Aunty Stays Mum On Advertising Income, But Confidently Predicts News A Week Before It Happens

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In case you’ve missed it, New Matilda has been giving the ABC a hard time over the amount of advertising revenue it brings in every year. Yes, that’s right – contrary to popular belief, the ABC does accept advertising.

Our ‘awkward questions’ started last week when we noticed advertising for Hamilton Island – a privately owned resort in Queensland – within the ABC’s Apple News channel. A little surprised, we asked the ABC if it was actually put there by Apple.

Screencaps of advertising promoting a private holiday resort on ABC’s Apple News channel. (IMAGE: Apple News)

Turns out the ABC allows ‘third party advertising’ on other platforms which host its branded content, such as Apple and Youtube, and it has done for quite some time… i.e. since about 2016.

Or, in the words of ABC spin doctor Peter Munro: “Here is the ABC policy about our content on third-party platforms, including advertising: https://about.abc.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ABCThirdPartySitesGDE.pdf 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?”

Sophie Mirabella called. She wants her media adviser back.

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Anyhoo, obviously, given the changing nature of how people consume media these days, the issue of online advertising for the ABC would, you’d think, be a matter of pretty significant public interest. And yet, Aunty has been surprisingly and, dare we say it, aggressively coy about how much advertising revenue it generates on third party sites.

The spin doctors at ABC corporate refused to provide the figure to Fairfax a year ago, and they’re still refusing to provide it today. Which is pretty remarkable for a taxpayer-funded organisation that exists in large part to demand answers from other taxpayer-funded organisations.

So, our pursuit continues. After getting the ‘piss off’ email from Munro, and no response to follow up emails (which were, admittedly, a little bit smart-arsey in reply) we’ve decided to jump a few levels and go straight to the boss with some fresh questions. No response today, but we’ll keep you posted.

That’s not to suggest that nothing is happening. Some of our reporting focussed on the ‘Yes Minister-esque’ incompetence of the ABC bureaucracy, notably its inability to reply to media inquiries without reminding everyone why government is so fond of putting public duties out to private tender (think ‘competence and efficiency’).

Well, the mistakes we highlighted on the ABC media contact page have been fixed. With lightning pace no less! Media office Peter Munro’s email is no longer a broken link, and the actual boss of the site – Kevin McAlinden – now has his name included. All very exciting and inspiring.

So, spurred on by the ‘blood in the water’, and dizzy at the thought that we might have helped motivate a billion dollar bureaucracy to lift its game, albeit ever so slightly, we thought it timely to highlight another shitty part of the ABC’s online presence, in the hope that someone in the IT department will read this, and fucking well fix the problems.

If you’ve ever searched the ABC archives in the past for stories, you’ll know that it feels a little bit like you’re being punished. Maybe like the person who designed the website and search function has either (a) never used it themselves, (b) the person who invented queues, committees and the two-humped camel; or (c) is a sociopath.

A case in point is the 7:30 program website, which takes web searches to a whole new level. Literally and figuratively. This is how it looks today.

Leigh Sales looks very nice, if not a little fraudulently amenable, but there’s also a broken picture and an episodes list that, remarkably, includes episodes which don’t yet exist.

You can apparently watch episodes 156, 158, 159 and 160 right now! And the really exciting part about that is that they’re episodes from October 2019, so you’re getting 7:30 not only a week before everyone else, but a full week before the ABC has even created it! If only 7:30 broadcast the lotto numbers!!

Then there’s the problem with introductions… sometimes episodes get an intro explaining what happens on the show. And then sometimes, that seems like the 50 words or so is a bit too much effort, so they just go with a generic one.

TOP: Episode intros are awesome and fun to write… BOTTOM: Meh… episode intros are just too hard.

And then sometimes, uploading episodes is just too much trouble altogether. So they don’t bother (for example, episodes 113 to 118 are missing… so too are episodes 137-142… and 155-153… you get the drift).

And just to make sure that you never actually find what you’re looking for, the naming protocol on the site is by episode alone – they don’t bother to include a date. So, unless you work for the ABC and happen to know that episode 112, for example, occurred on August 28 there’s no actual way to properly search the archives based on date.

All up, it’s a pretty shabby performance from the ABC’s IT department. Or possibly the editorial department. Actually, probably both. And all this from an organisation that gets a $1 billion a year in taxpayer funds.

Still, if you’re experienced in media, or if you have cause to search ABC archives regularly, you’ll know that it’s also ‘very ABC’. This level of disinterest in archiving at Aunty is the stuff of legends. Despite the fact that day in day out – particularly in the regions – the ABC is producing by far the best quality news in the country, it’s also regularly (and spectacularly) let down by the weight of its own bureaucracy. Did we mention they get $1 billion a year.

Speaking of which, we’ll keep hunting the media spin department for details on annual advertising revenue (finger’s crossed they continue to ignore us, because that means we can put in an FOI and also get some questions asked at the next Senate Estimates hearing, thereby making the ABC look even more dodgy, and the story even bigger).

In the meantime, if you’ve got any website-related complaints about the ABC you want resolved, email them to us, or comment below or on our social media, and we’ll see what we can do!

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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