Private Media’s inquiry arm of Crikey, INQ, has so far failed to meet its targets but CEO Eric Beecher is not backing away from the project yet, according to an article published in The Age.
The article quoted Beecher: “We always knew that we were in an exploratory period and we have to iterate and test and learn…We are still incredibly committed to INQ and our journalism not just at Crikey but across the business.”
INQ was launched in June this year as an ‘inquiry’ journalism arm of its independent news and commentary website Crikey. It sits within the Crikey website and INQ articles are published in the daily Crikey newsletter and delivered as part of a Crikey subscription.
A team of 12 journalists and editors were appointed to INQ with the brief “dig, probe, uncover, explain, expose, deconstruct, connect the dots, lift the veils and help our readers better understand the back-stories, the side-stories and the stories someone somewhere doesn’t want you to read”.
INQ is Private Media’s biggest single investment in journalism since the idea of Crikey was first conceived, and is a collaborative project between Private Media and two of its investors, John B Fairfax and Cameron O’Reilly.
Since its launch, several Crikey staff members have resigned and it’s been rumoured that voluntary redundancies were to be offered this week. Earlier this month, experienced media practitioner Peter Fray was appointed Managing Editor of Crikey.
On the announcement of INQ, I questioned whether subscription revenue would cover the wages of a 12-strong investigative team: Crikey subscriptions are available for $207 annually, or $17.99 monthly. It’s a steep increase in subscription revenue to cover staffing.
But I was hopeful. If anyone can do it, its Beecher. If he can pull it off, there’s hope for the broader paid subscription market in Australia.
And he still can.
In February, Beecher told Mumbrella that the relationship between relevant, quality journalism and the commercial outcome of their products was symbiotic: “The beauty of the subscription model is you can measure at any point in the day, week, or month, whether or not it is working, what stories resonate and generate subscriptions, not just traffic.”
Beecher is right. But working out what stories resonate and generate subscriptions can be hard to gauge during the start-up phase of the business. A decent amount of content needs to be generated before you can start to make sense of traffic and conversion analytics.
So let’s just hope that Beecher is experiencing a bumpy path to success. It can be a tough ride when relying on a subscription-only revenue model, having no advertising revenue to provide a bit of padding.
I expect there may be a few more bumps in the road, more staffing restructures, but that’s business. Here’s hoping to a successful outcome overall.