Words by: Caitlin Cefai
In a world intoxicated by a desire for instantaneous knowledge, social media has become everyone’s favourite vice. The speed at which you can find information on anything no longer relies on flicking through an encyclopaedia. Now, just type a word or two into a search bar and decades of largely unfiltered and unverified websites spew forth from the ghastly underbelly of the internet beast, complete with comments that ensure you’re aware of everybody and anybody’s opinion on what you’re searching.
What is concerning is the quality and accessibility of this information, particularly in relation to news. In an age of media extremes, where fake news and politically biased content is overrepresented online, it’s getting complicated to differentiate what is informative, true and objective from all the other nefarious stuff.
One company that is seeking to be transparent and objective is The Daily Aus (TDA), Australia’s leading socials-first news service. Covering important news including topics ranging from the pandemic’s daily case numbers to elections, through to Aussie sports news and expanding into global health and political news. This is all done through social media posts, stories, videos and podcasts, which are promoted across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify. With over 350,000 Instagram followers and plans to expand internationally, the team at TDA represent a future for news that is accessible and engaging, without the pressures and hindrances that big media companies face.
To learn more about TDA and the changing media landscape in Australia, I spoke with co-founder Sam Koslowski about the company’s beginnings, achievements and goals for the future.
How did The Daily Aus first start?
I had the idea for TDA back in 2013, when I was on a train in my gap year in Europe as an 18-year-old. The idea was that I couldn’t find anywhere on social media that gave me the start, middle and end of the story — it was only giving me somewhere to link out, click out, and read it somewhere else. So I thought it deserved a place on social media, as the final destination for news.
I didn’t do anything with the idea for a couple of years, and then, in 2017, decided to start it properly. I reached out to my networks on LinkedIn and Instagram, and sussed out whether anyone wanted to do it with me. Zara [Seidler, co-founder of TDA] was the only person to reply, and we founded the business that day. Since then, we’ve grown to be a team of 12 people, with 380,000 followers on Instagram, a big newsletter audience, two successful podcasts, a video streaming avenue, and a research and polling branch of the company — so things are getting really exciting!
In terms of your target audience… stylistically, you’re clearly aiming at young people, and you’re working with social media — especially Instagram. Was that the goal from the get-go?
Yes! The goal was always to appeal to a young audience who we thought deserved better news — better high-quality news in Australia — than they were currently getting from the rest of the landscape. When the news was conveyed to young people it was very partisan and very opinionated, influenced by pop culture. We felt that people instead deserved clear, concise and accurate information.
In terms of politics, your team has had a pretty big year; we had the federal election back in May. How did TDA handle that?
This was a key focus for the coverage of the campaigns. The focus was on issues, explaining them, ensuring that everyone who walked into a polling booth — regardless of who they were voting for — understood why they were voting for that person. [This involved] really working with bodies like the Australian Electoral Commission to boost voter literacy, and helping young people to understand how to vote, why their vote matters, what preferential voting is. It was about focusing on some of those mechanics of the [political] system that we’re never taught about, or at least we can’t remember when we were taught about them.
In terms of the issues that we covered, we really listened to our audience. We did that through research and polling right at the beginning of the election period, asking ‘what issues matter to you?’, and we got almost 100,000 young people to tell us what mattered to them. That dictated our coverage and the way in which we approached particular people for interviews. We didn’t care for the ‘gotcha-moment’ coverage that was dominating traditional media. [Instead] we cared about climate, women, and independents in the metropolitan centres that we suspected from the beginning would be more of a force to be reckoned with than the traditional media was giving credit for. In all honesty, it turns out we were right on pretty much every front.
You have been incredibly successful. How do you see your company building into the future?
I think it looks like getting to every single young person in Australia no matter what. So if every single young person in Australia started using a whole other social media platform, we would go there straight away. We’re less dictated by the platforms as we are by the audience. In the last couple of weeks, actually, I’ve been keeping my eye on BeReal, an emerging platform. I don’t think it’s really taking off yet, but if it was we would go there straight away.
Ultimately, it’s about audience growth, but also about business sustainability. How can we be a media company in Australia that can stand on its own two feet, that doesn’t have to worry about month-to-month paycheck-to-paycheck, that doesn’t ask the audience for money, that makes money through other means. Basically, knowing how we can get to a point three or four years in the future where we can plan and still ensure everybody gets paid for their work.
If you could describe TDA in three words, what would they be?
Original, insightful, sustainable.