May 30, 2010 | Graham

Waltzing Matilda

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, or is it the same sad story: hard to make money online?

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.

Posted by Graham at 7:00 am | Comments (15) |
Filed under: Media


  1. Hi Graham. You say ‘it is hard to make money online, but it is even harder if you ignore the fundamentals of publishing.’

    Are you referring to the points in the paragraph previously about publicising your existence and writing material people want to read? I suspect it will go much further than that in another piece you will write, as you say.

    Comment by John Passant — May 30, 2010 @ 7:47 am

  2. hi graham,

    we are currently getting about 50-60,000 UVs a month. i think the comments on the editorial announcing our closure prove we have an audience!

    marni (NM editor)

    Comment by marni — May 30, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  3. Hi Marni,

    That’s not what Alexa suggests you are getting. Would be interesting to look at your Nielsen audited figures. Are you happy to make those available?

    Yes John, that was what I was referring to. We’re all struggling to get readers, but NM’s problems appear to be deeper than that. It had a good niche originally, but seems to have lost it.


    Comment by Graham — May 30, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  4. hi graham

    i’m happy to talk to you more about this if you plan to write something else – and i will check on the figures once i get into the office, i’m just looking at google analytics right now.

    In the meantime, can you provide any proof that we’ve ‘lost’ our niche?! our readership has been going up and up – especially over the last year.


    Comment by marni — May 30, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  5. This is indeed sad. But as someone who has known about New Matilda since it began and has sympathetic political leaning but cannot recall reading a single article in it, I must agree with Graham.

    The key to survival of any online publishing operation is relevance within a community. Numbers of UVs are only one indicator of this and not a particularly good one. Far more important is the number of cross-citations, trackbacks and other links to and from the site. In other words, the strength of its ties to its readership niche.

    At that point, you can have fewer readers and be in more robust health. Lose touch with people who are at your core and no amount of casual readers will compensate.


    Comment by Hughie — May 31, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  6. New Matilda never published much that was very original or even thoughtful.
    Some of OLO is repetition, but then there are also some gems of wisdom and/or pieces that are very different to what you find in the MSM.
    Thanks for maintaining diversity… Graham and Susan!

    Comment by Jennifer — May 31, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  7. Their left-wing touchy-feely bias is fairly obvious just from a cursory glance at their latest articles. If they seriously wanted to attract readers it would have been better to at least try to appear even-handed. Their coverage of the AGW debate in particular is merely preaching to the converted. People get tired of being told what they already know — or believe.

    Comment by Jon Jermey — May 31, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

  8. Today Mumbrella runs a story based on Nielsen figures, suggesting that the 50-60K UVs figure is about right. I asked them why they didn’t include OLO in the story!

    Comment by Jason Wilson — June 1, 2010 @ 1:26 am

  9. so according to tim over at mumbrella, NM and OLO are getting pretty much the same numbers, graham. are you going to post a response to this?

    Comment by marni — June 1, 2010 @ 4:17 am

  10. Yes Marni, happy to comment. I’m still waiting for you to make your figures available, but having read Tim’s post it appears to be wrong. My guess, without having like against like is that NM is about half the size of OLO.

    He quotes two different UB figures for you – one at 1500 and one at just over 2000, wish he could make his mind up. Our daily UBs are somewhere in the vicinity of 4000. Hard to pin it down to an exact figure using Google. If you want to put your monthly UBs up from Google we can compare those. And page views too. One thing to have people visit, and another to have them read.

    As to my comment about you having lost your niche. NM had a spot as part of a think tank. Since the two went their separate ways the NM content has been mostly pretty writing without a lot of substance.

    OLO’s content tends in the other direction – substance, but not necessarily pretty.

    Comment by Graham — June 2, 2010 @ 12:42 am

  11. Alexa is a ridiculous source to rely on; and your comment to the editor isn’t particularly respectful.

    Marni and NM have approached this in a thoroughly transparent way; I really don’t understand the questioning line of the comments…

    Comment by Zac — June 2, 2010 @ 1:10 am

  12. Alexa is a reasonable source to rely on Zac. It would be rare that a site with NM’s ranking was doing as well as a site of our ranking. I’m not sure how you can say NM is tranparent. I asked Marni if she would show us her data, and she hasn’t. She was checking on Google Analytics, but nothing to date.

    The figures quoted in Mumbrella don’t agree with the stats we receive from the same company, so something is happening there, and they’re way different from Google.

    Comment by Graham — June 2, 2010 @ 5:10 am

  13. gives OLO an average of 10,700 unique visitors per month for the past year. NM gets only 4,800.

    Comment by Steven Meyer — June 2, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  14. I read NM when it first came out but then it became too obviously lefty and the substance was often missing. To be honest I didn’t know it was still operating. But always sad for a publication to fold.

    Comment by Hisk — June 4, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  15. a fuller take on the role of online news and commentary is offered by McChesney and Nichol’s 2010 book ‘the death and life of American journalism’.

    They argue for public funding as the only way to fuel real investigative media. commentary and blogs are the icing on that cake.

    sure, new matilda was lefty, but that’s part of the balance needed.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — June 6, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

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