Irish media as a whole could never be referred to as trend-setting; DTT is only warming up the engines, DAB the same. It does seem at times that the whole thing is clinging onto the past, the golden era of the traditional media, perhaps. Being optimistic about it though, all we really need are a few organisational changes in different places and things should run relatively smoothly, albeit behind the majority of Europe.
The same cannot be said for the print media, however. Let’s not get into the argument that print is doomed, it’s not. Journalists will keep on working with bloggers and citizen journalists having little negative effect, if anything a positive one; print media will keep defying the internet (and the growth of ebooks etc.) because people will always, at least in our lifetime, have a preference for something tangible and solid to hold, fold and read. Saying that, the inevitably secure future for print across the world has not stopped innovation; The Guardian has embraced blogging and other online content as an appendage to its core print run. The Times in London is doing the same, going so far as to launch a TV channel online. They have also launched a podcast on the back of The Guardian’s hyper-successful Ricky Gervais show.
Ireland’s equivalents have not been so forthcoming, however. The Irish Times is still a subscription site; perhaps it has been extremely lucrative for them but it seems to hold a very closed mindset, one that is not ready for new ideas. The Irish Independent is normally free, but they managed to take a step back and limit some of their content (Kevin Myers’ column) so that those interested would be forced to buy the print version. The Sunday Tribune seems to do the same for their prized possession, Ross O’Carroll Kelly. The Sunday Business Post doesn’t limit content but the website design is quite poor, the archive site is probably one of the least user-friendly sites of a professional organisation I have seen in recent years.
All in all, the best our newspapers can produce is an online version of the print newspaper. There’s on exclusive online content, no online writers, no videos or podcasts, hyperlinked articles, no blogs. Nothing new or original.
Perhaps it is based on the fact that Television has to evolve; the EU has set a deadline (kind of) and Ireland can’t be the only EU country to be stuck on analogue in 2012. The same applies for radio; even with no analogue switch-over present DAB offers so much more possibilities and freedoms, including extra space to broadcast on; that is something irresistible to the radio industry.
All the four newspapers I mentioned have ads on their website; perhaps they haven’t realised how much money these can make, with the right pitch and the right content. Must-see or must-hear content, additional articles (or extended versions of pieces in the print newspaper), and better interaction through blogs would all bring in the crowds and bump up the page impressions. While the benefits of online content aren’t as apparent as with DTT and DAB the internet too offers much greater freedom and space to do anything, and it’s not like they’re expensive; The Guardian seems to be doing pretty well in financial terms even though it is free to read online (after a free registration) and has tons of online-only content.
Perhaps the real reason is that the Irish print media is still trying to get out of battle-mode with the internet; remember when it was going to kill off the newspaper? I have enough reason (and faith) to believe that online developments in Ireland’s newspapers are on their way but I don’t know how long it will take. I also don’t know if Irish newspapers will try something new and original, something completely innovative or just copy what has happened in the UK (once it’s proven to work efficiently).