Yesterday afternoon, I received sad news: Newmatilda.com is folding. What made the news even more saddening was that I found out about it through Crikey, the news site I happen to dislike; don’t ask why. I still receive Crikey’s daily newsletter because I’m their ’squatter’ (as Crikey likes to call their cheapskate non-subscriber).
New Matilda and Crikey are two of Australia’s most popular independent online news sites that provide alternative political views and news analysis. Crikey operates on paid-subscriber business model, while New Matilda runs for no profit, surviving only from independent funding and advertising revenue.
It is no surprise when New Matilda’s editor, Mardi Cordell, stated in her editorial that financial problem is the main reason why the publication will have to cease.
This is in large part due to the sheer difficulty of selling online advertising in the current media environment.
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.
The death of New Matilda is just one example of how quality online journalism could suffer due to lack of financial support.
We all have heard and joined the debate: should we pay for content online?
Rupert Murdoch said yes. Crikey is doing it, and hey, they’re not dying like New Matilda. Singapore’s Strait Times has already adopted the paid-subscribers business model to get all-access to the website, including to the ‘Latest News’ section. Fairfax are just a few steps away from putting pay wall for access to its site.
The arguments behind this debate concern the future of journalism industry and the quality of journalism content. Some argue that charging fees online is necessary to keep journalism industry alive. It would also ensure the industry to continue provide quality journalism, as opposed to free crappy articles written by random citizen journalist.
Convinced? I’m not. Despite my sad loss for New Matilda, I don’t think we should pay for content online. The digital universe means we have plenty of sources to choose from. If big media players decided to charge fee for their online content, sooner or later someone else will come to the rescue. Also, frankly, I’ve seen so many ads on mainstream online news site that it’s hard to believe that they’re not making enough money from these ads.
Online culture is about content-sharing and we like to share all the love we’ve got. Spread the love.