We caught up with the chief innovation officer of The Irish Times, Dr Johnny Ryan, at the Open Innovation 2.0 conference in Dublin. Ryan revealed a multi-million euro investment in newsroom technology is on the way, as well as a strategic bet on the future of advertising that will best place the 154-year-old newspaper to triumph in the digital age.
As well as being chief innovation officer at The Irish Times, Ryan is also an associate on the emerging digital environment at the Judge Business School of the University of Cambridge. His second book A History of the Internet and the Digital Future is on the reading list at Harvard, Stanford, and other top-tier institutions. His writing has appeared in Fortune, Contagious, BusinessWeek, Wired, NATO Review, and Ars Technica. His PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he was an O’Reilly Foundation Scholar at Magdalene College, examined how terrorist memes proliferate online.
Ryan said that adapting the newspaper to the digital age we are in is essentially a conflict between achieving daily excellence and combatting strategic inertia. “We are trying to square that by bringing in people like David Cochrane, founder of Politics.ie, to manage online communities, which is a big step.”
Investing in the future
Ryan continued: “There is also a multi-million euro investment in the newsroom under way, with the leading research organisations in the country. As far as I know, we may be the only newspaper in the world doing that right now.”
Another interesting step being taken by The Irish Times is its engagement with start-ups, again another first in the newspaper industry in Ireland.
Last year, the newspaper engaged in a start-ups competition that saw five start-ups embedded in the newsroom.
“This is absolutely stirring up how The Irish Times works. We hope we are going about this in a smart way; we are making experiments and we are investing in the future.”
From five start-ups last year there are now 20 start-ups based at the newspaper, where they are focused on advertising.
“The start-ups are trying to reach consumers around the world. At the same time, the ad industry is trying to find out the future of ad inventory.
“By bringing these two parties together – and this is the key to our future ad revenues – we hope that The Irish Times will be one of the key innovators for digital advertisers for the coming years,” Ryan said.