I loathe tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) posts but over this issue I will do one as paying (or not) for content online is the most important issue for the future of bloggers and new media and one I have put a great deal of thought into both for The Truth and this blog.
When Bernard Hickey announced with much fanfare and bravado he was setting up www.journalism.org.nz others were telling Hickey what he wanted to hear but I was instantly skeptical at the stunt and said so in full. Socialists do not part with their own money and this was a left wing vehicle. Hickey skited he would cover stories other MSM would not.
The first issue was Hickey’s arrogant attitude to the project and relationship with www.interest.co.nz. I continue to write this blog and am editor of The Truth. I cannot do both jobs without help and appreciate the staff at The Truth for their work so far. It is not as easy as it looks but I am spending less time on it as I learn the job. Surely Hickey could see the level of time required, most of it on his own?
The second issue was Hickey clearly relied on the unreliable in Selwyn Pellett. A wealthy man but not one who parts with coin as freely as others on the right to fund projects like this. A man with his own agenda who spends a disproportionate amount of his time arguing senselessly on Twitter as a “critical friend” of the Labour Party.
Selwyn Pellett claims to not be a member of the Labour Party but tweeted attendance at the recent Annual conference. John Tamihere was not a member at the time and not allowed. Pellett is a “critical friend” who does not even believe enough in the Party to join it. It shows a level of commitment that equalled his to Hickey.
So Bernard Hickey cans the project the same week he sells his Epsom home for $1+ million and moves to Wellington, for no apparent reason than his daughter is at University there. Hickey’s reasons were:
1. Underestimating the time and salary sacrifice involved
Every small business needs cash to start-up. Most have a period where the owner receives no income. Hickey left interest.co.nz according to his original release on 1 November.
Why didn’t he release the website idea with a breaking story to show what he would produce? Fact is he hasn’t had one memorable toe-curler since the Crafar farm face-off. He has limited his role in the media to commentator/Labour parrot and Herald on Sunday columnist.
I have come to the conclusion that the need to support my family through freelance journalism and commentary will not leave sufficient time for me to continue to take the lead role in journalism.org during its formative stage.
In other words, despite grossing $1+ million on the house according to NBR, he was not prepared to do what most small business owners have to do and mortgage the house to back himself and put equity into the new venture. Not having enough time to devote to the project and wanting to spend more time with his family are euphemisms for “I should have thought more about it before chucking my toys at interest.co.nz and bragging I could do this”.
2. Everyone lied about paying for the start-up
We will have to fight for funding in an economic environment where philanthropy is less evident than in more prosperous times and where we need to be wary of the difference between verbal commitments to donate and actually putting a hand in one’s pocket.
The economic environment really has nothing to do with it. According to Hickey the economy has been in crisis for years. The bottom line is that people will not front with cash until they see what is on offer on the website. The NBR for example created their online product BEFORE people signed up. Even on Hickey’s online poll on the website there was fair indication not many people were interested enough to click a box. Everyone will slap you on the back congratulating you and saying they will sign up because it is easy to say that. Most are lying, especially socialists. I have told Hickey what to do, break a big story to launch it in style, not a whimper and fizz.
3. Pellett must have pulled out
He had previously acknowledged it was risky to rely on one large donor – if they lost interest or wanted to make the site a vehicle for their own views.
You do not have to be a genius to see what happened. Hickey found out Pellett is a control freak and wanted to push his own agenda. He has some awfully weird ideas that even Hickey could not suffer. Remember Hickey predicted a 30% drop in house prices at one point, then changed his mind? His commentary is all over the place and unrealistic. Hickey’s effort on Sunday is a perfect example. There was no real reason to write that column. It lacked purpose and was merely parroting prior World According To Bernard Hickey. To be blunt, Hickey has gone stale. He has pigeon holed himself into a ridiculous prediction man. The latest large failure was predicting the Eurozone would collapse in October 2012. Compare Hickey to Fran O’Sullivan who does not go around making outrageous (incorrect) predictions to get attention. She produces an endless stream of new material and perspective twice a week and has done for decades.
Hickey has now worked out precisely why New Zealanders just buy property and wait for it to appreciate in value as an investment before selling it. He has written about potentially becoming a property investor.
While there is no shame in business reporters not being in business themselves, the massive miscalculation of start-up capital and funding is facepalm material. The only people interested in Hickey’s sort of alarmist Chicken Little stories are people who will not pay for the news. They are also as I have said, socialists and as I told my new largest new fan; grumpy, old media Brian Edwards unequivocally on The Nation – socialists do not part easily with money and make terrible paymasters. It is why his now political polar opposite and my largest new critic ; grumpy, old media Bill Ralston, got realistic about life and changed his colours. Capitalists and corporates pay the bills. Socialists just want everything for free.
Or do they?
Keith Ng scored how much for writing about a planned hack? But even at several thousand dollars a story in funding and donations from the public it will never be enough to fund Hickey’s lifestyle full-time given the amount of time you have to put into a story. As I have found in my new position as an Editor it takes enough time at The Truth to get everything out each week, let alone produce investigative reporting where you may spend hundreds of hours for nothing. Phil Kitchin for example is testament to three stories a year max, and he has scraped the barrel from his semi-retirement this year in quality after doing precisely what investigative reporters do not and allow themselves to be captured and kidnapped by a PR hack. David Fisher has gone soft and is filling his Herald space interviewing Kim Dot Con’s hired help.
Hickey also insulted large chunks of the business mainstream media by all but saying they were in the pocket of corporates so not doing their job as well as he could independently. They will all be chuckling at his failure, some were led to believe Hickey actually owned interest.co.nz.
To fund actual news reporting, particularly the sort Hickey wanted to produce, you cannot start without a large amount of cash to support yourself and time. That is why you need a very wealthy and consistent funder to support you to develop your website and content. Or raise the funds yourself.
I just hope Hickey is now less sanctimonious in his writing of others in New Zealand business, taking risks (or not), capitalism and the natural lust in economic models for money, power and profits.
He has proven in this mis-adventure to be just like everyone else.