
Andrew Jaspan met in 2011 with the President of the American Association of Universities, Hunter Rawlings, to outline the proposed U.S. edition. Rawlings gave warm support and introduced Jaspan to various universities. He met with the Dean of the School of Communications at Boston University, Thomas Fiedler in 2012 who offered to provide TCUS with an initial Newsroom and base. With that support, Jaspan then visited in 2012-13 some 11 U.S. foundations and secured $2.25m support from six to allow the launch. Those were: Sloan, Howard Hughes, RWJF, Hewlett, Moore and Gates. The U.S. Board, headed by a journalist, author and former colleague of Jaspan, Joe Rosenbloom, gave approval for the launch but insisted Jaspan be the CEO for the launch period. The official launch of the U.S. version was announced on 21 October 2014, the date that the website was first published. The U.S. team was initially led by Andrew Jaspan as U.S. CEO and he appointed Margaret Drain as Editor, formerly Executive Producer and Vice President of National Programs at WGBH; and Bruce Wilson to head up Development and University Relations. The U.S. pilot is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and four other foundations.
As part of the announcement of the U.S. Pilot launch in October 2014, Mumbrella explained that both the Australian and UK websites adhere to "a charter that protects editorial independence, author sign off, author disclosure statements and a readability index set to an educated 16-year-old." At the time of the launch, a charter was being devised for the U.S. website.
In January 2016, traffic to the U.S. site reached over a half-million visitors, with millions more reached by licensing its content under a Creative Commons license. They also announced 19 universities as founding partners, who pay up to $35,000 a year for access to analytics on their articles.
Only seven years after launching, TheConversation.com has editors based in 27 cities.
The online publication completed its third readers survey in the first half of 2014 and the results showed that 1.5 million unique visitors visit the website at the time of the survey—according to Jaspan, this total increased to two million by October 2014. The 2014 survey also revealed that 35 per cent of the Conversation Australia's audience is located outside Australia, while 90 per cent of readers possess an undergraduate degree, or a higher educational attainment. The vast majority of the audience is under the age of 45 years; just over half of the readership earns more than A$100,000 per year; and the gender split is fairly even, with the proportion of female readers slightly higher.
The 2015 reader survey results showed an audience of 2.6 million users on site, and a reach through Creative Commons republication of 23 million.
In 2016, The Conversation's FactCheck unit become the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of only two worldwide accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, which is an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the U.S. The only other fact-checking team accredited under this process is The Washington Post's Fact Checker. The assessment criteria require non-partisanship, fairness, transparency of funding, sources and methods, and a commitment to open and honest corrections.
The Conversation uses a custom publishing and content management system built in Ruby on Rails. The system enables contributors to collaborate on articles in real time. Articles link to author profiles—including disclosure statements—and personal dashboards show authors' engagement with the public.
Funding and support has been provided by RMIT University, CBA, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Education and the State of Victoria Department of Business and Innovation, City of Melbourne.
As of December 2017, the list of members includes: