The future of Irish media lies in the evolution of new business models…

If you get time, it’s well worth watching Vincent Browne’s programme from Monday night. It’s a highly intelligent (not to mention passionate) discussion of Irish journalism’s most pressing problem; ie the disappearance of the business model underwriting much of the professional journalism in Ireland.

It was fun (despite the dire implications of the topic), not least because gamekeeper turned poacher Susan Daly (aka @biddyearly on Twitter) took great delight in highlighting some of the blatant short comings of the mainstream media, much to the annoyance of Noirin Hegarty, former boss at the Sunday Tribune, and currently the online editor of

I know for a fact that Noirin’s annoyance is shared by a lot of respectable mainstream journos in Dublin. But my feeling is that they are misunderstanding the as a product. It does, and has, cannibalised some of the material from mainstream media. But as Susan says, that should be sending traffic to the Time and the Indo. If those papers are not picking up revenue from it, then the fault lies with the established papers, not the aggregator.

On this score, there was some very good stuff from Hugh Linehan (@hlinehan) of the Irish Times, who argues the whole business model underlying the print model of journalism needs to be looked again:

…you still need story telling, you still need analysis, and you still need the context, all the things that make sense of this world where there is a massive amount of data being thrown at you in the digital space all the time.

Speaking as someone who still loves newspapers, you can see that at the weekends when people have a little more time the circulation figures are holding up much better. But we need to recognise that when advertisers migrate online they are not coming to our sites, so we need to think about our business model.

There’s another point he makes later in the discussion to which we new digital hacks have not yet come up with an answer. Who has the business model that pays a journalist to attend hours and hours of committee meetings at Leinster House to report on what the government and public elected representatives are up to?

New media resources like Kildare Street do a fantastic job of making the records of the Oireachtas available in readable, researchable and digitally re-presentable forms. But ‘speaking truth to power’ means you need precise knowledge of the protocols and content of such proceedings, and a clear human understanding of the context of any given story. Just ‘responding to the audience’, does not make up for that potential loss.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the curation being done by the likes of and Storyful, to mention but two, is important pathfinding work; not unlike some of Slugger’s earlier approach to story gathering, only with a more functional business model in a market (courtesy of Facebook and Twitter) which is nearing critical mass.

In the case of the, they are certainly doing things the right way. Starting resource light, keeping agile and building both their audience and their qualitative relationships with that audience.

Just look at the site’s Whitey Bulger coverage on the day the story broke, and you’ll get the idea, that, pound for pound, it’s coverage was unmatched by any of the other on or offline Irish media.

But this is an evolutionary game, and the win line still remains a long way off. Linehan has it right. It is time for MSM organisations to go into listening mode and then to experiment, albeit lightly and with as few resources as you can get away with.

Not everything does or will do is replicable or desirable for others to emulate. I am not sure, for instance, that we on Slugger could sustain the kind of conversational engagement that the Journal’s hacks do on Twitter and Facebook. Although, we have, presumably unnoticed by Susan (‘we’re probably one of the only Irish sites that are engaging properly with the public’), been engaging the collective intelligence of our readership for many years (albeit with more success at some times than at others).

But the big papers already have one thing they should not underestimate, even (or rather especially) in such challenging times: the Brand. What most now know is that you cannot sustain the authority of the print product by stuffing it carelessly online. It requires an evolutionary process, and a re-engineering of the business model into something sufficiently protean to begin to rebuild the news business in a more sustainable form.

The challenge in an era when even neo classical economic models are falling apart, which is almost perfectly articulated by Eric Beinhocker, is to adopt an evolutionary approach:

Evolution is a process of sifting from an enormous space of possibilities. There is no foresight, no planning, no rationality, and no conscious design.

Helping business, organisations and government to rise to this very challenge (digital pathfinding), is an emerging core of the work I’m currently doing through Slugger Consults

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • True, all true.

    But why is “media” such a discrete (yep: correct spelling) marketplace?

    Do we need to distinguish “media as entertainment” (that’s already done down by streaming) and “media as information” (a.k.a. “journalism)? I read this headline piece to be specific to the latter.

    The Pert Young Piece around Redfellow Hovel has an App. She bestrides the boutiques and emporia of Old London Town until she finds her whim. Using her App, she zaps the item, its price-codes and labels. She then uses the App’s saved information to find a cheap rate on the net.

    It works for her. She’s a material girl.

    Perhaps information and opinion, the raw-material of the info-media, are going the same way. Live with it: that’s implicit in Beinhocker. I complain, bitterly, about those Flash side-columns on Slugger and elsewhere, but they are the price I pay for free admission.

    Anyone think we’ve not been this way before?

    Well, try the Globe’s production of Dr Faustus.

    You may notice that what happens on stage is not quite what is on the printed page you studied for Leaving Cert/A-level. The same is true about most Shakespeare plays (hint: why is Macbeth a thousand lines shorter than the other Great Tragedies?)

    Answer: because, in part, it was a rip-off. At that stage language was tripping over the oral/written barrier. It was possible to have a “reporter” in the pit, with near perfect aural recall, who would hear the script, nip back to the printer, and it would be “pirated” within hours. At that stage, first to register the title with the Stationers Company got the credit.

    Did Shakespeare complain about plagiarists? You bet he did.

    So it’s back to how do you offer “added value”. Have you got the magical added ingredient? Novel use of existing raw material? Extra input? If not, why should passing trade not simply zap you and look for a facsimile elsewhere?

  • Mick Fealty

    Your first point is a good question Malcolm. A very good question, not least from a business point of view.

  • jthree

    If Ms Redfellow could get her preferred item, or one very like it, instantly and for no money would she choose to pay for it?

    That’s the big difference between flogging clothes and flogging information.

    Also the field of new media gurus seems to be unusually full of shills and hypocrites.

    Jeff Jarvis – He’s very keen on free, open source, google etc. His consultancy involves largely involves telling frightened media bosses that the old models is broken and the one thing they can’t do is expect people to pay for anything. So did he publish his book as a googledoc? Did he fuck – he sold it to HarperCollins.

    Chris Anderson – another prophet of free ‘ Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business’. Does he speak at conferences for free? Or does he charge circa £50k and a return business class airfare?

    Jay Rosen – In search of a model for hyperlocal he teamed with with a modest little paper called the New York Times. Then basically runs Local East Village with free student labour – or even summer programme students who are paying to be there. That model really sounds widely applicable.

  • Mick Fealty



    I’ve a lot of time for Jay in particular, but whilst I think many of the observations of he and the other two accord with some of the lessons I’ve picked up in the course of the last nine years blogging with Slugger, none have ever really got to grips with the fundamental problem of how you fund ‘power’ journalism.

    People power can, periodically, be very powerful indeed. But it is often haphazard and highly vulnerable to the same disruptive methods they’ve managed to use on, for instance, the slumbering oligarchies of the Middle East.

    We need something rather more sustainable and robust. The business model has to be the core of that sustainability.

  • Nunoftheabove

    We had a thread here relatively recently on the BelTel which I think illustrates what Malcom’s talking about pretty well. In fairness, it was never that notable a paper to kick off with but even within the last year the quality of its content has slipped to new low after new low. Even by the mediocre standards of lifestyle swamped publications it’s poor and growing poorer, the quality of the local writers is truly toe-curling betimes. There are days when you can be fairly fully through the entirety of their news coverage in under five minutes. Even their sports coverage now is lamentable. Is there any evidence though that a readership savvy paper can make its free access online advertising work to such an extent that it can subsidize its print run and at least to some extent enable some proper journalism to feature as opposed to the apparently more efficient insource-more-than-you-syndicate-out model ? More to the point, is there any convincing evidence that for papers on that scale that the entertainment bias and celebrityitis genuinely does sell and that those sales help sell on/offline ad space to a scalable extent in a sustainable way ?

  • Nunoftheabove @ 7:58 pm:

    I reckon that all applies to the Daily Mail, which is arguably the most successful product among the “nationals”. But —
    ¶ who are all those people in the Mail sidebar?
    ¶ why am I supposed instantly to recognise them and their traumas (which generally seem to involve parts of their personal anatomy)?
    ¶ why does my supermarket’s magazine rack sport so many unknown (unknown to me) faces, all identified only by a forename and terminated with “?” or “!”?

    If Slugger were a place where we exchange trivia and gossip about who slept in whose bed last night, who groped whom in which boozer, it would be patronised by thundering herds, and make Mick a wealthy man. That wouldn’t serve the greater public good, not give him — or us — fulfilment.

    We are, or should be, talking about a niche market, but one of intrinsic and lasting value. Arguably, the “quality” press was always less satisfactory as tomorrow’s chip-wrapper than the tabloids. On the other hand, to which do we refer as first drafts of “history”?

    Some areas of the net are developing archival value. Can that be monetarized?

  • Nunoftheabove


    The archival value part might have some legs but…. when ?

    Maybe what we need to get underneath is understanding the balance of appetites within the reading public; hard news well reported vis-à-vis infantile distractions from it (more frequently balanced within the same publication).
    There’s also a lifestyle part of this which relates to when, where, for what reasons, in what circumstances , for how long and at what price people read papers and mags now and how they will do 5-10 years from now. In the cities, those driving to work have no time to read); those travelling to work by trains and buses (too miserable perhaps to survive without titillation and shallow news clips (thus, free giveaways etc). Work:life balance means for many now finding the time to really read a paper during your lunchbreak or any other part of your lengthy and lengthening working day is a thing of the past.

    Getting a balance between accessibility and quality writing is a tough call; many have tried….
    Given the choice these days I’d sometimes incline to buying The Economist and a couple of Sunday broadsheets than buying a daily paper necessarily as a matter of course (I work too much and they just pile up, plus neither The Guardian or The Independent are what they used to be – more is defo less). I find the dailies now, even some of the better ones, are not for me much more than a broad reference point – a gateway to online content ; if I’m into a story there might be 6-8 additional online resources I’ll use to chase up detail the paper doesn’t provide and not necessarily any of them will be to the originating paper itself per se.

    I guess it’s a blended solution which takes into account print, electronics etc that might work but in some cases we’ll see fragmentation and specialization in the market (perhaps including the archival splinter – cross-selling opportuities ?), for the short term though it will be more about rationalization, synergies, mergers and consolidation. Probably. In terms of quality journalism though, there may come a time when we’ll need superior search engines to find any of it.

    “I hate celebrities, get them out of here”.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think we have the search engines, but not the time and the headspace to find the good content. That’s your Storyful and angle. To an extent, that’s also been Slugger’s utility in the past too.

    But there is something institutions can do that’s difficult for the lone bloggers and smart curators. Charlie Beckett went back to trap this snippet from John Lloyd for posterity.

  • I don’t completely buy this….

    “….misunderstanding the as a product. It does, and has, cannibalised some of the material from mainstream media. But as Susan says, that should be sending traffic to the Time and the Indo. If those papers are not picking up revenue from it, then the fault lies with the established papers, not the aggregator.”

    …it’s one of these things that’s been passed around so often without being intelligently challenged (by anyone with the resources to do it) that it’s become accepted.

    If I pay to produce content, someone else who takes a very liberal (in their own interest) approach to fair-use to ‘aggregate’ (i.e. take the essential information and appropriate it) on the grounds that it *might* generate some traffic to my website and it’s my problem to work out how to monetise that traffic….?

    Personally, I think that the paid-for-print media needs to come up with a dedicated browser similar to Spotify so that it can start licencing content properly – like Spotify, or even the offline equivalent, PRS with music. The reason this isn’t happening, I suspect, is that there’s a divergence between the interests of the people who actually do the work (journalists, in this case) and the people who appropriate their surplus value under the old models (people who own newspapers who have bigger fish to fry than to worry about good quality sustainable content).

    On the wider point of Kildare St (like They Work For You in the UK) opening out parliamentary proceedings, again, I don’t completely buy the argument that more transparency = a more participative politics. When Westminster started being broadcast in the late 1970s (on Radio) and later on TV, the net effect was that newspapers stopped covering parliament properly because they felt their public service obligation had been met elsewhere.

    We don’t have a duty to go along with every ad hoc or guerilla technique that the changes (mostly lower barriers-to-entry) make possible. I know it always seems a terrifically liberal thing to do, but it’s never that simple.

    I’ve gone into a bit more detail on this argument here if anyone’s interested?

  • Mick Fealty

    Great. Thanks for that Paul. Lots to chew on there.

    Re the Spotify for papers idea, I had coffee last week with a fairly high profile UK based (and digitally switched on) musician, and I asked him about Spotify.

    His view was that it was the industry’s answer to the Napster problem, but ten years too late. The chief bugbear: the company takes most of what little value there is available and the artist gets diddley squat.

    At least musicians can hit the road and make their cash.

  • There’s always a danger in this debate that everyone is looking for some sort of simple answer to the challenges we in The Irish Times and in other newspapers face. But there is no magic bullet.

    As I said (I think) on Monday’s Vincent Browne show, we’re moving from a very simple business model based on the twin pillars of print circulation and ad sales, to an as-yet-undefined but far more complex one which will probably involve subscriptions to some digital services, free access to others, deeper user engagement driving better advertising opportunities, along with a whole bunch of other stuff which could include the likes of collaborating with universities on data-driven investigations and with non-profits on citizen journalism projects, as well as perhaps looking for access to licence fee funds for some of our new audiovisual content, while also getting our heads around the idea of The Irish Times as a platform and provider of useful services to our community of users and readers.

    My own personal view is that aggregators such as are an inevitable consequence of the technological revolution we’re going through and, as long as they stay on the right side of copyright law, we should just grin and bear it. Some of my colleagues in the Irish Times newsroom take a less sanguine view and were not impressed by the claims made for on Monday’s programme, in particular the suggestion that the site generates substantial quantities of original content, and that we should be grateful for the fact that its aggregation drives traffic back to our sites. One of them sent me this message this morning:

    ‘Of the 10 stories/items on the Journal’s home page at 9am today, two are credited to the Indo, one is credited to the Irish Times, two are credited to the Examiner, one to the BBC/CNN, one to the Telegraph, and one has no credit.

    ‘Contrary to what Susan Daly said on Monday, they are taking far more than “the first two paras” of an article and have not, in any of the stories published on their site this morning, added anything to bring the stories on. Therefore their offering for the crucial early morning online traffic spike (between 8am and 9am) gives the lie to her argument.

    ‘The key point is they take enough editorial material to fully satisfy the reader’s curiosity and I would argue this renders the links back to the source articles largely redundant. Why would a reader want to read the same article again – if you have already read 75% of it on

    ‘In fact, rather than acting as a way to drive traffic to other sites, I would argue that the linking the Journal does is a device to deflect criticism.

    ‘An alternative approach would be for them to carry a headline and link to the full text, but that of course would be less commercially viable for them.

  • On another tack:

    Newspapers used to control the content delivery system from newsprint to delivery trucks and thus controlled advertising and pricing.

    Newspapers no longer control the content delivery system.

    I think consumer resistance to paying for online content is rooted in the fact that the user is already shouldering the cost of receiving the content via internet connection fees.

    In the U.S., I pay $50 a month for an internet connection to Cablevision which also provides limited web TV and access to the Long Island newspaper Newsday. Not a perfect system by any means but an improvement on paying the Irish phone company $50 a month for web access only (and that with usage limits).

    On another note, I teach journalism in New York and my students won’t read a newspaper unless I make them.

  • “…you still need story telling, you still need analysis, and you still need the context, all the things that make sense of this world where there is a massive amount of data being thrown at you in the digital space all the time.”

    I couldnt agree more with the sentiments of Hugh Lenihan above, but im less and less inclined to believe that the story telling that the mainstream, corporate model of journalism actually resonates with people lived reality.

    Im perhaps coming at this from different perspective than the views expressed above. ie a very valid one that sees traditional print press as a ‘product’, and indeed sees the consumer as a ‘product’ for advertisers. However there is an inherent contradiction between the presupposed roles of narrative giver/story teller/meaning makers on one hand and a corporate entity that exists (maybe not even primarily) to provide profit after the costs (including labour) are covered on the other. What the industry doesnt seem to have grasp is that a monopoly of a few on distribution of ‘meaning giving product’ (ie the two hands combined) gave the illusion that these products are bought and consumed because as Mick puts it above they are‘speaking truth to power’

    But to large degree and by any objective standard, very few print publications “speak truth to power” at all. Thats simply an illusion and rather comforting self image and id really like to understand how mainstream press actually labour under such illusions.

    There is a complete acceptance of market ideology as the foremost valued paradigm by which human beings need to be organised from above. Certainly very little encouragement for its comsumers to think differently. If there was a print and online publication that actually not just “spoke truth to power” but engaged regularly with different notions of power, and competing yet coherent and valid world views – and im not talking about not exclusively political publications of political organistions – but a critical and intelligent look at how our world and society is organised, that challenged dominate discourse and power to justify and explain, and absolutely refuse to end with “there is no other option”. Now it takes a bit of neck to believe that a publication that contained such content, that treated its ‘market’ with the respect to ‘storytell’ in way that actually reflect their own lives, and encourage peoples own agency, rather than reprint spin from PR train technocrats, and print opinion that is of good quality but of very limited range then the newspaper business might not find itself so easily dropped by people on tight purse strings.

    One suggestion, that would be relatively cost neutral for groups like Irish Times Online would be to consciously introduce a much broader range of issues, critique, opinion and analysis with significantly more interaction between writers and commentors. By drawing upon a wider range of opinion, stepping outside a very specific (and rather outdate) notion of the expert narrative giver and encouraging more public engagment, its seems feasible that if a group like the Irish Times developed that that it could draw a growing and returning audience. Without being a completely self indulgent either, if a unemployed labourer like myself – a bit pissed off but with a critical eye – can attract over 18,000 hits for not even the most elequently written, but breaking some stories and writing blog post around power (and also media) and using simple to understand methods of tagging, social media promotion cross referenceing etc, it probably within the gift of large corporation to do it.

    Media publications would be very foolish in the times that are in it to make the same mistake as the government and think that at the start of the 21st Century people, and particularly the poor and unemployed are a wee bit thick. From what i can see it doesnt make sense for groups like the Irish Times not to take some relatively cost free risks that could broaden reader base.

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting snippet on analytics driven content:

    “There may have been a day in the rosy past of newspapers when a wall between the publisher and the editor meant that newsrooms published only what was most newsworthy and civically important, without consideration of a given story’s appeal to their audience. In an age where editors can know instantly whether a story on a school council meeting is playing better than a story about a labor action, it’s hard to believe that access to analytics doesn’t shape coverage decisions. Some outlets, like the Huffington Post, have embraced this new world to the point where they are poster children for analytics-driven coverage, using feedback from Google Analytics to inform most if not all decisions about story placement and emphasis. This willingness to respond rapidly to market feedback has likely helped HuffPo’s rapid audience and market growth – whether or not AOL’s acquisition of the site was a wise move, most newspaper publishers would welcome ten-figure interest in their properties.

    “The danger of traffic-based analytics driving journalism is that you may end up with newspapers that look more like Demand Media-style content farms and less like the civic guardians we want and need them to be. It’s certainly fair to observe that newspapers have been audience driven, at least in part, since inception and that some of the shortcomings of contemporary papers, as well as local newscasts, derive from a focus on driving readership and viewership. But adding an analytics into the newsroom puts the question “Is this story reaching a broad audience?” front and center in a way that’s hard to ignore or avoid.”

  • John Handelaar (

    Paul a-t’il dit:

    “On the wider point of Kildare St (like They Work For You in the UK) opening out parliamentary proceedings, again, I don’t completely buy the argument that more transparency = a more participative politics. When Westminster started being broadcast in the late 1970s (on Radio) and later on TV, the net effect was that newspapers stopped covering parliament properly because they felt their public service obligation had been met elsewhere.”

    Not that I think KildareStreet/TheyWorkForYou really fits into this discussion at all well, but:

    KildareStreet opens parliamentary proceedings to the extent that there was no way to search the parliamentary record *at all* before it opened, that it’s clearly the reason the Oireachtas version of the same material got a massive overhaul last year, and that it’s still the only way to search the Oireachtas record that actually bloody works.

    So if you want to see things about what’s going on in the Parliament it helps. What it sure doesn’t do is cause people to want to see things that are going on in Parliament. All its inbound traffic is from search terms already entered about TDs, bills and obviously-political queries. Not being a registered charity (not for want of trying, but that’s another story) we can’t even avail of Google’s free advertising budget that charities are offered.

    So, erm. Yeah. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the new/old media discussion. Unless we’re extending that into how something with one volunteer and no money can massively outperform a government service burning its way through hundreds of thousands per annum in taxpayers’ money, and which sucks.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed John. I mentioned it because it is one of the few undeniably brilliant public goods in the Irish online political space. It is a fantastic resource. But as you point out, it does not pretend to do more than it does.

    Here I depart somewhat from Paul’s view. The Oireachtas *should* be transparent. In some cases, what is said by ministers in session have close to the power of law in contentious matters, and Kildare Street gives us the tools to find and quote precise passages.

    My initial point accords with yours that it is not journalism. That there needs to be individual human scrutiny in order to put that resource to work, and that we bloggers too rarely have the time, the patience to use such gifted (in several senses of that word) resources to that purpose.

  • iChrisTaylor

    “The future of Irish media lies in the evolution of new business models…”
    The headline itself speaks volumes. No business has ever succeeded or continued to thrive without evolving. Yet the humble newspaper is still, well the humble newspaper. So how can it survive?
    Sales are falling because people of my generation do not buy newspapers because they don’t meet my needs. My retired parents no longer buy a daily paper – there’s nothing in it for them.
    I have the internet in my pocket and 24 hour tv news channels, therefore if I pick up a paper what do I learn?
    I’m a googler and someone who likes to go to the source of the story. I will form my own opinion.
    So the key question for me is this: “If I read a newspaper, what will I learn?”
    I’m sorry to say, the answer is very little and certainly nothing I’m willing to pay for.
    That is the harsh reality.
    Mick asked me on twitter to comment on this thread. That is where I am. I’m not in the local shop and I’m not watching UTV.
    While I am an early adopter, I can see the mainstream shift happening already.
    I’m a big fan of RSS and google reader is probably my most used app on my phone. I aggregate the news, so while news aggregators are enjoying some success now, I don’t see that they have a future.
    At some point mainstream media will block their access – how I don’t know, but they will have to if they want to survive.
    What would make me pay for journalism? Because I won’t pay for news!
    The price is crucial. I know that is sad, but it has got to be cheap enough. I’m thinking £1 per month. That low.
    Content. Listen to a web marketer and they will tell you content is king. I’m sorry, but content has always been king and the internet does not change that. Delivering a story online should be the same as delivering a story offline. In the offline world access is difficult.
    Therefore, the story has to be exclusive, or unique or at least offer value.
    The writer. I can’t remember who said it, but they said “we’re all journalists now”. Not quite true, but we each have a story to tell and something valuable to contribute.
    This is what separates offline from online. That ability to contribute. I have spent my entire adult life adding value to websites whether that be through a simple comment or helping people with specific problems that I have expertise in. I ask for nothing in return.
    But of course I do want something in return. I demand a knowledge base. I demand a community.
    What do people pay for?
    I’m a member of a golf club. It’s expensive. Well, I feel it’s expensive and each year I really have to debate with myself whether it’s worth it or not.
    Each year I join. Why? Because I enjoy golf, but also because I’m a human being who needs to be social. Humans as a species have thrived on being social.
    Why do we think facebook is used by so many people? Social.
    I hate the term ‘social’ and I’m not going to suggest it’s the future, but think about why people use that term?
    Now think about how sociable newspapers or media sites are.
    How many people on slugger actually know each other?
    People will pay to be part of an exclusive club, but only if that club offers them added value.
    So once again we find ourselves discussing the business model behind news and it’s not people paying for journalism.
    The payment model that supports journalists is not pay per story, but pay for access to a community, pay to feel part of the story, to talk to the journalist, contribute to the debate.
    I think we need journalists to be facilitators (much like what Mick and Paul et al do on here). The new breed of journalist needs to be able to ask the right questions, but needs to stick around for the answers. That means the story is never really over.

  • Mick Fealty

    I know his name is taken somewhat in vain above, but Jeff Jarvis’s latest post on the nature of proposed US legislation around online privacy in this social world has a really interesting contribution to make to this discussion here:

    “I fear unintended consequences. Rockefeller’s do-not-track could pull the advertising rug out from under web sites, forcing some of them to go behind a pay wall — if they can — and killing other sites, reducing the content on the web. Franken’s location bill, I learned this week, does not have a carve out for sending data to ad-servers (they are dreaded “third parties”), which could kneecap the local-mobile content industry before it even starts.

    “Politicians and media companies are coming at these questions at the wrong starting line: as if we go to the internet to take a piece of private information and squirrel it away there. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re sharing.”

  • Anton Mannering

    Interesting debate.

    A few points to be addressed

    1. Analytics has always driven journalistic content, anyone who believes otherwise is living in a fantasy. There was never a wall between Editorial and Publishing and any debate between the 2 is always won by publishing and always has been.

    2. The key point to recognise here and accept is that papers are not doing badly because of some sea change in market dynamics or because of the delivery method. They are doing badly because they are not serving their market. Competition is their problem.

    3. The whole “we reported the story first so it’s ours” idea is nonsense. Newspapers and news organisations have always used each other to find stories. The internet just makes it faster. This is a huge Red Herring. News is news, if people want to get it from someone else instead of you then you need to think about why that is and stop moaning about it.

    4. As for the nationals doing “important investigative journalism”. Their real problem in selling this notion is that no one believes that they do this now. So why would anyone fund them to allegedly continue to do something that no one believes they do anyway. The market is speaking.
    P.S. It is irrelevant whether this is true or not.

    5. Newspapers as “Civic Guardians”? People don’t think the national newspapers speak to them, understand them, represent them or care about them. There is a perception that the relationship between newspapers and the political and economic elites is too close. Again it is irrelevant whether this is true or not. The idea of newspapers as “Civic Guardians” really makes me chuckle. It shouldn’t though and that’s one of newspapers biggest problems. Ask an ordinary guy in the street whether newspapers SHOULD do this and they will say “yes”. Ask them if how well they actually DO this and I doubt you’ll get such a positive response. I believe firmly that any newspaper that genuinely takes this up as it’s mantra and lives by it will never have a problem.

    (Any good PR or marketing person will tell you that reality is irrelevant and it is only what people believe that matters.)

    5. The future of media will be based on the same basic business model it has always been based on. Distribution and advertising sales. Distribution drives sales and that’s it. Everything else is total nonsense. People have not been paying for news content for 30+ years. Newspaper revenue is almost entirely from advertising and if it weren’t then Free-sheets couldn’t exist. People don’t pay for the news, the €2 euro you pay for a newspaper only covers the cost of printing and distribution. Please accept this and move on an stop talking about the pay wall idea, it is the stupidest idea I have ever heard. I would NEVER advertise with a media outlet with a paywall, what would be the point? The ad supported news model has existed for 30+ years and all of a sudden people are going to pay? Seriously people, GET REAL!

    6. “ still need story telling and analysis”. This may or may not be the case. But the market will decide and if it decides not then really you have to be particularly arrogant to persist in believing it. The perception amongst a certain part of our society (usually university educated, wealthy and technically proficient) that the general population are stupid and we have to look after them is as incorrect as it is offensive. They notice that attitude as well so if that’s your market then it’s going to cause a problem for you.

    Most problems in most newspapers are simple product/market fit. They produce something that the market doesn’t want. BTW I don’t mean the newspapers themselves, I mean the content, people actually love newspapers.
    I think it would be fair to say that very few people believe that the national newspapers are on their side or that they are principled or stand for anything. Many people in the media think that’s not the job of a newspaper, it would appear though that the market disagrees.