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Letter from the Publisher

Oct 2011: Our decision to launch a premium service is effectively going back to the future.

Given the Irish economic outlook of relatively low growth for many years to come, the advertising model is simply not a sustainable one for content rich online operations.

There is an interesting aspect to the model: intermittent visitors are more likely to be the ones who click on advertisements, making the model of maximising page views necessary. In a nutshell, regular or loyal vistors to a service like Finfacts may contribute nothing to the revenue model despite a recognition of the value of the content.

This is the antithesis of a durable business model since the dawn of trading - - the world's second-oldest profession - - although President Ronald Reagan suggested an alternative with the quip "It's been said that politics is the second-oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first!"

Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Scottish philosopher-economist observed in his book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth Of Nations (1776), that “nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog” but he said in a free exchange between humans, both parties should perceive a gain!

In 1996/97, we had originally planned to have a mixed model but the Irish are slow adopters of technology and the shambolic implementation of broadband when money was not an issue, compounded the slow development of the web in Ireland.

Irish online advertising remains low as a percentage of total advertising, compared with several European countries and last May, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said at Google's Dublin headquarters, that 40% of Irish SMEs do not have a website.

Weeks later, Dr Eric Schmidt, Google chairman, commented while on a visit to Dublin: “You are behind on fibre to the home and you guys are late with respect to 4G rollout. France, Germany and the UK are already ahead of Ireland with respect to citizens and businesses connected to the Internet. You just need to do it.

“There are many things that the Government can do, but the thing is, it is hard to work with telecoms providers to get more broadband. But these are the roads of the future. There are very few things that are better use of your money that serves the citizens of your country."

As for use of money, content good or bad has been generally free on the web but even the original 19th century 'free lunch' for workmen as a complement to early afternoon beers in American saloons, wasn't really free. Courtesy of Wikipedia, The New York Times commented in 1875: "A free lunch-counter is a great leveler of classes, and when a man takes up a position before one of them he must give up all hope of appearing either dignified or consequential."

More than a century later in 1993, Peter Steiner's famous cartoon in The New Yorker, with the caption, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," was published and the cartoonist recognised that the web had put paid to shame!

“Very little of the content from our newspaper is put up free on our website,” Matt Dempsey, editor of The Irish Farmers Journal told The Irish Times in August 2011. “It’s complete madness to put free content up on the web. We are in the happy position that nobody else is providing similar content to us."

RTÉ, Ireland's State broadcaster, depends on a mandatory license fee/tax to fund its public service remit and with a 70-strong online staff, it can provide a 'free' web service that is supposed to be funded from ring-fenced commercial revenues. Dodgy accounting and the fact that transparency is a strange concept in Ireland has enabled RTÉ to maintain that its online services are independently viable. Newspaper companies claim that they cannot operate commercial online services because RTÉ provides 'free' content. As a solution, the State broadcaster has offered the newspapers free video clips, which is surely contrary to EU law as the near-monopoly is trying to make a sweetheart deal with a select number of rivals.

Another factor in not providing good content free is that hard to find facts are often used by journalists without any attribution.

We have had such experiences with The New York Times, a columnist in The Irish Times and several others. 

We have set the charge at a low €25 per annum - -  a level which should only be a challenge for misers!

If you are a regular user of Finfacts, 50 euro cent a week is hardly a huge ask to support the service. Google's Eric Schmidt said in 2008 that the Internet was “becoming a cesspool” of misinformation. Blog rants are free and plentiful but it isn't of course self-evident but it should be, that quality  content requires resources.

Our editorial operations are based in Kuala Lumpur, and our administration is located in Cork.

I have had a longterm interest in Asia, having been Philippine Honorary Consul in Ireland. My two children are natives of the Philippines.

The location in KL gives us a perspective on the fast-growing region that journalist tourists could not credibly match.

Regular visitors to Finfacts would know that we deliver home truths without any sugar coating. We have a record of presenting challenging facts and analyses on both Irish and global issues.

Our launch version is termed 'beta' as it's subject to improvement based on our own plans and user feedback. It should also be noted that the current mode of delivery is via the conventional web but in due course, we will also use other platforms including apps for devices such as the Apple iPad.

Check out the Finfacts Premium article: Well known 'facts' that are fiction

We were among the small number defying the conventional wisdom during the years of delusion:   

Real price of Amsterdam house only doubled in more than 350 years

America: A country you cannot tell a lie about

Foreign-owned firms accounted for 91% of Ireland's tradeable exports in 2009; Food & drink exports fell 15%

Innovation: Ireland's 'smart economy' strategy, universities and free-lunch entrepreneurship

Irish jobs at foreign multinationals in 2010 were at 1998 level; Jobs in Irish-owned tradeable sector also back to 1998

Globalization and Asia’s return to economic supremacy

Net job growth in US driven entirely by startups

Lion's share of US productivity gains go to shareholders; Real median wage of American male down 28% since 1969

Sincerely,

Michael Hennigan