Irish Newspaper Screwups: When the comments are more popular than the commentary.

jmcc

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Online discussion fora and Social Media have badly affected Irish newspaper websites. They've inverted the trickle-down model of Irish journalism where the "journalists" were seen as the gatekeepers on information and influenced opinion. In the 1990s, there was a wholesale destruction of reporting in favour of the fluffiness that is "commentary". It was, of course, represented as being informed analysis but in reality it was poorly informed non-specialists often providing evidence of their sheer ignorance on specialist topics. But enough about "technology" journalists. The switch from reporting to commentary had started when the web, and Social Media was in its infancy. Now, people use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even forums like this to discuss matters far beyond the geographical limitations that were in place. It is no longer a few people discussing matters over a quiet pint in the local pub. Somewhere along the way, the Irish media dropped the ball.

The Irish Times made a mess of its internet presence. It set up a website that lost millions of Euro/Punts. It introduced a paywall when the biggest development in online advertising, Google's Adwords and Adsense programmes, were launching. The paywall failed to get enough subscribers. The Irish Times effectively handed the Irish online news market to RTE, the Independent and the Irish Examiner. And now it is even trying to implement another paywall. Whereas previously, commenting had been free with the Irish Times, it has now been restricted to subscribers or registered users. The Independent has also started to post message for people who are using Ad blockers. Apparently it needs the money too. But it does seem to have people commenting on its articles. In the last month or so, it has taken the commentary articles and restricted access to them. Now, people have to register to read the wibblings of the Indo's great intellectual luminaries and assorted clickbait artists. There were mentions of the Independent introducing a paywall but as its major shareholder is a multi billionaire, this has not happened yet.

But the real problem for the Irish newspapers is where the comments are more interesting than the commentary. Comments mean commerce. They result in eyes on online advertising and possible revenue from those ads. Does this mean that more people want to read the comments than the commentary?

As Irish newspaper sales continue to plummet, are we likely to see the rise of more clickbait churnalism instead of real reporting and journalism? And are sites like P.ie more of a threat to these failing newspapers because they don't control them and don't make money from people discussing their clickbait commentary here? Are we likely to see more attempts to demonise P.ie by these newspapers?
 
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Mercurial

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Most journalism isn't very good. Most comment sections are worthless at best.

It isn't obvious what the alternative is supposed to be, unfortunately.
 

Truth.ie

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I feel by reading threads here, I have no need to buy Irish newspapers or even read them online.
Pre-t'interweb I used to be permanently offended by the newspaper and media lies and misinformation. At least now it can be countered.
 

jmcc

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Most journalism isn't very good. Most comment sections are worthless at best.
The comments are the best part of the experience. The more comments an article gets, the more readers it gets and like a busy thread on P.ie, the more traffic it gets.

Commentary, particulary clickbait, isn't unique. The web provides the tools for anyone with an opinion to express it. The one obvious area where newspapers can do a good job is in reporting. However most of them seem to have become locked into the cheap option of commentary, press releases and newswire services. They can't afford to do real journalism without firing a lot of the non-productive commentariat. What they can do, is to try to replace sites like P.ie and others.
 

asset test

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I get all my breaking news here, and the comments are ace too, no subscription costs either, and no paywalls. Someone else pays that for me!

Thanks.
 

zippo222

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I've bought newspapers all my life, and be it The Irish Times, The Times or The Daily Telegraph the comment section (ie. the Letters to the Editor page) has always been my favourite part of each paper.
 

gerhard dengler

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Great thread and a very good analysis of the recent history of the cleavage between commentary and comment on hard copy media and soft copy media.

Many media organisations faced, and do face, a dilemma.

The dilemma they face is (a) how do they retain subscriptions (b) increase subscriptions. By subscriptions I mean readers, whether the readers pay for content is
secondary.

I think many media organisations have come to the conclusion that instead of trying to gain market share that they're instead trying first to focus on retaining market share - and they conclude that telling reading what they want to hear is the best way to retain the share that they have. So in order to retain readers media companies are filling their content with opinions and views which they think their readers want to consume.
They hope that this strategy will ensure that they retaining readers and that it will ensuring recurring income (through subscriptions and ads).

However, the problem is that these companies have no sure way of growing market share if all they're doing is catering to a captive audience. And this is the problem. How do you capture that audience who don't subscribe to the views and values that your media plays to?

If the comments section of an article is saying "that article is great...", so be it.
If the comments section of an article is critical saying "the writer is clueless...", does the publication seriously consider the merits of the criticism and decide to change editorial policy and thereby risk losing subscriber loyalty with the hope of attracting different market share?

I think the dilemma facing media is a difficult one to overcome.

By rights accurate reporting should attract readership. But maybe a "post-truth" society doesn't want factual reporting and instead prefers opinion pieces?
 

amist4

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I've bought newspapers all my life, and be it The Irish Times, The Times or The Daily Telegraph the comment section (ie. the Letters to the Editor page) has always been my favourite part of each paper.
I used to love reading Kevin Myers, Mark Steyn and John Walters in the Times, not least for the explosive counter reaction. It appears almost terrified to move from the gutless tripe of dollally and o fool now.
 

The Herren

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I feel by reading threads here, I have no need to buy Irish newspapers or even read them online.
Pre-t'interweb I used to be permanently offended by the newspaper and media lies and misinformation. At least now it can be countered.
Sad.
 

The Herren

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I get all my breaking news here, and the comments are ace too, no subscription costs either, and no paywalls. Someone else pays that for me!

Thanks.
Even sadder.
 

zippo222

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I used to love reading Kevin Myers, Mark Steyn and John Walters in the Times, not least for the explosive counter reaction. It appears almost terrified to move from the gutless tripe of dollally and o fool now.

Myers' Irishman's Diary was excellent back in the day. Then something happened (either to him or to me) because after reading and admiring him for years I just couldn't bear him at all. It wasn't any particular column of his that turned me off (and was long before his "bastard" column). He went from a must read to I couldn't be bothered to for me.
 

ruserious

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Politics.ie, TheJournal.ie and The Young Turks are among my general info sources, but not to be relied upon. At all.

Claire Byrne live is very good.
 

Glenshane4

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In the 1990s, there was a wholesale destruction of reporting in favour of the fluffiness that is "commentary". It was, of course, represented as being informed analysis but in reality it was poorly informed non-specialists often providing evidence of their sheer ignorance on specialist topics.
Many journalists often betray only a superficial knowledge of the subject and a recently acquired superficial knowledge at that.
 

ruserious

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The Young Turks are hilarious.
I don't always agree with them but it's a well run show. They get through a lot of stories each day that are well researched and are analysed quite well by a self-acknowledged ego maniac in Cenk Uygur. Jimmy Dore is my favourite. No holding back with that son of a bitch. Their constant begging for money is quite tiresome though.
 


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