Kavanagh was speaking on RTE’s ‘Media Show’ this evening, where he confirmed the Times would start charging its readers but had not yet decided which model to introduce. There were “probably four of five” options they had to chose from including a straight paywall, a metered model, a “club” where people would join and get the Times and other services as part of a subscription, or a combination of all three being the fourth choice, he suggested (by the way, I’m realy dying to know what you get for membership of a Times club).
The confirmation follows a similar announcement earlier this week from the Indo’s editor Stephen Rae. Both newspapers are investing heavily in digital, and while they have to, it is difficult to see how they will make a return in the short to medium term. Kavanagh suggested as much when pushed by presenter Brenda Power, admitting the advertising return from digital was low, but he suggested they believed that would improve in the future.
This might be wishful thinking on behalf of Kavanagh however. RTE, Sky, Facebook and Google are making it extremely difficulty for anyone to make any revenue out of digital content, given their dominance in the Irish market, and the much reduced ad spend generally. The new website is also cumbersome, difficult to navigate, and offers less content than the old site – at a time when the Times is about to start charging it should be beefing up its digital offerings, not cutting them back.
Kavanagh also, interestingly, referred to the Times as a “news organisation” rather than a newspaper. He stressed however that newspapers – especially the Times – would be around for the long haul, just in case regular readers choked on their Saturday evening Tanquerays while listening to the wireless.
Asked by Brendan Power to comment on the Sunday Business Post, he refused. However it is widely rumoured the Times have joined with the Crosbie backed Landmark Media in making a bid to take over Post Publications Ltd, the newspaper’s publishers, who are in examinership. An announcement is due within a few weeks.
Kavanagh sounded realistic rather than bullish – though bravado is more a trait expected of Indo executives. Commercially the Times appear to be either extremely unlucky or cursed. They never succeeded in turning Ireland.com into a commercial success, despite the obvious potential as a portal for tourism and hotels during the boom years, and their €50m purchase of myhome.ie at the height of the bubble was, well, daft (if you’ll pardon the pun). With haemorrhaging circulation (latest ABCs put the Times at 88,000); a controversial re-design which, although it has left the paper looking fresh has also felt it looking and feeling extremely editorially light (a comment expressed regularly by anyone I talk to about the paper); a digital strategy which is uncertain and a continuing advertising slump, the road ahead may well be bumpy for Kavanagh and his management team.
The podcast of RTE’s ‘The Media Show’ is here