What should the next editor of the Irish Times do?

Dylan Collins posted an interesting question last week: What should the Irish Times do next?


As the paper gears up for its equivalent of a papal election next month, Collins offers five interesting answers to his own question.


1) On the vexed issue of what to with ireland.com, he suggests finding a partner.


The problem with that is ireland.com says “Irish Times” to the people who live in Ireland and maybe the recently emigrated. To everybody else, the link is more or less meaningless. It has confused the branding of the Irish Times online for more than a decade and as a portal to all things Irish it’s probably fair to call it a failure.


Collins is right, it is a great domain. The next editor should sell it.


2) Deals websites.


These may be worth exploring, but the numbers involved would be so small relative to the size of groupon et al, that partnering is probably a non-starter. The running of an Irish Times deals site could be outsourced, but it should ensure it has total control of any customer data garnered. Subscriber packages such as the Daily Telegraph’s Subscriber card or the (London) Times+ offering may also be an option.


3) Aggregation


Something the next editor should pursue aggressively, but with caveats. It will only work if it is used in such a way that it avoids duplication of content and wasting of resources – Jeff Jarvis’s “do what you do best, and link to the rest”.


4) Paywall


A paywall on the Irish Times business section will not work – it’s not a specialised business publication. On business news, no one could pretend it is in the same league as the FT or Wall Street Journal and the market for Irish-specific business news is not large enough to justify the investment necessary to make it work.


5) Spin off the IT as a separate company.


They tried this at the start with Itronics Ltd (that ireland.com confusion again) and it led to duplication of resources and a degree of bunker mentality on both sides. While very convincing voices, such as Emily Bell, have changed their tune somewhat on newsroom integration, I think The Times needs to build the web into the fabric of its organisation, not keep it at arm’s length.


On Collins’s final point, while the ability to raise capital privately and squeeze pay and redundancy terms sound like good things to a businessman, the incoming  editor will instantly lose any goodwill left if he/she tries to “yellow pack” a large part of the Irish Times’s output.


In my next post I will offer my own suggestions to the next Sir or Madam.

Is Big Data the new PC or the new oil?

The New York Times has a piece on this McKinsey report here on how many statisticians and data analysts the US is going to need to keep up with "business data that double every 1.2 years".

While it makes predictions on how much US healthcare could save – $300 billion – and how much retailers could improve their profit margins – 60 per cent – it does caution:

"It will take years, they say, before the gains show up in the economic statistics, just as it did for computers to prove they were engines of productivity."  

Meanwhile, Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, calls personal data the “new oil” here; Gerd Leonhard, a "media futurist" says "all this data is the new oil of today" here; and this guy says it here.

At least the first two seem to be based on this World Economic Forum report [PDF].

My first reaction is that any time loads of people suddenly tune in to the same soundbite and start rebroadcasting it, I am instantly suspicious.
Secondly, I'm not sure "the new oil" is the most thought-through business metaphor in a world of Middle East wars, rising petrol prices, Gulf of Mexico spills and the horrendous mess "the old oil" has made of Nigeria. The new goldrush may be closer to the mark, but may sound a bit too bubble-like on the day LinkedIn floated for nearly $9 billion.

Either way, the notion that statisticians will be in demand to mine this new resource is probably a good thing – they get a bad rap.

Tom: It's a lovely day for a launch, here, live at Cape Canaveral, at
the lower end of the Florida Peninsula, and the purpose of
today's mission is truly, really electrifying.
Man 2: That's correct, Tom. The lion's share of this flight will be
devoted to the study of the effects of weightlessness on tiny
Tom: Unbelievable, and just imagine the logistics of weightlessness.
And of course, this could have literally millions of applications
here on Earth — everything from watchmaking to watch repair.
Homer: Boring.

Tom: Now let's look at the crew a little.
Man 2: They're a colorful bunch. They've been dubbed "the Three
Musketeers". Heh heh heh —
Tom: And we laugh legitimately. There's a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician. 

And they're possibly the only people who could tell us we are in the middle of a new fad in business and a new bubble in social media.