Irish Times rolls out new CMS – putting digital into heart of newsroom

15 May 2012

Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan told the Media Future Conference 2012 in Dublin today that the newspaper is going to be making one of the most important shifts in its 150-year history and will put digital media at the heart of its news process.

At the heart of this change will be an ethos that he believes counters the increasing tabloid culture focused on traffic numbers he sees invading online news by providing deeper insight for Irish Times readers.

This will be enabled by the replacement of its 10 year-old content management system (CMS) with a new system called Polopoly by Atex. In addition a new system to greater integrate the print process with digital production will also be deployed.

Describing this as a radical change for the news process at the 150 year-old paper, O’Sullivan said the new CMS will introduce APIs and meta data that will allow the newspaper to develop new products and platforms. “Digital will be at the heart of what we do,” he told the media conference.

Battling white noise and blog fog

O’Sullivan said that despite the tough times the media industry has found itself in, the more he has studied the digital landscape the more optimistic he has become.

“Information has become cheap, there’s a lot of white noise that some call blog fog. It’s a form of chaos where this deluge of information means information is plentiful and cheap. In my view trust and insight have become increasingly scarce.

“In this world of white noise, people need insight they can trust and this is the new rule of the newsroom,” O’Sullivan said. “It is not about the what but the why. In this mix it is my firm view that a credible source can deliver the why.”

He said that he intends the Irish Times to go against the grain of what he considers downgrading by other media organisations of their products in order to compete in the scramble for clicks.

“The Irish Times will remain in the breaking news environment but the focus will remain on insight and as others downgrade, we will provide deeper, better insight.”

O’Sullivan said that how the newspaper will engage with its audience is also about to undergo considerable change.

Irish Times targets broader and younger audience

“Our plan is to reach for a broader and younger audience and counter that white noise. 2012 will be the year that we bring digital to the core of the Irish Times.”

O’Sullivan said that the digital strategy will consist of a number of strands:

  • continual incremental digital development of everything it does
  • a new comments and moderation system that promises better engagements and conversations with readers
  • an enriched relationship with readers through social media
  • The Irish Times Digital Challenge – a call for start-ups to work inside the Irish Times and mutually benefit from the shift to digital

In terms of digital/print integration O’Sullivan said that every conversation that will be had on the newsroom floor at the Irish Times will have a digital element.

“I’m not saying we’re abandoning print or traditional values, but we are enhancing the process to make it more readable and modern. The key element will be the introduction of the new CMS underneath the bonnet of the Irish Times.”

O’Sullivan said that the newspaper’s new radical approach to digital is driven by the Irish Times original ethos as set out in the Trust’s articles of association – “to be accurate and comprehensive as practicable and presented fairly.”

He said: “Why are we doing this? It’s what the Irish Times stands for, a media organisation at the heart of Irish society that informs and enriches people’s lives.

“I hope that consumers wrestling with white noise, when they need to understand something will go to the Irish Times, whether it’s the latest meme, controversy, business opportunity, sporting achievement – the things that enrich us, that make us tick.

“We want our readers to reach informed, independent judgement and and contribute more effectively to the life of their community. That community is increasingly online and the Irish Times intends to serve it,” O’Sullivan said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years