RTÉ’s Múirne Laffan – 60pc of all online content consumed via mobile (video)

10 Sep 2012

Múirne Laffan, managing director, RTÉ Digital

The managing director of Ireland’s RTÉ Digital, Múirne Laffan, says that in terms of a national broadcaster embracing the digital future, the key is to ensure technological shifts transcend the organisation. It’s working. Already almost 60pc of the broadcaster’s content available online is consumed on mobile devices, which compares with 25pc for the BBC and 27pc for The Guardian.

In May, RTÉ revealed a new digital strategy that will see every facet of the broadcaster’s organisation pivot in the direction of digital products. On the way is a new-look RTÉ Player, a new RTÉ Shop for buying digital content and host of other things.

The kind of world Laffan is helping to position RTÉ for is one revolutionising broadcasting and content consumption on a daily basis. This is a world of individuals utilising the ‘second screen’ of smartphones and tablets to engage with social media while they enjoy TV. Indeed, smartphones and tablet computers are becoming the conduits for consuming TV content.

This is a world where devices like the Apple TV, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 are the new video stores and the digital home hubs that form the epicentre of how individuals and families manage and get their content.

Laffan points out that if RTÉ wishes to be a premier provider of content in a multi-screen world, the organisation needs to embrace digital at every level, with journalists, producers and editors finding ways to enhance the viewing experience with additional information and new services.

Laffan, who will be a panelist at the upcoming Digital Ireland Forum on 21 September, aims to see digital products and services contribute to 15pc of RTÉ’s revenues by 2015.

“We’re seeing a huge amount of change in the market – we’re seeing a lot more video being consumed and as part of that we’re making our content more available on different platforms. For example, RTÉ Player, which is three years old, went onto mobile before Christmas – we launched an iPad and iPhone version – and we’ve seen just under 400,000 downloads and huge amount of usage.”

Laffan says that from a trends perspective, the programmes that are being watched on Player on iPhone and iPod are different to the ones being watched on the iPad.

“The top 10 programmes on the phones and on PlayStation 3 are actually all comedy from RTÉ 2, so that’s resonating with quite a young audience, which is fantastic.

“On the iPad it tends to be an older audience and slightly more sophisticated in terms of what they’re watching, it’s very much news and drama. We’re finding that audiences are finding the content of their choice on the device of their choice.”

“Interestingly enough, mobile consumption has been growing dramatically for the last two years. Almost 60pc of all of our content made available online is being consumed on mobile – which is very significant – that compares to the BBC at 25pc and The Guardian at 27pc, but obviously the Irish market is very mobile and that’s a pretty phenomenal statistic.”

Laffan describes the evolution of digital at RTÉ over the last 10 years as gradual at first but a tipping point was reached when the online audience became mainstream. “It became time for RTÉ to become digital as opposed to going digital just to get bigger.”

At the heart of the strategy is integrating digital activity with content creation throughout RTÉ. This meant flowing digital methods into traditional content creation and editorial departments. “So the whole objective there is that you start to engage a much larger group of creative, editorial, programme makers and actually get them to start creating content for digital platforms and that’s not something you could ever afford to do if you were only looking at the digital output.

“So the idea is that a programme maker in entertainment actually starts to incorporate the whole digital strategy into the concept of the programme and the actual commissioning and creation of the programme.

“In a way you get much more value for money and you are engaging the consumer from the get-go as opposed to ‘here’s a TV programme lets put digital bits around it’; that’s not effective and that’s the way traditionally it has been done.

“We’re hoping to see a lot more interesting content, richer content and hoping to engage our viewer and our consumer in much more meaningful ways,” Laffan says.

A digital opportunity for Ireland’s creative industries

Laffan says that more than a quarter of RTÉ’s online traffic is international, presenting an opportunity that couldn’t have been imagined a decade ago.

“The most important asset we all have is that we have the digital distribution, which means that we can make content available around the world, very easily. And I think that individuals and creative people out there in organisations probably have a better shot now at getting seen and heard than they were before. You don’t have to be in London, Hollywood or New York to get exposure.

“I think that’s a real opportunity. It’s part of our strategy to be here to support the development of Ireland’s digital leadership and that is both in terms of technology and in terms of creativity. We would like to be open for business to work with more domestic companies and organisations, be they designers, or content creators, so that’s something we really want to do.

“We also as part of our business strategy want to increase the whole area of paid content, both domestically and overseas, so we can do that much more easily through digital means than the traditional merchandising and DVD model, for example.

“This means there’s more content available and it’s a much more economic model. If we can build that business up then we can be a pipeline for Irish creative industries to sell their products. That’s a big opportunity, we believe,” Laffan said.

Ireland’s digital leaders will be joined by international speakers to discuss Ireland’s opportunities and challenges in the age of the connected consumer, at a forum hosted by Silicon Republic on 21 September in Dublin. Digital communications expert Neville Hobson and Wired‘s editor-at-large Ben Hammersley have been confirmed as keynote speakers.

Confirmed panelists include:

  • Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO, Vodafone Ireland
  • Tanya Duncan, CEO, Interxion Ireland
  • Múirne Laffan, managing director, RTÉ Digital
  • Maurice Mortell, MD Ireland, TelecityGroup
  • Colm O’Neill, CEO, BT Ireland
  • Andrew Maybin, network services director, Tibus
  • Daniel Adams, executive director, Communications, Media & Technology, Accenture
  • Anna Scally, partner, KPMG in Ireland

Click here for full details and for keynote and speaker updates.

Highlights from the last Digital Ireland Forum in March can be viewed here.

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