Independent media gathers steam while mainstream struggles: latest numbers

David v Goliath: Size doesn't always matter! (image courtesy}

Independent public interest journalism continues to attract larger audiences. Growth in online readership at jumped 67 per cent in the last quarter. Kim Wingerei at reports.

AUDIENCE GROWTH at is part of the broader trend — the latest report for independent digital media shows overall growth of 21.7 per cent in the 27 sites in the index, while the “big four” – Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian and – continue to decline in print and battle to get enough subscribers behind their paywalls to fund their newsrooms.

In the week when Crikey announced much welcome additions to its journalism ranks, it is great to be able to report the continued growth of online independent media(1) in Australia. In the third quarterly report, the 27 online sites(2) tracked grew their web traffic numbers by 21.74 per cent from February to May 2019. With the previous period growth of 10 per cent, that is a whopping 33.9 per cent compound growth over the last six months.

Crikey is another one of the outstanding performers on the list with 49 per cent monthly growth in visits – to 446,000 in May (despite having a paywall) according to SimilarWeb – an online audience measurement service. Crikey will need that kind of growth to help support the addition of a dozen journalists in their new INQ unit (”Inquiry Journalism”), but they seem to have found the right balance with their subscription model and funding from high net worthers Cameron O’Reilly and John Fairfax.

May was, of course, an election month, no doubt adding fuel to the numbers for progressive stalwart who had almost 500,000 visits in May. West’s growth of 67 per cent was fuelled also by the Watergate coverage and other stories covering corporatocracy and tax avoidance — as well as trying (sadly, somewhat in vain) to put franking credits in a proper perspective.

Australian independent media on the rise

John Menadue’s Pearl & Irritations collection of seasoned and diverse commentators also increased its audience by 32 per cent; but for connoisseurs of satire, it was great to see The Chaser almost trebling its audience from February to May.

Granted, many of the sites on the list have significant peaks and troughs month-on-month governed by the number of articles posted. In an election month, the overall output was also much higher than average, adding to readership numbers.

However, the same would be true for mainstream media. TheIndependents use the “big four” (the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian and as a benchmark for growth and in the same period their combined online visits dropped 1.7 per cent. Note: The Australian is the only one of the “big four” with a hard paywall.

The Guardian (au) grew by 10.2 per cent and The New Daily, having bolstered its ranks with top journalists Quentin Dempster, Samantha Maiden and Paul Bongiorno, grew an impressive 26.4 per cent. Neither is included in our independent index(2) but should both be counted as challengers to the mainstream behemoths.

And although ABC has copped a fair bit of criticism lately, it remains a substantial bastion against the infotainment giants of Nine and Murdoch; its 67 million online visits(3) in May was up 10.9 per cent on February — the only one close to it was with 49.4 million Australian visits, down 13.4 per cent (4).

In a world where print readership continues to decline (down 7.9 per cent from March 2018 to March 2019 according to Roy Morgan) and is being replaced by online media consumption, independent and challenger media is growing fast as mainstream media is in decline on all fronts.

Independent media is on the rise(5). So, keep supporting it whenever and however you can!


(1)        For a definition of independent media – click here.

(2)        List of sites included in index

(3)        Using publicly available data we are unable to report on specific sections of their portal

(4)        The decline for was partially offset by a similar nominal increase in visits to

(5)        Click here for google spreadsheet containing the data


Kim Wingerei

Kim Wingerei is a businessman turned writer and commentator. He is passionate about free speech, human rights, democracy and the politics of change. Originally from Norway, Kim has lived in Australia for 30 years. Author of ‘Why Democracy is Broken – A Blueprint for Change’. 

You can follow Kim’s blog or on Twitter @kwingerei



Independent media continues to grow while mainstream media stagnates

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