Ryan reluctant to rein in RTE
THE newspaper industry can expect an uphill battle in its bid to convince the Government to restrict RTE from using the TV licence fee to fund its news website, if recent comments by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan are anything to go by.
Addressing the Media 20:20 conference this week, Ryan was taken to task on the RTE issue by a delegate from the 'Connacht Tribune' who expressed newspapers' frustration with the way the broadcaster's publicly-funded site competes with commercial news sites.
"I don't think you say to broadcast organisations, 'you can't go on the internet'," replied Ryan. "I say to newspapers, why hasn't every byline got a web link, why don't you really embrace it [the web] and create a business model that works?"
Adding the caveat that he hadn't looked at the newspapers' complaints in any detail yet, Ryan stressed that his "instinct is not to block others from going on the web but to help everyone use the technology themselves".
Newspapers and the web was a frequent theme throughout the conference, with 'The Guardian' mobile product manager, Jonathan Moore, and National Newspapers of Ireland chair Maeve Donovan also sharing their insights on the issue.
"Newspapers own and curate this amazing content, if you showcase it you can achieve amazing things," said Moore, who is behind a mobile site that has more than 1.3 million users and an iPhone app that has sold more than 130,000 units.
But he stressed that while commercial income was an important part of its 'new media' strategy, 'The Guardian' was reluctant to bring in charges for individual articles.
"Micro payments are probably the one form of commercial model we are unlikely to try out over the next 12 months," said Moore. "I'm not sure the UK market is ready for that yet."
His comments were echoed by former 'Irish Times' boss Donovan, who suggested that subscription packages were a more viable way to fund online products.
"Newspapers have had a lovely simple model, pay for the paper, pay for the ads," she said. "Going forward, we're going to have a range of diverse revenue streams."
The online news debate comes as the 'Irish Times' has just reintroduced charges for its online portal, while Independent News & Media is trialling a fee structure for its 13 regional titles and plans to introduce charges for its national papers.