[The Drum Opinion/Tim Dunlop]
As of Monday, The Australian online went behind a paywall. At the moment, you can sign up for a free “digital pass” that’s valid for three months, but after that, as the blurb says, they will “send you an offer”.
[...]signing up for the paywall at The Australian brought home to me a point I made on these pages a few months back:
News Ltd are obviously banking on the idea that The Australian produces enough quality journalism to generate enough subscriptions for the site to make a profit….
How realistic is this? Not very, in my view, and at least part of the answer has to do with partisanship.
…The Australian is ground zero for hardline, anti-Labor, so-called “campaigning” journalism, a position that has solidified since federal Labor came to power in 2007. This editorial disposition has made them a laughing stock amongst at least half the market for serious journalism they are going to need to make the paywall pay.
My basic point is that, in a big market like the US, a news organisation can afford to pursue a partisan audience because the niche is still likely to be large enough to be profitable. So Fox News can be as biased as they like because even if they alienate everybody on the left, there are enough people on the right to keep the station in the black. I doubt this is true in Australia.
[...] I’ll reiterate: I think it is important to pay for journalism. But in a small market like Australia, a mainstream news website with pretensions to be “the heart of the nation” cannot prosper as a niche within a niche.
So here’s a prediction: The Australian’s paywall will fail unless they change their editorial stance. When you are passing yourself off as a serious newspaper, you can’t continue to insult half your potential (already small) audience and expect them to pay you. So until they offer more balanced news coverage, and leaven their ranks of rightwing commentators with some credible people from the left (and no, I don’t mean disgruntled, failed and bitter former Labor politicians) they will struggle.
… full article here.