The Conversation (website)

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The Conversation
The Conversation website logo.png
Type of businessNot-for-profit
Type of site
Analysis, commentary, research, news
Available inEnglish, French, Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia
FoundedApril 2010 (2010-04)
HeadquartersMelbourne, Australia
OwnerThe Conversation Trust
Key peopleMisha Ketchell (editor)
Lisa Watts (chief executive officer)
Alexa rankIncrease 3,961 (as of 11 October 2018)[1]
Launched24 March 2011; 7 years ago (2011-03-24)
Current statusActive

The Conversation[2] is an independent, not-for-profit media outlet. Articles are authored by academics, edited by professional journalists and freely available online, and for republication through creative commons license. The Australian website launch in March 2011,[3] and has expanded into editions in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013,[4] United States (US) in 2014,[5] Africa in 2015,[6] France in 2015,[7] Canada in 2017,[8] Indonesia in 2017,[9] Spain in 2018.[10] 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 creative commons republication.[11]

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.

Editorial protocols[edit]

The Conversation is covered by a charter[12] of editorial independence. Authors must be academics or researchers. Authors have final sign-off on their articles and complete statements that disclose potential conflicts. Authors and editors work collaboratively on a custom-built CMS, which includes a readability index set to the level of an educated 16 year old. Articles are published under creative commons license and freely available for media and others to republish.

Global network + expansion[edit]

From its Melbourne-headquartered Australian edition, The Conversation has expanded to a global network of several editions, in several languages.

The Conversation UK[edit]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[14] 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.[14]

The Conversation U.S.[edit]

Andrew Jaspan met in 2011 with the President of the American Association of Universities 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.[15] 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.[16][17]

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.[16]

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.[18]

The U.S. site launched a section dedicated to Ethics and Religion in 2017, with a grant from the Lilly Endowment.[19]

In 2017 and beyond: The Conversation Canada, New Zealand and Indonesia[edit]

Expansion continued in 2017, with Canada launching in June[20] and Indonesia (in Bahasa & English) in September.[21]

Only six years after launching, has editors based in the 25 cities, working for seven regional editions: Africa, Australia (now including a New Zealand Editor), France (publishing in French & English), the UK, the U.S., Canada, and Indonesia.

Feasibility work is also underway on a Spanish-language edition.

Origins - The idea for The Conversation[edit]

The Conversation was co-founded by Andrew Jaspan and Jack Reijtman and launched to the public in March 2011.[22]

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.[23]

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.[citation needed]. 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.[citation needed]

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.


The Conversation's authors are academics and researchers. There are over 73,000 authors across The Conversation's global editions.


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.[15] The 2014 survey also revealed that 35 per cent of the Conversation Australia's audience is located beyond Australia's borders, 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.[24]

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.[25]


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.[26] The only other fact-checking team accredited under this process is The Washington Post's Fact Checker.

The accreditation means The Conversation's unique approach to fact checking has been assessed by an external panel as compliant with the code of fact-checker's principles. These require non-partisanship, fairness, transparency of funding, sources and methods, and a commitment to open and honest corrections.[27]


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.[28]

Partners (Australia and New Zealand)[edit]


Start-up funding was provided by: CSIRO, Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of Technology Sydney and the University of Western Australia.[29]


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.[29]


As of December 2017, the list of members includes:[29]


The Conversation has been described by Quadrant Online as "one-sided" and "staffed by left-leaning refugees from commercial news organisations' withered operations."[30] Despite editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan's claim that, "There has to be total transparency in what you do,"[31] a former radio host claimed to have uncovered evidence, presented in January 2013, that the website did not properly disclose that one of their authors was a union official.[32]

Furthermore, TheCommentator noted that, during the ongoing Greek financial crisis, a "startling number of Greek social scientists and economists... have piled in with pro-Syriza articles in highbrow online publications like Open Democracy and The Conversation."[33]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  2. ^ "The Conversation".
  3. ^ Roy Greenslade (25 March 2011). "Jaspan is an editor for the eighth time with his new Aussie start-up". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  4. ^ "BBC Blogs - College of Journalism - Creating journalism from academia: a pilot project". Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Nocookies". The Australian. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  6. ^ "The Conversation to launch in Africa with funding from Bill Gates foundation - mUmBRELLA". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  7. ^ Delcambre, Alexis. "The Conversation se lance en français". Le (in French). ISSN 1950-6244. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  8. ^ Ketchell, Misha. "The Conversation launches in Canada". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  9. ^ Ketchell, Misha (6 September 2017). "The Conversation launches in Indonesia". The Conversation. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  10. ^ Puyol, Rafael. "Una conversación necesaria". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  11. ^ Dickinson, Debbie. "Behind the scenes: creative commons publishing". The Conversation. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  12. ^ "The Conversation Charter".
  13. ^ Matt Shipman (16 May 2013). "Bringing Academia into the Newsroom: An Interview with Akshat Rathi". SciLogs. Matt Shipman. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  14. ^ a b c "Partners and funders". The Conversation UK. The Conversation Trust (UK). 22 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  15. ^ a b Andrew Jaspan (21 October 2014). "The Conversation US joins global network". The Conversation US. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  16. ^ a b Steve Jones (22 October 2014). "The Conversation launches in the U.S. with 10-strong team". Mumbrella. Focal Attractions. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Partners and Funders". The Conversation US. The Conversation Media Group. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  18. ^ Wang, Shan (5 February 2016). "The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations". Nieman Journalism Lab. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  19. ^ Balinska, Maria (2 February 2017). "The Conversation US launches Ethics and Religion desk". The Conversation. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  20. ^ Hermida, Alfred. "It's time to start The Conversation in Canada". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  21. ^ Sapiie, Marguerite Afra (2017-03-01). "The Conversation launches Indonesian edition". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
  22. ^ "Look who's contributing to the conversation".
  23. ^ "Who We Are". The Conversation Australia. The Conversation Media Group. 2010–2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  24. ^ "The Conversation Reader Survey" (PDF). The Conversation Australia. The Conversation Media Group. March 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "Our Audience". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  26. ^ Creagh, Sunanda. "The Conversation's FactCheck granted accreditation by International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter". The Conversation. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  27. ^ "International Fact Check Network code of principles".
  28. ^ Trounson, Andrew (28 March 2011). "Getting the message out". The Australian. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
  29. ^ a b c "Partners and funders". The Conversation. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  30. ^ Thomas, Tony (14 February 2014). "A Rather One-Sided 'Conversation'". Quadrant. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  31. ^ Spanier, Gideon (25 January 2013). "Andrew Jaspan's The Conversation is making news without a profit". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  32. ^ Smith, Michael (25 January 2013). "Journalism, journalism lecturers, ethics and trade unions - Janine Little article in The Conversation". Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  33. ^ Gallagher, Tom (5 February 2015). "Greek crisis foreshadows new European order". Retrieved 5 February 2015.

External links[edit]