The Daily Dublin Evening, formerly known as the Dublin Daily died last week. A lot of people didn’t like the paper, and they like to think that that’s the reason it didn’t matter enough and didn’t succeed. But there’s a lot more to it than that. It throws up some serious issues about what a newspaper needs to succeed.
It also prompts the question ‘what next for media in Dublin and Ireland?’
As the Irish Times acknowledged, the paper was pretty impressive from a newspaperman’s point of view. It looked good. It had decent journalists. The text was well subedited. It was pretty efficiently run. I suspect that this was due in no small part to the efforts of Fiachra O Marcaigh and Mick Cunningham
The paper was only given a couple of months to find its place and establish itself in the market. This is a puzzle to me, because it shows that the management obviously didn’t have enough money to start with. Why did the seasoned business people who were involved start a newspaper if they didn’t have the cash to keep it open for at least twelve months? It takes that long to establish a newspaper in the minds of readers, and more importantly in the minds of media buyers. They obviously must have known that they’d be in direct competion with Independent Newspapers, which obviously has international resources and deep pockets. I just can’t understand why they did it.
I guess that they were hoping to get a big offer or a bailout from an international media group. But in the current environment, that just wasn’t going to happen.
I also can’t quite understand why they switched to evening. Fine, the evening market appears to be less crowded, but it is also a declining marketplace. It’s not surprising, when you consider that punters now have much better ways of getting sports results, entertainment information or an update on the morning’s news than buying an evening paper. They can listen to local radio stations, watch Sky News or check the Internet. In retrospect, the switch to evenings now seems like panic.
This failure has big implications for the future of media in Ireland. Who is going to put money into future startup ventures after this? As Fiachra said on RTE last week, no one except a major conglomerate is going to be willing to try starting up a local print publication for Dublin again after this.
I think it is a shame. Dublin is a place with its own identity, distinct from the rest of the country. It has its own little culture and its own specific issues and politics. It is also a worthwhile marketplace, with more than a million people living in it.
Here’s my idea: I think Dublin will soon be ready for an online publication of its own. This website would serve local needs, bringing together useful services that already exist, like entertainment information and classified ads, from providers like Dublin Event Guide and daft.ie provide at the moment. It would also have discussion and banter, like boards.ie. It would have local news – real local news, from the doorsteps and the streets of Dublin, like information about what’s going on at the schools, or what teams are playing in under-14’s soccer, or whatever is really important to people about the areas where they live and work. It would all be brought together under one banner and would be easy for ordinary people (not just geeks) to get the most out of.