Disillusioned with mainstream media? And I’m not just talking about in the wake of the News of the World scandal. If you’re reading this, then chances are you are shouting a resounding yes.
Of the almost 1,000 readers who completed the New Matilda reader survey, the majority cited news and analysis that is "neglected" by mainstream media as a major motivator for visiting New Matilda. Your responses suggested you turn to New Matilda for analysis of, and a place to discuss, issues that you can’t access elsewhere.
This commitment to independent and alternative news was reflected in the responses provided by those choosing to donate to the site. Of those who were financial supporters — about 30 per cent of those who completed the survey — the overwhelming majority donated to keep a source of "divergent" news.
"Alternative media outlets need to be supported to ensure divergent views are represented," commented one reader.
While another wrote: "I find the articles and comments interesting and need an alternative to the daily papers".
So what about the more than 70 per cent of survey respondents who aren’t financial contributors? These respondents could roughly be split equally between those who are unable to afford a contribution, those who are new to the site and wanting to evaluate it first and those readers who just haven’t gotten around to it yet. If you fit in the last two categories then you can donate here to ensure independent journalism in Australia thrives.
Respondents to the survey were generally positive about New Matilda’s work — but plenty of people were still looking for more. About 72 per cent wanted more investigative journalism, the great casualty of shrinking newsroom resources. A further 52 per cent also nominated more Australian political commentary.
But it is the main section of the survey, that devoted to understanding levels of and motivations for participation on the site, which produced some of the most interesting results. More than 63 per cent of respondents had never left a comment on a New Matilda article. Of those who did comment, 19 per cent had made a comment one to three times, while 13 per cent commented three to 10 times, 3 per cent had left a comment 10 to 30 times. Only 1.1 per cent of survey respondents left a comment at least once a week.
Not surprisingly then, 60 per cent of respondents said the ability to comment did not influence their decision to visit the site, while just under 40 per cent said that it did. But when asked why the ability to comment on stories did or did not influence their decision to visit the site, the majority of respondents said that they did value the comments that followed stories. So despite a lower percentage of respondents joining the discussion, reading the comments following a story was a deemed an important element to the site.
"While the discussions on NM are usually more enlightened and informed than others elsewhere, I don’t always feel the need to add to it, but I do like to get other views," commented one respondent.
"Comments tend to get polarised and easily get off topic and hijacked by personal agendas. I like to read them, but involvement seems more pointless," wrote another.
More than 40 per cent often or regularly read the comments on stories and 36 per cent said they sometimes read the comments.
"Sometimes the readers’ comments are more interesting than the article! They are usually serious and intelligent, unlike many websites that invite comments."
Another respondent noted: "I observe the comments and value them, but rarely consider making a comment".
There’s no shortage of sites jostling for attention in the Australian online media landscape. New Matilda’s readers are distinguished by their readiness to give feedback about the site. This is no surprise given the numbers of them that supported the site financially when it relaunched in 2010. As one respondent put it: "We need independent media. The mainstream media fail to provide the level of coverage and analysis needed of major issues."
So, what next for New Matilda? Behind the scenes there’s a whole lot going on. A new payment facility is being developed which will make it much easier for all those readers who haven’t gotten around to becoming financial supporters to do so (in the meantime, you can become a supporter here). More tech upgrades will mean perks for financial supporters and a better user experience. Keep an eye on the site for these improvements over the next month.
All the readers who responded to the survey have given the editors a solid indication of what they like about the site — and what they want to see more of. Thanks for taking part!
Want more independent media? New Matilda stays online thanks to reader donations. To become a financial supporter, click here.
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