Irish Times digital growth points to desire for quality Irish perspectives – study

Survey finds 12% pay for news online, with younger readers more likely to do so

The success of The Irish Times in building a subscriber base for its online news products could point to a public desire for quality Irish perspectives on world events, according to Dublin City University's Institute of Future Media and Journalism (FuJo).

FuJo's Colm Kearns made the comment in the institute's analysis of this year's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism digital news report.

The report noted that The Irish Times achieved a 26 per cent rise in digital sales in 2018, making it the only newspaper here to grow across both print and digital during this period.

It said The Irish Times’s “relative success in carving out a significant online subscribership could point toward a public desire for quality Irish perspectives on world events”.


The report shows that 10 per cent of the 2,013 people surveyed in January and February 2019 cited The Irish Times as one of the main brands they used for news. Some 8 per cent cited The Irish Times, which launched digital subscription products in 2015, as a “main traditional source of news”.

Overall, 12 per cent of respondents paid for news online, which was up 1 percentage point year on year, and was also 1 percentage point ahead of the EU average of 11 per cent. The most common brands used for news by Irish news consumers are free to access.

Younger people are more likely to pay for digital news, with 19 per cent of 25-34-year-olds doing so. Even the 18-24 age group, which said it was less interested in news and current affairs, showed a greater willingness to pay for online news, with 14 per cent of this group doing so, compared with just 7 per cent of 55-64-year-olds.

"It's evident that journalism matters," said Pauric Travers, chairman of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, which funded FuJo's work on the report.

“Quality independent journalism and its concomitant – efficient and properly resourced public service broadcasting – are essential for the health of a vibrant democracy, and neither should be taken for granted.”

Irish news consumers are more likely than most to "trust the news most of the time". Some 48 per cent strongly agreed or tended to agree with this statement, compared with 43 per cent in the EU, 42 per cent in North America and just 40 per cent in the UK.

Reputable sources

Some 32 per cent of Irish people said they had “started relying more on sources of news that are considered more reputable”, compared with an EU average of 24 per cent.

Some 40 per cent strongly agreed or tended to agree that “the news media monitors and scrutinises powerful people and businesses”, compared with an EU average of 42 per cent.

Irish people were slightly less likely than the EU average to agree that “the news media often takes too negative views of events”, with 36 per cent strongly agreeing or tending to agree compared with an EU average of 39 per cent.

In an analysis of political leanings by main media used for news, people who are more right-wing are more likely to read newspapers, while those who are more left-wing are more likely to listen to radio or read news online.

This was replicated in findings for the political leanings of Irish Times online users, who were more likely to be left of centre than those who consumed The Irish Times in its “traditional” printed form.

Radio retained its lead over “internet via smartphone” as the top “first source of news” for Irish people in the morning, though the gap narrowed to 2 percentage points.

Gabrielle Cummins, chief executive of southeast regional radio station Beat 102-103, in which The Irish Times is a shareholder, said radio stations, especially those such as Beat that target a younger audience, had evolved to embrace social media.

“Radio gets a bit of a beating a lot of the time, and it’s just fantastic that it is still really resilient.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics