The potential killer of The Evening Herald

The Guardian reports on an interesting development in the freesheet market in London as News International/NewsCorp prepares to launch ‘the London Paper’, a free daily paper with a slight edge; it’s an afternoon/evening publication.

NewsCorp has been slow on the scene in the Freesheet market with Associated Newspapers taking the majority of the market so far; it currently owns the UK Metro editions and also publishes Standard Lite; a freesheet version of its Evening Standard publication, a tactic a kin to the publication of Herald AM in Ireland.

Interestingly the Standard Lite is only distributed until 2:30 PM, this is obviously so it does not hinder sales of the Evening Standard. The upcoming London Paper title will be distributed from 4:30 to 7:30 PM, putting itself head-to-head with the Associated Newspapers paid-for publication and right in line for the home-time rush hour market. According to the Guardian article there is a tender process ongoing amonst the London public transport agencies for an afternoon publication, something that News International may bypass. Theoretically this means that there could be two Evening newspapers on the scene in London by the end of the year; The London Paper which will be distributed outside tube stations and another that will be distributed within.

It is possible but unlikely that Associated Newspapers will bid for the London Underground afternoon/evening paper tender as it would only lead to a further erosion of its Evening Standard readership.

Putting all of this in an Irish context this could be the catalyst to a similar incident in the Dublin market. Currently Metro Ireland and Herald AM both distribute early in the morning to gain the readership of the commuter audience; by home-time rush hour most copies of both papers are only available on empty bus seats and Independent News & Media has an invested interest in not allowing its freesheet publication to overlap onto its paid-for paper’s time-zone.

Should News International’s push prove a success we may see an afternoon/evening paper on the market very quickly, especially if Herald AM and/or Metro start to prove their worth in the near future. Potential suitors for such a publication could include any media group or company; Metro (owned by Associated Newspapers and The Irish Times Ltd.) is probably in the best position as it could simply update its morning paper with an evening edition. TCH could also make a move onto the Dublin freesheet market; while it is generally a Cork-centric media group any freesheet offering there could hinder its existing publications; The Evening Echo is owned by TCH and The Examiner takes 1/4 of the Munster market; one of the biggest players in the region and in Cork itself. Dublin on the other hand is a less successful patch for the group with The Examiner taking less than 1% in the last JNRS figures; while that is generally considered bad news for TCH it can also be looked at as a huge market left to win over. Tying a free evening paper to a paid-for morning publication could even help The Examiner in the capital (even though it is a backwards marketing tactic compared to Herald AM and the Evening Herald)
Outside of Irish interests The Guardian Group could even mount a challenge; it’s interest in the sale of Myhome.ie shows that they consider Ireland to be a fertile market, although that group has been more keen on shaping its digital publications rather than bogging itself down more and more with an old-fashioned print model. Last but not least there is always News International; they could do the same as Associated and transport their successful model from the UK to Ireland to create “The Dublin Paper” down the line.

Regardless of what company takes the plunge (and if one does it’s unlikely to be IN&M) there is a potentially great opportunity for the expansion of the freesheet market in Dublin and like Herald AM and Metro have dinted tabloid dailies any afternoon/evening freebie would certainly pose a huge threat to its Evening rival.

The Evening Herald has had plenty of attacks in recent times with The (Irish) Daily Mail and morning freesheets; even The Irish Independent is encroaching on the market of the age-old daily, could this be the final nail in it’s coffin?

Who knows, maybe even The Irish Press plc. will come back from obscurity to get revenge on its once bitter rival.

(just to note News International currently has a hold of thelondonpaper.co.uk in preperation for its impending launch; no site is currently live there however)

Myhome.ie purchase won’t damage The Irish Times

Mediangler reckons that the purchase of Myhome.ie by The Irish Times Ltd. ‘compromises editorial independence and judgement’ of the publication and ‘it will be difficult for readers to read the Irish Times and not wonder where the company’s self-interest is influencing coverage.’ Such a doomsday prophecy for Irelands “paper of record” does however ignore numerous facts about the newspaper, its parent company and the property market in Ireland.

Putting aside the unique management situation at The Irish Times which makes commercial decisions to the detriment of editorial independence quite difficult it has to be pointed out that myhome.ie is not the company’s first infringement into the property market.

Since 2004 Nicemove.ie has been the classified website of The Irish Times Ltd., detailing jobs and cars as well as property. Certainly the company did not fork out an arguably bloated sum of money for the website however that is quite irrelevant. Whether the company wants to make a profit from its digital acquisitions in order to cover the cost of its purchase or just to make its ownership worthwhile The Irish Times Ltd. has had an invested interest in the property market for over two years now; the purchase of Myhome.ie doesn’t really change this.

Assuming that the board and trust is willing to forego its reputation in the name of recouping its losses then it should be noted that Wednesdays Motors and Commercial Property sections, as well as Thursdays Property section have been mis-leading you for a long time already.

Then you have to wonder what exactly The Irish Times as a newspaper could do to boost its online profits that could be deemed an editorial compromise. Nicemove.ie is already used as the newspapers classifieds source of choice and myhome.ie could soon or someday replace that but a single newspaper, infact all the newspapers together could not redirect the property market at its whim, they would at best delay the realities of it for a tiny amount of time.

A newspaper cannot pretend that the market is stronger than it is or that it is the right time to buy when it is not; and even if it was to fool some of its readers the net effect would be a huge drop in readership due to the subsequent lack of trust. The board knows this and so does every other newspaper, even the LCD ones are cautious with their lies. The fact is that a newspaper may be able to predict the markets, report on them or comment on them but it has no real power in shaping them; the Government has more and even then it is effected heavily by exterior influences from the EU, US and consumers.
The much lauded property-slowdown is sure to hit us eventually and this draws questions upon the logic of the myhome.ie purchase; of course the estate agents knew what they were doing when they sold up, just like Bank of Ireland and now AIB know what they’re doing by selling their branches in favour of a rent-based model. The predictions on the property market are not ones of boom and bust, however, they are warnings of a slowdown. We may be at or near the peak but we are not facing a trough; instead property is just going to stay at its current values or rise at a much slower rate. Heck, even The Irish Times Ltd. knows what stage the property market is at; they’ve just sold their legendary D’Olier Street properties in favour of their own rent-based model.

Mediangler does raise an interesting point about acquisitions, however; “What the Irish Times move means for newspapers in general is that they need to look closely at their independence in all their media outlets.” It is fair to say that the numerous newspapers of the NewsCorp and Independent News & Media stable will not publish content against the company line. You can be sure that the politics of The Irish Independent and The Evening Herald are very closely tied, just like the politics of The Sun and The London Times are too; they may be packaged differently, written differently or one may give more focus to celebrities than the other but on the same issues they read from the same hymn sheets.

The Irish Times Ltd. currently only has one other newspaper in its stable, and at that it only owns 45% of it. Metro Ireland is an unashamedly tabloid affair, not that isn’t necessarally a bad thing but it is most certainly aiming at a different point on the dart-board to The Irish Times (that’s mainly why they invested in it in the first place). So far the two newspapers have remainded completely seperated, to the point where you wouldn’t know there was a tie unless someone showed you the company records. The Irish Times even had no qualms in publishing details of the controversy in March about Metro distributors not getting paid as well as news that the newspaper may face fines and prosecutions for the litter it causes.

There is currently no reason to believe The Irish Times Ltd. becoming a press or media baron and there is no reason to believe that any of their acquisitions will hinder the independence of the central publication. I’d imagine that the company is confident enough of the potential in the Irish property market and it knows that there is nothing the main newspaper can do to change that even if their hopes are mislaid.

DRI may initiate legal action against the state

A bit behind on this; Mulley’s got it covered too.

Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) have contacted various state bodies to demand an immediate halt to the “collection, storing and accessing of personal private data on every citizen using a mobile or fixed line phone” which it says is “a breach of the Irish citizens’ statutory, constitutional and human rights to privacy, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and endorsed in Irish courts, in the European Court of Justice and in the European Court of Human Rights.”

The respective bodies (Department of Justice, Department of Communications and Garda Commissioner) have seven days to respond at which point DRI will initiate legal action.

Should such a case go to court it could set a huge precident in the Irish digital world and perhaps even have EU-wide implications. It would also be a landmark case for the Irish online community and its outcomes would have a definite impact on internet as well as phone users.

Articles on the issue appeared in the Examiner, Irish Times and Independent

Irish national blogging day

Ken has reiterated his previous suggestion for a National Blog Day in Ireland in which all bloggers would take a moment to tell the world what their blog has done for/to them in the previous 12 months.

It would be a nice idea (bar the fact that I did the same last week!) but I think aligning it with the next Irish Blog Awards would be the best option, as I said in Ken’s comments it would allow us all to look at our own blogs and celebrate the benefits they’ve given us and then go on to look at everyone else’s and celebrate their benefits to the community.

A national day of blogging would probably be a bit anti-climactic if it consisted solely of a few blog posts, it should have something that makes it stand out from every other day of the year (because after all, we can all blog all the time!). Damien’s idea of a BBQ/Beerfest is equally good and I think any day should be marked by some kind of event/get-together. Perhaps even a Blogging Conference?

Irish Times Ltd. takes Myhome.ie

It’s in The Irish Times (subs req), on RTÉ.ie and breakingnews.ie has it covered too; The Irish Times Ltd. is to pay a whopping €50 million for Irish property website Myhome.ie (€40 million up front and €10 million over a 5-year period).

The Sunday Business Post told us that The Guardian, Irish Times, Rightmove and possibily Independent News & Media were all still in the running as of the 23rd of July; it also stated that there has been speculation that the site might sell for €40 million plus, but well-placed sources believe that the likely selling price could be closer to €30 million.” which turned out to be a very conservative estimate.

The purchase by The Irish Times Ltd. is another string to the bow of the media group and has the potential to make the company another Irish media empire. The group currently owns 45% of Metro Ireland, has a 5% share in a North-West radio licence bid and has invested heavily in upcoming women’s title ‘Gloss’ (subs req). The group also owns Ireland.com, it’s online news portal and nicemove.ie its classifieds website. It is unclear what changes will be made to nicemove.ie or myhome.ie once this purchase is approved, while nicemove.ie covers Cars and Jobs it also covers Property; perhaps that section will be dropped or the entire site will be integrated into Myhome.ie.

What is interesting about the move is that this is The Irish Times Ltd.’s first business move that didn’t involve them getting in at the ground up; In all other cases they held their shares at launch but this time they’re buying into a tried and tested formula instead.

What’s next for the group? Well Damien suggests Irishblogs.ie might be on their wishlist in a few years time, and it’s entirely possible. Given the fact that some of the money had to be borrowed for this purchase (the cost is double the amount the company made from the sale of it’s historic D’Olier Street offices) however I’d imagine things will calm for a short period but that’s not to be assumed at all. I’ll put my money (and a little bit of hope) on an Ireland.com redesign; perhaps if that happens in the near future and they move towards something a kin to Comment is Free they might get a taste for blogging after all!

BBC to start ‘Vodcasting’

MediaGuardian covers the BBC’s decision to start Vodcasting (aka V-logging, Vidi-logging, Vidcasting etc.). The broadcaster will begin its new service with a weekly round up of Question Time, News at Ten and Newsnight; the service will expand over time to include daily round-up’s and Question Time highlights.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of their programming; but much like many people I know I won’t be watching it on the move, I don’t even listen to podcasts on the move, just at my computer.

For an organisation like the BBC vidicasts are a sensible move in an ever growing world of interactive media; all the footage and programming is already there and the only additional work comes in the form of editing and voice-over work. If a station offers streaming and on-demand programming there’s no reason why it shouldn’t allow the download of the same, or at least a condensed version of it.

In the wider world of social media I don’t see Vidicasting as having any large-scale potential, however, certainly no-where near the level of impact that blogging is currently having.

As you go higher on the scale of the three main social media players, blogging, podcasting and vidicasting the amount of effort and even cost also increases. Starting a blog is simple, for most people it’s no harder than a sign-up to Blogger or WordPress. Podcasting is a little bit more difficult; you need recording equipment (mic, editing software etc.) and you need to pay for some kind of hosting too. Of course you also need something to talk about that takes advantage of the medium; there’s no point in creating a spoken-word version of your blog as you may as well just write it in that case. Perhaps you could get guests on, have a debate, sample from other shows and talk about them etc but that can create an organisational issue too. Finally Vidicasting which is similar to podcasting except you also need a camera (and for good video hosting even more money).
To make a good podcast or vidicast it’s not as simple as having basic equipment and a topic, it’s also about production. While social media helps to take high-cost production out of the equation it never hurts to have a high quality audio or video file on offer; a well edited audio clip which includes decent music, cuts and segments etc. is not all that easy to do but it’s a hell of a lot easier than creating a video of a similar standard. Creating a well-edited video clip demands seemless cuts of both image and audio; good production dictates some kind of reasonable visual set up (in other words, a set, and decent on-screen captions and text). None of these factors need to make the whole thing much more expensive but they certainly add to the complexity of it.

Finally Vidicasting is hindered by the issue of anonymity. On Saturday with Susan McReynolds on the 22nd it was pointed out that there is no anonymity online which is true, however there is still the ability to remain unknown for the most part; some people operating online can only be traced by ISP’s authorities or people really determined to “out” them, which would likely not come about unless the circumstances were serious. Blogging allows for anonymity and podcasting does too; Vidicasting is not so secret-friendly however. Sure it is possible to Vidicast and conceal your identity but it’s not easy to pull off and it will probably damage the show (unless it’s part of the appeal).

All said I don’t see Vidicasting becoming as important a part of the social media mix like blogging and even podcasting, it will likely remain a lesser-pursued hobby online for various reasons be they cost, complexity or personal decision. Sites like YouTube increase the ability for people to upload their own video’s without cost and at high speed but for the most part that site is just being used to pass around funny mobile-phone video’s and viral ad’s and clips. There is still a use for Vidicasting, however. Events like the Irish Blog Awards could benefit from a video podcast of the whole event, and it did have a recording of the 2006 awards online before.
Creating my own video show just doesn’t appeal to me, while blogging and podcasting does; I imagine I’m not alone in that.

E-mail subscription added

At the request of Terry Maguire (no relation, at least not that I know of!) I’ve added an e-mail subscription option; those who do subscribe should recieve a daily update from my blog thanks to FeedBlitz.

E-mail subscription is not something I had given much thought to before; in a world of RSS the idea seems to be losing its importance however some people still use it and there’s no harm to me or other readers if the option is there.

Any problems with the subscriber box on the left, please e-mail me or leave a comment!

Mulley.net is burnt out

It was too good to last; Stall The Ball points out that mulley.net has gone AWOL and the site now tells us “This account has been suspended. Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.”

After three days in a row of tens of thousands of hits (on a site that already clocked an impressive readership in the high-hundreds) it looks like those servers finally decided that enough was enough.

I’m sure Blacknight will be able to help Damien out of his fix; while I don’t use them myself there’s little doubt that they’re a nice-guy service (take Michele Neylon’s recent offer of hosting sponsorship to Conn’s upcoming radio show-cum-podcast “An Lionra Soisialta”

Update: All is once again well in the land of Mulley.net as you can see for yourself; thank goodness for that!

A good week for Irish bloggers…

… And perhaps one of the best in some time.

Well done to Damien who’s stat counter has been working over time as a result of his rather enjoyable “How to use Google to get a girl and get laid” post. First it was 18,000 hits in a day, now it’s nearly 30,000; I bet those Blacknight servers are praying BoingBoing doesn’t get a whiff of this and cause complete mayhem!

In other good news Conn Ó Muíneacháin has announced that he will have a new Irish language radio show on Flirt FM, Galway (and probably elsewhere) revolving around social networking tools. This is one of those rare occassions where a podcaster moves into the mainstream media but if anyone in Ireland was going to do it it was always going to be Conn. the show sounds quite interesting; it will be broadcast on radio, via podcast have its own blog, wiki, mailing list and possibly bulletin board too. What’s even cooler is that it will be (part)funded by the BCI Sound and Vision scheme which makes Conn the first podcaster to recieve licence fee funding! Another well done there (do you know how hard it was to not say CONNgratulations? Oh, damn).

Update: As Annette points out in the comments the Irish blog community also featured on Saturday with Susan McReynolds; the show can be found here (Realplayer link, starts around the 41st minute) and it features Damien Mulley, Cian O’Flaherty (starts at 1 hour 25 minutes), Annette Clancey and Claire Wilson discussing their blogs, blogging in Ireland and the effect it has had in their lives and the wider world.
The Irish blogging community has certainly had a good year in 2006 so far for numerous reasons and hopefully things can only get better as we make our way through the second half and beyond.