This week New Matilda welcomes José Borghino as our new editor. José was Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors for six years and before that, established an excellent reputation working at the Literature Board of the Australia Council. More recently he has been a lecturer in the Media and Communications Department of University of Sydney, with a research interest in literary journalism. José and the New Matilda board are particularly keen to provide space for new ideas and new faces.
We thank Hilary McPhee for her professional and outstanding work as interim commissioning editor. She hands over this week to José and will continue as a board member.
Thanks to Peter Nicholson at the Australian
As we approach our first birthday it is a useful time to summarise what has been achieved in the first year and the job that lies ahead of us. We clearly haven’t got it all right, but progress has been made and we greatly appreciate your support, good will and tolerance.
New Matilda is an alternative media voice in Australia. It was established because a group of us were concerned about the erosion of truth in public discourse, the lack of decency on such issues as refugees and indigenous people, the policy development vacuum in Australia and the sense of alienation from major public institutions: political parties, parliament, business and the media. We saw a need to develop alternatives to a radical and divisive government.
Since we launched a year ago, New Matilda has become an outlet that writers can identify with. In the first year we had contributions from about 300 contributors. That is great news.
Subscribers have responded to the alternative that New Matilda is offering. Subscriptions to our weekly email now exceed 3,100. This represents about 12,000 readers. 5,000 subscribers is our break-even. We have a way to go. Our cash flow is tight but manageable.
Of interest to our subscribers with a technical bent, the number of unique visitors to our site has doubled since January to more than 10,000 per month. Monthly page impressions have doubled from 70,000 in January to 140,000 in July. Our marketing has been largely ‘viral’, word of mouth through subscribers, friends and contacts.
The ANOP survey of readers (link here) gave a very encouraging profile of our subscribers and their hopes for New Matilda. We will shortly be surveying our subscribers again to solicit your help and advice.
In our first year, one issue that stood out amongst our subscribers was concern about the denial of human rights to detainees, particularly children and others in long-term detention, to say nothing of the detention of David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay. Because of our subscribers’ concerns, we are drafing a Human Rights Act for Australia as the first step in a nation-wide campaign to safeguard human rights in Australia.
Early subscriptions to New Matilda would be due for renewal this month. However, the board has decided to defer renewals for a few weeks while the website is being rebuilt to make it easier for subscribers to comment, particularly in our policy forum.
In the policy area, we are focusing initially on the values and principles which should underlie policy development. So much policy work at the government level is ad hoc and inconsistent. Once we have established a values framework, we will then be in a position to develop consistent principles and policies and to critique existing policies which fall short of the values we believe are necessary in a modern and decent Australia.
One reason for establishing New Matilda online was that costs were lower than for print publications. It is clear however that there are many other advantages, particularly with the dramatic technical changes that are occurring worldwide. It is hard to keep up with the growing online media tools: blogging, photoblogs, videoblogs, wikis and iPods.
Even that online sceptic, Rupert Murdoch, seems to have changed his mind. Alarmed at the erosion of their readership and advertising base, News Ltd, Fairfax and others are now investing in online media. It is not at all surprising that readers and advertisers are fleeing their print publications.
Eight years ago, only 8 per cent of Americans got their news online. It is now 30 per cent. Australia is usually three to four years behind the United States in new technology, but already 8 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds in Australia get their domestic news and content online. 13 per cent get their international news and content online.
A key to further growth in online media will be high speed broadband. In Australia we have only 23 per cent of online users connected to high speed broadband. In the United States it has grown dramatically to 60 per cent. In Canada it is 77 per cent. Australia will catch up quickly but importantly not in a way that entrenches the existing ‘media mates’.
We are a small player in a very dynamic and growing market. A lot of hard work is ahead of us, particularly in a company that is frugally funded.
Could you consider helping us in one particular area? We have only 3,100 subscribers and we need 5,000 to break even. Could you forward this message to three or more of your friends and urge them to subscribe. They could apply for a free 4-week trial.
Please help us to extend the New Matilda team.
Please welcome José Borghino.
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