Is the Tribune trying to tell us something?

Below is a scan of Richard Delevan’s column from the main section of today’s Sunday Tribune (final edition) – what’s of interest is the e-mail address at the bottom:

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Way back when there were rumours that The Irish Times were about to pounce on a floundering Sunday Tribune in a bold move into the Sunday market – that’s why IN&M made the defensive maneuver of buying into it first, something which began with an attempted takeover and ended with IN&M making itself central to the Tribune through a series of loans.

Well maybe, just maybe, The Irish Times (which has been on a spending spree lately) has decided to renew its takeover attempt and is now buying the paper one columnist at a time!

(thanks to the anonymous tipster to brought this gaffe to my attention).

On Newstalk tonight

I’ll be on Newstalk tonight as part of their weekly ‘Lay of the Land’ feature, in which each Sunday’s newspapers are previewed before they hit the shelves.

The bit is part of the Taste programme and I go on at 8:45PM – you can catch it online, on 106-108FM, on your relevant digital TV platform or even on your fancy DAB system.

With this being the final weekend of the election campaign the big stories in tomorrow’s papers will be extremely important for the various parties – the final Sunday Business Post poll will in the very least shape most of the discussion over the next 24 hours.

Rants: Changing a film’s setting in an attempt to pander

I recently picked up Regina Spektor’s Begin To Hope, an acquisition largely based on the opening track ‘Fidelity‘ which piqued my interest in her after just one brief listen. As tends to happen when I listen to a new song or album, I go searching for more information, for lyrics, backgrounds and meaning.

It turns out that Fidelity was inspired by the movie High Fidelity, based on Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name and having never read said book or seen said movie I went searching for more information on that as well.

The opening plot summary on the movie’s Wikipedia article is what led to this rant – that “The book and film have essentially similar plots, though the setting, originally London, is moved to Chicago in the film.”

I’m sure plenty of Hornby fans got up in arms at this back in 2000 (when it would actually make sense to, what with the film being a new release then), but myself, a virgin to this particular occourance, found myself baffled and down-right agitated by the whole practice (which is replicated in many other releases).

The whole thing stems from pure ignorance, a pet peeve of mine. Now I’m not sure if the movie producers think that US audiences can only related to US characters or if they know same, but that’s irrelevant.

If it’s the former then it angers (but doesn’t surprise me) to know that movie studios see their audience as a socially enclosed, unworldly monotone incapable of contemplating any existence outside of its immediate surrounding. If it’s the latter it angers me that the audience is a socially enclosed, unworldly monotone incapable of contemplating any existence outside of its immediate surrounding.

I’ve heard the stories of US audiences needing subtitles for some of the more, shall we say, colourful accents in certain movies not made on their own shores but this is just plain frustrating.

More journalists blogging

Damien flagged this the other day but it looks like The Irish Times has rolled out its fourth blogger over at Ireland.com/blogs.

Mark Hennessy, the paper’s political correspondent, has started up the aptly titled ‘Correspondent‘ in recent days and has been giving some extra weight to the election’s ins and outs. The main blogs page does say it’s an Election 2007 blog, but let’s hope it continues after next Thursday and beyond.

It’s exactly what we need more of and it’s a great addition – now we just need David Davin Power to do the same over at RTÉ.ie and we’ll be on our way!

Another new blog, although one from a seasoned blogger, is ExPad – the blog of Markham Nolan, deputy editor of The Irish Echo in Australia and all-round nice guy.

Links added to the menu and may I present to you both this laurel and hardy handshake. Welcome and welcome back.

Independent.ie relaunch

The Irish Independent has just relaunched its website, Independent.ie, which heralds the end to registration and the beginning of a far more interactive site for the national newspaper.

This follows the relaunch of The Irish Times website Ireland.com which happened in November of last year and is another step forward for the online presence of Irish print media, which has been lagging way before its international counterparts.

The most striking thing about the site on first arrival is the thick red banner that sits just below the now neater site logo. The banner contains a single image and strapline relating to a particular story, but does seem perhaps a little bit bare given the size of it – that said, having too much text and image on it would probably make it even more distracting so that may be the logic there.

The very top of the page has some nice information like date, day and weather gauge / temperature (does this relate to the reader’s location, using IP as a way of placing them? Mine seems to always say Dublin, anyway).

The newspaper content runs down the left-hand side and seems to sit well – not looking too squashed but still allowing for plenty of space to its right. Beside this there are some novel features on the front page – an “editors choice” column, a breaking news box with independent tabs for various sections, a “most popular” and “most emailed” article list, a “Today in Pictures” section and some linked quotes to they day’s opinion pieces.

The links on the main page to IN&M’s classifieds websites makes sense for the company and adds a nice interconnectivity that The Irish Times has attempted to do on its own site. That said the Loadzajobs search box, while a good idea, takes a whole column to itself despite it being quite small… why not put search boxes for the other classified sites too?

The drop down menus for the main site and the newspaper itself are a little easier to use than before and bring you to the same clean layout for each of the paper’s sections (business, world news etc.).

The Entertainment section is the only one that breaks the site’s format with a colour scheme of black, pink and grey as opposed to white and red (and I do like the scrollable images for that particular section on the main page).

One of the better additions to the site is the ability to comment on articles – although it doesn’t seem to be activated on all articles at the moment, including some of the opinion pieces, where it would probably be most useful.

Damien’s request for RSS feeds on the main page has also been granted, with a button at the bottom of each section.

Overall the makeover moves Independent.ie back in direct competition with Ireland.com which had been steaming ahead until now… both sites have their unique functions – Ireland.com ahead of the fold with blogging and Independent.ie ahead with comment-enabled stories – but Independent.ie makes up for anything it lacks by throwing open its doors completely, dropping even the free subscription that existed before. I wonder if they’ll continue to block Kevin Myers’ weekly column from the website, however.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of changes there – I expect Independent.ie to keep adding features to the site just like The Irish Times has done recently.

Fingers crossed those at Thomas Crosbie will take note of this – their sites have been in need of a makeover for some time and The Examiner and Sunday Business Post are now the only two national broadsheets with very dated websites.

Finally got a DTT box

Having written about it numerous times in recent months I’ve finally had the chance to check out Ireland’s DTT trial for myself today.

I got in touch with the DCMNR – as I said to them, I’ve been watching developments in it so closely it’d be nice to try it out for myself – who kindly organised a set-top box for me this afternoon.

Set up was easy – it was literally a case of plugging it in and switching it on. The menus are decent, EPG is spot-on and the picture quality is superb (I’m watching from Santry, Dublin using a One For All indoor antenna).

The choice of channels is solid too – all six of the Irish broadcasters (bar Setanta) are on it as well as all the BBC digital channels, Sky News, Sky Sports 1 and a few others like UK TV History. I’d put money on a) more channels coming on over the next year and b) the channel list to be very different once the trial is over and a full system is up and running (for example I expect Sky Sports 1 to go, Setanta Ireland to come on and maybe even UTV if rights issues can be resolved).

Those interested in taking part should check this thread out to see if they can bag their own box, although the trial is only available to viewers in certain areas, namely Dublin and Louth.

The only downside is the fact that I’m forced to watch it all on a crappy little portable telly, but with this new addition to my room and the upcoming Leinster Final – which will be broadcast in HD as part of the trial – I think I’ll find it increasingly difficult to avoid buying that 32″ flat screen I’ve been dreaming of for months now!

Media buyers still doubt Channel 6 (SBP – 13th May 2007)

An article of mine from the latest Sunday Business Post which analyses the performance of Channel 6 now that it’s one year old:

Channel 6’s presence on Sky’s digital platform has caused a slight improvement in its performance, but it is clear from the entertainment channel’s aborted attempt to attract the lowest common denominator by introducing late night ‘erotica’, that things are still not going to plan.

Last month, the channel’s commercial viewing share among adults aged between 15 and 34 had grown to 2.4 per cent. This puts it just behind Irish language channel TG4, which holds a 2.7 per cent share in the same category. Channel 6 could not be reached for comment.

‘‘It is still shy of their original expected 4 per cent market share for adults aged 15-34. However, the introduction of new homes for their channel has come at a time when all commercial viewing is dropping off year on year,” said Audrey Clarke of Vizeum.

‘‘Pure entertainment channels – like Channel 6, Living TV, MTV and Paramount – are all performing well this year, despite the market drop.”

The channel’s fortunes have been boosted somewhat by the performance of its flagship programme, Heroes, which won 28,000 viewers for its debut and has enjoyed an overall viewership share in the region of 2 per cent.

However, the performance of the new content secured by the channel is still below buyers’ expectations.

‘‘Unique programming to Channel 6 – like Brotherhood and Heroes, both quality American imports – are not pulling in the viewing figures they deserve,” said Clarke.

‘‘Unfortunately, Brotherhood goes out on a Sunday night up against RTE’s flagship ER and TV3’s big Sunday night movies and also the second half of Lost on Sky One.”

Another constraint on these shows’ performance is their availability elsewhere. Heroes is broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel, while Brotherhood is also on FX. Both stations are available to Sky Digital and NTL/ Chorus Digital viewers.

‘‘They were unfortunate with Heroes, as their promotion got caught up in the general noise around the show,” said Conor Hanover, broadcast director in Media works.

‘‘People knew the show was on, but they didn’t necessarily know it was on Channel 6.

‘‘The result would have been the same even if they’d spent more money on promotion.”

In reality, very little of what Channel 6 broadcasts is new to Irish viewers, with some programmes more than ten years old and others weeks behind their British counterparts.

‘‘They are programmes that you can find elsewhere, so there’s no point of differentiation’’, said Hanover.

His suggestion was for the channel to seek out programming not already available to Irish viewers, at least not at the same time. Even by having a programme a week before a British broadcaster, Channel 6 can draw in viewers. Medical drama House is one such show in its arsenal, with the show’s main British broadcaster Five not available in Ireland.

The consensus was, however, that the broadcaster’s failure to get onto the Sky platform from day one – and the poor placement it received when it did – was doing a significant amount of damage.

‘‘The channel was not helped by not being available to all homes in the first year’’, said Gary Power, managing director of Saor Communications. ‘‘Its fundamental problem now is of being very low down on the [Sky Digital] programming guide.”

Channel 6 only joined Sky Digital in February, after months of holding out for a placement beside other Irish channels, like RTE and TV3.

In the end, it was forced to settle for number 223, a far cry from the high-visibility placement which it enjoys on NTL/ Chorus.

Not only does this make the station harder to find for those looking for it, but it also seriously diminishes the ‘passing trade’ that comes from channel hoppers looking for good programming.

Considering these obstacles it comes as little surprise to see the station trail behind its projections. Gary Power said the image of Channel 6 had so far been damaged due to unfair comparisons to RTE and TV3, despite it being a niche station.

‘‘It’s a decent product, but it’s also a long-term game and the backers know this’’, he said. ‘‘Broadcasting isn’t a two year investment, otherwise everyone would be doing it.”

Audrey Clarke echoed this point and said it was still early days for the station, which had made the most of what it had in its attempts to generate funds.

‘‘Channel 6 is one of the lucky newer channels that has more than just spots to sell,” she said, referring to its ability to offer programme sponsorship.

‘‘Some of the extra ‘thinking outside the box’ ideas Channel 6 has on offer are giving advertisers the chance to help in the production of shows, web interactivity and competitions within their programming.”

Hanover said their placement among other small-print satellite listings in TV guides was also a problem, but no matter how well they were publicised, it all came down to content.

‘‘Their biggest challenge is in building ‘appointment to view’ programming’’, he said.

‘‘The next thing they need to do would be to get people interested, get Sky Digital viewers to add it to their favourites and make them aware.”