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May 27, 2010

New media death watch: New Matilda to fold

Australian online comment website New Matilda is preparing shut its virtual doors, after funding for the venture dried up.


Australian commentary forum New Matilda will shut its virtual doors next month, after funding and advertising revenue for the venture dried up.

Several contributors were told the news yesterday that their services were no longer required. The site will cease publishing new articles on June 25.

In an editorial posted on New Matilda after Crikey broke the news this morning, editor Marni Cordell wrote the financial problems that had beset the venture since its inception in 2004 had become too much to bear:

“We’ve now come to realise we were being too optimistic and that we’re unable to continue publishing into the next financial year. This is in large part due to the sheer difficulty of selling online advertising in the current media environment.

“…as the site has increased in popularity, so have our running costs — and with them the knowledge that we are unable to subsidise the project indefinitely. The big media players are struggling to find a workable online business model that allows them to pay their writers and maintain high standards — and so are we. Since we already run a very lean operation, cutting costs is not an option and we are taking the only path available to us at this time. “

Former Gough Whitlam private secretary John Menadue set up New Matilda in 2004 to counter what he called an institutional failure in the contemporary media.

In February 2007 the site was sold to mysterious Gold Coast businessman Duncan Turpie for $10, after its original shareholders had ploughed in $315,000. Turpie was an initial New Matilda board member who made his money in mathematics.

After beginning with a subscription business model, the site moved to an advertising-funded site soon after Turpie took over that provided all content free to readers. But that approach failed to generate enough revenue to keep the business afloat.

New Matilda‘s resident satirist Ben Pobjie was devastated when told the news this morning.

“It’s just really sad,” he told Crikey. “Basically New Matilda gave me my start as a professional writer; no one would know my name if it wasn’t for New Matilda.

“It’s just sad that another alternative outlet is closing. The landscape is going to be that little bit smaller.”

National affairs editor Ben Eltham, who is travelling to Sydney today to discuss the upheaval “over a few beers”, was more sanguine: “It’s sad, but I’m not shocked because these things happen.

“Still, it’s very disappointing because we were doing some really good stuff. I think the website was maturing and it was starting to establish itself as the mainstream media started to hollow out. The publication was starting to stand out as an actual site that was providing quality analysis and fresh angles and fulfilling an important niche in the media-scape.”

Eltham said the New Matilda brand was valuable and that another white knight may emerge to save it. “I believe the site could have been viable, particularly with the ongoing shift of media to the internet,” he said.

The respected former AAP correspondent said he would focus on completing his PhD and raising a family.

“I’d like to pay tribute to my colleagues who have done a wonderful job on a shoestring budget,” he said.

Cordell — now out of a job —  told Crikey the momentum to close the site was “building over a period of months”.

“I’m really disappointed that it’s come to this,” she said, but hinted the website could still be saved. “It’s almost breaking even, and I’d be open to it being bought by someone else.”

Head of the Sydney-based Centre for Policy Development Miriam Lyons, whose work grew out of New Matilda before the connection was severed, said the news was sad but not entirely unexpected.

“Australia has a long tradition of excellent independent publications falling over, and it would have been difficult to pay the staff even a quarter of what they’re worth,” she said.

Since its inception New Matilda has mostly published left-wing opinion and commentary, with contributors paid between $100 and $200 an article. It was believed to be operating on the smell of an oily rag, with insiders telling Crikey its operation had become a month-to-month proposition.


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52 thoughts on “New media death watch: New Matilda to fold

  1. David Sanderson

    This is a pity but not a surprise as it was apparent that its readership was far less than hoped.

    It was not intellectually rigorous enough and too inclined to pander to the prejudices of its left-wing readership. For example, they ran big with the ‘story’ that Sarah Palin was the true mother of Bristol Palin’s child. This story was always transparently nonsensical and unfair but when I heavily, and in detail, criticised their promotion of this story they refused to admit any fault in the way they revelled in this muck.

    So, in their own way, they were as prepared to go into the gutter in a similar manner to their political enemies such as Bolt or Akerman and that contributed to them lacking the credibility and heft they needed to become a sizable voice in the Australian political and cultural scene.

  2. NickE

    The advent of the National Times and the Punch probably wouldn’t have helped. I always kind’ve wondered how they operated, as advertising on the site was never prominent or numerous.

  3. JaneShaw

    NM may not have been perfect (and please, point me towards a media outlet that is) but that is no reason to be sanctimonious about its demise.

    Every time something that provides thought provoking commentary and forum for sensible discussion dies, our intellectual world gets a bit smaller. Have a look at any commercial “news” outlet and you’ll know why this is NOT a good thing.

    Vale NM, you will be missed.

  4. David Sanderson

    Just a correction to my previous comment – the ‘story’ was that Bristol was the mother of Sarah Palin’s child Trig. I never was much good at memorising idiotic gossip.

  5. Peter Phelps

    Air Aimerica dies and and yet Fox News continues to go from strength to strength…

    There’s a lesson to be learned about the vialbility of latte Left media, Mr Beecher?

  6. paddy

    What bloody sad news. 🙁

  7. David Sanderson

    If you’d like to see for yourself what was wrong with NewMatilda’s editorial standards the read the argument between readers and editors after this article:


  8. Miriam Lyons

    I think what I said was that it *was* unexpected, but not shocking given Australia’s small domestic market for independent media. It would have been hard to raise enough from advertising alone to pay New Matilda staff and contributors even a quarter of what they’re worth, and it’s to Duncan Turpie’s credit that he subsidised the publication for as long as he did. Australia needs a couple more Morrie Schwartz-style philanthropists! I hope that projects like the Foundation for Public Interest Journalism can help fill the NewMatilda-shaped hole in the Oz media landscape.

  9. Keith is not my real name

    OMG! we knew this firstist!and and like OMG! we like told …everybody about this beforist even they did! and and … I mean OMG Crikey!

    Grow the f-ck up

  10. Miriam Lyons

    …and for it to be ‘almost breaking even’ is a triumph – I didn’t know they’d got to that point. New Matilda has been playing an important role and clearly has a lot of support amongst its readers – there are people putting their hands up to help keep it going already: http://www.rlemay.com.au/2010/05/27/an-open-email-to-newmatilda/ (also see the discussion on twitter and in the comments thread at http://newmatilda.com/2010/05/27/new-matilda-fold

  11. Keith is not my real name


    Want to edit the comment thread one more time?

  12. Amber Jamieson

    A sad day for independent Australian media.

  13. Cuppa

    Let’s hope a way can be found to save New Matilda.

    In the meantime, a new independent site has arisen:

    [b]The Daily Bludge[/b]


  14. Frank Campbell

    Not good news. There might be some lessons. New Matilda was seriously dull, polite and at times censorious. Too politically correct. The tone set by the pompous and pedestrian Ben Eltham.

  15. Jahm Mitt

    I kind of see the situation as – especially in the internet age; we are just fucking SWAMPED with a 10,000 foot tidal wave of OPTIONS and CHOICES….

    It’s not like they are a good or bad publication – but there are 100,000,000,000 other things going on as well…..

    5,000 online TV stations, 100,000,000 videos on Youtube and a thousand similar sites, there are half a billion online lessons for everything…….

    And the high quality commentary – I have a hard enough time just keeping up with the day to day goings on…..

    I am TOO intelligent, all knowing, all seeing and my brain fucking hurts.

  16. george

    Shame I hear about them when they are closing! 🙂

  17. dlew919

    What a sorry state Australian intellectual debate is in. Australia needs its small journals, from Quadrant to the Monthly, to the Bulletin to New Matilda, and all the rest…

    Quadders under Windschuttle just sprouts anti-political correct gibberish (as opposed to the usually robust, often entertaining and mostly very good debate that all of his predecessors encouraged.) The Monthly is a vanity sheet – we’re just not sure for whom. Crikey remains almost alone in relatively balanced debate (though some of its commenters leave something to be desired (this one included). The Bulletin is dead – dead 40 years before they closed it but dead nevertheless. And now New Matilda…

    What is to be done?

  18. dlew919

    (PS – I hate politically correct gibberish as well)…

  19. Michael

    Why don’t they ask for a nice hot sweaty bundle of money from a mining company?
    Just a suggestion.

  20. Venise Alstergren

    It is more than sad to see the demise of yet another newsheet which doesn’t adhere to the repressive right-wing thought syndrome which has come to dominate the world. How long can that effing bastard, Rupert Murdoch, live?

    I haven’t visited the site since they kicked me off their pages for using the ‘C’ word.
    However, even then I thought the editorials were overly long. The comments section allowed people to meander on for hours.

    Most importantly, IMO NM was a mixture of innocent naïvity and prudery. To me this came to represent the appalling conservatism of today’s twenty-five to forty year olds.

    This is said not because I was kicked off the site. On the contrary. It is said with the profound hope that Crikey doesn’t ever go down that path.

    Vale New Matilda.

  21. Michael James

    Vale New Matilda.

    Et tu Crikey? I hope not.

  22. Socratease

    @VA: “I haven’t visited the site since they kicked me off their pages for using the ‘C’ word.”

    You mentioned Crikey on New Matilda? 🙂

  23. Venise Alstergren

    SOCRA: Ha di ha di ha di hah. 🙂 😯 😎

  24. Black Knight


    I think you got it.

    I did visit it occasionally and there was always the odd good article but it seemed a bit staid and lacked vibrance and energy.

    As a subscriber I find Crikey to be many things to many different people, but it always keeps you on the edge of your seat and even sometimes unpredictable, even like a lover scorned, unless of course you are being moderated…ergh hum!!!

    From a commercial perspective NM may need to realign itself more to the centre, but would the existing model ( people ) accept that? and would existing subscribers and advertisers accept that?

    Boosting the subscriber base would be a good place to start, but that would have to coincide with a directional change…I think.

    Anyway, it’s very sad for the owners and contributors and I deeply feel for them. Nobody likes to see an independent news bulletin go under.

    So Venise!!! Can it be saved? Can it be resurrected?

  25. Rox

    They never sent me my password, but I’m sorry to see them go.

  26. Venise Alstergren

    BLACK KNIGHT: Alas and alack, I have no marketing expertise, so I don’t know.

    I do see they sold it off for $10, unless Crikey have got it wrong. Superficially, I would gave thought Crikey might be interested. I’m sure Ben Pobjie might interest them because they don’t have a writer who specifically does satire/irony.

    Apart from this Crikey is loaded with talent.

    It would be interesting to see how their commentariat-a bunch of true navel-watchers, self-indulgent to a man, would handle being dumped into the icy bath which make up the Crikey commentariat. Sauve qui peut!



  27. Black Knight


    $$$$Apart from this Crikey is loaded with talent.$$$$

    Who told you that? hahaha

  28. Black Knight

    speaka to agent A.S. in Melbourne…. ASAP

  29. DP

    BLACK KNIGHT: are n’t you a long way from home?

  30. Dermot McGuire

    thank you DP hadn’t heard it in years now hearing it in my head ah the memories!

  31. CliffG

    Great pity to see an end to “New Matilda”. Mainstream media in Australia all sing to the same hymn sheet and anything that is outside the frame is to be regarded as a treasure.
    And the Murdoch Press has shifted to the far right of Attila the Hun, taking some of the ABC with it! It makes it hard to find any decent national news and comment. Long live Crikey!

  32. Jahm Mitt

    Actually – to raise the stakes a bit – as an add on, like there are also 100.00.000 blogs, 1,000,000 online newspapers, journals and officious publications etc…. I mean there is a GLUT – of information…..

    I can’t even get my fucking head around it all any more.

    And I do a real lot of reading and site hopping and in the last 10 years, I honestly have no recollection of ever even hearing about the “New Matilda” website.

    I mean this report – it’s a bit like saying “A woman died of heart attack today” – well yeah…. 100,000,000 of them die every day from heart attack… well like so what?

  33. roslyn.ross

    New Matilda covered a broad range of topics so it was likely to publish articles which some would reject. Who was funding New Matilda in the first place? Clearly they have ‘taken their ball’ and gone home. NM seemed to have issues following it’s brave exploration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was clear that pressure was applied on NM because they brought in one of the most user-unfriendly and tedious post moderation processes in existence and that certainly put a lot of people off. I felt they failed on principle because they only moderated issues which had any potential ability to ‘offend’ Jews or Israelis and I don’t think I was the only one. NM lost credibiility at that point because they lost integrity. I certainly still subscribed to their feed and read articles on occasion but they became less of a reliable source. Then again, that should not have mattered because it was not funded by readers. One wonders however, if those who provided funding, have been pressured to remove it. Sad to see NM go. We need all of the independent publishers we can get and I and many others would happily pay money to see it survive.

  34. Michael


    Cliff I’m heart broken for you, really I am.
    However, have you ever asked yourself why it’s always so that these little Left wing ventures go the same way as Margo Kingston’s Newsletter and numerous other “rabid” Left wing news platforms?
    No demand Cliffy.
    Al least not from people who are prepared to pay.
    Oh sure, tight arse little tyre kickers like you will flick through the pages, nod your head approvingly, turn to your hairy legged feminist partner and comment on the wonderful contribution it makes on behalf of “those of us who occupy the moral high ground” and then toss it in the IT bin.
    What you bludgears from the Left never ever get is the significance of Risk Capital in the success of business.
    That’s why you all work for the bureaucracy and sponge off the taxpayer all your miserable lives.

  35. roslyn.ross

    p.s. if anyone can find out who was funding NM then Crikey can. If anyone can find out if pressure has been applied to close NM down because they explored the Israeli-Palestinian issue too vigorously, then Crikey can.

  36. David Sanderson

    No that’s not interesting, it’s tedious conspiracy theory rubbish.

  37. Michael


    I believe Tony Abbott was a major funder.

  38. roslyn.ross

    Conspiracy theories are merely possibilities which have not been validated. I am sure those who believed the earth was flat considered the theory that it was round to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’ The only approach to take to a ‘conspiracy theory’ is: Is it possible and does it make sense? For this ‘theory’ on both counts it is Yes. Anyone who has spent time on NM is aware that serious pressure was applied because of its articles on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the resulting forums. Although I have seen more outspoken debate on Fairfax than NM in recent times. Perhaps Fairfax is too big to threaten or close down.
    Both NM and Crikey have been singled out by MP Michael Danby for criticism on this count and perhaps NM is the ‘first to go.’ Personally I don’t think an Australian MP who is meant to be representing an Australian constituency should make his bias toward another nation so obvious but we do live in a free country. Well, for some it is free if you toe the line. Thankfully we are still free enough to explore all theories whether they be dubbed ‘conspiracy’ or not.



    Please excuse my 2 finger typing, but risk capital is nothing new, neither is the intrigue.

    Stop procastinating..LoL!!!

  40. Syd Walker

    Andrew Cook writes: “It was believed to be operating on the smell of an oily rag, with insiders telling Crikey its operation had become a month-to-month proposition.”

    That certainly does sound very unhealthy. Surprising NM made it through health and safety inspections. 🙂

    Seriously though, great publication, sad loss, hope it’s reversible.

    I was interested to read: ““I’m really disappointed that it’s come to this,” (the NM Editor) said, but hinted the website could still be saved. “It’s almost breaking even, and I’d be open to it being bought by someone else.””

    That’s the first time I’d heard NM was ‘almost breaking even’. If so, that’s a sound basis for a new start. There’s clearly a substantial, very committed readership base.

  41. roslyn.ross

    I agree Syd. Alternative media is vital in this day and age. I guess we tend to take it for granted.

    Is that a {sigh) of relief for my post or are you trying to say something else? At this stage I am not sure what amounted to procrastination.

  42. Venise Alstergren

    DAVID SANDERSON: When I write the single word ‘interesting’ it means I’m going to have a look. You are so busy throwing a marlin-hook at me all the time. I don’t think you ever read what I say which would be kinda cute if you want to hack at me.

    The only thing I came up with was Ben Pobjie’s satirical piece, which was so satirical I thought it was just another right-wing scum-ball comment. Nothing personal Ben P, normally I’m a great fan of yours.

    It would surprise me if there was anything to this ‘conspiracy’ comment.

    NOTATROJ: In case you ARE interested in my opinion. Go to Thurs 27 May @3.23pm. Paragraph three. ie scroll up.

  43. roslyn.ross

    I must say, I have never posted on Crikey before and love the little icons. I wonder who decides that Syd gets to be a rat and I get to be an insect. I’m not sure what Notatroj is… an emu perhaps? Venise gets the most artistic one although Dermot’s snail isn’t bad either.

  44. Venise Alstergren

    ROSLYN ROSS: Why thank you.

    I did it myself! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  45. roslyn.ross

    Venise, I didn’t know one could. You are clever. Still, it’s okay to be an insect …. lots of legs and aren’t cockroaches meant to be the only things which could survive nuclear annhiliation?


    aggghh those damn icons are over-rated. Nothing more than identity plates so Crikey honchos can track down us unsuspecting subscribers when we refuse the vaccinations….and more than likely give us up to firing squads. Yes, I am stable.

  47. Venise Alstergren

    ROSLYN: Yes, I think that’s right- re cockroaches.

    If you plan to be spending time here you may wish to create your own avatar. All you have to do is supply the image, then go to ‘gravitar’ and follow instructions. Better still their are loads of talented IT people around here. Just ask.

  48. roslyn.ross

    Venise, I think I shall leave my image with the fates. Thanks for the advice.

  49. Leo Braun

    Crikey: “Any half decent independent venture has to have a team of people who work their guts out and do it better than their bigger competitors in order to carve out a piece of online territory. It clearly wasn’t a lack of energy, agility or motivation that led to New Matilda calling it quits”!

  50. Leo Braun

    Roslyn.Ross: “New Matilda covered a broad range of topics so it was likely to publish articles which some would reject”. “NM seemed to have issues following it’s brave exploration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was clear that pressure was applied on NM — because they brought in one of the most user-unfriendly and tedious post moderation processes in existence and that certainly put a lot of people off. I felt they failed on principle because they only moderated issues which had any potential ability to ‘offend’ Jews or Israelis and I don’t think I was the only one”!

    Stil_Unknown: “Israel insists that the rights of Jews are different to the civil rights of gentiles, especially those of Palestinians. Israel has various prohibitions in place against marriages between Jew and non-Jew and Israel practices overt racism in it’s discriminatory laws pertaining to citizenship and nationality. If Australians really are as liberated as our politically correct attitudes seem to suggest, if we really are a society which prides itself on the principles of egalitarianism and fairness, why do we support Israel and demonise Iran? Have Australians bought into the bigotted propaganda of Zionism”?

    Leo Braun: “Evidently so, as by hook or by crook the most comprehensive corruption of the youngsters mind persevered on mass in the Ghetto Australis, courtesy of the compulsory schooling norms. Just as in good old days since the earliest in elders of zion instigated brainwashing campaign, to invoke the innate tribal primitive instincts. Culminating in the misguided resentments and thus brutal bullying against the targeted groups”!

    “Utilised effectively to divide and conquer duped fools under the ‘rule by the best‘, as a result of the almighty ‘chosen‘ aristocracy on the planet earth. Whilst our Jew lesser brethren sustained always collateral ravage fallout consequences. Slyly disguised via scapegoated clichés under ‘tall poppy’ syndrome’s façade. Just to excuse for king hit manifestations, all along the adherence to the infamous folklore’s motto: Shoot anything moving and chop anything growing”!

    “No wonder as dill-flock fools were indoctrinated not to think for themselves but solely conditioned for the laidback predisposition. Reflected in once popular expressions in the workplace: ‘near enough, is good enough’…’steady as she goes’…’she’ll be right mate’…’no worries ‘… and so forth parodied ignorance. As a result, the utterly desensitised minds weren’t geared-up to grasp that the Yid physiognomies incubated rulers and preachers could have had such a bloody chutzpah to distort truth so incredibly. With the colonialist patronage on mind to envisage that no Aussie bloke or sheila to realise their true predicament”.

    “As generations ever since became overshadowed by the most bizarre cretinism, unleashed under tyrannical oppression siege. Where no reward to excel or appreciation given for the role model citizens within the apartheid created via diabolical elimination procedures in place. Set to purge entirely conscientious dissent of the genuinely devoted, true professionals. Due to the moral stance taken for the humanity and the upcoming generations to come with the children of better tomorrow. Who without fear or favour to exploit their unique talents along the spirit of the enlightenment. While adopting straightforward clear pathway, away from worshiping zionist spin-doctor concocted so vastly infectious pack of lies. Disseminated by the jellyback spiteful pollies for the untouchables tyranny rule in the zionist era of universal deceit, to the detriment of any good and creative on the planet earth”!

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