Five Minutes With Liam Kavanagh, MD of The Irish Times
What drew you to the news publishing business?
The Irish Times was the attraction. I was always a reader and interested in all things news. It’s a quality news organisation with a great ethos and values. They were on the cusp of a lot of change and doing a lot of interesting things. I had the opportunity to come in at a senior level and support that. Being an indigenous Irish owned media business was also a big plus for me.
What is your most memorable or favourite news moment/story in the past year?
It has been a tremendous year but in very strange circumstances. It was great to see The Irish Times do so well in the recent Journalism Awards and particularly so as winners for Website of the Year and Podcast of the Year. But the Covid story has dominated so I’d have to highlight the Lives Lost series which won the overall Journalist of the Year Award for The Irish Times team. It’s an outstanding piece of journalism which will stand the test of time and it will be a source of reference for future generations looking back on this period of our social history.
In a different way the Golfgate story for the Examiner was also brilliant. We have a new Editor in place since January – Tom FItzpatrick. Three weeks in he had to manage a general election and very shortly afterwards the Covid crisis. Golfgate was a great scoop and has given the team even more confidence and momentum.
What’s the most exciting thing happening in news publishing internationally right now?
The resurgence in the traditional news publishers throughout Covid has been extraordinary. All across the world, news publishers have seen massive growth in engagement with readers. Subscriptions and traffic are at record levels. Also it’s great to see print sales recover at weekends and this highlights that the channel is still an important medium. All demonstrate that when it really matters, the reader wants news sources they can trust and rely on. Our industry has never been as relevant.
Current challenges facing news publishers?
Our main challenge is revenue. We are now in a new business – subscriptions and paid content. That is asking us questions we have never had to answer before. But it’s exciting and challenging because it’s growing and it’s the future. Along the way, the supporting ad revenue model is changing. The news publishing industry needs to find ways to reclaim share. Our readership is very engaged and loyal. It’s a great platform for the advertiser and we need to convince them of that and provide solutions which can work as effectively as any other medium.
What’s next for your publication/ Any exciting news you’d like to share?
2021 will be an interesting year. We have several technology projects underway which will underpin our paid content business across both home delivery and subscriptions. This will include a paywall for the Examiner, a significant upgrade in our customer support activities, and plans for a new website for The Irish Times.