The Irish Times is a media company with a long history. To get a sense of this reflect on the fact that it was already half a century old when one of its printing presses was burnt down during the 1916 Rising, when the rebels used its massive rolls of newsprint as barricades. In 1994, the same year that the Mosaic/Netscape browser first began to bring PC users to the Web, The Irish Times launched a digital edition in 1994. It was among the very first papers to do so. And like many media organisations, The Irish Times participated in and suffered from the dot com bubble. The Irish Times’ Facebook Timeline shows these milestones back to 1859.
The Irish Times is taking the next steps in its development as a media organisation. As small signs of this advance see the announcement today by the online editor of a new uniform commenting system, last’s week debut of a new morning brief using Tumblr, and the gradual enrichment of stories on Irishtimes.com with new embedded content, as this example shows. Tomorrow The Irish Times will announce something novel: The Irish Times Digital Challenge.
The Digital Challenge invites digital entrepreneurs to propose ways to work with The Irish Times. For those shortlisted there will be an eight week “getting to know you” period in which the startups can learn how to work with The Irish Times, and The Irish Times can learn how to work with them. If at the end of the eight week period a startup finds that it can use The Irish Times to reach new customers, then perhaps it will want to do a deal with The Irish Times that can help it grow its business. This is an opportunity to leverage The Irish Times Group’s several million unique monthly visitors.
And along the way people who work at The Irish Times will gain an insight into the next wave of digital businesses, and the culture of digital startups. NDRC LaunchPad has partnered with The Irish Times to make sure that experience of startups inside The Irish Times is as relevant and useful as possible. LaunchPad was recently ranked the best startup incubator in Ireland, and 6th in Europe, by the Kauffman Foundation. It will provide a structure that will help keep the focus the startups’ path to revenue.
Legal and accounting support from Arthur Cox and KPMG will help put participating startups on a solid footing. And at the same time The Irish Times will provide marketing support, services and facilities inside The Irish Times building, and a modest stipend provided by Enterprise Ireland. Each startup selected to participate in The Digital Challenge will also get to pitch to tech media and investors at the next Dublin Web Summit in October.
There will be an overall winner who receives a €50,000 convertible loan note from DFJ Esprit, a venture capital firm based in London. The main focus is not, however, to identify one winner, but to develop deep and mutually beneficial relationships with the next wave of digital disruptors.
Feedback on Twitter to The Irish Times Digital Challenge on Storify