The stories which have shaped Irish culture.


The news cycle is a vicious thing. The headlines change quickly and we have a bombardment of news stories on a daily basis. Tweets, mobile notifications, and breaking stories on TV screens fill our heads with the latest “news.”

Organisations, institutions, activists and brands, big and small, are competing with all this noise to get and retain our attention.

How do you get heard above this noise?


Since 2015, we have been analysing the various news stories which are covered in the press, digital news sites and social platforms. Our dataset is 500 news stories paired with the relationship which over 30,000 Irish people have with these stories.

 Noise of news notifications

Noise of news notifications

It is no longer enough for a brand or news story to have a high awareness amongst a group of people, but it must resonate with the group. This is where our Engagement Score Index comes in – we ask how many people are aware and how important the story is in their life. The higher the score, the more people know about the story but also how they believe it is important in their life.

This report reveals the issues and concerns Irish people engage with. It directs us, as strategic planners, to the areas which people care about, the context we need to consider when developing strategies from 2018 to 2020.

Behind the 500

Each month, we test the top stories read on Irish news sites, validating it with Google News Search data, and content shared on social platforms. On average, 15 stories are tested, but the list can range from 10-20 depending on how busy the month is for news. A lot of news can be reported in one month, and other months are dominated by a few big stories. These stories cover all spectrums of news – from pop culture (12% of all stories tested) to politics (9%) – from the serious to trivial and everything in between.

Number of Stories

The category with the most news stories tested was pop culture, with 56 stories tested across the 3 years including Hozier headlining the Grammy’s in Feb 2015, Taylor Swift arguing with Kanye a year later and Stars Wars filming on Skellig Michael. Given their accessible nature, these stories often “go viral” and therefore score high on awareness with 60 – 80% of people aware of pop culture stories. However, given their trivial nature, people attribute a low importance score to pop culture.

As a nation, we love following sports news, and as a result it was the second largest category. We covered everything from Conor McGregor’s rise to the top, Ireland’s run in Euro 2016, the passing of Munster rugby legend, Anthony Foley, and corruption in FIFA.

Stories by Category

The third category with the most stories (with 10% of total stories) was Social. These are stories which happen in Irish society from investigations into state care to the behaviour of charities. Stories in this category include the tragic drowning of a family in Buncrana, Donegal, the STOP drinking campaign and more recently, the release of Ibrahim Halawa from an Egyptian prison.

These stories often focus on the human side of news – the people, families and communities affected by an event. As a result, they are often given a strong importance score, often above 70%, while awareness of many of these stories can be quite low, as attempts to hide scandals or controversy is quite common.

Further categories with a large number of news stories:

  • Economic/finance includes the IMF bail-out review, the banking inquiry, the Central bank decision on mortgage lending and the three Government budgets announced each year.
  • Politics includes local elections, Government formations, legislation debates and the general gossip from Leinster House.
  • Crime/justice includes various court cases, rural crime, and Dublin gangland
  • U.S.A. includes politics in America and of course, Trump.
  • Environment includes everything from the weather to debate about climate change.
  • World & Europe includes stories from across the globe and within Europe itself.

There are a number of sub-categories which have been extracted from the above areas as they dominated as stories in their own-right - terror attacks, Brexit, housing, Irish Water, the marriage referendum, health and gender equality.

The Wider Country Context

On average 60-80% of people are aware of the news stories every month. Only in September 2015 and August 2017 did these stories fall below this level, and these are times when people are on holidays – often called the silly news season.

While consumer sentiment has gone through peaks and troughs (but sitting fairly flat in comparison to the previous 5 years), news awareness has remained fairly consistent. While news is a factor in consumer sentiment, there is little to no exclusive correlation between the news which we are aware of and how we feel. The reality is news influences our culture, but uniquely personal factors impact on our expectations for the future.

During these three years and within these 500 stories, a lot and very little has changed.

  • For some people, their financial situation has improved,
  • ...for others their rent has returned to boom time prices;
  • people can marry who they wish;
  • a TV celebrity and failed businessman has been elected as the US President;
  • a new Irish Government was formed and nearly fell apart;
  • Syrian terror created the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe
  • ...and Brexit became a reality.

Across all these stories, there are clear themes which highlight the areas we should be aware of from 2018-2020. We believe Irish business, organisations and people themselves should acknowledge the following;

  • Brands need to tell more interesting stories
  • Pop culture is everywhere, but sport is emotive
  • Housing & Health is dividing the nation
  • Gender Equality is the next social movement
  • No one cares about local politics