‘Finding Scott Morrison in Hawaii was good for business’: A decade of The New Daily

When The New Daily launched ten years ago, the media landscape was controlled by the conglomerates, be it the national mastheads attempting to steer the steam tanker of their bloated business models towards the digital shores, or the TV and radio networks starting to eke out an online presence.

In mid-2013, The Guardian Australia appeared, just in time for the Federal Election, while The Daily Mail Australia followed in 2014.

It was a tough time to be launching a daily news offering, especially an independent, untested product without an overseas parent company or billionaire backers to fill the coffers.

This isn’t to say The New Daily didn’t have financial backing.

In 2011, when Bruce Guthrie, former editor The Sunday Age, The Age, the Herald Sun, Who Weekly, and The Weekend Australian Magazine, first conceived of the idea for The New Daily, he did so with the help of industry superannuation pioneer, Garry Weaven.

They teamed up with Paul Hamra, Solstice Media CEO and current managing director of The New Daily, Private Media Chair Eric Beecher, and soon netted an enviable list of funding partners, launching with a unique ownership and funding model backed by a slew of super funds: AustralianSuper, Cbus, First Super, HESTA, LUCRF and Industry Super Holdings.

This funding model, propped up with on-site advertising, means The New Daily is able to operate as an approximately 75% self-sufficient operation.

This week, The New Daily is celebrating its tenth birthday, and does so as an established force in Australian media. The site draws 1.35 million unique readers each month, and boasts 430,000 daily subscribers.

Co-founder and media pioneer Bruce Guthrie looks back at ten years of building a successful media publication on an ever-shifting landscape.

Can you describe the Australian news media landscape when you first entered the market?

It was in furious transition – print was quite obviously dying and digital was clearly the new frontier. The question was — and still is for everyone — how to make it pay.

In addition, we had foreign publishers entering the market, something that wasn’t possible when newspapers reigned. Governments actually legislated against this to protect the national interest. That went out the window with digital media.

How long was the run up, between initial concept and launch?

It took just over two years. The first conversations took place in May, 2011, and we launched in November, 2013.

It’s impressive you’ve built a challenger to established, multinational news corporations. What were some of your earliest stumbling blocks?

Building an audience was an obvious challenge because it dictated revenue. We also copped a lot of flak from established competitors at both News and Fairfax who didn’t want to give up their patch. Quite a few pollies weighed in too; apparently, they preferred cosy duopolies to genuine competition. Some of that continues today.

You have a unique funding model – can you talk about that? How did you land upon such a model?

We had initial backing from six industry super groups and that has grown over time. They were keen to fund media diversity. In the years since launch, revenues have increased to the point that the great bulk of costs is covered by the market.

How did you juggle being funded by super companies, perception wise, with needing to be seen as an unbiased news outlet? I assume you copped criticism for that from naysayers, especially early on.

There was and is a strict editorial charter of independence to protect all parties. I wrote it. That didn’t stop some uninformed criticism, as mentioned before.

Sam Maiden won a Walkley for you (for the below story) – did you see any boost after this, in terms of numbers, credibility, advertisers, coverage from other media, anything?

It certainly got us noticed by more people who came to the site, liked what they saw and stuck around. Let’s just say finding Scott Morrison in Hawaii was good for business.

What’s the biggest challenge in running an online media company at the moment?

To get and retain good people, keep up with ever-changing technology and maintain the never-ending search for revenue.

How has this changed over the past decade?

The move to mobile has been transformative. In addition, ad inventory has exploded so you need to be laser-focused on your audience.

What are some of the roadblocks for The New Daily at the moment?

The high cost of moving with technology. Continuing to grow our audience. Resting on our laurels. We like to think we’re at the end of the beginning and there’s a lot more to come.

Looking forward, where you see digital media going?

Speaking as a journalist, I fear we’ll see the rise and rise of AI, which will further damage trust in news. However, that could in turn drive people back to mastheads they can trust. The New Daily will be there waiting for them.


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