Reversing Fortunes: The Irish Times’ Digital Strategy in Focus
The Irish Times is one of Ireland’s quality broadsheets with an international presence. Like many broadsheets, the dual challenges of the recession and emerging digital platforms have led the paper to look for new revenue channels. New Media Knowledge took a closer look.
The Irish Times has earned an international reputation as Ireland’s quality daily newspaper. News stories throughout Ireland are accompanied by reports from a network of foreign correspondents, as well as sports and business coverage, features and arts sections, lifestyle, jobs, and property.
In common with many newspapers, The Irish Times has seen its existing business model threatened by digital media and changing consumer media consumption patterns. It was therefore looking for a new digital presence that would halt this decline in circulation and advertising revenues, so it teamed up with digital marketing agency EMC Consulting to set about a sea-change in its offering.
NMK’s Chris Lee caught up with Ali Rahnema, Director of Corporate Development at The Irish Times, to find out how it is using is ownership of the Ireland.com site, the paper’s domain acquired in 1997, to good effect.
When did the Irish Times decide to convert the domain into a more interactive portal?
In 2007, the decision was made to relaunch Ireland.com as a local search portal, remove the subscription pay wall and move the newspaper to Irishtimes.com. We wanted to create an interactive portal that brings together relevant content from numerous sources. We could then marry that content with user reviews and comment, and practical information like business directories and event listings, all underpinned by powerful, dynamic search.
How long did it take from making the decision to rebranding and relaunching the site?
We wanted a new digital presence that allowed us to broaden our brand and traffic footprint as well as enable revenue diversification. The decision itself was fairly concise and was made in early 2007, EMC Consulting was engaged by the middle of that year and the new Ireland.com was launched in June 2008.
What impact has it had on readership and revenues?
Overall, the combined traffic to both Irishtimes.com and Ireland.com is 50 per cent higher than pre-separation of URLs. The main benefit for the reader is that the new site offers free access to a wide range of relevant web content. Users can now experience an enhanced personalised service, with pages dynamically served according to their individual search preference.
What’s your paper circulation nowadays compared to 2000 and how has your web traffic improved in that same period?
The Irish Times circulation is up one percent compared to 2000; our web traffic has nearly doubled in the same period.
Is there a social media aspect to the new site?
We recognise that traditional media outlets need to constantly innovate, not only to find new ways to deliver relevant content to readers, but also to engage with them and allow them to interact with the content and one-another. Social media is almost a prerequisite for all businesses and our site includes blogs, forums, user reviews and polls.
What aspects of the site are the most successful?
The new website has helped us to create a dynamic and contemporary experience for Ireland, meeting the everyday needs of both residents of Ireland and the millions of Irish Internet users around the world. To date, the most popular aspects include the local search functionality and the travel and going out sections have also proven to be particularly popular with users.
What can we expect from the site in the coming months?
We have just refreshed the site in then last week which has gone really well. We will be adding classified functionality in the next quarter and improved user review and interaction.