Posted in Media, Montreal, Navel-gazing

The new, slightly thinner, somewhat more streamlined Gazette

The transformation of The Gazette that has been made necessary by cuts from parent company Postmedia Network began this week in a way that readers will notice.

As of Tuesday, the weekday paper has been reduced from three to two sections (with the exception of Mondays, which still has a separate Driving section). The Tuesday paper has a note from Editor-in-Chief Alan Allnutt explaining the changes. In it, Allnutt talks about how the focus of the paper will transition from covering the 24-hour news cycle to being more of a daily newsmagazine. If that sounds like something you’ve heard a few times before, you’re not imagining it. But such fundamental change to how a newspaper works takes quite a few big steps before it really sinks in.

The two-section format works as follows:

The A section will contain the same as it did before, with local, national and international news, followed by a two-page opinion section with editorials, Aislin’s cartoon, letters to the editor and opinion pieces. After that will be business news, sports news and arts and entertainment stories that used to be in the other two sections.

The B section will be a theme section that’s different by the day. Mondays and Thursdays it will be sports (Hockey Inside/Out on Thursdays during the hockey season). Tuesdays will be business, comprising the features that used to be in the Monday Your Business section. Wednesdays will be food, with the same features that were on the weekly food pages. And Friday will be movie reviews. Regardless of the topic of the day, the B section will include classified, obituaries, puzzles and comics, the TV grid, the weather map and Doug Camilli’s column (on days when that column runs).

There’s a reduction in the number of pages, though it’s not as dramatic as you might think. This Tuesday’s paper had 36 pages, down from 44 the week before. Wednesday’s paper had 44 pages (not including the West Island section), down from 52. When you discount the five special Olympics pages added to the Sports section each day last week, it’s a small reduction (the Wednesday paper has the same number of pages as one the week before the Olympics). It’s hard to make it an exact science because of the variance in the amount of display advertising.

The main reduction of content is wire stories that filled the back pages of the business, sports and arts sections. More of those stories will be replaced by briefs, with focus being left on local original content.

The Saturday paper remains in its multi-section format and is not affected in any significant way by these changes.

Some original content will be disappearing too, the result of difficult decisions to save costs. Dating Girl columnist Josey Vogels (whose column is actually syndicated, but who got her start at The Gazette and the now-defunct Hour) and bird columnist David Bird wrote goodbyes this week. The weekly This Week’s Child brief and Next Chapter boomer/seniors column are also being cut. Listings of events, shows and activities are moving online.

There are also some more minor changes in the way the paper looks. Section banners have become smaller and simpler, the look of the briefs column changes (it’s been renamed from “In the News” to “In Brief”), columnist logos have become smaller, and Web pointers have disappeared from a standard position on Page A2.

Buyouts and a few layoffs, most of which take effect on Sept. 1, will reduce by about 20% the number of people in the editorial department. Most of those leaving work behind-the-scenes, many as copy editors, photo editors or administrative staff whose names don’t get in the paper. The Globe and Mail explains a bit how things are going to work after the newsroom becomes smaller.

Thankfully, there were no forced layoffs on the copy desk, which means I will remain with The Gazette after the cuts.

The changes are obviously not going to please everyone (few changes do). Allnutt invites people to make their views known by email: changes@montrealgazette.com

39 thoughts on “The new, slightly thinner, somewhat more streamlined Gazette

  1. Sammy

    A couple of months ago I heard Allnutt on the Tommy S. show on CJAD. Every single concern raised by callers concerning the Gazette was shot down by Allnutt. All I could think was what a arrogant goof. Not a care to what the readers think. In his world, the customer is of no concern.

    Haven’t bought nor read either in print or online, the Gazette since. I subscribed for 32 years.

    Can’t wait to read or hear that the entire Postmedia bunch goes bankrupt.

    Reply
    1. Marc

      Can’t wait to read or hear that the entire Postmedia bunch goes bankrupt.

      Maybe Bell will buy it in their quest to be Canada’s sole provider of any and all forms of media.

      Reply
      1. Neil K.

        I know you were being facetious but there are media concentration ownership laws in Canada that prevent one company from owning TV, radio AND newspapers in one market. That’s why Quebecor, for example, never got into radio. They already own newspapers and TV stations.

        So we’re protected from Bell ever getting into the newspaper business, unless the ownership laws change down the road.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          So we’re protected from Bell ever getting into the newspaper business, unless the ownership laws change down the road.

          Should be the local newspaper business. Bell still owns a small stake in the Globe and Mail.

          Reply
  2. Alex H

    This all sound a little bit like the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic situation. It won’t have a meaningful long term impact on the direction things are going. Very, very few businesses ever shrink them selves to a better product and a better bottom line, more often than not they look at the bottom line, and hurt the product in some small but meaningful way, leading to more loss of customers – which restarts the cycle again.

    It is only a matter of time (and not much time) that print media will pretty much go away altogether. “News” organizations may not go away, but the product will be fundamentally different. Most of it will be online, in a downloadable format, viewed on the various e-readers and pad devices. At some point, someone will wake up and realize it, and come to understand that the only people left wanting the paper as a paper are likely on the far side of their 50s. For that matter, more of them are getting into technology too!

    Think of this as just another bus stop on the way to oblivion, where a few more people are dropped off, avoiding taking the ride to the end of the line.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      This all sound a little bit like the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic situation.

      I suppose. But when you’ve already hit the iceberg, what else are you going to do?

      It is only a matter of time (and not much time) that print media will pretty much go away altogether.

      So it makes sense for a print media to start shifting its resources from the paper to digital media, no?

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        “So it makes sense for a print media to start shifting its resources from the paper to digital media, no?”

        It makes sense to a point. The problem for print media legacy companies (such as major newspapers and magazines) is that the income per reader levels are not there as they were in the past with print. As a result, the money isn’t there to support the staffing, not even at the current / forecast levels.

        Moreover, as the competition is “all of the world”, things like wire stories and other filler become more and more meaningless in an online world. Why would I read a Gazette 2 sentence summary when I can go hit the Beeb or whatever and get in depth coverage? Same with business, why get highlight news when I can go deep on Bloomberg or CNBC sites?

        The real pain for a paper like the gazette is that, when you filter out all the filler material and the “not written here” stuff – which is available online from multiple sources – and start looking at only the exclusive content, you discover it’s a really thin product. Then can the business models be supported offering this thin content?

        The future isn’t as bright as we all wish.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Moreover, as the competition is “all of the world”, things like wire stories and other filler become more and more meaningless in an online world.

          So taking out wire stories and “other filler” from the paper would make sense, no? That’s essentially what’s being done here, though other cuts are happening as well.

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            “So taking out wire stories and “other filler” from the paper would make sense, no? That’s essentially what’s being done here, though other cuts are happening as well.”

            It’s deeper than that. You have to look at how much of the content is “local”, “regional”, and “national”. Unless a story is completely local, it’s likely better covered by a regional or national news system, and placed there accordingly. In the paper age, you may print regional or national stories (in part to puff up the spaced used to balance advertising) but in the digital age, the only think anyone would want from a Montreal news source would be Montreal based stories. If I want to read about the latest gangland shooting in Toronto, I would go to a Toronto source.

            Even for sports, I think that it has already been proven on TV: The local news sports report is most narrowly looking at local sports, and allowing in regional or national only as time allows – fluffing up the show. Basically, if you are a sports fan, you get better service watching TSN or Sportsnet or whatever and seeing their 30 minutes sports highlights than you are with 4.5 minutes during an evening newscast.

            In going digital, it’s unlikely that the Montreal Gazette or any other local paper would survive, except as a regional news desk, and perhaps as a portal to a wider national news service. Think Canada.com without all the bullcrap that they try to pull now.

            Reply
      2. Captain Obvious

        Well of course it makes sense for the Gazette to shift from paper to digital media. The real problem is how badly they’re going about making the transition.

        Their current website is shit, their iPad app is shit, and, as the first commenter mentioned, publisher Allnutt doesn’t give a rat’s ass about his subscribers, preferring instead to kowtow only to advertising revenue that fills his dead-tree pages with useless offers from local car dealerships.

        If the Gazoo can manage to pull its ass into the current century it might stand a chance. Otherwise, it’s just a dinosaur waiting to die.

        Reply
  3. Rob

    I have been subscribing to the Gazette now for over 20 years. Every now and then I quit the subscription in order to be lured back at a reduced rate – it appears that long-time loyal subscribers don’t get rewarded with reduced rate subscriptions. Over the years the paper has gone from what I considered to be a top-notch daily, to a second rate rag, filled with full page ads and little substantial content. On top of that, in the past few years, home delivery has been terribly inconsistent. But I continue to subscribe because it’s the only local anglo paper. I completely understand that print media is on its way out, pushed aside for the quick fix “sound bites” of digital news. It’s just so sad to bear witness to the slow death of a once-great newspaper.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Every now and then I quit the subscription in order to be lured back at a reduced rate – it appears that long-time loyal subscribers don’t get rewarded with reduced rate subscriptions.

      The Gazette has been cutting down significantly on reduced subscription rates, partly to increase revenue and party because of complaints like this from longtime customers.

      Reply
    2. David Pinto

      Full-page ads? Rob, those ads are the prime source of revenue for newspapers. Take away the ads, and there ain’t no newspaper.

      Reply
  4. Just Me

    You should be proud of the fact that Montreal still has 4 dailies. Many cities triple Montreal’s size have just 2. There were 6 when I originally arrived in the late 1970s : 1 French one disappeared quickly ( can’t recall the name ) & then an English 1 ( was it the Sun ? ) . But I take it that The Gazette, Le Devoir, Le Journal, La Presse are all still there. That’s impressive !

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      You should be proud of the fact that Montreal still has 4 dailies.

      Actually it has six, including the two free ones.

      There were 6 when I originally arrived in the late 1970s : 1 French one disappeared quickly ( can’t recall the name ) & then an English 1 ( was it the Sun ? ) .

      You’re probably thinking of Montréal Matin and the Montreal Star (which folded in 1978 and 1979, respectively).

      Reply
  5. Bill Lee

    And Le Jour for a while…
    I dislike that all the dailies are morning, so by the time I’ve scanned them, there is a vast news gap until the evning news 12 hour later.
    Meanwhile, I have skimmed a dozen quality dailies around the world, SMH, SCMP, ToI, Lib, GU, etc. for “news of tomorrow”

    I miss the afternoon Star, though the Gazette was funkier in those days.
    Every francophone friend, and they are fluently bilingual, hates the Gazette for its coverage of the province. Still seems the voice of St. James Square.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I dislike that all the dailies are morning, so by the time I’ve scanned them, there is a vast news gap until the evning news 12 hour later.

      The alternative is a paper you get at 5pm but doesn’t have any news from after noon.

      Reply
  6. Laurence

    My comment, already sent to The Gazette, is that if they must shrink the paper, I wish they’d eliminate the nearly content-free front page. I spend less time reading that than any other page of the paper. If they’d put news stories on it like the front page of almost any newspaper, they’d have a lot more room for the news. And what is the point of all that front page teasing? It’s not like newsstand sales are making a big difference in circulation these days.

    Reply
    1. xxx

      there is usually a huge, pointless photo on the front page, like the one today with a bus driver putting on his seat belt (which is about the size and prominence you’d expect for the first moon landing)

      are there really that many newstand sales, as opposed to subscriber sales, that they feel the need for a giant, pointless photo to draw interest? i’d much rather have actual news stories on the front page

      Reply
  7. Pefder magfrok

    A long the gazoo still has the comics page, I will keep getting the newspaper.

    I’ve already got the magnifying glass, so I am future-proofed in the ever-shrinking newspaper comics universe.

    Reply
    1. Captain Obvious

      Try comics.com for your fix. Not only are the weekday strips in full-colour, but you can enlarge each image and forget about the magnifying glass.

      Reply
  8. Mario

    This is why people are not reading dailies … They are gutting the fabric of what makes a newspaper!

    I’ve been a subscriber for over 20 years. I have a smartphone and an iPad and I’m on Twitter. But I still prefer reading my Gazette every morning.

    Now every section is seamless and often I catch myself wondering what section I’m reading.

    And by the way, Mike Boone is one of those columnists forced to retire. His last column will be Aug 31. Luckily he will continue to do the Habs live blog during games on hockey inside out.

    Reply
    1. Laurence

      Ouch! I’m sorry to see Mike Boone go. Now that Red has retired, this will make The Gazette thin in the all-important hockey department.

      Speaking of Red, they really should keep a page of weekly hockey notes, no matter who writes them. I can’t believe the Gazette will let itself be outdone by the Boston Globe in hockey coverage.

      Reply
    2. xxx

      mike boone was great as a TV columnist, good as a general columnist, and i never read him as a hocky columnist, but still sad to see him go

      i’d like to see jack todd go, but i suppose he is needed so they hit their quota of non-alphanumeric characters in the paper…

      Reply
      1. Laurence

        Actually Jack Todd left a few years ago…he wrote a goodbye column and was off to promote his book. He just keeps reappearing as a free-lancer (note his address is not montrealgazette.com), apparently so he can bash Tim Thomas for yet another &&&&week. I’m glad he stuck around for the, what, $50 a column? :)

        Reply
  9. David Pinto

    The Next Chapter Boomer/Seniors column is being cut.
    How idiotic can you be? The seniors are precisely the folks who — well, lots of them anways — are not online, so they read that column in the paper.
    So why should they read the paper at all, if their favourite column is being cut?

    Reply
  10. Neil K.

    The Gazette announced today it is reducing its free online access, from 20 free views a month down to 15. International visitors will only be permitted five free views per month.

    The advertorial fluff will not be affected (i.e. Urban Expressions), not will the hockey blog or breaking news.

    There’s a post on the Gaz website today from Alan Allnutt addressing this, and if you haven’t used up your free monthly views you can read it here:

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/Note+online+readers/7119320/story.html

    Today is also the day several other Postmedia papers institure their paywalls on their websites, including the Ottawa Citizen.

    I just wish the Gazette’s website would stop the obnoxious “autoplay” videos. If I want to watch a video, especially one loaded with commercials, allow me the option to click “play” myself. Don’t start a video automatically when I click on a story to read it. No self-respecting website designer uses autoplay videos anymore.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Steve, has the “My Pet World” been cut, or is the guy on vacation?

      My Pet World is a syndicated column. It’s not written for The Gazette. I’m not sure of its status.

      Reply

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