Challenging future for Whale Oil

Whale Oil and Cameron Slater used to be the same thing – the names were interchangeable.  Now Whale Oil is trying to survive without any known personality. It’s going to be tough, even if they survive the substantial legal and financial problems they face.

Slater, with the help of others, grew Whale Oil into the biggest and most influential political blog in New Zealand. They were used by Prime Minister John Key’s office for conducting black ops, they were fed gossip and inside information by MPs from different parties.

And they were used by journalists to break news deemed to borderline or over the line for mainstream media, giving media an excuse to report it once it was out in public.

But Whale Oil peaked and faltered badly in 2014, for two reasons.

Slater took on a blog manager, Pete Belt, who probably successfully monetised the site, but purportedly to do this he conducted major purges of commenters. The claimed aim was to ‘clean up’ comments, but it looked more like heavy handed censorship. There have been many claims that posting comments that questioned or criticised Slater’s posts led to a raid ban. This in fact is what happened to me.

Through mid 2014 hundreds if not thousands of commenters were banned. This may have enabled message control, and it seems to have created a compliant community that survives by knowing what not to talk about, but it lost Whale Oil a lot of support.

The second reason was Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, which was launched in August 2014. John Key and his government survived the election later that year, but it made Whale Oil politically toxic, and was largely shunned by most National MPs and media. This removed Whale Oil’s major tool of trade, inside information and exclusive news.

So Whale Oil was no longer the force it had been. Slater flipped as far as campaigning against National through the 2017 election year and campaign. This annoyed a lot of the National leaning audience of Whale Oil. Slater openly campaigned for Winston Peters, adding to the angst.

After NZ First enabled a Labour led government, and backtracked or flip flopped on promises and perceived policies, the annoyance at Slater’s support of Peters grew, and going by comment numbers, the support of Whale Oil shrank.

2018 became a crunch year for Slater, with his defamatory past catching up with him.

After waiting over a year for a judgment, Slater was found by a judge to have defamed Colin Craig.  Although Craig was found to have damaged his own reputation and no damages were awarded, legal costs would have been financially damaging. Perhaps.

Eyebrows were raised when long time lawyer of Peters, Brian Henry, defended Slater in the defamation case (and also unsuccessfully counter sued Craig). Either this will have cost Slater a lot in legal fees, or raises questions about why Slater would be given cheap or free legal representation.

A double defamation whammy came in October last year after a defamation trial, which took six and a half years to get to court, found that Slater had no credible defence to defamation against Matthew Blomfield. More lawyers, more costs, and presumably a hefty damages award pending.

A triple whammy came at the end of October when Slater suffered a stroke. He has not posted at Whale Oil since then – there was silence about this for three months at Whale Oil.

And in November there was a quadruple whammy when in another defamation case Slater was taken to task by a judge who said he had not provided information required about claims that attacks on three academics were paid for by co-defendant Carrick Graham. The NZ Food and Grocery Council as fifth defendant is also implicated.

Slater and Graham were called to appear before the judge to explain (I don’t know if this has happened yet, Slater has used his stroke as a reason not to do any legal stuff).

So both Slater and Whale Oil had serious legal and financial problems.

In February 2019 Whale Oil announced that Slater would no longer contribute, indefinitely. He also stopped commenting after it was pointed out in courts that he may nor be as incapacitated by the stroke as claimed.

The future for Whale Oil

So what are the future prospects for Whale Oil? If they can successfully separate themselves from the legal and financial issues they could keep going, but this could be difficult. The company that had operated the blog, Social Media Consultants Limited, is second defendant in the Blomfield case, and recent ownership changes may be difficult to distance them.

At the moment Whale Oil continues with an active community, although comments are noticeably lower in number. They had been declining for months but have dipped further since it was announced Slater was no longer a part of the mix.

Over the last week Whale Oil seems to have been wiping themselves clean of Slater.

Until recently this was still used for the Whale Oil twitter and Facebook and website:

Whale Oil was still Cam Slater, and they were still promoting Dirty Politics as a badge of honour (more like dishonour).

Now Whale Oil is just headed:

Whale Oil Beef Hooked

And their branding on twitter and Facebook has had a major makeover:

Note the change from Cam Slater to Whaleoil media.

Slater still  gets a brief mention on the website ‘About’:

Whale Oil Beef Hooked (Whaleoil) started in July 2005 as a personal blog with no audience at all.  Fast forward to 2019 and Whaleoil is a multi-award-winning media organisation.

Whale Oil won a couple of awards when? 2013 I think.  They were and award winning website.

At the centre is Cameron Slater.  Outspoken, controversial, but undeniably a major player in political views and news.

That’s wrong on several counts.

Slater is not centre any more, he has been severely sidelined. Now unspoken. And he hasn’t been a major player in political views for years.

Whaleoil is the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand. Its brand of news, opinion, analysis and entertainment is finding fertile ground with an audience that is feeling abandoned by traditional news media.

There is no evidence Whale oil is growing. To the contrary. It looks like support is abandoning Whale Oil. They have been deceived, and they have lost credibility.

If the legal and financial issues don’t stop them Whale Oil will be able to continue, but they are substantially different to the old Whale Oil/Cam Slater brand.

A number of contributors have stepped up admirably, but they don’t have to clout or personality of the old Whale, but it’s going to be tough for them to survive.

 

22 Comments

  1. FarmerPete

     /  4th March 2019

    Slater reminded me of the Star Wars character “Jaba the Hutt”. What real journalist personalises his work product by giving his targets nick names (Pants down Brown) or accepts a fee for denigrating corporates. I was an early reader but never like the undisguised bile that shone through. I also seem to recall he had sources in the Labour Party who would push their agenda through him.
    I got unceremoniously banned for objecting to a blatant one sided hit piece on KiwiBank. I was happy to go. Now they are mostly a click bait site. If I was a prominent political figure I would not want his support. WhaleOil is a hopelessly compromised and contaminated site.

    • Blazer

       /  4th March 2019

      the irony re Kiwibank was that the slug had a free up account.

      He put up a screenshot of a deposit,and when questioned…’there is a good explanation’…that was never proffered.

      • Hypocrisy, thy name is Slater.

        • Corky

           /  4th March 2019

          Empty magazine..and one stuck in the chamber. Not good when you have been called out and the world is watching.

    • Loki

       /  4th March 2019

      He did not have sources in the Labour Party.
      He has Judith Collins.
      That was it.

      • FarmerPete

         /  4th March 2019

        Thats not what he used to say, and it was a widespread rumour around the time of all the Labour leadership issues. I don’t think it can be categorically ruled out.

        • David

           /  4th March 2019

          It was pretty clear he had various sources and seemed to have more in Labour than National.

  2. Finbaar Rustle

     /  4th March 2019

    Whale oil like ZB and Live talk back radio was just another
    ultra right wing blog for red neck National party bigots.
    Nothing more nothing less.

    • Trevors_Elbow

       /  4th March 2019

      Geez….. you and blazer sharing a bed? You’re almost as off the wall as him…

    • Sunny

       /  4th March 2019

      Whale Oil has been anti National for a long time. He hated John Key and Bill English. He campaigned against Vic Crone for Mayor, and he hates Simon Bridges. Whale OIl is team NZ1 and actively campaigned for him at the last election.

      • Karen

         /  4th March 2019

        My take on the NZ First support was that Winston saw him as a useful idiot and played him like the lightweight he is.

        A pat on the head and the impression that he was getting some kind of inside info and Mr Slater became the proverbial clapping seal.

        So desperate to be relevant and part of it all again.

        Half tragic, half pathetic.

  3. Corky

     /  4th March 2019

    ”There is no evidence Whale oil is growing. To the contrary. It looks like support is abandoning Whale Oil. They have been deceived, and they have lost credibility.”

    All that’s happening is leftwing trolls are withdrawing their support via their throwaway accounts. They inflated the the number posters on WO while having a little fun.

    They knew it was just a waiting game to be able to put the knife in. Although I see some have become addicted and still post there. Maybe they saw the light of right?😁

    • Duker

       /  4th March 2019

      I thought some one looked at a deeper level into the daily visits (analytics) on Whaleoi and found a higher proportion than normal from sites in India, the suggestion was these IP addresses from Indian colleges were paid for in bulk.

      • Corky

         /  4th March 2019

        India.. that wouldn’t surprise me. The world is your oyster..if you are a troll.. or maybe someone who wants to inflate your readership figures.

        A little like L Ron Hubbard buying his own books.

  4. Loki

     /  4th March 2019

    His numbers were always fiction.
    He admitted that when trying to limit the potential damages in the Blomfield bloodbath.

  5. unitedtribes2

     /  4th March 2019

    whilst criticising advertorials he was running his own paid for hit jobs. This really sums the man up. Having said that I miss the site of old. It was good for media and politicians to have somewhere to dump their muck. Cam’s ego got to him thinking he was more important than he was. What he did to Blumfield was unforgivable. Im pleased he eventually got even. I hope someone else pics the site up and runs with it. I doubt they will be able to keep it themselves

    • Conspiratoor

       /  4th March 2019

      Like me you were ring side at WO in the early days UT. Blomfields emails were an eye-opener for me, as is the way he seems to have reinvented himself as Saint Matthew

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th March 2019

        St Matthew ?

        St Upid more like.

        • Bill Brown

           /  5th March 2019

          [Blomfield has blemishes in his business history, but I think in no way does that justify what Slater, Warren Powell, Marc Spring and others did in taking and publicising his business and personal data, and conducting an extended campaign of attack via Whale Oil and laudafinem.com and other social media.

          Given your history of trying to continue attacks on Blomfield here, and then when I put a stop to it, with Slater and Nottinghams and McKinney trying to trash and shut down Your NZ and drag me through the courts, I’m not going to allow you to continue your feud with Blomfield here.

          I don’t trust what you assert, for good reason. You and they have made many false assumptions about me, and made false accusations, including in court documents – there’s an extensive record. There’s also court records that show you and they have made unsubstantiated accusations against Blomfield. So you’re not going to continue making assertions on this here.

          You’re amazingly brazen and unrepentant given your contribution to the outcome for Nottingham and Slater, both ill and bankrupt, and your involvement in trying to trash the lives of many people. Including mine.

          Even Whale Oil is trying to distance themselves from the toxic mess you’ve been a significant part of.

          You’ve tried to trash free speech here, so have lost the privilege of it. PG]

  6. Pickled Possum

     /  4th March 2019

    I’m just thankfully he’s not gonna hurt any one …any more.
    All for Money and Fame. Wrong move … Whats next?
    All that toxic waste from expecting too much and getting shafted ….
    running thru his body has depleted his human qualities.

    Jeez! I just had a scary thought … WO closes up shop …
    And …looking for a new home … the wo commenters move here!! To our peaceful little paradise of the blogsphere … Whark!!
    Stay Hard boyz and goils …some of us are making jam raisins balsamic vinegar etc … this summer is the bumper crop

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th March 2019

    Belt was a fool’s fool. Slater’s singular ability to align himself with idiots has taken him all the way down. Hard to imagine those who followed him blindly into the wilderness having enough insight to pull the blog out of it.

  8. Tipene

     /  6th March 2019

    There is also the appeal cases that Slater has to front, but he’s a running man on a greased track – trying to escape, but going nowhere.