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News awakening: The Oz raises the bar

The inaugural editor of The Oz, Elyse Popplewell, says the site will naturally appeal to a demographic that has “grown up on the internet”.“We’re passionate about storytelling, and we know a lot of younger people deserve better than the kinds of news sources that they are currently engaging with,” Popplewell says.With a broad content slate ranging from domestic and international news, to entertainment, careers, personal finance, and relationships, The Oz will publish and distribute 10 diverse, professionally curated stories every day via social channels on Instagram, TikTok, and on its stand-alone site theoz.com.au.“The Oz is about tapping into the way people are consuming journalism, and serving it to them on the terms they want,” Popplewell says.“It is there when you want it. We are a reprieve from social media because we will distribute a finite amount of work each day.“It’s not this endless doomscroll – although our entire backlog is available on the site as well, if you can’t help yourself.”Popplewell stresses that The Oz is not “anti-social media in any way”. “We are at home there – but we are raising the bar and showing what can be done with that space.” The Australian’s editor-in-chief Christopher Dore says The Oz upholds the masthead’s “six-decade tradition of the nation’s best journalism”. “While words are vitally important of course, theoz.com.au will also strive to tell stories and convey news through snappy storytelling, video, audio and other techniques to connect with 20-somethings, who are often already familiar with our journalism but just don’t know it, because it is reaching them not ­directly from us but via other outlets and social platforms who have taken our work and spun it into their own podcasts, social feeds and websites,” Dore says.“The Oz has been created from scratch. An incredible achievement, a genuinely collaborative project featuring our editorial talent and incredibly capable and committed product, marketing and prestige teams. The process hasn’t been easy, but the result is already groundbreaking.”Popplewell leads a strong team of journalists, producers and designers, including editorial director Jenna Clarke, who has previously held senior positions at The Sydney Morning Herald and The West Australian; politics and investigations editor Olivia Caisley, who has worked in the Canberra press gallery for the past two years; and head of design Yeara Chaham (formerly of Vogue Australia), who created The Oz’s unique look.The Australian’s content director, Liz Colman, was one of the original architects of The Oz, spearheading the project through each strand of its design and ­development. Popplewell says one of The Oz’s aims is to give readers a sense of inclusion, while studiously avoiding any patronising explainers that are so prevalent on other youth-oriented news sites.“I’m 24 years old, I’m from western Sydney, and all of my best friends are in service jobs – they’re police officers, they’re cafe workers, they’re teachers … and journalism is the same. I’m just an ordinary person, and the team is made up of brilliantly ordinary people, who actually understand the audiences we’re talking to.“This is not an elite operation by any means; this is for everyone who wants to achieve great things and our (mostly 20-something) team is representative of just that.“It’s all about an invitation to explore. We’re not speaking to you in a patronising way – everything is an invitation on your terms. “And we will also make sure that the barrier of assumed knowledge is not there. No one will be alienated.” Popplewell says The Oz’s premium content stands out in a media landscape that – certainly for younger audiences – is littered by free sites that trade mostly in gossip.“The standard of online news that’s offered up for free is completely different to what The Oz is offering,” she says. “The Oz goes deeper, The Oz is more precise, and the team is made up of the exact audience that we are going after.“We all grew up on the internet, we know the unique experience of being part of Gen Z.”Popplewell says the subscription model adopted by The Oz follows the industry benchmark established by The Australian more than a decade ago.“We are also the first publisher to directly ask young people to pay for news. And we believe they will,” she says.“Just like The Australian brought in a paywall that benefited the rest of the media industry 10 years ago, The Oz is pioneering the same model. We follow in those footsteps. “We know that people will pay, and should pay, for rigorous journalism, and that it not only benefits the rest of the media industry, but also the rest of Australia.”As for The Oz’s future, Popplewell says: “We have huge plans, we’re just getting started. And we’re in partnership with our audience. I’m so proud of that.”

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