Crikey‘s new The Daily Review: why you shouldn’t volunteer for a for-profit media organisation

by Byron Bache

Freelancers and current, past and future Crikey contributors:

Today, Crikey is launching a new arts website called The Daily Review. It has no contributor budget.

We are writing to ask you not to contribute to it for free, and to tell you why we won’t be doing so ourselves.

This is about fairness, and recognition of the value the work of arts writers has contributed to a publication we are immensely proud to write for. It’s about beginning a discussion. To that end, we have CCed Crikey‘s editor Jason Whittaker, The Daily Review‘s editor Raymond Gill, and Private Media CEO Marina Go and Chairman Eric Beecher on this email.

Crikey‘s arts, entertainment and culture coverage was always an extra, an add-on, a side street. Thanks largely to Jason’s championing of the coverage, it’s now a big deal: it’s a large enough piece of the Crikey pie that it’s getting its own website, with a significant investment of money. The Daily Review already has a paid full-time editor, and a paid full-time journalist.

Crikey‘s arts coverage has, until now, been on its blogs. Crikey bloggers are paid on a sliding bonus scale. (Those contributing to Curtain Call may not even be aware of this, given the blog’s multi-voiced nature.)

Some Crikey blogs make money. Some even hit the high end of this scale every month. If you’ve blogged for Crikey, you may have been regularly paid for your work or you may have never seen a cent.

The bonus system—one that values content based on the audience it attracts, a flawed system that doesn’t value writers or writing—was at least a nod to the worth of the content it rewarded.

Not paying contributors (and the based-on-pageviews payment scale) made a degree of sense before. Now it looks like an organisation getting greedy. At its launch, and at least until the end of the current financial year, The Daily Review has no contributor budget at all.

(Some existing Crikey arts blogs will remain in their current form, with their content syndicated on The Daily Review and in its twice-weekly email iterations. Pageviews on Daily Review will not count toward bonus payments.)

Contributors to the Crikey subscriber email are paid per piece, at rates starting at $150, regardless of word length. Crikey considers their writing to be worth money, but not yours. The contributor budget for the daily email runs to tens of thousands of dollars every month.

For those of you who’ve been writing for Crikey for years now, the announcement of an arts portal should have been an exciting thing; it should have meant money in your pocket—financial recognition of the contribution you’ve made to the Crikey brand. Instead, it’s a slap in the face. Your work has made Crikey‘s arts coverage the go-to destination it has become; without it, The Daily Review would be an unimaginable proposition.

The switch to an aggregated arts site means that, for contributors, there will be no bonus scheme in place. If you choose to contribute to The Daily Review, you will be writing for free, and you will be doing so for a website that makes money. You will be doing so for a website that pays over $100,000 a year in salaries to its two staff, but pays you nothing.

It is ethically reprehensible for a company to expand and actually stop paying the people who produce its product. A company which asks its readers to pay for content doesn’t feel the same obligation when it comes to its writers.

In a statement on Mumbrella, Jason Whittaker described The Daily Review as “an unashamedly commercial venture” and “fertile advertising ground”. The Daily Review will make money.

The Daily Review‘s success depends on its content. If you can’t afford content, you cant afford to launch an arts website. If you can’t afford to launch an arts website, don’t launch one.

Crikey is the only site of its size and scope that regularly publishes large amounts of content by unpaid writers. Indeed, there are far smaller sites that pay their contributors; Junkee, The Hoopla, Birdee, Mamamia, The King’s Tribune, Writers Bloc, SameSame and Mess+Noise all pay for the pieces they publish. Contributors to The Daily Review should be paid, and they should be paid at the same rates as regular Crikey contributors: a flat rate, starting at $150 per piece.

Arts journalism is a small pond, and it’s likely you will be asked to contribute to The Daily Review at some point, as the number of writers willing to give their work away shrinks. Don’t work for free.

By refusing to volunteer for a for-profit media organisation, you’re beginning a conversation about your value. If that value is zero, there are other outlets that will pay you for your work.

Please feel free to forward or republish this email in full.


Byron Bache, Laurence Barber and Bethanie Blanchard


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