When I founded Delimiter four and a half years ago, I did so because I loved Australia and was fascinated with technology. Because of this, I wanted to found a site that would cover the Australian technology sector exclusively — a site that would tell the stories of Australians, for an Australian audience. That’s the site I wanted to read, and so I created it myself.
I think it’s safe to say that the site achieved this aim. Almost 6,000 articles, 10.7 million page impressions (currently 120k unique browsers and 350k page impressions a month), 9,000 email newsletter subscribers and 114,000 reader comments later, Delimiter has become one of Australia’s largest and most significant technology media outlets. It has its own voice, its own community and its own very concrete influence.
I am frequently told by top-level executives, politicians, academics and other influential people involved in Australia’s technology sector that they consider the site a must-read, and Delimiter articles are regularly quoted in arenas as varied as company boardrooms and houses of Parliament, right around Australia.
The site’s success is a testament to what can be achieved when a writer picks one topic and focuses consistently on that topic for years.
It is also a testament to the strength and capabilities of the modern Internet publishing environment. Delimiter runs on open source platforms such as Ubuntu Linux and WordPress, uses a commodity design that was purchased off the rack, and utilises cloud computing platforms such as Mailchimp, Google Analytics and DoubleClick to provide essential services. These platforms are available to any writer for a cost that ranges from free to very cheap. And yet they have allowed the site to compete equally with the largest publishing companies in Australia on a daily basis.
Along the way, Delimiter has also become financially successful. Over the last three years, fuelled particularly through a partnership with the excellent Sydney-based sales representation agency HS3 Media, we’ve run many campaigns for many of Australia’s largest technology advertisers. Quite a few of those companies are now repeat clients, indicating that they see ongoing value in targeting Delimiter’s high-end community.
However, eventually all things must come to an end.
Today I write to let the Delimiter community know two things: Firstly, Delimiter will cease publishing new articles on Friday 4th July. And secondly, I have a new job.
As readers will be aware, the increasingly political nature of the national technology debate over the past several years has led me to develop close relationships with political stakeholders at all levels, in addition to engagement with the legislative and parliamentary process.
Unfortunately, the pace of change in Australia’s techno-political arena has often been slower than the community has desired. In addition, political parties have often advanced harmful legislation such as Labor’s Internet filter scheme.
This disconnect has consistently driven me to take an activist stance on technology policy issues on behalf of Delimiter’s readership and the wider Australian community; acting as a champion for digital privacy rights, for better broadband infrastructure and for an equitable industry playing field. To advance these outcomes, I have engaged daily with all levels of national and state politics and the public and private sectors; leveraging Delimiter’s community and behind the scenes intervention, education and negotiation towards better policy.
Late last month a new position was advertised which represented a natural extension of this work. You can read about the role here — its formal title is Parliamentary Business and Communications Advisor to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. I was successful in my application for this role.
The role will see me relocate to Canberra to work directly with Senator Ludlam on areas ranging from management of parliamentary activity to policy development and advice, especially in the area of broadband, communications and the digital economy, and support in negotiations with other parties and discussions with stakeholders. In general, I will be supporting Senator Ludlam with whatever he needs. I believe most readers will see this role as a good match, given the Greens’ policies and culture and Senator Ludlam’s ongoing and very valuable contribution to our country.
It should be obvious that this new position has a direct conflict of interest with my work at Delimiter. As a journalist I have been staunchly independent, attempting to maintain good relationships with all sides of politics and the private sector and holding all to account. However, in my new role I will be directly supporting one side — the Greens — and its interests. And yes, I am now a paid-up member of the Greens political party. Then too, the demanding nature of my new role will preclude any work on Delimiter.
I have explored various options for Delimiter to progress without me — ranging from selling the business outright to contracting others to run its editorial or even partnership arrangements with other organisations. These options are certainly feasible. Delimiter’s operations are already largely outsourced, with external organisations already managing its sales, finance and IT operations. And the site makes a very solid amount of revenue.
However, ultimately I have decided to take the most simple and direct route for Delimiter’s future: To cease its commercial and publishing operations, while leaving the existing site online.
This path has a number of distinct advantages.
Firstly, it is the most ethical path, given that it completely avoids any conflict of interest questions about a senior political staffer owning or benefiting from a business on the side. Secondly, it ensures that no lingering entanglements will distract me from my critical work with Senator Ludlam. And lastly, it ensures that the content published through Delimiter (both the articles and extensive comment threads) will remain online in perpetuity and remain a visible part of the history of Australia’s technology community. I have also already removed the paywall from Delimiter 2.0 so that those articles are also available to all.
I know that many readers and other stakeholders in Delimiter will be deeply disappointed by my decision to take this path. Many readers have come to see Delimiter as a daily part of their lives, both in reading our articles as well as discussing them. In addition, it’s not easy untangling the commercial and editorial relationships of a site like Delimiter.
However, ultimately Delimiter was created to serve my needs. It has done that admirably, but over time, as I have grown and developed as an individual, my needs have changed. Through my work at Delimiter, as well as at other publications such as ZDNet and the Financial Review, I have become one of Australia’s most recognised technology journalists. But now my path is taking me in a different direction, and I must follow that path to be true to myself.
Yes, Delimiter could continue on without me. However, if I’m honest, what has become apparent is that without me, it wouldn’t be the same site at all. It would not be likely to feel much like the Delimiter readers know and love. And I’ve put too much into the site to want to see that happen.
Please allow me to apologise to readers and other stakeholders about the sudden and unexpected nature of this decision. This opportunity has come up rather quickly; it has taken me and my family and friends rather by storm. I am as surprised as you that things are changing so quickly.
And now for the thanks.
Although it has appeared at times as though Delimiter has been a one-man effort, this is far from the truth. In reality, there are many people involved with the site. I would like to publicly thank the following people and groups for their assistance over the past four and a half years that Delimiter has been operational:
- Andy Corlett and the team at HS3 Media, who ensured Delimiter’s commercial success
- Anna Kyriacou and the team at AKA Group, who managed our finances admirably
- Bulletproof, for its rock solid web hosting (and customer service)
- Ben May and the team at Alyte Creative, for their incredible technical support
- Lachlan Macpherson and the team at Sennza, for their excellent web design help
- Darryl King and the team at ireckon, a key early web hosting partner
- Kay Lam-MacLeod and the team at IdeaLaw, who sorted out a bunch of legal issues for us
- Sean Kaye for his early advice and mentorship, which was critical in getting Delimiter onto a commercial footing
- Israel Smith for being a constant inspiration and source of positive advice
I actively recommend all of these organisations and individuals to other small businesses needing the kind of assistance Delimiter has received. Each has been critical to Delimiter’s success.
I would also like to thank certain categories of people.
Delimiter was largely inspired by, and based on, existing sites. With this in mind, I’d like to thank Tim Burrowes from Mumbrella, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger and Digital Photography School fame, and Michael Arrington from TechCrunch for their hard work on their own sites, which directly inspired my own.
A big thank you goes to the all the public relations and press secretary staff who I have dealt with over the years — dating back to 2005, when I first started as a technology journalist with ZDNet. I haven’t always been the easiest journalist to deal with and I’ve been harshly critical at times. I apologise for that. But I fundamentally believe that Australia’s PR industry is among the best in the world and I have many fantastic, trust-based relationships with individuals and agencies that have been mutually beneficial.
To all the advertising clients who we’ve work with, thank you for working with us. We’ve pulled off some great campaigns by working closely with a fantastic bunch of clients who deeply understand and care about their work. I believe Australia’s advertising industry is among the most innovative geography globally — paving new ground continually. And what’s more, it is highly focused on delivering actual results, which is the most important thing.
To all the sources who have fed Delimiter information over the years (anonymous or otherwise), thank you. Your commitment to transparency and accountability, sometimes even at the risk of your own position, is laudable and has helped our great democracy and corporate sector remain accountable. Likewise to everyone I’ve formally interviewed — I’ve had a lot of fun speaking to so many different people, and you have all contributed greatly to Delimiter.
To my fellow journalists, also a huge thank you. Over the past ten years, I’ve collaborated with almost every technology journalist of any note in Australia, and partied with the rest. We’ve had our squabbles and dust-ups, but overall you’re a fantastic bunch. I cut my teeth as a journalist trying to work out how greats like Ben Woodhead, Michael Sainsbury and Emma Connors got their stories, and my skills were tempered by fantastic editors like Iain Ferguson, Joshua Gliddon and Paul Smith. Others such as Chris Duckett, David Braue, Steven Deare, Munir Kotadia, Suzanne Tindal and Liam Tung have also taught me a stack.
I’m also very proud of the work being done by young guns such as Josh Taylor, David Ramli, James Hutchinson, Allie Coyne and Paris Cowan. Their work is very important to the future of the industry. And I must thank journalists such as Jenna Pitcher, Marina Freri and Nathan Statz, who worked with me directly in Delimiter’s early years, as well as regular contributors such as Jenneth Orantia.
A big shout out also goes to Australia’s brave cadre of independent publishers — the people behind sites like AusBT, Australian Anthill, Digitally Downloaded, MacroBusiness, Whirlpool, The Roar, MacTalk, WhistleOut and more. Only we know the trials, tribulations and financial risks that have gone into bringing these sites to life. The title of “Publisher” is truly a crown of thorns.
I particularly want to highlight independent Australian technology media sites such as iTWire and Ausdroid, which Delimiter has developed a close working relationship with over time. There is a substantial degree of audience and commercial overlap with such sites and I am confident they will be able to fill much of the gap which Delimiter will leave.
My wife, family and close friends deserve a massive thanks for putting up with the thousands of discussions I’ve had at home about Delimiter and technology journalism in general. They have had a great deal of patience with me over the years and I owe them a huge debt. Hopefully I will be doing less talking and more listening in the years ahead.
And lastly, of course, there are the readers, who have always been the most important stakeholders in Delimiter. They have always come first.
Oh, dear. Don’t make me tear up here. I’ve spent nearly every goddamn day with you lovable bastards over the past four and a half years, and I have come to think of all of you as family. We’ve been through every possible kind of occasion together, through the good times, the bad times, and the ugly times. Many of you are my brothers and sisters, others have provided fatherly advisor roles. And then there are the crazy uncles …
Only a few years ago, journalists existed in a kind of disconnected reality. We would feverishly work on articles and then throw them out into the ether. We never knew who read our work or what they thought of it. But over the past decade that has changed dramatically. I am not exaggerating when I say that for the past four and a half years I’ve existed in a kind of instantly networked hive mind situation with tens of thousands of Australians — people with whom I’ve discussed every possible issue endlessly, sharing every joy and sorrow.
“Thank you” doesn’t begin to cut it here. How do you say “thank you” to your family? You can’t, really. The relationship is too close and intense — scary, sometimes. And it will always endure. You are all part of me, and my articles are a part of you. I will now carry you with me into a new endeavour.
Apologies if I have forgotten anyone else. There have been so many people who have assisted me on this great journey. You know who you are.
So, will Delimiter ever start publishing again?
I won’t rule that out entirely, but what I can say is that it is very unlikely. You can’t just ‘stop and start’ sites like Delimiter — the commercial relationships take a while to establish. Then too, I’m kind of done with journalism. I’ve done it for ten years now, at every level, and I don’t really want to do it any more. I want to do something else. I will write other things in my time, but I don’t think I will return to the daily Australian technology news beat I’ve been living on for a decade. I will leave that to others. Even if I did one day return to journalism, I would try and write about other topics.
Of course, there are still the next few weeks until Delimiter finishes up for good. You’ll all have plenty of time to say goodbye and to mull over my choices. And I won’t vanish from Australia’s technology community — in fact, I’ll be right at the heart of it. I’ll also still be working towards the public interest. But you won’t be able to come to Delimiter every day and find out what I think of things. That will be a bittersweet — but necessary — change for us all.
And lastly, a message to anyone out there who’s thinking of starting their own business: Just go and do it. It’s both much harder and much easier than it looks. But the reality is that it will take you on a journey and teach you things that you won’t be able to learn any other way. And, of course, along the way you will solve problems that nobody else will. You are much stronger than you realise. If you want something done right, do it yourself.