I can feel it coming in the air: t.o.night (UPDATED)

Note: This post has been updated with clarifications and a correction from a blogTO comment below.

t.o.night newspaper mockup from Blog.TO

t.o.night newspaper mockup from BlogTO

It’s being compared to Dose because it’s new, hip and aimed at a younger audience. The comparison is perhaps more apt because it’s a cheap junk rag in an over-saturated market that’s doomed to inevitable failure within two years.

It’s called “t.o.night“, it’s a free, advertising-supported newspaper which will be distributed in Toronto in the fall. It will contain mostly wire copy and wire images with a minimum of local content and no original journalism, and will be handed out to transit users.

Now, you ask, how is this different from Metro or 24 Hours, which have that exact same business model (ditto for Dose)? Well, t.o.night will be an afternoon paper, and will be printed on glossy paper. Ta-Da!

The brainchild behind this newspaper launch in quite possibly the worst market for newspaper launches ever is a 24-year-old business school graduate who saw a similar thing in Melbourne, Australia, and thought it could work here.

Of course, there are differences between Melbourne and Toronto. Melbourne only has two major dailies, and no freesheet competition. Toronto is home to two major local dailies (the Star and Sun), two freesheets (Metro and 24 Hours) and two “national” newspapers that obsess about everything Toronto (the National Post and Globe and Mail). Metro, the Globe reports, has tried afternoon papers and failed for various logistical reasons.

Part of me kind of likes the idea of an afternoon paper which can set itself apart by at least having different news than the morning papers. But afternoon papers died off for good reasons, and coming out at a different time isn’t going to be enough for t.o.night to separate itself from the other freesheets.

One thing that t.o.night is doing different is getting content from blogs. It has reached a “partnership” with blogTO (the sister publication of Montreal’s Midnight Poutine) to use its content, similar I suppose to the deal its competitor Torontoist has with the Globe and Mail (UPDATE: Except as blogTO’s Tim clarified below, that the Torontoist/Globe deal involves website links, and the blogTO deal involves actual syndication of content in the printed paper).

The hitch, of course, is that blogTO doesn’t pay its contributors (UPDATE: Though it does pay its regular editorial staff). So t.o.night is trying to take the blog’s idea of making money off the free work of others (oh but don’t worry, they’ll get a byline!) Tim says that unpaid “community contributions” won’t appear in t.o.night, only the work of paid writers. He wouldn’t say how much blogTO’s writers are paid.

As much as I like seeing a new voice in the newspaper scene, I have to agree with Torontoist’s skepticism here (even though it can’t really criticize blogTO without being hypocritical): the paper will offer little of value (basically anything that breaks after the morning papers go to press and that Canadian Press can publish before 11am), and will only serve to dilute the market for advertising at a time when the other papers can least handle a drop in ad revenue.

Then again, maybe it will finally make commuters realize that a free newspaper with nothing but wire copy and advertising isn’t worth even that price.

UPDATE: A quick hit from the New York Times’ media blog.

10 thoughts on “I can feel it coming in the air: t.o.night (UPDATED)

    1. Jim J.

      Hear! Hear!

      Even though they shouldn’t be produced in the first place, Lord knows what percentage of these useless “newspapers” end up either as litter or in the regular solid waste stream, rather than being properly recycled.

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        Even though they shouldn’t be produced in the first place, Lord knows what percentage of these useless “newspapers” end up either as litter or in the regular solid waste stream, rather than being properly recycled.

        Last time I went to Toronto, when I took the subway, I wondered what was the use of the basket cages lying on the tracks in the tunnel entrance, with the open side facing the station.
        After I while I understood: to keep the free newspapers lying on the ground from being sucked further inside the tunnels…
        I wonder of the TTC charged Métro for the installation of those baskets…

        Reply
  1. Tim

    A couple of corrections worth noting:

    1. blogTO does pay its contributors. The link you pointed to is for community contributors. In addition to the site’s regular, paid contributors (40 plus of them), we accept one-off submissions from the community. It is the latter that are unpaid.

    2. The relationship is not similar to the Globe and Mail/Torontoist partnership. As far as I can tell, that partnership involves the Globe and Mail including a couple of links on their web site pointing to Torontoist articles. That’s it. Torontoist articles do not appear in the printed paper. The relationship between blogTO and t.o.night is much broader and includes an entire page of blogTO content in the paper every day.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      blogTO does pay its contributors. The link you pointed to is for community contributors. In addition to the site’s regular, paid contributors (40 plus of them), we accept one-off submissions from the community. It is the latter that are unpaid.

      I’m assuming that these unpaid contributions would also be free to be republished in t.o.night. If that’s not the case, I’ll revise the post.

      Also, how much are blogTO staff paid? Is it even in the same ballpark as what a professional journalist would be paid?

      Reply
  2. princess iveylocks

    Dose Ottawa had decent arts coverage and the occasional think-piece worth reading. I appreciated their effort to reach a semi-literate, semi-involved market, and would support its relaunch as a counterpart to the corporate tabloid rags and twitchy earnest indies…

    Reply
  3. Tux

    24h and Metro are so wasteful. I hate that their distributor monkeys always stand right in the middle of the human traffic in metro stations too. Even the religious zealots know how to stand to the side.

    Reply

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