The internet-based
weekly publication New Matildais
claiming to have 4,216 subscribers after its first 18 months of publication –
getting within reach of its break-even point of 5,000. If true it’s an impressive result
for such a recently founded enterprise.

New Matilda is a slightly
odd hybrid publication, seeking to provide a forum for policy development as
well as publishing journalism – mainly op-ed, but also some reportage. Founded
by a number of benefactors including John Menadue and Hilary McPhee it
describes itself as “a place for you to speak out
about the Australia you want. New Matilda
promotes truth in public life, independent political commentary, policy
based on public good and citizen power in decision making.”

In old media terms, the
combination of supposedly independent journalism, policy formation and explicit
political purpose (though non party
political) would be regarded as an uneasy and probably undesirable mix. But in
the new interactive world, it looks as though enough Australians are prepared to
pay for it to make it sustainable – to a point. Editor Jose Borghino admits
that New Matilda still can’t pay its
contributors as it would wish. “Some donate their services, for which we are
very grateful. We pay others what we can.”

Meanwhile New Matilda has scored a coup in gaining
permission to publish the acclaimed Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, who
writes for The Independent (UK), on a fortnightly basis.

Borghino told Crikey that
he found it was quite hard to read Fisk in Australia. The Fairfax papers use him occasionally, but
Fisk writes fortnightly. Borghino saw an opportunity. “I rang The Independent and after some argy
bargy they agreed.”

He declined to say how
much New Matilda is paying for Fisk,
but for New Matilda subscribers it
looks like a good deal. Subscribing to read Fisk online at The Independent site
costs ten pounds a month or fifty pounds a year. An annual subscription to New Matilda
costs $88, or half that for
concessions. (Discount rates of between $5 and $40 per user are also
available for bulk subscribers and these comprise about a quarter of current
New Matilda subscribers.)

We should also mention
that New Matilda this week features Hugo Kelly – until recently of Crikey – predicting Jeff Kennett will lead the Victorian liberal.

Peter Fray

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