Web pioneer: new media will help save traditional media

22 Apr 2010

As Ireland’s first ISP with Ireland Online and the first online advertiser in 1996, Colm Grealy of Digital Reach Group believes the onset of the iPad and quick response codes herald a strong future for traditional media.

What trends are influencing the future viability of media?

Last year, €180m was spent on online advertising and improving websites by Irish companies for Irish internet users. This will reach €400m by next year. How we use the internet is changing, 2010 is a fundamental year for this.

The first change is mobile, we are now connected to the internet permanently. With new developments like Apple’s iPad and new mobile devices, internet use is changing dramatically to the point where (Google CEO) Eric Schmidt at the Mobile World Congress said 60pc of future revenues will come from mobility.

Watch a video of Colm Grealy talk about the iPad and the future of traditional media: icon: launch video

What new advertising platforms are emerging?

Advertising on mobile, the iPad and later this year the connected TV from Samsung. These are all new formats, all new publishing platforms.

The changes we’ll need to adapt to from a consumer or customer focus are shaking up the digital advertising industry to a point that new entrants like Digital Reach Group can come into the business very quickly and establish a presence.

As one of Ireland’s earliest internet entrepreneurs, where did your journey with technology begin?

It began in the early Nineties. I was working in special education and trying to deploy technology in ways to help children with disabilities overcome some of those disabilities. I met two students who were using the internet to communicate with students in Atlanta who had no idea they had disabilities. It was empowering that a student could communicate with such a level playing field. It struck me that this could be powerful for education but also for an island like Ireland to compete on a global scale.

I met Barry Flanagan and we built Ireland Online to the point that we probably had 50,000 customers connected to the web for IR£10 a month on an old, slow modem. But, back then, two things happened – we connected lots of people to the internet and started doing new things online like Kennys Bookshop – the first online store in Europe. We also began to play with new ad formats.

Do you agree with the new subscription models mooted by Rupert Murdoch and other newspapers?

If I take a magazine I’ve always enjoyed – Time – it was always a print publication, but when I look at it now it’s actually half video now and really rich photographs and good journalism; I’ll happily pay for that, not a problem.

The iPad is an opportunity for the print industry in particular to change its business model online. It is beginning today as a subscription-based service – whether it’s The New York Times, Time, USA Today – you can see all of these particular applications paid for almost from the outset.

You are driving the introduction of quick response codes in newspaper advertising. What will this do for the industry?

2D codes appearing in print or outdoor advertising actually extends that ad into the digital world. For example, if a new movie is launching and I’m standing at a bus shelter and I see a promotion for it, I can point my phone at the code. It will take me to a website where I can see the trailer or click to see where closest to me the next showing of that movie is.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Colm Grealy of Digital Reach Group

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