CRIKEY IN CRISIS: Eric Beecher panics behind his paywall about being squeezed out by the free and the ABC

beecherabc The Australian today reports an extraordinary rant by Eric Beecher, the fellow who paid $1 million to buy lefty email newsletter Crikey a few years ago and has spent at least that much again on the loss-making concern.

On his watch, the newsletter has become a bland lite-version of Crikey that once used to break a few yarns and crack a few skulls on behalf of its mostly male, inner-city left-wing readership of public servants and ne’er-do-wells.

VEXNEWS has previously reported that Crikey is struggling to pay its own way. Beecher is thought to subsidise the operations of Crikey using the theoretically separately owned Busines Spectator in a variety of “sly ways” according to one observer familiar with the ramshackle operation.

Beecher is enjoying slightly more success with flogging ads on the BusinessSpectator which cynics see as a way of getting a repackaged version of the Fin Review without having to pay for it. The cost of getting the Fairfax finance daily online is around $1500 per annum, pricing many potential readers out of the market.

Business Spectator has some good columnists but its Fairfax competition believe their business model is based on plagiarism. Fairfax Business Media publisher Michael Gill told The Australian in 2009:

“People have websites that are based on rewriting AFR copy,” he said. “(Business Spectator) is the one I’m noticing. They … use the abstracts to populate the site with what appears to be a lot of content. My understanding is they abstract every single story (from the AFR). Their model for the world is to plagiarise things.”

Beecher has gone ballistic about the ABC’s The Drum opinion website for a number of reasons he fails to explain in today’s yarn.

According to sources familiar with Beecher’s increasingly sullen mood, he was very unhappy about Crikey’s editor Jonathan Green being poached by them originally for all the normal human reasons that would normally cause concern: jealousy, sadness, fear.

Green speaks to the small ‘l’ liberal crowd well, hailing from The Age where he wrote free-and-easy pieces about inner-city concerns; he knows the lefty opinion market “like the back of his self-abusing hand” according to a harsh former colleague who has promised us “filthy” stories about Green for years but hasn’t yet delivered.

And as a former Crikey editor, he had a good Rolodex of comrades who – for a couple of hundred bucks would churn out a couple of couple words of lefty opinion or argument on whatever you wanted from climate change to whale welfare.

In his new role, supported by a reasonable budget from the ABC hierarchy who wanted to make The Drum work, Green has systematically poached most of the best of Crikey’s writers using cash and the prospect of a bigger audience.

Green’s methods are driving Eric Beecher, the eccentric millionaire, barking mad.

Beecher can’t compete with the rates for writers paid by Green, who has even on occasion offered and paid retainers to Crikey writers to get them to stop writing for Crikey with additional payments for pieces they write for the Drum. It’s hardball and Beecher doesn’t like it.

It’s competition of a kind that Beecher is struggling to handle. His fury has spilled out today in The Australian. It is clear his agenda is to have The Drum shut down.

It seems very unlikely that ABC management will listen and equally unlikely their minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, would meddle to do any such thing.

Maybe the Liberals would – one day – direct that the ABC broadcasting charter doesn’t extend to churning out thousands of written words a week on a website, even if the cost is relatively small. But it’s not exactly a pressing national priority for anyone. Except Beecher.

Beecher is perfectly comfortable with The Punch, the News Limited’s “Crikey killer” free-site for the simple reason that it – like VEXNEWS – doesn’t pay contributors (other than the small, highly-capable staff) and rarely calls on anyone from Crikey’s own left-leaning stable of nags.

Beecher’s ostensible complaint is that The Drum contains “wacky personal opinions” that are “mainly from the Left” is an egregious case of the pot calling the kettle black.

His real worry is that The Drum is slopping up for free what he charges around $100 a year for: left-leaning opinion and argument but with sometimes more established writers and a much more vibrant comment/argument space that is probably the best part of the ABC’s website.

He cites the example of Marieke Hardy, an arty-lefty writer Beecher would love to have on-board but cannot afford so he instead vilifies her for writing mean things about Christopher Pyne on The Drum that were certainly a little silly but are definitely well within the very broad parameters of indecency that have prevailed at Crikey in the past. Pyne is a popular punching-bag in political circles, his quirky personal style and feisty approach guarantees him a reasonable amount of attention which he has used to build one of the highest national political profiles on the conservative side. We doubt he worries too much about what Marieke Hardy has to say.

One of the few Liberal voices in Crikey is a chap called Charles Richardson who has previously argued in Crikey that pedophiles enjoying “virtual sex” with imaginary children is a perfectly harmless thing and writes very supportive commentary about the Greens party while maintaining a business partnership conducting dodgy ballots in student elections with a Greens party activist Stephen Luntz. The rest are mostly anti-Labor left-wing types who either support the Greens or other strands of the extreme-left.

Of course, Beecher’s not the only person to have raised the issue of state-sponsored journalism and content muscling out the private sector. Many others are worried about it too.

Beecher’s complaints would mean a lot more if Crikey served a useful purpose, if it broke news. It very rarely does these days, notwithstanding the impressive work of young leftist scribe Andrew Crook who recently managed to dig up some old memos from within the dying dinosaur The Age explaining the full extent of its circulation rorts and distorts.

Crook, we hear, is contemplating departure from Crikey soon anyway, leaving the cupboard very bare indeed. No wonder Beecher is getting screechy.



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18 responses to “CRIKEY IN CRISIS: Eric Beecher panics behind his paywall about being squeezed out by the free and the ABC

  1. Anon

    Andrew – I think you’re confusing Crikey’s *Charles* Richardson with esteemed economic forecaster, Chris Richardson.

  2. Crikey Batman

    Your flimsy praise of Pyne is silly Andrew. Pyne’s former staffer and close friend, coke addict, reformed homosexual and alcoholic is Christian Kerr who wrote the most scandalous things posing as Hillary Bray. It has never been revealed that Kerr was sacked from Premier John Olsen’s staff for self pleasure in a tax cab. He then went back to Pyne’s staff. If that is ‘fiesty style’ then you are right , I prefer to call it faggy style.

  3. Coke-Head LINO-Filth Kerr

    Crikey Batman, you are so unkind.

  4. Pedro

    Crikey has been dead for a few years now – it just does not know it! Nobody talks about, nobody cares about it! This is the first time for a few years I have read something about it. So long Crkey.

  5. Tebbitt

    The great irony of course is that Beecher’s empire is heavily subsidised by ABC promotion. Alan Kohler, for example, lends his prime ABC presence to Eureka Report – an investor tip sheet that subsidises his BusinessSpectator and to a lesser extent Crikey itself. And who would know of Ms Hardy if it were not for her curious presence on the Book Show etc? Mayne is on ABC every two minutes. Even the weird Greg Barns gets a go on radio with remarkable frequency (so to speak).

  6. VexNews forever

    How wonderful to see the tanks rolling up on Crikey’s lawn. Godspeed to you brother Landeryou in hastening the demise of the malevolent one.

  7. Onward Christian Soldiers

    Lovely picture of you in the Australian today Andrew. Can I get you to autograph my copy?

  8. Beeched Whale

    Why is everyone so unkind? We only wanted to destroy newspapers, undermine all who were ever unkind to us and control the world. Now everyone’s being so mean.

  9. Pissy Chryne

    Especially when I’m

  10. Poll blogger

    Even Poll Bludger has become extremely repetitive and prone to censorship,a pack of tea leaf readers, sucking up fee-advice from the likes of Antony Green and Senator Feeney’s Staff. Both contribute whilst on the payroll drinking too much at the public bar.

  11. impressed of ivanhoe

    Stevie Mayne might be a bit of an attention seeking serial pest these days but one must admire his selling skills in off-loading that email-newsletter business for a cool mil.

  12. US Australia back it vernacular

    The sooner Crikey’s demise the better. They stole one of Australia’s greatest vernacular and claimed copyright over words that were not of their making. They are nothing but cultural pirates and very un-Australian

  13. Dan Lewis

    I have no sympathy for Crikey whatsoever. However I agree that the ABC should ease up on the leftist propaganda.

    I don’t have to pay a cent for Crikey (nor do I) however I’m compelled to pay for the ABC.

  14. Media owner spending big to support ‘loss-making concern’. No one would ever be THAT stupid!

  15. Archie Wedderspoon

    Does any sensible person take the news media these days?

  16. Taking of Pell 123

    I much prefer the Catholic Weekly Website where I can read some decent opinion pieces by Cardinal Pell. Now thats media!!

  17. Mike Baird

    My daddy and I have never liked Crikey – it does not appear to be very christian – I am sure they do not take the bible as the literal word of god – i have never seen an article on the historical accuracy of the flood, the walls of Jericho or jonah living in a whale –

  18. Little Blonde Choir Boy

    Please Cardinal Pell don’t make me visit your parochial house tonight.

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