Triple-digit job cuts in major media companies seem to have become so commonplace these days. It’s not even the first time it’s happened at Quebecor Media (500 job cuts last fall, 90 cuts at TVA last month, 600 jobs in 2008).
On Tuesday, the company announced it is reducing its workforce by 360 jobs through “restructuring initiatives”, and killing half its 24 Hours free daily network of papers. Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary, where Quebecor’s Sun Media also produces paid dailies, will no longer have 24 Hours newspapers. The last editions of those papers will be Aug. 2.
That leaves three: Montreal and Toronto, where Quebecor says the large mass transit systems warrant the continued publication of a free daily, and Vancouver, where there isn’t a Sun Media paid daily.
Quebecor is also pulling the plug on eight community newspapers:
- L’Action Régionale Montérégie (Québec)
- The Lindsay Daily Post (Ontario)
- The Midland Free Press (Ontario)
- The Meadow Lake Progress (Saskatchewan)
- The Lac du Bonnet Leader (Manitoba)
- The Beausejour Review (Manitoba)
- Le Magazine Saint-Lambert (Québec)
- Le Progrès de Bellechasse (Québec)
There’s some blah-blah-blah about investing in new technologies where the young people are at these days, but the job cuts make it clear that those investments won’t involve many people.
The news comes just after the editor of the Toronto Sun was left jobless.
It’s too bad that Peladeau couldn’t leave Michael Coren and that gang jobless.
Setting aside that Péladeau doesn’t run Quebecor anymore, that may still happen. Sun News is awaiting a decision from the CRTC on mandatory carriage. If it’s denied, the prospects for the channel are bleak.
Speaking of that decision (and those others asking for mandatory carriage), it seems to be taking a long time, no?
It wasn’t expected to be rushed. There are a lot of individual decisions here. I suspect we’ll get decisions within the next few weeks, but I don’t think they’ve set a deadline for themselves on it, despite the projections of doom from some of the applicants.
Very little surprising here. The 24 business model works best when they have a nice flow of people heading into the subway to hand papers to (in order to claim high distribution numbers), and those people must generally not be subscribers or existing buyers of the company’s paid newspapers, otherwise they just cannibalize their own business. The subway scenario seems like a good way to avoid that, different markets perhaps.
The regional papers should be no real surprise to anyone either. The internet has brought a pretty significant shift in how we get our news and information, and has even changed the scope of how we look at things. Our communities aren’t always defined by the borders of our town or village anymore. When the local rotary club has a website and posts up every one of the pictures from it’s award ceremony within 24 hours of the event, instead of the local community paper running a single picture 10 days after the event, you know where people who are interested in these things will go. The advertisers have figured this out as well, and the ad income for these smaller papers is dwindling and disappearing along with the readership.
In a society with access to 24 hour per day news, instant news, and in depth amounts of information direct from the sources, it’s hard to imagine that a weekly newspaper (often a couple of weeks out of date because of publishing deadlines and a shortage of editorial stuff) serving a smaller community base can make a go of it anymore.
Mark my words on this one, it’s not the last time you will read this story. The newspaper business seems to be heading about the same direction as shortwave radio service, the teletype, pagers – once common, but pretty much overtaken by technology and events.
The thing is that those 24-hour news networks and other sources don’t provide the same news as community newspapers. That’s kind of the point of their existence. Yes, some information can pass directly to people from their community groups, but many smaller community organizations either don’t think of doing that or don’t have the staff to do so.
Community newspapers will struggle just like the rest of them, but it’s not the 24-hour news networks or online sources that are the primary cause of their problems.
You may see different sources, but I see the same ones. The drive for 24 hour per day news and “I’ll upload it for you” mentality means that people (especially under 60 or so) expect things in a different time frame.
A local newspaper that publishes once a week might be 2 weeks out of a date with a story (because of lead time and people available to write it). However, “Bob’s little league from Lac Nowhere” website can have pictures and scores from the games played earlier today online free of charge, right now – and they can have all the pictures, not just the one black and white semi-blurry one that the local newspaper will run later.
With many municipal governments running their own informational websites, they are able to put information out there to the community much faster (and more completely) than waiting for a write up some time in the future.
At the end of the day, sources like that ARE the competition to local community newspapers, and the online sources are faster, quicker, more complete, and more personal too. Instead of 1 picture of the Mayor shaking one hand, you can see all the images of all of the hands getting shaken – or perhaps watch a video if someone posted it.
See, in small places, the citizen journalists, the locals with a blog, a website, whatever… they are the ones really producing the news content and getting in touch with the community. More and more, community papers suffer because they aren’t the first source, they are more and more likely to be the last source after the bulletin board at the local IGA. People piece together a list of websites that are important to the things in the community they care about, and they are generally done with it.
The community papers see this because the advertisers back away. As that has happened, the community papers have cut staff and editorial services, and in essence have continued to shoot themselves in the foot, making themselves less in touch with the community and less relevant to them. That in turn drives the advertisers away from the paper, which cuts their income, and so on.
Unless a community newspaper provides a better or more complete service than the other options, the internet generation people are just going to stop looking. Like it or not, that is the reality.
But hey, I am interested – you say that this is not a major source of issues for them so WHAT IS?
Most local newspapers have websites for breaking news. And after decades in the business, I think they’ve learned to move beyond the this-happened-yesterday type of news.
Well if there’s a local newspaper out there that’s nothing more than republishing old notices from the IGA bulletin board without context, then yeah they’re pretty well doomed to fail.
Let me repeat:
“But hey, I am interested – you say that this is not a major source of issues for them so WHAT IS?”
Also, I said “last source after the IGA bulletin board” doesn’t mean that they run notices from the IGA bulletin board, only that they are, as an information source, placed behind them – people are more likely to consult the IGA board than the website. I thought I made that pretty clear.
Also, I had a look at the last edition of The Meadow Lake Progress, which is available online. It’s pretty much not hard to see the problems, there is nothing there that couldn’t be done only on a website in a much more timely fashion. Collecting it and printing it seems like a bit of a waste in modern times.
So, your turn. Rather than selectively trying to poke holes in what I write, tell us: if none of these are the issues, then what is?
(oh, and tell your bosses… Postmedia just coughed up another large red ink hairball)
I’m not sure what you mean by “issues” here, but if it means problems, I would say it’s a bunch of things together. There’s the drop in newspaper advertising as businesses decide on alternative means of marketing themselves. There’s the rising costs of just about everything. There’s a society of people who have found more interesting things to do with their free time than read community newspapers. And there are decisions by large media companies looking at the bottom line who are cutting too deeply rather than finding more creative ways to solve financial problems.
But I don’t think that community newspapers are really competing with 24-hour national news networks. They’re not covering the same stories.
But I don’t think that community newspapers are really competing with 24-hour national news networks.
I didn’t suggest that they were – except that if you figure people only have a certain amount of time for the news each day, they may be spending more on other sites or other sources.
My point is that community papers are competing now with the little league’s own website, the town’s local website, the facebook page for the local bridge club, and so on. You know too that the craiglists of the world have gutted one of the biggest revenue sources for local papers, the classified.
Your answers are most symptoms. “the drop in newspaper advertising as businesses decide on alternative means of marketing themselves” fails to address the question of why. You are stating a result, when the real question is WHY.
You get closer I think when you say that people have found more interesting things to do. But blaming “large media companies” for not finding a solution may be misleading – is it perhaps the product itself that is no longer relevant to the people. Do you honestly think that creating financing can make it somehow more relevant?
Put another way – do you really think that the lives of the people in those 6 communities is going to be notably affected by the loss of the papers, or were they already past due to go? Will someone else rush in to fill the void left, or is their no void at all?
That’s a good question. I’m not familiar enough with those papers or their audiences to say. So I guess we’ll see. (Though the fact that Sun Media chose these papers to shut down should suggest that their value was less than the others.)