This comment on the sale of Crikey appeared on the back page of The Reader last Friday and covers the broad reaction to the news in the media.
As many of our readers are probably now aware, The Reader has decided to expand. Last week we entered a deal to acquire Crikey.com.au, Australia’s best-known political/current affairs internet site and daily newsletter, and we’ll take over the Crikey business in early March.
So what is Crikey and why does it matter? Founded five years ago by Stephen Mayne, Crikey is a lively email newsletter which hits the inboxes of its subscribers every weekday. It also has a free website and archive. Crikey has been “part of the undertow of public life for the past five years,” wrote Margaret Simons in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last weekend.
Circulating among politicians, investors, journalists and business leaders, it has had a “maverick edge,” sometimes reporting gossip, but also “asking questions nobody else was asking.” Crikey, she wrote, provides a mix of “insiders’ gossip, breaking news, comment, analysis and speculation,” and it recalls a time when “journalists were larrikins, not entirely respectable, and easily distinguished from the people at the top end of town who were the subject of their reports.”
Crikey, according to Simons, has been “scrappy, inconsistent, and often sneered at by the more polished journalistic professionals,” but it has also been “more influential than most would admit.”
As for Stephen Mayne, he’s a “gadfly who pioneered a new form of journalism on the internet,” said Mark Day in The Australian. What he’s done has broken “all the rules of traditional publishing, regularly reporting rumours without checking and frequently getting things wrong.”
Stephen Mayne explained to his subscribers that his decision to “hand over management control to some genuine media professionals” was based on the desire to take Crikey to the next level. “There is only so much you can do from the spare rooms of a modest suburban house in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs,” he told them. “After five years of struggle, including moving house five times in 30 months, we really couldn¹t see the light at the end of the tunnel.” I am exhausted, Mayne wrote, “after working 80 hours a week on this labour of love.” It’s time to get a life again, “rather than literally working every day of the week on Crikey, including 6-8 hours every Sunday.” (For his full account, and reactions to the sale, go to www.crikey.com.au/media/index.html).
But not everyone was thrilled by the news. Crikey subscribers will be upset at “what will be regarded as a loss of independence,” wrote Daniel Donahoo in The Age, who suggests that The Reader will “certainly want to change the cottage industry Mayne was operating in the spare rooms of his home.” And, he surmised, “whatever their reasoning for entering the internet publishing arena, the new buyers will be wanting to increase advertising revenue and the number of subscribers, to ensure they are not buying a dud.” But he questions whether we know what we’re doing. “Internet communities are unpredictable things,” said Donahoo. “We are all only a click away from the Next Big Thing online. So, what impact will the sale announcement have on readership and will renewals be forthcoming as changes take place?”
What does all this mean for The Reader and its readers? We hope it means that The Reader can become an even better magazine because our researching, monitoring and writing resources will now be part of a bigger media infrastructure. And from March, we intend to offer Reader subscribers a rather good deal to subscribe to the daily Crikey email newsletter every day to complement their weekly dose of The Reader in print. The news, we believe, is good.