The New Daily just turned 10. Here is the ambitious plan that started it all

Australia’s media landscape was in turmoil in 2011 when an unlikely conversation between a respected media veteran and a former ACTU assistant secretary gave birth to The New Daily.

Traditional media – particularly newspapers – were scrambling to adjust to a sweeping digital transformation that would forever change the news business.

In the face of this Bruce Guthrie, a former editor of The Age, The Sunday Age and the Herald Sun, and industry superannuation pioneer Garry Weaven got together to imagine a new online media organisation that would embrace the changes and offer a free news service to a new audience.

Guthrie says at first he was cautious and thought “it would take five or 10 years to build an audience”. But Weaven believed industry super funds members looking for free, quality news could deliver significant subscriber numbers.

As planning for the business advanced, Solstice Media CEO and current managing director of The New Daily, Paul Hamra, came on board. So too did another media veteran, Private Media chair Eric Beecher.

Hamra brought the experience of launching an already up-and-running online publication, Adelaide’s InDaily, and infrastructure that could be used as a platform for The New Daily.

In the decade since that idea of a new media player went live on November 13, 2013, The New Daily has gone from a standing start to a significant news website, sitting among Australia’s top 15 news sources and holding its own against long-established mastheads, serving almost 430,000 highly-engaged subscribers each day, with 1.35 million unique users per month. 

That means it has become a household name for many, with hundreds of thousands of readers relying on The New Daily daily morning email for their first take on the all-important news and opinion of the day.

It has also been recognised for journalistic success.

The New Daily journalist Samantha Maiden won a Walkey Award for her scoop on then Prime Minster Scott Morrison’s Hawaii trip during the catastrophic 2020 bushfires.

There have also been awards for Michael Pascoe’s reporting on the Robodebt scandal and Lucie Morris-Marr’s comprehensive coverage of the landmark George Pell sexual abuse trial.

Guthrie, who was to be founding editorial director at The New Daily, said the site’s creation had made a significant contribution to the media world.

“I’m proud that we’ve become part of the media conversation and part of the landscape, which is no small achievement given how many competitors have come and gone in that time,” he said.

Independent voice

Weaven says he thought that a new, independent voice in the media could deliver important benefits to super fund members, as well as the general reading public.

“A key issue for me was to make sure we covered superannuation and investment themes and an important part of that was to fairly report on the performance of the growing industry fund movement, which wasn’t happening at the time,” Weaven said.

“The founders thought a major plank in the design of The New Daily had to be independent news coverage that the public could trust,” Guthrie said.

“To ensure that, we wrote a charter of editorial independence that remains one of our guiding principles.”

After two years of planning, The New Daily was launched to something of a fanfare, with Guthrie featured on media personality Eddie McGuire’s Triple M Melbourne radio show.

The public response was massive, with so many listeners logging on that the site briefly crashed with the unexpected numbers.

Technical improvements quickly stopped that from happening again but the experience helped show there was strong demand for what The New Daily was offering.

“We realised there is an incredible hunger for non-Murdoch media out there. People really wanted new independent outlets, so we knew we were in fertile territory,” Guthrie said.

Today, as well as breaking news, the coverage includes politics, entertainment, finance, life, travel and work.

The New Daily was initially launched with a unique ownership and funding model being backed by foundation investors AustralianSuper, Cbus, HESTA, First Super, LUCRF and Industry Super Holdings, a company providing services to industry super funds.

It also relied on revenue from advertising carried on the site.

Although there was strong reader support, The New Daily launched into what had become a terribly difficult advertising market. Advertising costs had dropped dramatically from $60 per CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) to about $10 due to an explosion of online competitors.

However, revenues and audiences grew over time and and today Hamra says the site is about “75 per cent self-sufficient” as commercial revenues cover most of the costs.

Another decision made before the launch of The New Daily was determining where it would sit politically.

Chair Cath Bowtell says “historically the Fairfax [now Nine owned] papers were on the left and News Corp papers were further to the right.”

Research from the University of Canberra shows The New Daily has about the same percentage of readers who identify politically with the centre and left as does the ABC online site.

“That to me tells you that the charter of independence is working,” Bowtell said.

Delivering independent, timely and interesting news to subscribers (who get access for free) is an important aim. But the industry super fund owners also value the awareness of superannuation it engenders.

Financial awareness

The New Daily has become a valuable resource for readers and super fund members through the delivery of consumer finance stories.

Not only do those stories deliver useful information but “people are more likely to engage with their super as a result of consumer finance material that they read,” Bowtell said.

The fact that many recipients who have become subscribers through the industry super fund movement see a banner naming their super fund with that morning’s email delivery of The New Daily is important for brand recognition.

Seeing that banner helps keep them more engaged with their fund and encourages them to check balances, examine investment allocations and review performance.

The site was initially mainly news focused, but in recent times has increased its offering of analysis and commentary with names like Alan Kohler and Michael Pascoe with their strong economics focus, along with Canberra veteran Paul Bongiorno, former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements, demographer Simon Kuestenmacher, and Madonna King with her focus on social and personal issues.

But news remains the driver.

“We’ve realised giving people unvarnished news that is honest and objective is actually refreshing, along with intelligent takes on what’s happening behind that,” Guthrie said.

The New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings

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