A Week in Media

March 12, 2013

A week is long time in media. It felt like it started last Thursday morning, media award entries were being frantically finalised and I was en route to Google to meet with Dan Cobley, the MD for Google UK and Ireland. I always enjoy my trips to Barrow Street, in particular to the search giants newest ‘Docks’ building. Apart from the team of Googlers who appear to be perennially upbeat and the anticipation of some free food, the views from their offices are magnificent. I’ve been in their offices many times but I always seem to end up in a room with better views than the last time I was there, and the outlook on Dublin from their offices, to me at least, is far from the Dirty Old Town of the Dubliner’s day. It’s a view that you’d like to bottle up and share with everyone. Dan, being of the Google persuasion had a very positive outlook on Dublin and beyond. He talked about the trends that Google are seeing, the foremost of which is the move to mobile devices. He described their ‘Boxing Day test’ where they saw on Boxing Day/Stephens Day last year that searches went up by 25% overnight and have gone up by 280% year on year, now accounting for about 50% of all searches. It’s not just the views of Dublin that are changing.

The highlight of Friday was the Digital Media Awards at the Convention centre where OMD team were delighted to pick up a Gold and two silver awards.

On Monday we saw the finished prototype of some software that we have been developing locally which looks like it’s going to achieve its goal of making everyone’s load a little easier. On Monday evening, I found myself on one of the 10% of buses that currently have WiFi as I headed town-wards to join some friends for dinner. Having contributed to the 50% of mobile searches, my Twitter feed then told me that the Off the Ball presenting team had resigned en masse from Newstalk.  Gutted! Sick as a parrot! It appeared I wasn’t alone, as the twitter roll broadcast an outpouring of, often humorous, disappointment. What this group of lads have achieved is delivering confident, insightful, witty and, at the same time, humble radio, the likes of which we hadn’t witnessed before and will be sorely missed. The rumour mill abounds with what will happen next, but one suspects, sadly, that once the magic is let out of the bottle, it is hard to put back. The Commercial Director of Communicorp, Gavin Byrne, coincidentally, was in the office on Tuesday morning. One could understand the commercial imperatives that underpinned the management stance in the decision. However, the station, as with the presenting team, will find it difficult to gather up all the right ingredients for the magic potion.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was off to the Irish Times, another office that offers a different perspective on the Dublin Skyline as well as the Irish media landscape. I was there with our friends in Ashoka, discussing the next, richer instalment of our partnership with the paper. In reception, coincidentally again, we bumped into Ashoka Fellow Caroline Casey, who, as always, brightened up my day.

Ashoka would feature again in my week, on Wednesday evening, but not until after we had our OMD Future Forward meeting during the day, where our senior team gathered round and plotted what we hope to achieve through the year. There was a great energy in the room. As there was that evening, as a guest of Key Capital Finance and Delloites, two other Ashoka fellows spoke to a select audience. It’s always a great privilege and pleasure to meet up with Mary Gordon, founder of Roots of Empathy who was in town with her Special Projects guru Sheri. Mary was as enthralling as ever and she herself was enthralled by fellow Fellow, James Whelton the 20 year old founder of CoderDojo. There are now Dojo’s in 22 countries around the world and, as James pointed out, have even made it to as far flung places as Mayo! It is some achievement for a guy, who as he says himself, still has the everyday angst of the average 20 year old. What James, like all the Ashoka brethren, is not is average. Extraordinary is closer to the mark. As we wound down after the talks, Ashoka staffer Erin Fornoff showed me the article that she had had published in The Irish Times. Please do take the time out to read it. It gives a great perspective on what it’s like to be an American living in Dublin.

Finally, as a hectic week was nearing an end, we went to TV3 on Thursday evening for the launch of their new, state of the art, Sony HD studio. The great and the good were there. The centrepiece of the event was a mock edition of the Vincent Brown show, but the debate was real about the challenges of media in today’s Ireland and the challenges for TV in particular. As Vincent said in his intro piece, the news of TCH, owners of the Examiner and the Sunday Business Post amongst others, entering receivership,  set the scene for the challenges that some media owners are facing through the recession as advertising revenues have collapsed. Some of our friends have lost their jobs. The mood in the studio, was correctly, far more upbeat, and Minister Pat Rabbitte said the €5 million plus investment from TV3 in their new studio couldn’t come at a better time for Ireland as it will hopefully be the catalyst for not only increasing excellence in home produced programming but also open a stream of new revenue to Ireland from overseas.

A week is a long time in media. In some way, my most recent week showed the trials and tribulations of current Irish life. There are some tough stories out there, businesses and the people that work for them suffering, yet on the other hand, there are some really positive stories and opportunities beginning to appear on the Dublin skyline, be it the challenger television station, behaving like a market leader, the continuing surge of the Google machine that acts as the oil for so much of what we all do every day, or the 20 year old from Cork who is teaching the world to code.

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– Tim

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