Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

These Métro newspaper stands will be replaced by ones distributing 24 Heures

A 10-year deal that has given a huge competitive advantage to one of Montreal’s two (officially) free daily newspapers is about to come to an end.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced today that 24 Heures, the freesheet owned by Quebecor’s Sun Media, has won its bid for exclusive distribution access in the metro system in a five-year (extendable) deal that starts on Jan. 3. As of that point, it will replace Transcontinental’s Métro, which has had this exclusive access since it began publishing in 2001.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Even though the two competing papers were launched virtually simultaneously, have the same type of content and even share similar design styles, this distribution deal meant that Métro could fill stands inside each station and let people pick the paper up throughout the day, while 24 Heures had to settle for being able to hand their paper out to people outside metro entrances. The result was that Métro at one point had four times the readership of 24 Heures.

Since then, the numbers have evened out a bit, but Métro is still significantly ahead of 24 Heures in the quest for eyeballs.

The exclusivity deal angered Quebecor so much that it tried to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight it. That battle was lost in 2005. Deciding that if you can’t fight them, might as well join then, 24 Heures then signed an exclusivity deal with the Agence métropolitaine de transport for distribution in train stations in 2006. And now it gets the metro deal as well (and it’s very happy about that).

The deal with the STM also includes a requirement to offer a page in each issue to the STM to communicate with its users. (The STM will need to change its format a bit, since the new newspaper is smaller.) And expect that there will be a provision for recycling their own newspapers, similar to what Métro had. (Does that mean the recycling bins will be orange instead of green?)

In a Twitter post, Métro promised that it would still be found “everywhere” and would beef up its human distribution staff. It also said it would not reduce the number of issues it prints or cut any staff. In the next day’s paper, it devoted its cover page to an ad saying “Métro sort du métro” and used Page 2 to explain the situation to readers:

Métro, Dec. 17, 2010, Page 2

As much as this is a loss for Métro and a win for 24 Heures, the big winner here is the STM. Though no details of the contract have been released, expect the monetary value to be higher than it was under Métro (where it was about $500,000 a year – link via Andy Riga). Quebecor wanted this, and it ponied up the money to make it happen. Métro’s Daniel Barbeau said that they “weren’t ready to renew the contract at any price.”

On the plus side, Métro announced today a new columnist, René Vézina, a contributor to Les Affaires.

More coverage in:

And analysis from Steve Proulx, who wonders why transit users were no part of the decision on what newspaper would be distributed inside the metro system. Meanwhile, Pierre-Luc Daoust says this isn’t nearly as big a deal as everyone is making it out to be.

UPDATE (Dec. 20): Métro has started warning readers of the change on their distribution bins:

UPDATE (Jan. 6): La Presse on the change, talking to the people who hand out the papers. It says, notably, that Metro-branded recycling bins in the stations won’t be removed right away.

21 thoughts on “Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

  1. Soranar

    That’s too bad. Metro, despite being around a day late in news, is also a significantly better paper. The only section they had that was inferior to 24 was probably the sports.

    I hope they will be as easy to find as before and I guess all those newspaper people (those paid to hand them out) will lose their jobs but , let’s face it, those weren’t the greatest jobs on the market.

    But, on a side note, like you said good for the metro. I’m sure they need the money.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I guess all those newspaper people (those paid to hand them out) will lose their jobs but , let’s face it, those weren’t the greatest jobs on the market.

      Not likely, I think. Those jobs were only during rush hour, and they had people working for both Métro and 24 Heures. I would expect both to keep having people hand out the paper (because once you get a paper from one, you’re less likely to pick up the paper from the other). And if 24 Heures has fewer staff because they have more bins inside the metro, I would expect Métro to hire as many people to compensate, if not more.

    2. JF

      A better paper? How can a paper filled with PC-wired news and stories from about 3 journalists can be better than an outlet filled with wired news plus the work of about 10 journalists?

      Most of Metro-written stories relies more or less features, when 24H follows what’s really happening in the news.

      If you want a daily VOIR-MIRROR-HOUR with space for news, Metro is the good choice, yes.

  2. Vahan

    The people handing out the paper could then go into the cars after the rush hour to clean up the mess left behind by dumbasses who are too lazy to drop the paper into recycling bins. Honestly people how hard is it to fo that? How self centered and oblivious do you got to be to simply drop garbage on the floor of the bus or metro car? Be civilized people! And by the way both Transcon and the Cor killed the printing industry jobs. It used to be a fun industry to work in.

    1. Circeus

      I do think there tend to be a lack of bins, actually. Why are they ONLY ever found on the platforms? That’s ridiculous! I should be able to get rid of them in the édicule if I want to!

      1. Vahan

        This still does not give people the right to use the cars and stations as a dump. It is a flimsy paper, not too heavy. Hold on to it, if you must read it, then dispose of it properly. Take it to your office or home and recycle it. It is a simple form of civility. This is your (the in general your) city also and your Metro and bus system, have some pride. We are not living in a third world country, why act like it?

  3. sco100

    I agree with Pierre-Luc Daoust. The two papers are just trading places. I don’t really understand the uproar. Both papers belong to media empires and operate along the same lines as far as content goes.

    Perhaps this has to do with people’s perception of the Metro brand. Most people don’t seem to know that Transcon and Gesca own a big stake in Metro. People tend to see Metro as an independent outfit whose very name means that there can be no challenge to its preferential position. There might be a misguided “David against Goliath” thing at work here, where Metro is seen as the underdog and Quebecor, as the ever-evil underdog slayer.

    The STM has most probably determined that an exclusive distribution deal is more lucrative somehow, but, from a reader’s perspective, both papers should just be granted the same distribution rights and public-transit users should be free to pick up whichever paper they prefer.

  4. Pierre-Luc Daoust

    I don’t need to take the metro to go to work, but at the Henri-Bourassa station, the 24 Heures employees give their newspaper through the bus’ windows. So it will become an advantage for me as I will get the Metro directly in the bus. Kind of drive-through service. ^_^

    But otherwise, no change for me; I prefer Metro just because I hate Quebecor, especially with the lock-out at the Journal de Montréal; I don’t see any superior quality in the Metro pages.

    Oh, and by the way, thanks for the trackback, Fagstein!

  5. Apple IIGS

    I personally couldn’t care if both Metro and 24 Heures disappeared. Do you know the amount of mess these papers generate? Every time I step into a subway car, it’s *littered* with Metro newspapers on the seats, floors, jammed into the sides of seats, blowing around on platforms, etc. Maybe that’s more the fault of the STM for not cleaning up, or just the attitude of Montreal riders. The subway cars on the Toronto TTC are spotless.

    Not too mention these papers are French-only. It’d be nice if they offered content in both French and English.

  6. BusMetroWalk

    Metro or 24 heures – who cares as long as I get my “news”!! haha Whatever happened to the notion of a paperless society? The metro and buses looked extremely clean today without all the “metro papers” flying about due to lack of the “metro paper” in the stations. I was quite pleased and “shocked” to see that! I use my smartphone to download and read the metro papers anyways – I’m assuming many do as well- so not having a hard copy delivered to me or in my hand is no biggie. (guess it’s no longer free since I download it haha) But whatever, it’s “Eco-GREEN-friendly”! I wish there was a way to provide transit users with a cheap inexpensive device like the “Kindle” to read just the metropapers.

    Second thing – the ad “Metro sort du metro” bugs the crap out of me with the depiction of an old classic bus. My first thought upon the glance of the ad was – it looked like an ad from 1980’s-90’s! Is there a subliminal message there that I don’t know about? haha

  7. Philip

    I just wanted to let everyone know that the Metro paper is still available in McDonald’s restaurants and the 24 heures is still available at Metro supermarkets as per usual.

    I’m a Metro Newspaper fan and I work at home so I can only go out late and I would miss the Paper hander-outers (sorry). At least I can go into McDonald’s to get the Weekend issue or any issue with an interesting article. I can always check it out on the web as well.

    I had always thought as Metro was called Metro, that the metro was always going to be its home. I hate change :(

  8. John

    One thing that I have noticed, at least at the Joliette station that I pass through in the morning, is that now both papers are distributed OUTSIDE. Inside there is nothing. Outside one is bombarded with offers of free press. Old habits die hard.

    1. Lyon

      That’s right, no newspaper inside metro station, even Berri-UQAM.

      These Métro newspaper stands have been removed Two newspaper seem fighting the handing out battle. 24h Paper hander-outers still out there, wondering why.

      Does anyone remember whether 24h advertised when it will be inside the stations?

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