I have been closely watching the progress of Brian and Eamonn Fallon’s news start-up, The Journal, since it was launched late last year. The entire news space is a sector which fascinates me as it’s really an economic experiment in what happens when a commodity (news) goes to zero. Ireland has several long-established news companies, all of which are bedrocked by daily and Sunday (or weekend edition) newspapers, and at least two of which (the Irish Times and Independent) generate significant online traffic. Jumping into this pool was a ballsy move but it’s paying off.
Although still early, The Journal is a good example of how using every social trick in the book can really hurt the incumbents. From a slow start, it’s now clear that The Journal is definitely taking traffic from both the Irish Times and the Independent. The Compete graph shows that although their overall uniques is still a fraction of the two combined, The Journal is the only Irish news site that is growing in 2011 (I’m treating Storyful as being in a different category).
Clearly, The Journal has had a blazing start to 2011 and at this stage must be getting discussed at board level by the major Irish and UK media groups. However, the Fallon brothers will have to face at least two major challenges later this year. Firstly, that sticky monetization question. Will display advertising be enough to cover their costs? Secondly, as they aggregate a lot of content, how much will they be impacted when those same companies start to go under or put up paywalls?