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Rejoice… rejoice! Well, almost. The Irish Times is free online from tomorrow… June 29, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Media and Journalism.
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No longer will pieces here and elsewhere have the ubiquitous [sub req'd] tag on them. For in the Sunday Business Post (in its printed format) today I read that:

From tomorrow, the Irish Times newspaper will once again have its own dedicated website at http://www.irishtimes.com. There will be no subscription charges for most users; people will be able to read today’s edition, and access papers from the past 12 months, free of charge.

Which is good.

Apparently despite the fact that:

The Ireland.com site is one of the most popular news sites in Ireland. Its last audited traffic report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations – for the month of October – found it had 1.2 million unique users in one month.

This had not translated into a serious base for subscription.

…it has built up fewer than 10,000 individual subscribers (implying revenue of around €790,000 a year for the site, since the annual charge is €79). The number of people paying for content is actually considerably higher, at 40,000, when you include corporate subscriptions and users of its paid-for e-mail services.

I can’t work out whether I am surprised it’s so high, or did I think it would be lower. Certainly some of the features one got for subscription were/are actually very worthwhile, although perhaps not necessarily useful – if one can make that distinction. For example the digitised archives of the IT are a joy to behold, and note that they won’t be available to the general user. That said their archival search engine is a little ropey and to have a genuine value as a research tool would require significant upgrading with more options.

For those who have shelled out on subscriptions there is also good news.

Subscribers will be refunded the balance of their outlay. Subscriptions will now be required only to access the full newspaper archive on Irishtimes.com, a service that will probably be required mainly by group users, such as universities and corporations.

Donovan said it had become clear that there were not sufficient numbers of Irish Times readers prepared to pay for online content. The Irish Times is not the only paper to admit defeat on this; the New York Times and Financial Times have both dropped charges in recent years.

I was always puzzled as to why the IT cleaved to the subscription line when other media outlets such as the Guardian had jettisoned it long before. Irish exceptionalism? Perhaps. It always seemed to be an oddly money-grabbing and oddly exclusionary practice.

As it happens I have access through subscription (which I don’t pay myself). But I almost invariably purchase the actual hard copy on Friday (recruitment and business section) and Saturday (no good reason at all now I come to think of it).

Less heartening news though…

Meanwhile, Ireland.com is being relaunched as a lifestyle portal site which the Irish Times is branding as ‘Ireland’s home page’.

‘Lifestyle portal site’? To be avoided I think.

Mind you, I note that the Irish Times website is still welcoming those who drop by today with this page with no warning about tomorrow’s revolutionary change – which seems a bit mean spirited…

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Comments»

1. Starkadder - June 29, 2008

“…The digitised archives of the IT are a joy to behold.. …That said their archival search engine is a little ropey and to have a genuine value as a research tool would require significant upgrading with more options.”

These archives are available in my local library and are
very useful, although on one occasion an article I wished
to read was blurred and remained so despite the
library assistant’s best efforts.

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2. WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2008

That’s handy. Of course direct access from anywhere is probably more useful. That said it does point up both the breadth of the library service and the dangers it faces in a digitised age.

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3. Pete Baker - June 29, 2008

They seem to have gone ‘no subs req’ already.

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4. WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2008

Ahah! Finally.

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5. FutureTaoiseach - June 30, 2008

Excellent. I won’t have to pay to be called a lunatic any more.

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6. WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2008

Heartening news for you then…

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7. Eagle - July 1, 2008

I admire the Irish Times for holding out so long. I never thought subscriptions would work. There are just too many free sources of Irish News online and, well, really I found I could live without Fintan O’Toole’s columns.

The real question is where next for newspapers. They’re losing readers by the thousand and not able to charge for online access. They need a better paying advertising based model, but I half suspect that advertisers have (wrongly, in my opinion) clung to the “price per clicks” model as the primary means of valuing online viewers. I think the Irish Times and other free publications need to prove the effectiveness of online ads beyond “clicks”. When that happens (and really who can prove the value of radio & t.v. ads?) they will have a winning model.

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8. Eagle - July 1, 2008

By the way, the Irish Times, Irish Independent and others should be kicking up a stink that RTE is building a web monster on the back of license fee revs.

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9. WorldbyStorm - July 1, 2008

Eagle, re FOT, you and me both.

So what is the model? I can’t figure out what it could be.

That’s an interesting point you make about RTÉ.

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10. Rejoice? rejoice! Well, almost. The Irish Times is free online from tomorrow?: Bits of art - July 6, 2008

[...] Link: Irish Blogs [...]

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