site news When I first launched Delimiter back in January 2010, I did so with a very clear mission in mind. Like many readers and other journalists, I had become frustrated with an Australian technology media scene which had become increasingly clogged with international content ported onto local sites. And I wanted to help remedy that situation.
At the time, I wrote that while I did follow international technology news, what I was really fascinated with was Australia’s own technology sector. It’s interesting to read about the latest exploits of Apple and Google in the US, of course, but ultimately product launches and industry controversies don’t end up hitting home to the average Australian unless those products eventually make their way Down Under; unless those controversies directly relate to us somehow. We don’t live in the US, where most of the action is in the global tech sector; we live in Australia, and a very different country it is indeed, with its own unique (sometimes quite unique!) properties.
This is why, with a few exceptions, Delimiter has always focused purely on the Australian technology scene; it’s what I’ve always personally been most interested in, and it’s been my belief that many others would be interested in precisely the same thing.
It’s fair to say that over the past three and a half years, that belief has been strongly borne out.
In that period, on the strength of articles solely about Australia, Delimiter has grown to one of the largest specialist IT sites in this country. We’ve got an audience oscillating around 100,000 unique visitors a month, and a monthly page impression count that hovers around the 250,000 mark. We’ve got many thousands of email newsletter and RSS feed subscribers, as well as those that follow us through social networking sites.
And, most importantly to my mind, we’ve developed what I would describe as an incredibly strong community.
This community manifests itself in various ways. Of course, the most obvious way is through comments on the site; we receive between 3,000 and 4,000 comments most months, and there are many articles which have hundreds of comments intensely debating key issues. Furthermore, the quality of these comments, and the identities of those commenting are also remarkable. The depth of some reader comments on Delimiter, going into incredibly complex details of technical, political and financial arguments, regularly surprises senior figures in the industry; likewise, it’s not at all uncommon to find high-ranking politicians, executives and other commentators putting in their 2c worth on Delimiter. It’s a special kind of Internet community which features such high-level figures.
However, there are other ways in which the community also manifests. Many of you would be aware that Delimiter has broken some fairly significant stories over the years. One recent highlight was the revelation that the Federal Government had unilaterally decided to start blocking various websites, a story which came out of our enduring coverage of Labor’s Internet filter debacle. We’ve also been at the forefront of reporting and discussing controversial issues relating to data retention, Internet piracy, government IT service delivery, cloud computing adoption, IT price hikes and tax minimisation behaviour.
Plus, who could forget the National Broadband Network. Ah, the NBN. Never has so much ink (pixels) been wasted on one single technology project in Australia’s history. However, of course, so much is at stake in this project that, of course, it’s important to examine every angle.
Of course, you’ve all read many of these stories, but what you might not have been aware of is that many, if not most of them, started off as reader tips, either by email to me personally or through Delimiter’s anonymous tips form. I’ve never been working alone here; the only reason Delimiter has been able to cover such issues in such depth has been because of the community supporting my writing the whole way.
What clout Delimiter has in holding politicians, bureaucrats and corporations to account comes directly from its readership. Alone, I am only one man (often in his pyjamas) writing things which interests him. But it is a fact that the powerful groups which set the foundations of our lives are always wary of a strongly engaged mass audience such as the Delimiter community. Sometimes, let me tell you, the powers that be are very wary indeed.
Now all of this is very well and good. Many among my peers might say (and have said) that this is what success looks like to a journalist. A strong audience which reads your work, a large enough community to guarantee financial stability, and the ability to hold powerful interests to account along the way. And they’d be right — it is all very well and good.
But the game has also changed.
Over the past few years, as Delimiter has been in operation, Australia’s media environment has severely deteriorated. You all know the ongoing complaints which are levelled at journalists these days. We’re shills for page impressions. We’ll do anything for website traffic. We don’t report the truth about what powerful people say, but instead just regurgitate each sides’ inaccurate statements in a pointless exercise of ‘he said, she said’.
There is less and less really deep analysis out there of what’s going on behind the scenes on any given issue, and journalists seem continually driven by the latest pointless scandal.
This debasing of our national conversation clearly has sunk its teeth deep into the technology journalism scene. Although there are still quite a few technology journalists of worth in Australia, there are also countless stories written about inanities. We are all obsessed with the tiny details of small product launches, it seems, we no longer get really deep into the actual details of IT project implementations, and more than anything, we love a good controversy about the National Broadband Network, even if the sound and fury involved ends up signifying nothing.
On a personal level, I’ve also grown more experienced as a writer. Sure, I churn out press release re-writes with the best of them, and at a record clip, but increasingly what I am really interested in is going deeper into the issues which I’m writing about.
The difficulty is that I am often as bound to the shallow news cycle as most other journalists. I would love to spend a whole day writing a lengthy article about whether the current NBN asbestos scandal is significant or not, with context going back several decades. I would love to consider in detail what it means that the Federal Government has decided it has the power to block any website it chooses — without telling anyone. I would like the chance to comment over several thousand words on the ongoing shift to cloud computing in Australia’s State Governments.
But the truth is that I’ve done this sort of thing in the past, and it rarely justifies itself.
Consider, for a second, the fact that Delimiter’s financial business model — site advertising — is largely disconnected from most of its editorial quality. If I spend a whole day writing a deep article about a worthy subject, that article will likely only end up with a similar amount of page impressions to the sort of article I can throw together in an hour. And even if increased traffic does arrive (as it sometimes does with scoops and insightful commentary), that traffic usually doesn’t result in extra financial resources.
It’s an oft-held mantra in Internet publishing that if you generate more page impressions, you make more money. The unfortunate reality is that you usually don’t. It takes a fundamental structural increase (say, growing your monthly traffic by 50 percent or more) to do that, and even then the increase in revenue is not likely to be directly commensurate with your traffic growth. Financial success is usually more dependent on the skill of your sales team (Delimiter’s is very good, by the way!) and the dynamics of the advertising market and the large advertisers in general.
In short: If I expend additional effort writing better articles, Delimiter usually doesn’t generate increased revenue to justify that effort. There is a qualitative effect from such articles, in that they tend to bring in educated, erudite readers seeking such quality, which heightens the quality of debate on the site in general, and enhances its reputation. This factor, and the recognition of readers and my peers, is definitely a significant motivation for me in my writing; but no business can justify increased effort on the basis of qualitative rewards alone.
Still with me? This has been a lengthy article already; I hope it is a sign of things to come :)
Considering all of these factors over the past several months has led me to an inescapable conclusion: In order to justify my personal desire to enhance the quality of the debate in Australia’s technology sector through producing more in-depth, contextual, insightful articles, I must develop an additional business model which will tie the quality of Delimiter’s editorial much more closely to the financial recompense for producing such material.
It is with this in mind that I unveil to you today a new sister site to Delimiter. I’m calling it Delimiter 2.0. It’s tagline is: “Still just Australia. Still just technology.”
Delimiter 2.0 is a very simple site with a very simple premise. Every week, on the Friday morning of that week, I will publish an in-depth opinion/analysis article of a more satisfactory length and with more detail than you would normally expect to read on Delimiter itself. My aim with this weekly article is to capture the single hottest issue of each week and dissect it; get inside it; understand it, and take a point of view on it. My goal, as with the best articles on Delimiter, is to spark intelligent discussion of that issue in a way that will illuminate it.
More than anything, it is my aim that each week, this article will be the best article in Australia’s technology media that you read that week: The article that will define the week’s events and put them in context.
And it is my hope that many of you will pay me for the privilege of reading these articles. Because Delimiter 2.0 will not be funded through advertising; in fact, I guarantee that it will feature no advertising at all. Instead, the articles on Delimiter 2.0 will be gated (paywalled), and I will be levying a flat fee of $9.95 per month (including GST) for access.
Now for some details.
Please rest assured that Delimiter itself (or 1.0, if you prefer), will be continuing precisely as it is today. It will continue to produce the same number and quality of articles as it does today. It will continue to have its articles available for free, funded by advertising. Nothing is changing there. With the launch of Delimiter 2.0, I’m not taking anything away from anyone. I am attempting to deliver significant additional value to readers, at a moderate price, on a different site. Delimiter 2.0 will be promoted on Delimiter, of course, but those promotions will be clearly labelled as Delimiter 2.0 articles.
Secondly, not everything on Delimiter 2.0 will be locked down. You’ll be able to get a feel for what each weekly article is about by reading the first four paragraphs of each article for free. In addition, the comments field will be completely open for anyone to comment on each article as they wish, just as on Delimiter itself.
I am, of course, aware that quite a few people will pirate the paywalled articles from a single login and forward them around via email and other platforms. This isn’t ideal and of course it’s impossible to completely prevent. However, I personally believe that this activity will actually boost subscriber numbers over the long term as it exposes additional people to Delimiter’s content. In addition, we’ll also have customised corporate packages available so that organisations will be able to get access to the articles for their employees en-masse.
Lastly, I want to make what some may believe to be a controversial statement.
The launch of Delimiter 2.0 is not an experiment. It’s not something I’m going to trial for a few months and then abandon if it doesn’t do well enough. This is something I will be working hard at for the foreseeable future, as an important sideline to the main Delimiter business.
I’ve run the numbers for what is possible for a site this size, and I’ve examined international and local examples where gated subscriptions have worked. The economics of a site like Delimiter 2.0 are very clear. To become a viable addition to Delimiter’s existing operations, Delimiter 2.0 only needs to sign up a few hundred regular subscribers — a tiny portion of Delimiter’s current audience. If it grows much beyond that, its business case will readily expand as well. At a certain point, I can see myself using some of the Delimiter 2.0 funding to contract additional articles for the site. If it gets big enough, I may be able to justify paying some of Australia’s best technology journalists to contribute their own detailed, lengthy work on a regular basis.
But more than this, the launch of Delimiter 2.0 is something that I want to do for myself. On a personal level, I want to generate better, more insightful, more opinionated, more contextual journalism, that will help influence and shape events in Australia in a positive way. This is stuff that I want to write; and it is my belief that Delimiter 2.0 will deliver me more justification for doing just that.
Furthermore, I am also aware that the delivery of insight and analysis — not just the bare news — is one of the things that many readers like about Delimiter as it exists today. It’s my hope that the launch of Delimiter 2.0 will focus and magnify that quality in a positive way.
OK, that’s enough for me today on this subject. If this article has interested you at all, I encourage you to head to Delimiter 2.0 and check out what I’ve put together there. I already have four articles up on the site, reflecting key issues over the past month or so in Australia’s technology sector. As always, let me know what you think. If you think those articles are worth paying to read, then pay. If you don’t, then ignore them and get on with your life. It’s up to you. But it’s my hope that with the launch of Delimiter 2.0, we can at least make a little dent. Let’s see if we can improve the quality of Australia’s national debate (in the technology sector) — at least just a little.
TL;DR: Delimiter now has a sister site, with more in-depth articles and a monthly subscription fee, but no ads :)