I’m starting to come to the conclusion that writing about consumer affairs matters in Ireland has come to a sort of crossroads, possibly even a dead end. This is nothing new, nor has been for some period of time. As regular readers will know, the content here has changed from being “top tips” and “how to” type articles in the early days to having to become more comment and opinion articles in the past couple of years.
It’s come a long way
When ValueIreland.com started in 2003, there was very little written in Ireland related to consumer affairs matters.
The Irish Time, publisher of PriceWatch now, didn’t deem consumer affairs matter worth their while covering. The Irish Independent and other papers were only beginning to awaken to the possibilities. Online, there was only the Boards.ie Rip Off Ireland forum.
Since then, we’ve all seen the explosion in consumer related information that is now made available in print, online and on tv and radio.
Nothing left to say
To a certain extent, by now, if something consumer related (tips, hints and advice) hasn’t been written about now in a newspaper, a magazine or on a website, it’s probably not worth writing about at all.
We’re seeing this with some of the consumer tips and advice published recently where journalists are being paid by certain newspaper publications to tell us how, in this current economic crisis, how we can make money by buying wine, buying art, and even buying property.
The “How to save money on … ” articles are done to death – it’s simply a case of reprinting/republishing the same articles from previous years.
No one was listening anyway
Despite the simplicity and effectiveness of the message to “shop around”, it too is done to death. The fact that it’s ridiculed by much of the general population is disappointing.
We have now left a era when we were plenty able to shop around and make choices of different service and product providers – even if we decided not to.
With businesses closing all the time, we as consumers are left with fewer and fewer options for shopping around – eventually, we’ll be crying out for the chance to do so in the coming months and years.
But still, people with lots to say
In spite of most consumer content struggling to be original any more, and despite the fact that fewer people are listening any more, I still saw multiple new entrants into the “top tips” and “how to” market.
We’ve seen the National Consumer Agency, an organisation with the power to prosecute businesses for taking advantage of consumers, decide that they were better spending their time writing internet articles on “consumer value” rather than enforcing the laws they were set up to uphold.
We’ve seen some people who, despite the plethora of information made available freely online, decided they could make a few bob by turning the provision of consumer tips and advice into a business.
So where to next?
Consumer tips and advice writing as we know it is dead. The only way I can see any future in it is if our businesses and service providers in Ireland begin to innovate by changing and expanding their product and service offerings.
Unfortunately, with the economy still stagnating and likely to do so for another couple of years based on what we’re hearing now, then though the “copy and paste” consumer writers will always have something to write about, there’s unlikely to be anything new for the foreseeable future.
That leaves ValueIreland.com, and writing comment and opinion on the things that matter to consumers.
This could be at a macro-level – but you’re unlikely to read anything here from me that you’re not going to read anywhere else. Yes, I’m mad as hell about what Fianna Fail have done, and are continuing to do, to our country. I’m probably more willing than most to give Fine Gael and Enda Kenny a go at trying something different – though, I’m resigned to the fact that they’re unlikely to surprise us with anything different.
Or it could be writing about consumer issues at a micro-level. The day to day things that people notice, that people are annoyed by, or that people love and are happy with. I can continue to share my own thoughts and opinions, and whenever anyone is kind enough to e-mail me here, I can continue to share that with you to.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the points I’ve raised here.