Irish Times
Credit: Still taken from Irish Times video
The Irish Times this week outlined its new approach to digital publishing, supported by a redesigned site unveiled at the weekend and the integrated newsroom behind the scenes.

The recent developments within the Irish Times's digital operation see the news outlet move away from print-focused production online, which had included a "content data dump once a day, once every 24 hours, of the entire content of the newspaper", online editor Hugh Linehan told Journalism.co.uk.

In a post outlining the changes on the Irish Times website, Linehan said the new publishing model will run "over the 24-hour cycle, seven days a week, reflecting the reality of how content is found, consumed and shared on digital platforms".

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk about the history of the Irish Times's digital publishing approach, he said the newspaper "began from a position of online publishing where online publishing was essentially publishing the newspaper more or less in total and in the same form to the web".

"And then gradually over the past decade we made various improvements such as running a kind of 24-hour rolling breaking news service [and] alongside that blogs, liveblogs, bits of video and so on".

But he said there remained "a two-track approach" in place. "For example, our breaking news system was separate from our newspaper system so you'd have duplication of stories and you didn't have very efficient production processes."

He added that the Irish Times's different supplements would also have their own digital editions.

Using the example of a film director interview, he explained that the content therefore "might have appeared on our daily arts page on a Tuesday, it might have appeared in our entertainment supplement on a Friday, it might have appeared in our weekend supplement on a Saturday", but he said "from the point of view of the online reader, that is irrelevant".

"What is relevant is it's an interview with a film director and it should be in our film section, so that's the way in which we need to order and build our architecture for the online users."

While we recognise some of our readers would prefer an exact digital replica of the daily newspaper, we believe those requirements are better served by our e-paper or Kindle editionsHugh Linehan, Irish Times
In his online post he added that "from now on, different variants of articles may appear in print and online, tailored to the needs of the respective audiences".

"Some newspaper content may not be published online at all and some online content will not appear in the print edition. While we recognise some of our readers would prefer an exact digital replica of the daily newspaper, we believe those requirements are better served by our e-paper or Kindle editions."

Behind the scenes the newsroom has also become integrated, with journalists encouraged to write articles with a "platform-neutral" approach.

"Until 2008 our digital editorial operations happened in a separate building with a separate editorial team," he said. "It was also actually at a different URL from what it is now. It was at Ireland.com, Irishtimes.com was set up in 2008.

"In 2008 we integrated online journalists into the newsroom, put the online newsdesk beside the print newsdesk, but we still had an online newsdesk and a print newsdesk. We now have an integrated newsdesk."

Linehan said while he would not call the Irish Times's approach digital-first yet, he believes it is "increasingly moving in that direction, as other newspapers are".

"Some of those issues are strategic issues for the editor and for the board of the Irish Times and ultimately I suppose for the Trust of the Irish Times. But I think you can certainly say that these are driven by a strategic objective of improving our position in the digital marketplace and doing our digital journalism better and so for example, tailoring our content more appropriately for the web or for mobile and basically putting digital more at the heart of what we do."

The new design for the site includes a responsive approach, driven by the fact the Irish Times's "mobile traffic is increasing exponentially", Linehan said.

"I would be surprised if we don't surpass 50 per cent of our traffic being from mobile before the end of this year, so obviously we do need to take that into account."

In Linehan's online post he said "over 60 per cent" of the content posted on the Irish Times website daily is delivered "via a direct feed of text and images from the printed newspaper".

Now content can have metadata such as tags and links added "at source", the post adds, with content also able to be grouped together online by "topic" or journalist.

"We aim to arrive at a situation where we can't make that calculation anymore," Linehan told Journalism.co.uk. If the journalists are writing an article, "it's platform-neutral" and the decision is then taken as to which platform it should be published on. "It might go to web-only, it might go to print-only, it might go to both; but it might go in a somewhat different form to both. So actually that calculation then becomes out of date."

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