Philanthropist-funded Australian news site goes under: Report

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian not-for-profit news site The Global Mail is set to close after just two years, it was reported on Thursday, with philanthropist founder Graeme Wood pulling the plug.

The site was launched in February 2012 with a A$15 million (S$16.8 million) grant from Mr Wood, founder of successful online accommodation register, 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 speculation over its future started building last July when Mr Wood pledged an undisclosed amount to underwrite The Guardian's online launch in Australia.

Mr Wood told The Global Mail's 21 staff he would be pulling his funds on Wednesday night with the site to close on February 20, according to Fairfax Media.

The site, which has a focus on long-form, international content, had failed to meet audience targets, he said, according to Fairfax.

No one at the site would confirm the news but Mr Wood is expected to make a statement later on Thursday.

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.

Media website mUmBrella said staff wanted to continue the site through crowdfunding, with 17,000 subscribers and 120,000 unique users per month.

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 weekly in March with a staff of renowned Australian writers, produced by the company which publishes arts and current affairs magazine, The Monthly.