Another newspaper columnist recently compared the publisher of Independent News & Media to a "lucky general". He was referring to this organisation's move to a paywall just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic struck hard. By and large, Independent.ie's achievement of 20,000 subscriptions in under three months is pretty substantial and beyond the expectations of almost any pundit who expressed a view.
But whether the timing was luck or just unusual prescience, there's no doubt it was introduced in the nick of time.
Last week saw just how hard some parts of the media have been hit by the slump.
Niall McGarry's Maximum Media - which publishes online titles such as Joe.ie and Her.ie - had an examiner appointed.
In the UK, Buzzfeed, the iconic online news service which initially epitomised fast, aggressive, ad-driven news and then deepened into quality investigative work, pulled the plug on its operations there.
Both depended almost entirely on advertising money, grounded on big projects and very ambitious audience targets. But media is proving to be at least as susceptible to a pandemic-induced acceleration of trends as other sectors.
Ad money is simply not the long-term business model it once was for media. Those that still depend on it, without an additional (or preferably alternative) plan, are in for the hardest of months and years ahead.
It doesn't do much good ranting and raving about Google and Facebook, either. Although it's almost sacrilege in this industry to say it, they aren't really responsible for the shift of ad money away from 'traditional' media online. They're merely manifestations of what was inevitably going to happen with the much, much different distribution economics of the internet.
Stratechery's Ben Thompson presented an unpalatable thought during the week in his newsletter, but it's hard to get it out of my head.
"It is just assumed that Google and Facebook ought to be paying publishers for their content, but any sort of rational evaluation would suggest that money should flow in the opposite direction," he wrote. "Google and Facebook direct traffic to publishers, and in Facebook's case in particular, that traffic comes from the publishers themselves and their readers placing links on the service. Google does, of course, crawl the web for its search results and for Google News (which it doesn't monetise), but we already know what happens if Google simply stops crawling publications: they start losing money, and lots of it."
I don't fully agree with Thompson's whole rationale here, which is partially based on an assumption that regulatory authorities have no logical, laudable role in intervening or that the media industry might always prove incapable of acting in a more unified way (although the parameters of what constitutes a media organisation these days is becoming harder to define, because of the extraordinary reach and staying power of non-traditional actors).
But he paints a very convincing picture of a legacy media industry that wilfully ignores basic economic, logistical and technological developments to wish for guardrails that can scarcely be supported by readers or commercial clients anymore.
So whether the publishers of this newspaper are "lucky" or not, the subscription model adopted is now looking more and more like an essential down-payment for the future.
Home work's here to stay
"NOT until January."
I had asked my friend, who works in a bank, when she expected to return to her physical office.
She didn't know for sure. Most Irish businesses haven't clearly articulated it to staff yet. Because they themselves don't know.
But she's looking at what the tech companies are doing.
And they've already made decisions.
Facebook and Google have said most staff will work from home for the rest of 2020.
Twitter has gone one step further. Last week, it told staff they can now work from home "forever" if they want to.
Tech companies usually lead other sectors in these situations.
Google was the first big firm in Ireland to ask staff to work from home at the onset of Covid-19.
Microsoft and Facebook were the first major firms to announce that they would cancel conferencing activities until summer 2021.
Now, the tech sector is telling the rest of us: write off the rest of 2020 for office life.
For some, this is just fine. There has always been a strong, if small, cohort of work-from-home advocates.
Now that most people have decent broadband, it's far more doable.
But for many, it's going to be very hard.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the challenges I have with working at home. Since then, I have become reconciled to it a lot more. I now have a routine. Because the weather has been good, I can even work in the back garden. I miss some of the cut and thrust of the office and physical meetings, but I've replaced it with other types of inquiry and investigation.
So if working from home for the rest of the year is what's in store for us, I can probably live with that just fine.
Others I know, inside and outside of media, are finding it much harder.
Loneliness and isolation are factors. Some friends feed off physical interaction. Without it, they're sapped of energy.
There is also a list of valuable things that come from presence, from serendipitous idea exchanges to deepening relationships. Some friends and colleagues thrive off this. I find it very useful, too.
But the trends look clear: many of us aren't returning to an office this year.
Sunday Indo Business