Private Media has launched INQ – an ‘inquiry’ journalism arm of its independent news and commentary website Crikey – led by a team of 12 journalists and editors 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”.
In a post on Crikey’s website, Private Media CEO Eric Beecher said of the new INQ team: “Crikey has stuck its nose into plenty of interesting troughs over its 18-year history. Some savory, some smelly, hopefully most of them relevant and revealing. Now we’ve just added a whole lot more noses in the trough.”
INQ sits within the Crikey website, INQ articles are published in the daily Crikey newsletter, and all INQ articles are delivered as part of a Crikey subscription.
INQ Editor Lauren Molan told subscribers “‘Inquiry’ doesn’t just mean ‘investigative’ with a new name. This isn’t just about gotcha pieces and corruption yarns. Inquiry simply put, means diving deeper. There are lots of people waiting for an opportunity to tell their story, but in the 24/7 news cycle, they never get asked…We’re looking to do things differently.”
Investing in independent journalism
Beecher said that 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.
“The result, we hope, will be a steady stream of stories and investigations that, individually and collectively, shine light on what’s happening under Australia’s hood and behind the veil of power, influence, money and cosy networks.”Eric Beecher, CEO, Private Media
“This is a big deal for Crikey. We’re a small, fiercely independent publisher compared with the likes of the ABC, News Corp and Nine Entertainment.
“INQ is our attempt to play in the bigger sandpit of Australian investigative journalism. And, we hope, to do it in a distinctive way that is unconstrained by establishment preferences or ideological frameworks.”
Is it commercially viable?
The launch of the INQ initiative is enviable – who doesn’t want more sources of independent journalism? But it is an incredibly large investment in editorial for a niche publisher. On launch, investor Fairfax told the Australian Financial Review that he was confident in the subscription model ensuring the commerciality of the product.
Crikey subscriptions are available for $207 annually, or $17.99 monthly. Beecher is an experienced publishing executive, but whichever way you spin it, adding 12 investigative journalists to the team requires a steep increase in subscription revenue.
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.”
It doesn’t matter what size audience you have, it’s hard to monetise, so it’s not about size of audience it’s about quality of audience.Eric Beecher to AdNews in 2017
Beecher has also previously been quoted saying that Private Media’s success relies on small, exclusive networks, defined not by topic area but by the personality, tone, and depth of content required by a quality audience.
After being inducted into AdNews’ Australian Magazine Awards Hall of Fame in 2017, he told AdNews “Specialist publications are always much closer to that audience. In my view that is circumventing a lot of the structural challenges that the rest of the media is facing. It doesn’t matter what size audience you have, it’s hard to monetise, so it’s not about size of audience it’s about quality of audience.”
If anyone can make INQ commercially viable, Beecher can.