Understanding “the angles” when reading the newspaper

Recently, I’m becoming more and more aware of “the angles” or agendas of newspaper journalists when reading their published articles. Some would say that I’m just becoming more cynical. While some angles and agendas are not always obvious, you would have to sometimes wonder where a journalist is coming from when they’re writing a story.

So, as an example, when a journalist wants to address the issue of mobile phone charges being very high in Ireland – say 3 or 4 years ago at the height of Rip Off Ireland, they won’t accept the networks reasoning that it’s because Irish people talk more. As far as they’re concerned, it’s because we’re being charged more. It’s good to knock the networks after all.

ARPU – Average Revenue Per User

One thing to remember here is that the measure of how much a consumer is charged, as calculated by the mobile companies, is ARPU – average revenue per user. This ARPU value is made up of two factors – the actual charges for services levied by the networks, and the amount of those services availed of by the consumer. So, a high charge with low usage, or a medium charge with medium usage, or a low charge with high usage could all provide the same ARPU calculation.

But back to angles and agendas!

Say in 2006, the ARPU for Irish mobile users is said to be high compared to Europe – this is can only be because Irish mobile users are being charged more for their services – not that they’re using the services more. Dan White of Independent Newspapers wrote about this way back then – The €300m mobile rip-off.

But say that in 2010, the ARPU value for Irish consumers has fallen by 8% and from €49 in 2005 per month to €37.40 now *, then this can only be because the “Irish cutting back on the auld chat” according to the very same Dan White of Independent Newspapers.

In 2006, Mr. White had this to say:

The massive margins being earned by Vodafone and O2 in this country are costing Irish mobile phone users about €300m a year.

Further proof that Irish mobile phone users pay over the odds is provided by the fact that the average European ARPU is just €30.26 a month (€363.12 a year), compared to an Irish average of €47.37.

Whereas in 2010, when the Irish ARPU has fallen to a level that is still above what the European ARPU was back in 2005 (not commented upon strangely), there is no chance that the increased market competion amongst the Irish mobile market participants is given any credit for this drop. If you’ve knocked the networks before, you can’t obviosuly give them any credit now.

In 2005, we had Vodafone and O2, with a little bit of Meteor pre-paid, in the Irish mobile market. We now have a much stronger Meteor, along with 3 Mobile, and Tesco Mobile, all providing strong competion to Vodafone and O2.

But this isn’t even entertained by Mr. White – he strangely now accepts the logic rejected back in 2006 that the usage costs of Irish mobile users is dependent on how much we use, and by extension, nothing to do with the level of charges applied by the mobile companies. He’s now on the side of the argument he dismissed back in 2006 and now uses it to justify a position he cannot back up in 2010:

Having long been the most prolific mobile phone users in Europe, it seems the recession is teaching the Irish to cut back on the gab.

And as we all know, competition can and frequently does bring down prices. So, Irish consumers could actually be getting the same mobile services from their providers as they were in 2005, but are just paying less for them.

As just one example, I’m paying less on a monthly basis now that I was 2 or 3 years ago, but I’m getting vastly more for my less money now than I was for my more money back then. My ARPU for O2 would be down, but I’m not using their services less.

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