Irish Examiner: Ad blockers offer opportunity to online publishers

Imagine a web without ads: No more intrusive page takeovers, no more irrelevant pop-ups, and no more bizarre, third-party banners promising a septuagenarian’s secret to wrinkle-free skin.

For millions of media consumers around the world, this commercial-free utopia is a reality.

Ad-blocking has been a major concern for digital publishers and advertisers for a number of years, with consumers migrating to mobile, where the uptake in ad-blockers is greater.

PageFair, a Dublin-based company that provides media organisations with ad-blocking analytics and which creates anti-ad blocking technologies, published a report last year in conjunction with Adobe. It found that 200m desktop users have installed ad-blockers in their PCs and laptops.

A second report, focusing on mobile ad-blockers, was published last month. It found that 419m mobile users have installed ad-blockers in their devices.

“We’ve had 20 years of the online advertising industry, and it has gotten itself to a point where it faces a cul-de-sac that is self-destructive,” said Johnny Ryan, head of ecosystem at PageFair.

“Ad-blocking is like the remote control for TV, invented in the 1950s. It might have taken a few years to land on your couch, but it was inevitable that it would eventually do so. I think it is possible to slow the spread of ad-blocking, but I suspect that the genie is out of the bottle,” he says.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau — IAB — a non-profit group that promotes best practice for online advertisers and publishers, has strongly condemned companies that create ad-blockers.

Recently, the IAB published the results of a small survey on ad-blocking, quizzing 1,300 desktop users and 201 mobile users in the US.

It found that 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users avail of ad-blockers. A further 17% of the sample, who do not currently use blockers, are “at risk of starting to do so”.

Similar to PageFair’s research, young respondents were the most likely to block ads, particularly young males who play data-heavy online games.

The reasons for using blockers are varied: over-populated ad spaces are distracting for consumers, ads sometimes intrude on content, and interactive ads consume a lot of data — a reason why many readers in emerging markets use blockers.

Mr Ryan says the rise of ad-blockers is also because of digital advertisers’ over-use of personal data.

“Advertising has evolved into a position where the industry is preoccupied with the notion of monitoring your behaviour to build a profile of you.

“It’s a mistake, because advertising worked just fine before the web. It was based on the idea of context,” Mr Ryan says.

The over-reliance on data has also led to inaccurate counts of genuine readers viewing advertisements online.

However, the problems created by ad-blocking and poor online advertisements have given publishers the opportunity to reimagine online advertising.

Mr Ryan, who is author of the book, A History of the Internet and the Digital Future, sees the problem of ad-blockers “as being one of those historical milestones”.

One proposition is to simply reduce the quantity.

Ads would cost more for advertisers and give readers an uncluttered space.

Suzanne McElligott, CEO of IAB Ireland, which in September will publish a Red C study on ad-blocking in Ireland, predicts that “we will see more engaging, more creative, better-quality advertising served in a more user-friendly manner”.

She thinks publishers will have to educate online users about the purpose of ads.

Harry Browne, a journalism lecturer at DIT’s School of Media, said he likes and uses ad-blockers.

But he warns that “it breaks the 200-plus-year-old, traditional media business model more surely than the mere provision of free content online ever did.”

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on August 1, 2016.

5 steps to building your own brand newsroom


Just so we’re clear, I absolutely believe that there should be a clear distinction between journalism and advertising.

But as branded content comes back in vogue (the practice has actually been around for quite some time), I think PR and communications teams should think seriously about how they communicate their messages.

If someone is going to advertise to me, I want to be offered something of sustenance, not just a command to buy a product or a lifestyle. And I should know exactly who has paid for that content—slap a big advertorial banner on top of the piece.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for building a brand newsroom:

1. Hire the talent—or mine it

There is an increased demand for information and quality content. In order to generate meaningful stories, you’ve got to have a team of cracking storytellers with a nose for news and a sense of branding.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of hiring a batch of journalists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your current PR team a shake-up.

Be bold—create a new role as chief storytelling officer and make that individual responsible for keeping your brand narrative on-track and on-trend.

2. Find your content crossover

Look for the crossover between what your brand wants to say and what interests your audience. All of your successful stories exist in that space.

Look at your area of expertise, find a topic of interest, then own it. Just like mattress start-up Casper launched Van Winkle’s and owned the topic of sleep. What topics does your team knows better than anybody else? Remember, anything can be interesting if you find a way to make a good story out of it.

3. Connect creators with your sales team

Branded content does not necessarily have to create a direct revenue stream, but aim to generate a sale or make some kind of connection with every story your brand newsroom shares.

Your content team should liaise with your sales team throughout the week. See what leads the sales team is trying to attract and generate content that will entice them to your brand.

4. Have a ton of ideas ready to go

At the beginning of each quarter, put together a host of story ideas that reflect your sales target for the period.

The walls of MediaHQ’s newsroom is covered with post-its with clear, concise headline ideas. That way, our team can peel one off the wall and knock out a 300-word post in the half an hour.

5. Look for openings

Don’t underestimate the power of traditional media. Syndication will help generate brand recognition. Write an op-ed on behalf of your company’s CEO and submit it to a Sunday paper. How about offering an insightful listicle to an industry magazine? Why not pitch a package to feature on a radio programme or podcast?

Your brand newsroom should act as a wire service between established media and your organisation. If you can offer them quality content—not god-awful ad copy—they will gladly give you the publicity.

A version of this article first appeared on

Press releases: Here’s what you’re doing wrong

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There is nothing more frustrating that crafting a press release that goes nowhere.

Some stories make the news, some stories don’t. It’s an unfortunate fact. Sometimes the elements are just against you—but other times, you may have dropped the ball.

Here’s what you could be doing wrong:

It’s a misfire!

We’ve said it lots of times on the MediaHQ blog: You always have to do your homework before sending a press release to a bunch of journalists.

You have to be sure you are targeting the right people: Unless it’s relevant, don’t send an education story to a beauty columnist. It’s sounds like PR For Dummies, but you would be amazed at how many misfired press releases land in journalists’ overcrowded inboxes every day.

Our research team updates our contacts database on a daily basis to ensure our clients don’t send their press releases to the wrong journalists.

There’s just no story

Unless you have a story to tell, nobody will pick up on your release.

Journalists are expected to inform and entertain the public. They are all about the story so your press release must be newsworthy and must have a clear lead.

Press releases should be written in the style of a news article: Eye-catching headline, strong introductory paragraph with detail in following paragraphs. Remember the five Ws of your story and use the inverted pyramid.

You’ve used jargon

Journalists are trained to be cynical. They are always painfully aware that a PR pro is trying to promote an organisation or a range of products.

Nothing turns a journalist off a story more than a press release laced with exaggerations and jargon. Don’t oversell yourself. You may consider it industry lingo, but to a journalist it is just a load of marketing guff.

You want to interest them in your story, so the story is main concern.

Your quote is unbelievably dull

This is the part of all press releases where PR pros truly get to show off their creative side.

Quotes can breathe life into a press release. They add the human element to your story, which always interests journalists.

If you are battling with a difficult approval process, tell senior management that you believe it is better to seek forgiveness than ask for approval (something of a motto at MediaHQ). They should trust their PR team to do their job and trust that you will maintain your CEO’s integrity—and ensure they get their voice heard in the media.

3 tips for pitching through Twitter

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There are now more ways than ever to communicate with a journalist—but that doesn’t mean they are more likely to pick up your pitch.

If a particularly influential reporter likes to hang out on Twitter, why not reach out to them there rather than through their overflowing inbox?

Here are three tips for pitching through Twitter:

1. Show some interest

Follow the reporter in advance of tweeting your pitch. That way they will know you are serious about sharing your story idea and aren’t just spamming every journo in sight.

Try to engage with them beforehand as well—like some of their tweets; comment on a couple of posts. Show some genuine interest in their work.

2. Go public

If you tweet ‘.@username’, your pitch will be visible to other Twitter users, so even if this particular journalist isn’t interest, another reporter might spot the tweet and take you up on it.

Equally, remember to do your usual research before reaching out—a journalist might publicly call you out if you tweet them a totally irrelevant story idea.

Check what topics they tend to cover, look at who they are following and scroll through their likes. This should give you a good idea of what they are interested in.

3. Follow-up—but only once

If the journalist doesn’t respond to you within a reasonable time (this depends on the shelf life of your story and how active the reporter is on Twitter), there is no harm in sending a courteous follow-up tweet.

If they don’t respond on Twitter, don’t email them the same pitch with a follow-up email, followed by a pitch via LinkedIn messenger with yet another follow-up.

There’s a reason you chose to contact them through Twitter—if they didn’t get back to there, they won’t respond anywhere else.


Dublin Inquirer’s bold step into the world of print

Previously online-only newspaper Dublin Inquirer announced that it is launching a monthly print edition.

Readers are invited to subscribe for as little as €5 per month, with the first issue expected to roll off the press by April 8.

Print as additional revenue

“It’s hard for online publications that are weekly to make enough money from online ads,” managing editor Lois Kapila says, “we always knew we’d have to look at other ways to make money.”

Print was seen as a viable way to make additional revenue.

“I talked to local publications in different cities and villages around the world,” Kapila says, ”lots think a weekly or monthly [print] edition is a good way to bring in money and give readers something else.”

A paper version also makes sense because many of the online features—some of which are up to 4,000-words long—boast a long shelf life.

Old school distribution

The print edition is “kind of a cross between a magazine and a newspaper”, Kapila says, with a “newsy feel” fitted to a visually-pleasing magazine layout. She describes it as a “modern newspaper”, with lots of images printed on high quality newsprint.

The Inquirer team themselves will be in charge of distribution and—with an echo to the heyday of print—newspapers will be dispersed through five coin-operated news boxes (pictured above).

If you are interested in subscribing to the Dublin Inquirer print edition, click here.

Listen to my interview with Lois on The Stack, Monocle24‘s dedicated print analysis show.

5 magazines that prove print ain’t dead

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With our researchers constantly updating our database of over 7,500 journalists, the MediaHQ team watches Ireland’s media landscape evolve day-by-day—literally.

While there are some people who relish in the demise of print—perhaps a touch of schadenfreude for hacks who scoffed at the rise of online media—we still have a soft spot for good old-fashioned ink on paper.

If you’re looking to brighten up your desk with a stack of mags, check out these five beauties.

1. We Are Dublin

we are dublin, magazines

Popping off the press every three months, We Are Dublin showcases a mixture of long form features, fiction and poetry, coupled with beautiful photography “dedicated to the city”.

We Are Dublin has been described as “a new breed of travel magazine”, it explores undiscovered parts of the city—and sheds new light on familiar places like this essay on the M50.

The magazine is available in select stockists around the world or you can buy online.

2. The Gentlewoman

the gentlewoman

A celebration of the modern woman, The Gentlewoman “offers a fresh and intelligent perspective on fashion that’s focused on personal style”.

The biannual magazine has a distinct voice that we just love, which creates a feeling of being part of a welcoming club, with enlightening conversation and inspiration.

A dash of glamour and oodles of edge, The Gentlewoman is a joy to peruse and always dons a striking portrait on the cover (Kirsten Dunst features on the spring/summer 2016 edition) . You can pick up the latest copy here.

3. Zeit Magazin

zeit magazin international

If you somehow manage to get your hands on the English-language version of Zeit Magazin, cherish it. This is not an easy find.

A collection of translated articles originally published in Die Zeit’s weekly supplement, as well as a few exclusives thrown in for good measure, Zeit Magazin offers intelligent content and clever design.

The latest edition celebrates 70 years of Die Zeit newspaper, one of Germany’s most respected broadsheets.

Of course, Zeit Magazin didn’t exist 70 years ago, so the editors decided to imagine what the magazine would have looked like had it been published in 1946.

They went whole-hog on this one—even the crossword are time-relevant. A brave and creative idea, brilliantly executed.

4. Rabble


Okay, so Rabble isn’t a magazine, it’s a newspaper. But there are still lessons to learn from the publication.

With a clear political agenda, Rabble is a bold, raucous and colourful freesheet put together by a community of volunteers.

The paper’s mission is to “create a space for the passionate telling of truth, muck-raking journalism and well aimed pot-shots at illegitimate authority”.

It may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is always refreshing and wonderfully illustrated.

Find back issues here.

5. Delayed Gratification

delayed gratification

Proving not only that print isn’t dead, but also that long form journalism is very much alive, Delayed Gratification—a brilliantly clever title, by the way—completely dismisses the concept of a breaking story.

Revisiting news stories that have disappeared from the mainstream agenda, the slow journalism magazine values “being right above being first”.

You can learn all about Delayed Gratification’s slow journalism movement in editor Rob Orchard’s TED Talk.

What are your favourite magazines? Share them with us—@mediahqnews. is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contact details to more than 7,500 journalists in Ireland listed on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

Ireland’s most social savvy politicians

social savvy, social media, general election, ge16, Gerry Adams

Who is getting down with the kids during the #ge16 campaign?

Ireland’s political parties have accumulated 142,000 likes on Facebook.

Research by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics found that that 88pc of declared candidates in General Election 2016 have a Twitter account, but who is making the most of the social presence?

Ducky ár lá

Sinn Féin is the undisputed star of social media in Ireland with over 78,000 likes on Facebook and 40,900 followers on Twitter. That’s a massive leap from where they were five years ago, when they didn’t even have a Facebook page.

Party leader Gerry Adams has attracted 99,300 Twitter followers, thanks to his famously cryptic messages about his rubber ducky, while second in command Mary Lou McDonald is the most ‘liked’ TD on Facebook.

FG on FB

Enda Kenny is the second most-followed TD on Twitter with over 42,000 followers. His party has attracted 14,371 likes on Facebook — that number has more than quadrupled since 2011, when it had 2,700 likes.

Labour, meanwhile, has been strategic with its videos, attract a respectable 28,000 Twitter followers and 14,456 likes on Facebook.

Joan Burton has 14,700 followers on Twitter, way behind her coalition partner.

Fianna Favourite

Fianna Fáil is just behind FG with 19,000 followers on Twitter and 13,824 likes. Party leader Micheál Martin has 15,800 twitter followers.

Each party has employed a digital team to design graphics and create “behind-the-scenes” videos to bump up its PR strategy.

All parties have taken courses on social media management so they can better interact with the electorate. God be with the days when people would just knock on the door.

Here are the top 5 most followed TDs on Twitter:

  1. Gerry Adams – @GerryAdamsSF, 99.4k followers
  2. Enda Kenny – @EndaKennyTD, 42.4k followers
  3. Shane Ross – @Shane_RossTD, 35.8k followers
  4. Leo Varadkar – @Campaignforleo, 29.9k followers
  5. Mary Lou McDonald – @MaryLouMcDonald. 24.9k followers

Here’s who we’ll be following during #ge16. Who is on your Twitter radar? Tweet us – @mediahqnews.

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General Election jargon – busted!

general election jargon, #ge16

With the election campaign in full swing, we take a swing at the spin and bust the jargon that has been thrown into the public ring.

Here are three terms you should get to grips with during #ge16:

Fiscal flip flop

No, this doesn’t refer to a tax consultant at the beach.

It’s what Sinn Féin has persistently accused Fine Gael of — fiscal flip flopping. It certainly sounds good in a soundbite.

The term refers to ambitious economic promises that contradict the outgoing government’s fiscal strategy.

Rainy day fund

Remember Charlie McCreevy’s National Pension Reserve Fund? Nope? That’s because it was raided after the banking collapse to help meet the government’s budget commitments during the height of the crisis.

The NPRF was basically a rainy day fund — reserved money that is used to deal with budget shortfalls when revenues don’t match expenditures. Money we can use to help balance the books.

A rainy day fund might help prevent us from getting into the kind of trouble we were in eight years ago. But where does the money come from? A tax levy of course.

Fiscal space

The final frontier? The meaning of ‘fiscal space’ has certainly become otherworldly as Michael Noonan blindly throws it around with his trademark sense of cool persuasiveness.

It is basically code for “money”, as Arthur Beesley explains in today’s Irish Times.

It is the money that the government has available for tax cuts or spending increases — of course, the vast majority of politicians are going to promise both.

The IMF defines it as “room in a government´s budget that allows it to provide resources for a desired purposes without jeopardizing the sustainability of its financial position or the stability of the economy”. What a mouthful!

Basically, fiscal space is the money that must be (carefully) created if extra resources are to be made available for government spending.

It’s a handy little term for campaigning politicians because it sounds serious and allows them to make generous promises without anybody fully realising.

We prefer Henrietta McKervey’s definition: She suggests that “fiscal space” should be used to describe “the area between two opposing politicians’ posters on a lamppost”.

What political jargon would you like to see busted in #ge16? Tweet us – @mediahqnews.

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3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp

Story bootcamp

Here at, we love good story telling.

We host a number of training courses that are designed to help PR pros connect with the media and share their stories.

Below are three key points that cropped up in our latest Story Bootcamp workshop. Find out about our upcoming courses here.

Continue reading “3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp”

5 PR myths – busted!

Pr myths busted

Everybody in the communications game knows not to believe everything they hear, so decided to debunk five PR myths.

There are plenty of misconceptions in the PR industry that clients sometimes believe to be facts.

We pick through a handful of the biggest myths that PR pros have to confront:

1. There is such a thing as guaranteed coverage

Axed stories are a reality of the newsroom, and if a pitch isn’t newsworthy, then an editor won’t run it.

Just because a PR pro has a good relationship with an particular journalist doesn’t mean they can influence their editorial decisions.

PR requires extensive networking, but the relationships that are built are strictly professional, and PR pros must always respect a journalist’s integrity.

It is counter-productive to bombard journalists with pitches that are self-promotional and that don’t stand up as good stories on their own. Quality content will always trump connections.

2.  It’s all about the press release

Press releases are a tool for PR pros to use to help deliver their client’s message to the media. They are helpful for summarising company announcements, but they are just one piece of the machine.

Share your story on as many platforms as possible: Post it to the company blog, share it via social media and think about the best approach to communicating your message through each medium.

Press releases are much more effective if PR pros tailor their strategy to target influential journalists that are relevant to a particular story. has built a tool that allows you to identify and target the right people in our database of over 7,500 journalists.

Read more: 5 simple rules to ensure your press release is successful

3. PR drives sales

PR is about reputation management, and helps develop a call-to-action that can lead to a sale, but a PR strategy cannot replace a sales strategy.

The two work in tandem: PR creates brand awareness, which a sales team can draw on when they approach potential leads.

4. PR pros don’t understand the news

One of the great skills required to become a PR pro master is the ability to think like a journalist – to develop a nose for news and know what makes a good story.

In fact, many working in PR are former hacks and have jumped the journalism ship themselves. They have a deep understanding of the culture of a newsroom, which they share with their colleagues.

5. All news is good news

A cliché as well as a myth: No PR pro wants to find themselves caught up in the depths of a PR crisis. Unfortunately, it does happen. Instead of taking a backseat and being satisfied that at least your client is getting some coverage, learn how to solve a PR crisis under pressure.

What is the biggest PR myth you would like to see busted? Tweet us @mediahqnews.

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