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.
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”.
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.