The ABC Is Taking Paid Advertising For Its Online Content



Like most people, you probably thought that the ABC doesn’t take any paid advertising. And like most people, if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

The ABC has been taking paid advertising on ‘third party content’ for at least a year, a fact which Fairfax was apparently onto a year ago.

The story is focussed on the ABC’s multiple Youtube channels, which, after the arrival of former Google boss Michelle Guthrie as managing director, began allowing Youtube generated advertising across ABC content.

That has apparently occurred without much debate, nor much concern. But it’s advertising on ABC’s Apple News channel which should be keeping ABC-watchers up at night.

WE’VE GOT 6 WEEKS TO RAISE $100K TO KEEP NEW MATILDA ALIVE. Click here to chip in through Paypal, or you can click here to access our GoFundMe campaign.

Apple News is the app pre-loaded onto all iPhones before sale, and after just a few years of operation, the app boasts around 100 million monthly users.

The ABC news channel on Apple News is branded heavily, as you might expect, with ABC logos. It looks and feels like an ABC website, and it’s produced entirely by ABC staff.

The ABC uses the app to push in-house advertising and promote its own content – for example this ad boosting The Gruen Transfer.

But it’s now also promoting all sorts of other things. Today, it was an ad pumping Hamilton Island as a tourist destination. Hamilton is leased by one of Australia’s richest families, the Oatleys.

So how much revenue does Aunty bring in? Well, according to Fairfax the ABC is a little sheepish about that: “The ABC would not confirm how much revenue it receives from YouTube advertising since it began putting advertising around its content using the platform in August 2016. Advertising rates vary by channels on YouTube.”

We’ve put those questions back to the ABC. Well, we’ve tried to. As an amusing aside, when New Matilda emailed the ABC earlier today to ask about the advertising, we got an auto reply from Comms manager Sally Jackson, who is on annual leave.

“Hi, I’m on leave until 14 October and won’t be seeing emails. Please contact Kevin McAlinden for corporate queries and Peter Munro for ABC NEWS. Regards, Sally.”

Of course, the email didn’t link to either McAlinden or Munro, nor did it provide any contact details for them. So, we headed back to the ABC publicity contacts page, where there are no details for Kevin McAlinden (the person we actually wanted because it’s a corporate inquiry). There is a link for Peter Munro’s email. We clicked on it, and it returns a 404 page error.

In any event, we did eventually get some questions to Munro. We’ll keep you posted on the reply if it’s forthcoming… although given the state of their IT, maybe the ABC – which receives a paltry $1 billion a year from taxpayers – does need additional advertising revenue after all.

UPDATE: Following is a cut and paste of New Matilda’s email to ABC media relations spokesperson Peter Munro; Mr Munro’s reply. And then New Matilda’s reply to Mr Munro… which we’re calling ‘the sh*tfest’.

I emailed Sally earlier today, and got an auto reply. So I’m trying you. Just inquiring re paid advertising on ABC’s Apple News page.
More broadly, can you provide me with a figure for how much revenue ABC received in the past financial year and also in the past month (for August 2019) via paid advertising?
Story is already up – will add your reply if it’s forthcoming.
Cheers, Chris

Hi Chris,
Do you usually publish stories without giving someone a fair chance to respond? My email address is on the ABC Media Centre site. It’s not hard to find – as you know – nor to cut and paste into an email. Here is the ABC policy about our content on third-party platforms, including advertising:
We’ve had this policy for some time and it’s readily available to anyone who cares to look for it.I’m surprised you are trying to rehash an old story from another media organisation, without doing any basic journalism yourself. Don’t your readers deserve better?

And here’s New Matilda editor Chris Graham’s reply.

Thanks for your excellent reply Peter. I have published it in full. Just a few pro tips for you, if I may.
Firstly, convention dictates that I’m the journalist, so generally speaking, I ask the questions. You work in PR, your job is to respond. Obviously we’d all prefer that to be ‘professionally’, but then I haven’t seen your job description and I can’t comment on whether or not your employer requires that. In any event, I’m happy to answer your questions, because they’re provocative and exciting, and because you sound like you’re having a bad day and that me taking you more seriously than you deserve might improve it. So here goes.

PM: Do you usually publish stories without giving someone a fair chance to respond?
CG: Never. We do, however, occasionally publish without a reply, and note in the story that we are seeking one. That’s what’s we in the journalism business call an ‘industry standard’, one which most reputable media outlets, like, say, the ABC, comply with. As to the pointy end of your question, I think we can both agree this issue revolves around the word ‘fair’. So here’s what happened from my perspective (what we in the journalism business call ‘facts’).
Early in the day, I emailed Sally Jackson, the person listed on your website as the appropriate media contact. Sally, as it turns out, is on a taxpayer-funded holiday (yes, I know that’s a cheap shot, but it is, literally, a taxpayer-funded holiday). I got an auto-reply email, which suggested I contact Kevin McAlinden for ‘corporate matters’. Sally’s email, however, did not include any contact details. That’s what’s we in the journalism business call ‘typical of a fucking bureaucracy’. So there was some delay in contacting you, because I was specifically told to contact someone else, whose contact details are not available publicly. Eventually, I thought, ‘I’ll just email the guy who is listed on the website who does ‘ABC NEWS’, because his contacts are on the website and because he might be able to send my email in the right direction’. Admittedly, I was operating on the belief that your organisation’s inability to respond to a simple media inquiry in a timely fashion was in fact your organisation’s problem, not mine. In any event, that’s how you ended up getting my email. But before that happened, I clicked on your email address on the web page, and it returned a 404 error. I included that in the story because it helpfully illustrates the incompetence of your organisation and goes some way to conveying to readers how the media relations department of the ABC actually works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be).
If I can distract you from your growing fury with an analogy here, I used to own an old Datsun 120Y. It was a lovely old car that I had some affection for, but it was also occasionally quite dangerous and didn’t work particularly well. I feel the same way about the ABC, except that my Datsun didn’t get $1 billion in taxpayer funding every year.

PM: I’m surprised you are trying to rehash an old story from another media organisation, without doing any basic journalism yourself. Don’t your readers deserve better?
CG: That’s an excellent question, Peter. I’m glad you asked it, because – in the spirit of spin and distraction, something with which I’m sure you identify – it gives me an opportunity to not actually answer your question and instead wax lyrical about the time that I broke that story about ABC Lateline inventing a whole pile of ‘facts’ and sparking a multi-billion government invasion of Aboriginal communities. Or that other time I got my hands on a secret tape recording of your head of news and current affairs Bruce Belsham directing journalist Nick Ross to write a hatchet job – any hatchet job – on the Labor Party, because an earlier piece he’d written was critical of the Libs. Or that time I broke the story about the fake ‘exclusive’ one of your journalists attached to a story about Ricky Gervais and Aboriginal art which she stole from NITV. Or that time I wrote the story (to be published soon) about the hatchet job you did on Julian Assange while your organisation twisted itself in knots over a simple police raid while trying to distract from the fact that your journalists’ actions exposed a source to decades in jail.
My point being, you’re right. This latest piece of ‘non-basic journalism’ is not my greatest expose on the ABC. I can do, and intend to do, better.
It is, however, still an important matter of public interest, highlighted by the fact that (a) I asked you a very simple, polite question about it and you have apparently shit your pants in response; and (b) your response to me pretends to be a complete response to my questions, despite the fact you pointedly ignored my specific inquiries about how much advertising revenue the ABC has generated. Call me crazy, but it’s almost as though you tried to distract me from relevant questions about a matter of public interest with unprofessional ranting and ad hominem insults.

Which leads me to a few questions of my own.

Firstly, are you sure you’re cut out for media relations, Peter? You seem like a nice guy, if not a little tightly wound, but your hyper-defensive/aggressive response suggests that maybe you cut your teeth in media relations in Eric Abetz’s office, and that he’s then planted you at Ultimo in order to piss off journalists and trick them in to writing nasty things about the ABC (I think I speak on behalf of all non-ABC journalists when I say ‘obviously, we don’t need your or Eric’s help on that front’)?

Secondly, when you say, “We’ve had this policy for some time and it’s readily available to anyone who cares to look for it”, are you sure you don’t mean, “Your chances of finding this policy on our busted-arse, poorly designed monolithic website is zero to none, but if by some miracle you do, unlike every other download on the ABC site, we’ve deliberately left any explanatory introduction off this one so that it’s not at all obvious what it is about because we don’t really want you reading it but we do want to be able to point to it and pretend that its transparently available?”

Finally, in closing, Peter, can you tell me how much advertising revenue the ABC generated in 2018-19 and can you also tell me how much advertising revenue the ABC generated in the month of August 2019? Seriously though… can you… please?

Cheers, Chris

WE’VE GOT 6 WEEKS TO RAISE $100K TO KEEP NEW MATILDA ALIVE. Click here to chip in through Paypal, or you can click here to access our GoFundMe campaign.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.