How To Work More Effectively Using A 'Harbisonesque' Productivity Trick

Aidan Coughlan, Head of Digital with Newstalk, lets us in on his trade secrets


Each week, we profile the best of the best industry leaders from around the country – and this week we touched base with Aidan Coughlan, Head of Digital in Newstalk FM.

Newstalk is, in my opinion, the best radio station in Ireland. They say listening to it is a real sign that you've hit middle age, but tonnes of my peers plug in during their commute. Aidan has a vast amount of experience, having worked for Simply Zesty, Independent News and Media and Broadsheet before joining Communicorp.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I'm looking at the new and exciting things we can do with over 2015 – from podcasts to online news, from website designs to apps and from content strategies to team structure. December is always a great time to step back from the daily grind and really think about what you can achieve over the next year. I keep this in three-month blocks, though, just to keep it digestible and make sure it's realistic.

It's like planning your New Year's Resolutions, only you're staking your professional reputation on your ability to actually see them through!

On a more day-to-day level, I'm also finalising our Christmas content with the team, interviewing for the new roles we're currently filling, introducing a new member of my team to everyone in the company, keeping an eye on the day's output and the numbers, finalising the running order for the upcoming fitness podcast I'll be co-hosting with Rory McInerney from FFS, sorting out Christmas rosters and trying to decide whether or not I'm going to have another coffee today.


Do you get a chance to work remotely? If so, where's your favourite spot?

Due to the nature of Newstalk, or any radio station really, remote work hasn't traditionally been a part of the culture; we're bound by studios and expensive infrastructure that doesn't really move around too easily, and that means work pretty much has to belong in the office.

That's a good thing for the most part, as physical presence does enhance teamwork and communication – but it should never come at the expense of productivity or flexibility.

I try to be in the office as often as possible but sometimes if I'm working on a big project and need to have some clarity of thinking, I'll nip around the corner to Clement and Pekoe on South William Street. Not only does it serve the best coffee in Dublin – yeah, you heard me! – but the staff there are the best, the volume levels are perfect, the light is right and there's no wifi.

That may sound like a drawback, but really it forces me to go offline and crack into whatever it is I'm doing without distraction; a very 'Harbisonesque' productivity trick, you might say!


Tell us about the media scene in Ireland. Have you seen a lot change since 2007?

To be honest, it would be quicker to examine the small number of similarities between now and 2007 rather than the vast number of differences. I don't like using the term revolution to describe anything that doesn't involve a guilltoine and the violent storming of a prison, but it would be hard to use any other term in this instance. Things changed at a rate of pace nobody really saw coming, and I think our media landscape is more diverse and all the better for it.

That said, there are some core principles that have remained consistent throughout. I learned my trade as a subeditor in the Evening Herald and the Indo, and the skill I took away from that is the one that's seen me through almost every step of my career since: headlines.


Headlines are about so much more than condensing articles into a few words; they're about bringing the story to life, about extracting the point of interest that turns a series of facts into a story, and leading proudly with that angle.

This industry has always been about storytelling, and that's remained consistent. However – and this is such a bizarre thing to say at the age of 28 – pretty much everything else about my field of work has changed since I started my career.

What Irish start ups excite you in the media space?

Well I'm not sure if Storyful counts as a start up any more, but that's obviously the big global game-changer to emerge from these shores over the last number of years.

NewsWhip deserves a mention as well, for the way it bridges that all-important gap between tech and editorial, while there are any number of impressive journalistic ventures out there that give me a daily pain in the side by proving themselves to be solid competitors to

Whats your tech?

Following a brief sojourn to the Android side, which ended when I lost my HTC One M8 a few weeks ago, my tech infrastructure once again has an Apple core.

I have an iPhone 5S (a replacement until I move to the 6; if I learned one thing from the HTC, it's that I need that extra screen space), an iPad Retina, a MacBook Air 11" which I own but use for work on an almost-daily basis, a 21" iMac which I use in the office. Even my headphones report into Tim Cook – they're Beats Solo HD.

Non-Apple products I own include my Nikon D60 camera, my Ice watch and – I think – my sofa. But you can never be too sure, can you?

I'm a fitness nerd, and I'm a believer in the power of wearable tech to transform behaviour through the power of insight and education about your own habits – it doesn't bring about miracles, and a Jawbone band won't make you fit just by virtue of sitting on your wrist, no more than a fancy microphone will nab you a career-making interview with the Taoiseach. But it can deliver that little bit of extra insight into what you're doing wrong, and right, and sometimes that can make all the difference.

So yeah, I had a Jawbone Up band. But I lost it.

I think the piece of tech I'm really missing is a piece of string to tie all these products to my body.

Show us a screen grab of your homescreen


Yes, that's a Newstalk mic in the background, and no, it isn't company policy that I have that there. I'm just like that.

Most of these apps will be fairly self-explanatory to most, and pretty much all of them get opened several times a day. The bundles are designed in such a way as to provide me with a menu of options when I'm vaguely looking for something but I'm not quite sure where specifically to go to seek it out.

It felt a bit strange moving Phone and Messages off the bottom row, but hey, welcome to 2014.

Follow Aidan on Twitter


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Written By

Louise Johnston

With experience in the Irish FMCG industry LoJo has previously worked for global brands such as Bacardi and Red Bull. She can be described as a passionate infomaniac with an innate flare for brands, marketing and tech trends.