“These numbers would be fine for a political blog”

Duncan Grieve writes about Scout, a Mediaworks project

A Gossip Site Without Gossip

Through all this, Scout is still alive, still posting, leading Tuesday?with a story about Richie McCaw joining Movember, sourced from his facebook brand page. Despite its premium advertising slot ahead of the news and a major publicity campaign, its numbers have dropped away since the giddy highs of its launch day. Its unique browsers averaged around 2000 per day through the middle of November, according to figures leaked to The Spinoff, and have sagged?below 1000 on occasion. These would be fine numbers for a political blog, but represented abject failure for such a well-funded mass-market property, and hinted at the site?s real problem ? that it was a gossip site without much?gossip.

Duncan has some pretty sad expectations for a political blog then. ?


Even at our worst, Whaleoil clocks 17,390 uniques a day. ? Dropping below 1,000? ? With 11 staff? ?(Well, it was then, now it is just one, apparently.)

The interesting thing is that on launch day, Scout surpassed all Mediaworks’ other “web properties”, its TV, news, radio stations and so on. ? And it still has a free minute before the news on mainstream TV. ?My god, what we could do with a free 60-second advertising spot on TV every day… ? the mind boggles.

And now Scout?is doing less than 2,000 a day, sometimes less than 1,000 a day. ? So, I would imagine that Mark Weldon would be opening his chequebook and coming to Whaleoil to either buy us out, or to spend a very expensive lunch with us to see if we can actually make him understand the Internet.

You do not launch a web site with 11 staff. ?Especially when that web site is supposed to survive on New Zealand-based gossip. ?Gossip that comes to you through subterfuge and results in the subjects turning their backs on you. ? How are you going to get your next bit of gossip then?

At the heart of it, Weldon is right – a Perez Hilton-style site with a New Zealand flavour is definitely going to work. ?But whereas Hilton?can draw on a huge industry, we don’t have that much to write about. ?And most of what we do write about comes from envy and spite, such are the relationships in the tight-knit New Zealand community.

It is a huge step up to go from a column or two a week to having a local hard gossip story every day.

As a political blog, we strain going through the nearly three months when parliament doesn’t sit and our “local gossip engines” aren’t working. ?When we run out of local stuff, we pad it out with stories from overseas. ?But on any given day, at least half our blog points at New Zealand, and on a good day, just about all of it does.

Scout and Whaleoil are very similar?”web properties”. ?One is based on political gossip and analysis. ?The other is a society-based gossip and analysis site. ?The problem with Scout is that … no, Mark’s going to have to pay for that.

Very few people truly understand the Internet. ?And someone with neither media nor Internet business experience heading a media company is only going to survive by surrounding themselves with people who do, instead of thinking they know it all themselves.

With the stresses of their newsroom overhaul, and the continuous losses in audience in all but our dear friend Paul Henry, they’re facing as uncertain a future as Scout itself.


– Pete