As one door almost closes another opens a little wider. Today, as the internet based magazine New Matilda is expected to be sold for just $10 with closure being the only other option, another online journal is celebrating success.

Online Opinion, Australia’s oldest independent internet based publication, was last week revealed to be Australia’s most popular politics website as measured by the internet audience measurement company Hitwise. This means it outranks any of the sites run by Australia’s politicians and political parties.

Celebrating the win, founder Graham Young told his readers that: “Politics used to be about the clash of ideas, now it’s about managerialism – increasingly real politics is happening outside the political establishment.”

Online Opinion is the only independent internet publication whose readership figures challenge those of the mainstream media sites (apart from Crikey, of course).

Founded in 1999 it claims 342,890 unique visitors a month, growing by more than 60% a year, although this is levelling off. It ranks 21 out of 75 news sites rated by Nielsen NetRatings, and is therefore able to charge real money for advertising. The site earned about $20,000 from ads last financial year, and expects to double that this year.

So what does Online Opinion do that New Matilda failed to do? Graham Young says it is a “leaner and meaner economic model”, and covers a breadth of opinion.

“I think the problem was that New Matilda was just preaching to the choir. And probably also made a mistake by going the subscription model (although Crikey proves that it can work). They also had a large number of staff and limited productivity, compared to what either Crikey or Online Opinion manages.”

Meanwhile New Matilda’s founder John Menadue intends before the end of the week to announce a new “progressive” think tank aimed at developing policy ideas that can be “picked up” by any political party that wants them.

Menadue said last night that he was disappointed at New Matilda failing to break even, but did not regret starting the venture. “None of the investors was looking for a financial return. We all wanted the social dividend. I just wish I had deeper pockets.”

The shareholders due to lose their money include pollster Rod Cameron, speechwriter Graham Freudenberg, publisher Hilary McPhee and social researcher Hugh Mackay.

Shareholders in New Matilda were due to meet at 11am today to vote through the sale of New Matilda to one of its directors and the biggest shareholder, the mysterious Gold Coast mathematician and self-styled philanthropist, Duncan Turpie.

Turpie is almost unknown in the world of publishing. A Google search reveals he has written on gambling, including a co-authored article on “The Quality of Blackjack Play in Australian Casinos”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey