New Matilda has announced that, all other things being equal, it will close on Friday 25 June. It is always sad to see a neighbour go, even if they are a competitor, and I was saddling-up to write a short but sympathetic note.
I had a little to do with New Matilda when it was established in that I had tried to convince it’s “father” John Menadue to be involved with On Line Opinion. He preferred something with a particular point of view rather than one that welcomed many. We have had good relations with NM and I count Jose Borghino, one of its early editors, as a friend.
Online publishing in Australia is difficult, as are small publications. On Line Opinion cannot claim to be an unqualified financial success, so I had no temptation to lecture New Matilda, until I looked at its Alexa ranking.
Frankly, it must be due to a miracle and deep philanthropic pockets that it has survived this long.
Alexa gives NM a ranking of 220,879, which means that they are doing not much better than a number of blogs in their area which rely on part-time unpaid contributors and staff (the larger the figure the smaller the traffic). This ranking stunned me.
To put it in perspective, Larvatus Prodeo, a blog with which we have a close relationship, has an Alexa ranking of 313,494. Catallaxy, on the other side of the spectrum, has a ranking of 306,808. And OLO itself is ranked at 114,273.
When you go to maxi-mini-media, Crikey has a ranking of 31,464.
How can a publication with pretentions to shaping the intellectual debate score so poorly?
On Twitter Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu), Journalism Professor at New York University asks: “Australian friends… Any lessons in the demise ofNewmatilda.com, or is it the same sad story: hard to make money online? http://jr.ly/zcba”
It is difficult to make money online in Australia, and I’ll try to do a post on this later but the first rule of media is that you need to have an audience. The journal was either not publishing material that people wanted to read, or was promoting itself so poorly that the potential readers didn’t know it existed.
It is hard to make money online, but it is even harder if you ignore the fundamentals of publishing.
Whichever way you look at it, if so many part-time blogs can attract an audience not too far short of what NM attracts while covering the same subject areas, the blame for NM’s demise rests squarely on the shoulders of its staff and management.