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Making Paywalls Pay

BusinessWeek has dubbed 2014 the year of the paywall. In Ireland, it is certainly going to be a topic up for debate.

Both the Irish Times and Irish Independent have discussed launching paywalls, but it seems like a bit of a Mexican standoff as Irish media outlets try to figure out how to charge for content when free alternatives like RTE and TheJournal exist.

One outlet that has already taken the plunge is the Irish Sun. Unlike its UK counterpart, however, it hasn’t had the benefit of being able to offer Premiership Goals as a sweetener for subscribers. The Irish Sun’s editor, Paul Clarkson, tweeted over the weekend about content that it has secured and I wouldn’t be surprised if additional exclusive content is announced over the coming months.


The question remains whether the lure of football highlights will draw in the paying punters. A similar strategy in the UK hasn’t gotten off to a great start and there is plenty of competition for content rights, particularly with BT seemingly intent on taking on all comers.

How Much Are You Investing In Content?

It perplexes me when I see organisations invest in websites and then rarely update them. Their social media strategy seems to revolve entirely around sharing links, images or videos that they’ve found elsewhere.

This is completely ridiculous. It’s the equivalent of buying a house, but not actually purchasing any furniture, sticking pictures of chairs and tables from magazines on the walls instead.

Think of it this way. If you are trying to sell online, then your focus should be on driving people to your website in order to try and convert them to customers. If you are not posting new content to your website on a regular basis, then there’s no reason for them to return to your site. Similarly if your social media content simply revolves around sharing other people’s content, then all your are doing is sending your business elsewhere.

In terms of an equivalent, the general rule of thumb when you are investing in a sponsorship is that you need to spend three times what you paid for the sponsorship rights in order to activate it. So if you are investing in a website and spending hours fussing over what it will look like, make sure you stand back and ask yourself what your strategy is to make sure people visit your site on a regular basis.

You will obviously have a budget set aside for the site development, but if you haven’t thought about budget for regular content then you’ll find yourself with the equivalent of a gorgeous house on the outside, which turns out to be bare once you open the front door.

Were you ever about to give a presentation or be interviewed, but found yourself a little flustered due to nerves. Sometimes we find ourselves quite anxious because of an elevated heartbeat. Here’s a simple tip for how to calm down. Take a note from professional athletes and focus on your breathing.

Make sure to only breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on taking your time and taking three seconds to breathe in and then exhaling for another three seconds. This focus and method of breathing will quickly lower your heartbeat and calm your nerves, helping you give a better performance.

The Future of Interactive Displays

The video below is simply jaw dropping. inFORM is a Dynamic Shape Display from the the minds at MIT that allows the user to interact with 3D content. For example, the user can move objects on a table remotely. The potential of the technology is huge, particularly when you think about the amount of people who interact over video Skype or FaceTime.

inFORM – Interacting With a Dynamic Shape Display from Tangible Media Group on Vimeo.

Media Movement in Ireland

Emmet Ryan is the new technology correspondent with the Sunday Business Post after Dick O’Brien’s departure.

Tom Lyons and Fiach Kelly are joining the Irish Times as senior business correspondent and senior political correspondent from the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent.

INM has made a series of appointments also with Tom Molloy, Fionnan Sheehan and Shane Doran being appointed as Group Business Editor, Group Political Editor and Editor of the Herald respectively.

Some Thoughts On The News Business

I read two good articles recently which got me thinking about the news business.

The first piece is a Techcrunch interview with Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, about his new venture Medium. In the interview, Williams talks about his hopes “to shift our daily reading habits away from consuming incremental news bites” and criticises the media industry’s “incessant need to trump up mundane happenings in order to habituate readers into needing news like a daily drug fix.”

The second article by PaidContent is a summary of a presentation given by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, about the challenges facing the newspaper business. According to the article, Varian points out that newspapers have never really made money from news; that the news business was always cross-subsidized by ads, but that cross-subsidization doesn’t work as well online; and notes that the real challenge for newspapers is to get people to spend more time on their site.

Williams is spot on with the phrase “incremental news bites.” Despite the financial struggles of media outlets, we’re overwhelmed with news. No matter where you turn there’s journalists tweeting headlines the second a press release lands in their inbox; endless updates on news sites, etc. Just to put this into context, Kevin Anderson uses the following statistic – just over a decade ago the Wall Street Journal published 22,000 articles, but in the first six months of 2010 it had already published 21,000 articles. So it’s certainly a case of information overload. Anderson sums up the news business’ challenge in a nutshell – “In the attention economy, journalism competes against everything that competes for people’s time and attention.” Anderson’s full presentation is available below.

So going back to Varian’s point, how do newspapers get people to spend more time on their site? I have two trains of thought on this.

One – Newspapers create a tremendous amount of content per year. Just look at the personal finance section, there’s advice on managing bills, tips on bargains and consumer rights. Yet after an article is published, it’s pretty much forgotten. There isn’t a central resource that a consumer can turn to if they want advice on a specific topic at any given tip similar to a site like It’s madness that newspapers aren’t making better use of the information they’re publishing. Jeff Jarvis expands on this by talking about journalism as a service – “Stories aren’t always the best vehicle for conveying information, for informing the public. Sometimes lists, data bases, photos, maps, wikis, and other new tools can do a better job.”

Two – Give readers a unique experience. One aspect of Lionel Barber’s memo about the changes at the Financial Times that caught my eye was the phrase about shifting further away from reactive news gathering, i.e. as put it “rather than reactive everyone-else-has-it news.” The most obvious example of this from a traditional media perspective is the New York Times Snow Fall feature. Closer to home, UsvsTh3m is a great example of how a traditional media organisation, the Trinity Mirror Group, can provide entertaining content to keep visitors engaged. In a Quartz feature about the site, Malcolm Coles of Trinity Mirror says “the main original use case was ‘I’m bored.’ What can I do for ten minutes?” Some of the games they have developed include Iain Duncan Smith’s Realistic Unemployment Simulator and How Much Are You Hated By The Daily Mail, both of which tick the box in terms of Varian’s argument that newspaper sites to get people to spend more time on their site.

Stuff That Caught My Attention #24

I love the Amstel Pause experiment which has seen the beer brand give out a free sample to adults who stand motionless for three minutes in front of the campaign kiosk. The inspiration for the campaign according to the creative agency is that “people as a whole rarely take a break. We decided that we want to help them de-stress a little.” What better way to take a break than having to stand still.

Simple and clever way to build followers on Twitter – give something to everyone who follows you. That’s what @drawing_daily is doing – he drawsa pet monster for everyone who follows him

Brilliant new ad by Mercedes Benz to illustrate the new body control feature on the cars. Really shows how video can be simple, yet simultaneously very powerful if you’ve got your thinking caps on.

Thought this was a great event invite by Stellar magazine for their Bachelor of the year awards

Hilarious fundraiser by Blackrock Ladies Rugby club – Poo on the Pitch! It’s a raffle, but instead of buying lines you guess where a cow is going to do its business on the rugby pitch for the chance to win 3 grand!

The Shift To Privacy

One statistic from Ipsos MRBI‘s latest social networking survey for Ireland stood out for me. 11% of adults now claim to have a Snapchat account. Perhaps more striking is that if you drill into the numbers, it’s obvious that it is highly popular with young people. 43% of Irish adults aged 15-24 claim to have a Snapchat account and half of those say they use it daily. A snapshot of the survey findings can be found below.

Ipsos MRBI

For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s a way to send friends a picture of video, which self destructs after a few moments. Its popularity is due to users opting for privacy, rather than letting the world share the moment and potentially prove to be embarrassing in the future when it turns up in search results.

This shift towards privacy is part of a larger global trend. One of the latest Pew Internet research studies has shown that 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints. 55% of internet users have also taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government. Commenting on the research, Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and an author of a report on the survey findings, said: “Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible.”

Culturally this is going to have a big impact on how we interact online and how social networks develop in the future.

Digital PR is Dead

This deck by Rob Brown is well worth reading.

Stuff That Caught My Attention #23

Clever campaign in Brazil by Ceva Polar beer, which is running a campaign to get people to socialise again by blocking cellphone signals with a special bottle cover.

Smart campaign by the London Fire Brigade, dubbed #fiftyshadesofred, to highlight the cost to taxpayers of having to rescue members of the public from embarrassing incidents involving people being stuck or trapped in objects like handcuffs and toilet seats.

Simple campaign by the Los Angeles galaxy to crowdsource the design of one of their jerseys. Amazed that no Premiership club has done this.

LA Galaxy third strip

Paddy Power showed that they are the masters of publicity once more when they turned Farnborough FC into the greatest team of all time by getting all the players to change their name by deed poll to legends like Messi and Maradona.

Farnborough FC

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