January 16, 2013 | Graham

Crikey says subscription model won’t work. Huh?

A bizarre article in Crikey claims that Andrew Bolt couldn’t make enough money from blogging to earn a living because US blogger Andrew Sullivan could.

Yet he managed to stun media watchers around the world earlier this month by announcing he would take his highly-read blog, currently housed at The Daily Beast, independent. In a seemingly unprecedented move, Sullivan’s ad-free blog will be run under a New York Times-style metered model, with regular readers asked to pay $20 a year for access. Was this the ultimate act of hubris, many wondered, or a sign of things to come?

The experiment, so far, seems to be working. Sullivan is on track to reach his first-year funding goal of US$900,000 after raising a third of that sum within 24 hours after announcing he was going solo.

But even if he pulls it off, Sullivan’s strategy appears unlikely to be reproduced successfully any time soon — especially in Australia.

While it’s true that you can make more money from online subscription publishing in the US than here, it’s not true you can’t make money from it, and Crikey itself proves that point deriving its income from onsite advertising and subscriptions.

Not only does Crikey make money, but its stablemate The Eureka Report, also an online subscription publication, sold last year to News Limited for $30 million, in the process making its founder Alan Kohler a multi-millionaire.

The source for Crikey’s speculations appears to be Tim Dunlop, a pioneering blogger in Australia whose Road to Surfdom had a great name but limited patronage. Dunlop is an opinionated leftie who is frequently wrong, as in this case, but is nothing but dogged in pursuing his ideological biases.

That is no doubt how Bolt got his name into this article. Dunlop is antagonistic to Bolt, and would presumably want to prove in advance that he was more successful than Bolt, and as he hasn’t made any money blogging, then neither would Bolt.

So, put that prediction into Crikey, and it is the closest thing to fact that one can get.

The real question of course is “How many Australians, including Bolt, will do a Kohler?” because the facts of the matter are that the subscription model is the future of online publishing.

Although you do need to offer real value, which Bolt and others can.

On the basis of this article you wonder what the value proposition is for Crikey these days. But then it is the Christmas break. Things may improve when the A team gets back to work.


Posted by Graham at 7:46 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. I think you’ve missed the points that were made, Graham. We’re certainly not saying paywalls don’t work — why would we?

    The thesis was: does an individual blogger have a dedicated enough following in Australia to set up a pay-for-view website around their brand? The opinion from Tim and others was there isn’t one. I tend to agree.

    Crikey is not a blog. It’s an online product with various arms and a dedicated team of journalists. It’s a service, not a platform for an individual. You can’t draw a comparison.

    Comment by Jason Whittaker — January 16, 2013 @ 8:36 am

  2. (Sorry, I’m the editor of Crikey FYI.)

    Comment by Jason Whittaker — January 16, 2013 @ 8:37 am

  3. Hi Jason, I think your definition of a blog is too narrow. All online news and analysis outlets are effectively blogs. We don’t like to call ourselves that for reasons of product differentiation and perception, but that’s what we are.

    OLO, Crikey, The Australian, SMAGE…we’re all multi-author blogs.

    Size actually decreases your potential profitability rather than increasing it because you are hostage to the weakest writer on your site.

    Bolt could be more profitable than most online publications because he wouldn’t be handicapped by the weakest link.

    Comment by Graham — January 16, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  4. Andrew Bolt is the voice of sanity in our country and the only blogger that we would pay to read.

    Comment by Annie Hawke — January 17, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  5. If Andrew Bolt is a voice of sanity then humankind altogether, and Australians in particular are in very deep trouble.

    Comment by Fred — January 18, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  6. Seems like you live in fear, Fred. Many Australians are comforted by the voice of Andrew Bolt, just as many are comforted by the voice of Phil Adams. I am comforted by the fact that these people are all feeling comforted because if they weren’t then there’d be anarchy in the streets. Upset people lead to revolution. There may be winner out of the revolution but the road to victory is filled with bloodshed and misery.

    Comment by Trish Hunt — February 21, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

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