Irish newspapers to charge for online content

In article entitled End of a free press, the Sunday Business Post report that Ireland’s (south) three main newspaper groups intend to charge for their web content (The Irish Times, Independent Newspapers and Thomas Crosbie Holdings). All three have concerns about RTE, as highlighted in detail in another article – Newspapers set to clash with RTE over web news

The issue is to be raised at government level, with newspaper owners saying that RTE should not be allowed to use taxpayers’ money to provide news for free in competition with commercial publishers.

The newspaper owners are coming together to attempt to prevent RTE from continuing to provide free-to-consume news online. Presumably they have no issue with RTE continuing to provide free-to-consume news on television (that would go down with voters like a real lead balloon). You have to admire their chutzpah, attacking RTE for providing the same service as they have done for the past 10 years – but taking issue with it only when they find it inconvenient.

Besides some brazen cheek, I think there are a number of flaws with this plan. First up, if RTE were prevented from providing a free-to-consume news service they need not be limited to providing a consumer paywall. They could scorn the direct-to-consumer market entirely and instead raise funds by syndicating their content to other Irish publishers (e.g. sites such as Daft.ie or Entertainent.ie could well pay for RTE’s news feed, but provide it in a free-to-consume format for their users). Second – while RTE may appear to be the biggest obstacle to enforcing a cartel like minimum price for news content, that ignores the potential for other commercial entities expanding their southern Irish online news coverage. e.g. UTV, TV3 or Newstalk Radio may take the opportunity to expand their web presence. Finally, it is entirely possible that many of eyeballs currently scanning MSM websites will search for more left-field alternatives benefiting blogsites such as Slugger (and increasing the importance of real-time information feeds such as Twitter as a source for stories).

Rather than deal directly with the problems dogging the online advertising industry head-on (e.g. a plethora of middle-men and agencies extracting a large portion of ad revenues) and facing up to issues about how to best to produce for the web (by merely putting the same for-print articles online and not thinking about holistic branding & content solutions), the newspaper industry appears to be running backwards away from their problems.

  • Newspapers need to ask if they put up a paywall, will many people care to any great extent? We consume most of our news from TV/Radio and, for most, a paper is an occasional purchase. Meantime, without a paywall, the newspapers should be picking up online advertising and making money (more than ever possible with the purchase of a few more papers). Since the Irish News has gone online, has it sold any more papers? Has it lost online revenue? Does anyone care? Same with others. The nature of news has changed and newspapers will have to adapt or die.

  • Apologies, bit of a blip this end, so two posts. Admin welcome to take the first one out.

  • Cynic2

    You forget that with the internet the BBC is freely available. All this will do is ensure that British culture and perspectives flourish. And that’s not a bad thing

  • I agree with mack and the other commentators, what is happening is these newspaper owners are trying to remake the printing press, someone needs to tell them it has already been done.

    You think they would catch on, they are loosing readers from their print versions, what in gods name makes them believe a paywall will encourage people to stay loyal to their internet version, it is lunacy.

    Cynic2 has a point and I do not believe it is just about British culture, what ever that may be 😉

    There is nothing stopping some of the large news providers elsewhere, including newspapers, creating English language web sites. We already have English language cable TV from China Russia and elsewhere. There is no reason why this cannot be localised on a national bases.

  • Paddy Matthews

    I think there are a number of flaws with this plan.

    One very obvious problem that I can see with the subscription-only plan in general is that the Irish Times tried it for a number of years and it didn’t pay – at a time when people had more discretionary spending money than they have now.

    A cartel might make the business plan look more feasible, but there is always likely to be someone who’ll break the cartel.

    In any case, the RTÉ News site shouldn’t be much of a threat to what newspapers are supposed to do best – detailed and reflective coverage. What’s there is generally brief summaries of stories – the main draw is that there is audio and video of news coverage available.

    Éamon Ryan should tell Independent Newspapers and the rest of the would-be rent-seekers to get stuffed if he has any balls at all.

    Second – while RTE may appear to be the biggest obstacle to enforcing a cartel like minimum price for news content, that ignores the potential for other commercial entities expanding their southern Irish online news coverage. e.g. UTV, TV3 or Newstalk Radio may take the opportunity to expand their web presence.

    Of course, Denis O’Brien (owner of Newstalk) is a major shareholder in INM. One O’Ligarch may not be much better than another.

    Finally, it is entirely possible that many of eyeballs currently scanning MSM websites will search for more left-field alternatives benefiting blogsites such as Slugger (and increasing the importance of real-time information feeds such as Twitter as a source for stories).

    Frankly, the blogosphere has far too high a notion of its own importance. By and large, it doesn’t break stories of its own accord – it comments on stories that the MSM have broken. What it provides is commentary – often slanted and of variable quality – and all too often an ideological echo chamber into which people can retreat so as to avoid differing opinions.

    Finally, congratulations to cynic2 on managing to drag national identity and the whole British/Irish, nationalist/unionist pissing competition into this discussion. It takes some doing.

  • Paddy Matthews

    BTW, the BBC might be freely available up to but not beyond the point at which Rupert Murdoch calls in favours with the next British government 😛

  • old school

    Anybody notice An Phoblacht has also gone online?
    Fall ins sales and lack of interest has forced them to go from weekly to a monthly.
    They will be concentrating on an online format, and relying on donations.
    A PSF spokesman described the above scenario as “a great step forward”.
    Guffaw guffaw, Chortle chortle.

  • [quote][i]Finally, it is entirely possible that many of eyeballs currently scanning MSM websites will search for more left-field alternatives benefiting blogsites such as Slugger (and increasing the importance of real-time information feeds such as Twitter as a source for stories).[/i][/quote]

    Mack, that is exactly the problem the MSM are experiencing and the scanning eyeballs are starting to realise that the truth is being shared elsewhere and online, and it is at odds with the world view which traditional media is pimping and which little pathetic control freaky cabals would have us believe in, so that they maintain and retain the elevated elitist positions in the shadows, living off the backs of Man’s ignorance in how the media spins its tale to shape perception and create a virtual reality which they can control, even if it is with chaos to which society has to respond/follow …… such as that bit of nonsense in Holywood last night outside Palace Barracks.

    However, there are more than just a Few, QuITe SurReal and New Players Dealing with Novel Truths on a ZerodDay Basis, which cannot be Faulted or Defeated or Denied in the Great Game, who are also far more skilled with much Bigger Networks InterNetworking Online and with an Increasing MetaDataBase Store of Intelligence that they can never hope to match or better with their Spinning of Tall Tales which are designed to hide the Truth and the evidence of their string pullings, rather than share it. Thus is the world that you live in Artificial and you are as Puppets in it with your strings being pulled by the stories that you read?

    And aint that the truth ……that you are all easily programmed to believe what you read and see and hear and believe to be real news whenever it is a preordered program for media to stream to you as if live. IT is certainly QuITe SMART Technology but it is badly let down by its Dreadful Programs/Coded Scripts which have no Fabulous Future Imagination for Present Screening in Order to Create with AI, Derivative Futures Virtually, but which you can believe to be Absolutely Real 100% True.

    But it is spooky work because of what it can do, and the money IT generates whenever Future ProgramMINGs are known …… http://sbinvestigator.blogspot.com/2010/04/spymaster-of-monte-carlo-22-pass.html

    Oh, do you think MI5Loughside are into Future ProgramMINGs from their shiny new Global Operating Device Centre in Holywood?

  • Mack

    Paddy

    Frankly, the blogosphere has far too high a notion of its own importance. By and large, it doesn’t break stories of its own accord – it comments on stories that the MSM have broken. What it provides is commentary – often slanted and of variable quality – and all too often an ideological echo chamber into which people can retreat so as to avoid differing opinions.

    That is definetely true. But in a world where the analysis of newspapers (which itself is of varying quality) is hidden behind a paywall, but the details (analysis-free) are available on websites such as RTE (had forgotten about O’Brien and Newstalk) then there’ll be a space for blogs to take up some slack – adding analysis around the raw news. Much of it will be crap, but some of it will be good.. Much like your average newspaper..

  • [quote][i]Frankly, the blogosphere has far too high a notion of its own importance. By and large, it doesn’t break stories of its own accord – it comments on stories that the MSM have broken. [/i] … Posted by Paddy Matthews on Apr 12, 2010 @ 06:22 PM[/quote]

    Paddy, the blogosphere would mainly be more preoccupied and interested in commenting on the fallacies in stories that the MSM have broken, and that eventually builds up to a critical mass, tipping point, which renders to all the Truth in all of the Tales that they have been spun, as being elaborate fabrications to support a self serving and subversive perverse system.

    And you will probably find that delusional self importance is a mainstream notional psychological flaw, and that virtual blogosphere elements know exactly what they can do and where it will lead and how IT can Lead …. with SMART* and Remote and Relatively Anonymous Input/ZerodDay Trades/Cloudy XSSXXXXChanges. …….. for you cannot surely expect the Future with All of this Freely Available Digital/Binary Technology, which changes Pictures and Shares Words with the Simply Complex ReArrangement of 0s and 1s to Present you with anything Old and Rotten and take you back to the Past whenever the Future is where all the Imaginative Creative Action and HyperRadioProActive IT is.

    That would be Madness and SMARTer IDEntities do not Deal in Madness or in ITs Associate Areas of Badness and Sadness caused by Poor Prior Planning and Imperfect and Faulty Provision of Programming and Perception for the Primitive Human Partner/Subject/Object/Project. Fortunately, a Change of Algorithm easily Remedies the Past Failing.

    *Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology

  • Henry94

    Mack

    Presumably they have no issue with RTE continuing to provide free-to-consume news on television

    Hardly free. They are supported state backed extortion. Pay or go to jail even if you never watch it. I hate them and I wish the newspapers well in their attempts to do them down. But I still won’t pay for an online paper.

    They are unnecessary for breaking news and I can’t think of any columnists in Ireland whose opinions I would pay to know. Not that there aren’t some good ones but I pretty much know their opinions already.

    When I buy a paper it is for relaxation as much as information. It’s a Sunday or I’m on a train. It’s just not the same online.