Press Room

Lifehacker interviews Crikey's Stephen Mayne

By Sarah Stokeley
January 7, 2008

Decmeber 14, 2007

This week I had the opportunity to interview independent journalist-cum-shit stirrer Stephen Mayne - the founder of Crikey, and more recently the Australian social news aggregator Kwoff and the shareholder activist and news website, The Mayne Report.

How did a self-confessed technophobe manage to create what he describes as “Australia's best known ezine” and end up video blogging on YouTube? I sat down with Stephen Mayne to find out.

When I sit down with Stephen Mayne it becomes clear quite quickly that this won't be a typical Lifehacker interview. For starters, one of the first things he tells me is he's a technophobe.

“I'm trying to get with the program a little,” he says, sounding almost apologetic. “I have an iPod, I'm trying to record meetings, and I'm on Facebook!” I'm intrigued about how someone with so little interest in using technology has chalked up some pretty innovative online ventures.

Crikey started off as way for Mayne to escape the yoke of mainstream journalism and publish his flavour of news, opinion and gossip independently, but he says that he just wasn't involved in the tech side of publishing it at all. When starting out with Crikey, he relied on a friend to be his tech guru to put the site together and get his message online. “I just handed him a Word document,” he says.

Mayne says he relies on having good technical people behind him. He has a team of two recording engineers who travel with him to record AGMs, and who record his Mayne Report videocasts which appear on his website and YouTube.

Mayne's other online venture is Kwoff, an Australian social news aggregator which we wrote up back in October.

He says that while founding partner Dan Walsh was the technological brains behind the idea, he decided to get involved because the democratic nature of news aggregation appealed to him. “I'm a big believer in the democratisation of news, and that aggregation is king.”

Since selling Crikey in 2005, Mayne has directed his attention to a subject he's clearly passionate about – shareholder activism. He owns small blocks of shares in over 400 companies, which gives him access to AGMs and other corporate activities which have traditionally tried to avoid the gaze of the media. His solution is to mike up, or video camera up, ask difficult questions and broadcast the proceedings online.

“Using video for corporate activism is the interesting challenge. Companies say you can't or you shouldn't record what's happening in AGMs, but I'm fairly brazenly going into every meeting wired. I'm using that as a way to shape up the corporates.”

He clearly relishes his role as the thorn in the side of what he describes as “lazy CEOs”, saying he believes that greater transparency and accountability in business is a good thing for the companies themselves, and their shareholders.

The shift to multimedia publishing was a way to help get the message across. “I'm traditionally a words guy, so it's been a step change with the Mayne Report. You can deliver an activist message more creatively through different platforms.”

As you might expect from someone juggling several business ventures, as well as a heavy schedule of shareholder activities such as attending AGMs (he's scheduled to attend two of them on the morning we meet, including the Channel 10 AGM), Mayne is a busy man, but his organisation is achieve the old fashioned way, with a PA, not a PDA.

Despite his evolution as a multimedia news producer, Mayne still likes to read his news in print.“I'm a luddite who still gets four newspapers a day.”

He also chooses to do a lot of paper juggling, saying he's elected to receive all his shareholder mailouts in paper format rather than electronic. “Searching online through a 200 page document is really quite slow.”
So where does technology fit with his future plans? The day we meet Mayne is about to sign a book deal. He says that writing the book, entitled Memoirs of a Ratbag, will be a test of his 'shambolic' record keeping system.

"I need to partner well to manage the technology, the record keeping and the organising," he admits.
"One of my dreams is to create a global shareholder activist network. All retail shareholder activism is local, but companies are increasingly global. With technology that might be doable.”

"I could be so much more effective as an activist if I was more savvy about technology.”

I really should send him the URL for Lifehacker.

View the original article on