Saving a Print Business

Client: The Irish News
Project: Digital Launch


The Irish News, Belfast’s largest selling newspaper, approached us with the challenge of launching their digital business. While competitors in the super-saturated Belfast news market had chased digital since the early aughts, including their direct competitor The Belfast Telegraph — the Irish News steadfastly held firm as a print newspaper. Newsstand sales and print advertising were strong, but beginning to shrink with younger audiences firmly embracing digital, the paper looked to us to help them chart a plan for the future.


When we arrived, the Irish News operated a small website earning about 4000 UV’s a month, and was publishing four articles a day, choosing the stories that were least likely to cannibalize newsstand sales, i.e. the four poorest performing articles of that day. After analyzing the market, core readership, revenue streams, operations and resources, our idea was simple: Build a digital content business, and monetize it from the outset.

With the goals of protecting print sales for as long as possible, and building for the future, we set and implemented a strategy for the Irish News to launch a top-tier news site available on all platforms and targeting mobile first, acquire a digital audience via social, and monetize that audience with a hybrid digital subscription and advertising model — protected and enabled by a paywall.

Here is a design comp of the new website we designed for the Irish News:


With the strategy in place, we developed the business model and three-year financial plan based on anticipated growth, revenue and expenses that kept investment focused and restrained enabling the the digital business grow while keeping the balance sheet balanced. We designed the new website with an eye toward engagement and an up-sell to a paid subscription. We worked with Irish News teams and with all levels of the organization to reorganize operations around a digital-first newsroom that produced both a daily print newspaper and 24/7 website with the same staff. We trained journalists in social media, the sales team in digital ads sales, and marketing executives in digital subscriptions, and we helped recruit a few digital experts to help guide growth post engagement.


Today the Irish News is going strong with a fully integrated print-digital news room, increasing traffic, subscriptions and ad sales, and remains the top selling daily newspaper in Northern Ireland.