Rejoice… rejoice! Well, almost. The Irish Times is free online from tomorrow… June 29, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Media and Journalism.
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…