La Presse to become a weekly newspaper on Jan. 1

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure they had the guts to do it.

Today, La Presse publisher Guy Crevier announced that as of Jan. 1, 2016, La Presse will be published in print form only once a week on Saturdays, down from six days a week. The rest of the week, it will be tablet app La Presse+ that carries the daily news.

People with print subscriptions will see them converted to Saturday-only subscriptions, be extended if they’re prepaid, or reimbursed depending on the payment plan and preference of the subscriber.

The news comes the day after the launch of Star Touch, a tablet app based on La Presse+ by the Toronto Star.

The news isn’t all that surprising. Crevier has said since the launch of La Presse+ that the tablet is now the main platform and that the print edition will eventually be discontinued. His explanation today includes a lot of numbers showing the decline of the print newspaper industry.

And La Presse+ has been successful, reaching 460,000 readers weekly. I’ve heard a lot of skepticism about those numbers, but La Presse had them independently verified, and NADbank, which surveys the population about their reading habits, confirms La Presse’s high digital readership, which makes it more read than Le Journal de Montréal when print and digital readership is combined.

But there’s a psychological shift here, perhaps more significant than the economic one. Is La Presse a daily newspaper? Does it still belong in the same category as papers like the Journal de Montréal, the Montreal Gazette and Le Devoir?

There are also worries that, even with print’s inevitable decline, putting all your eggs in the basket of a tablet app — a platform that didn’t exist more than a decade ago — is risky. Tablets became really popular when they launched, and reached 10% of the population faster than the telephone, television, smartphone or other media-related technologies. But growth has slowed in recent years, and people who watch the industry aren’t nearly as bullish on it as they once were.

And, of course, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. The exact number isn’t known yet. Crevier is expected to meet with employees on Sept. 24 to lay down the fallout for them.

UPDATE (Sept. 24): La Presse is cutting 158 jobs (102 permanent, 56 temporary), including 43 in the newsroom. The result will be a staff size — 633 — about equal to what it was before La Presse+ launched.

Cutting down print editions means a lot of work no longer becomes necessary. From print edition designers and editors to press operators at Transcontinental to the people who actually deliver the paper door to door, it’s a lot less in expenses for La Presse and a lot less money in the hands of people whose careers depend on this newspaper.

Crevier told the Globe and Mail the paper will save $30 million a year by dropping to one day a week in print.

We’ll see how La Presse’s print subscribers feel about this decision. Many of them don’t have iPads, and will no doubt be disappointed they can’t get their daily news (or, more importantly, comics and puzzles) in the format of their choice.

Meanwhile, La Presse and the Star announced they are shutting down Olive Media, an advertising company they jointly owned. Some of its employees will be laid off, others will be absorbed into the respective papers’ ad teams.

UPDATE: The unions representing La Presse employees sent out a press release complaining that La Presse isn’t being more transparent about it financial situation. They also note that their contracts also expire on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, Quebecor sent out its own press release that basically trolls La Presse, saying the Journal de Montréal won’t abandon its print readership.

Further reading

16 thoughts on “La Presse to become a weekly newspaper on Jan. 1

  1. Dilbert

    The future just crash landed in the middle of the newspaper business, but there will still be plenty of denial for the foreseeable future.

    It’s pretty simple economics. Dead tree editions are expensive to make both in labor and physical product, use plenty of gas to distribute, and the net income from the process is not exactly mind blowing. Getting rid of a huge chain of expenses is very likely to make the LaPresse bottom line a whole lot happier in the long run.

    Moreover, it does something for the that is harder for those in print to appreciate: They will no longer have any true deadlines. No longer will they be tied to the nonsense concept of “putting the paper to bed” at a set time, rather their news can (and is) as fresh as the moment you power up the app. 3AM major fire? Overnight murder? West coast Canadians game? All of that and more more up to date on the day that it happened, not 24- 36 hours later.

    It’s almost undoubtedly the more clear and most open future possible for newspapers. Their relevancy as a printing “document of record” just isn’t in keeping with the mindset of modern readers. Oh, and they aren’t tying themselves to a tablet Steve, they are tying themselves to digital distribution to whatever type of device or system may exist in the future. It’s a bold and solid move from a respected news voice that wants to remain relevant in the 21st century.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      They will no longer have any true deadlines. No longer will they be tied to the nonsense concept of “putting the paper to bed” at a set time, rather their news can (and is) as fresh as the moment you power up the app. 3AM major fire? Overnight murder? West coast Canadians game? All of that and more more up to date on the day that it happened, not 24- 36 hours later.

      That doesn’t apply to La Presse+, which publishes an edition at 1:30am every day. If something happens at 3am on Monday, it’ll be read 22+ hours later.

      But La Presse+, like most print media, have long ago moved beyond the idea that their primary function is reporting fires.

      Oh, and they aren’t tying themselves to a tablet Steve, they are tying themselves to digital distribution to whatever type of device or system may exist in the future.

      If you say so. But Guy Crevier makes it very clear La Presse+ is a tablet application and that’s the main focus for the organization.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “If you say so. But Guy Crevier makes it very clear La Presse+ is a tablet application and that’s the main focus for the organization.”

        You miss the meaning. If tablets are suddenly dropped tomorrow and replaced by VR headsets, no doubt LaPresse+ would move there – or wherever technology takes them. Put another way, the tablet is a replacement for the printing press. What replaces tablets? Who knows but you can bet they will be heading there when it happens. In other words, they are in the long run trying to be medium independent, rather than being tied to the (dying tradition of) the printing press.

        I am actually surprised that none of the political parties in the Federal election have proposed banning news print at some time in the future as being a huge waste of resources, a huge source of garbage, and generally not very much good for anyone anymore.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If tablets are suddenly dropped tomorrow and replaced by VR headsets, no doubt LaPresse+ would move there – or wherever technology takes them.

          It would, assuming La Presse could make it profitable. But that doesn’t change the fact that right now tablet is the primary focus for La Presse and its primary source of revenue.

          I am actually surprised that none of the political parties in the Federal election have proposed banning news print at some time in the future

          I imagine the fact that such a proposal would be political suicide would have something to do with it.

          Reply
  2. Frank Schwimmer

    I am not surprised at all, printed media is becoming obsolete, we’re exposed to media contents everywhere all day long and when we read the newspaper the next morning it’s all old news, that’s why the number of paid subscriptions is plunging. People don’t read newspapers anymore, I have a paid subscription to a paper and all I read is the editorial page, and even that is very frequently boring, I am limiting my TV news to the 11 pm program and a bit of the local news at 11:30 since it is a summary of what happened during the day. I remember that The Christian Science Monitor, one of the best newspapers I have read in English, went first to a weekly paper edition, then a monthly magazine while keeping its online presence about 10 years ago so la Presse is not the first newspaper to make this move, even if they are saying they are.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      printed media is becoming obsolete, we’re exposed to media contents everywhere all day long and when we read the newspaper the next morning it’s all old news

      All of it? Even the stories people hear about for the first time because they’re published in the newspaper?

      Reply
      1. Frank Schwimmer

        Not all of it, but the trend is for printed media to fade away, probably not next year, nor in 2017 but that is the trend, in the same way that AM radio is going the way of the betamax. These days people are more selective about what they ready because there there is a smorgasbord of content in terms of quantity and variety and media consumers get more picky about what they read. Some news will fall through the cracks, naturally, it even happens now with printed media. People’s attention span is also changing and getting shorter, they want the news they are interested in, they want them intermediately and to the point, and if they want and the if they want further context in weeklies. There are also FREE newspapers that offer news, the main news of the day before, and even those pares have a digital platform as well. People are not buying dailies, that’s a reality, they either prefer the rags available at the metro stations or will get them in their phones or their computers.

        Reply
  3. Murray

    In view of the one article written about me, and the one where I was referred to, it would be no loss if La Presse stopped publishing altogether! Sorry though for the quality writers, etc!

    Reply
  4. Mario D

    No surprising news but still a big move. We were wondering who would be the first and again la Presse is leading the way. Expect others to follow when they realize that even without la Presse as a competitor their readership does not rise.
    Of course one has to have a tought for those who will lose their jobs with this move but unfortunately it’ s not as if it was not coming.
    The main worry was with whether or not the sponsors would follow the technology and i guess that they did …

    Reply
    1. Bill L

      from http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/171833/christian-science-monitor-sees-traffic-revenues-rising-after-3-years-of-web-first-strategy/
      [ in 2012 ]
      Measured either by page views (42 million a month) or uniques (8 to 10 million), digital traffic has increased to five times what it was before the big changes, Yemma said. Both ad revenue and content sales grew more than 50 percent for the fiscal year closing April 30.
      With an operating budget of $18.6 million, the Monitor brought in roughly $8 million from operations and earned about another $6 million from an endowment. So the additional subsidy from the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Yemma said, is down to $4.5 million this fiscal year and budgeted for $3.3 million next.
      The objective is for the Monitor to be self-sufficient by 2017, he added, and he expects to get there ahead of schedule.

      See also Monitoring the News: The Brilliant Launch and Sudden Collapse of the Monitor …
      By Susan Bridge. (Routledge, 2000) In her colorful insider’s account, Susan Bridge analyzes the bitter struggle that ensued when a sophisticated entrepreneurial leadership tried to diversify and reposition “The Christian Science Monitor” beyond the failing newspaper into radio, the Internet, multimedia publishing, and — the highest-ticket item of all — The Monitor Channel, a CNN-style, 24-hour news and public affairs channel. Using the Monitor’s story as a focus, Susan Bridge raises fundamental questions about how and whether the public’s interest can be served in an age of spiraling costs, competition between print and electronic media, changing public tastes, and undeclared media wars.

      Reply
    2. Bill L

      Add in self-declared numbers for CSM in 2014
      In 1908, [Eddy] officially launched CSM, and over the course of more than 100 years, the paper has indeed reached many homes: 50,000 through print (current paid circulation), 10 million each month to its website, plus 6,800 through its digital edition.
      …Q: mS: What is the site’s current traffic? Do you have goals set for growth resulting from your relaunch?
      A: Jonathan Wells: Current traffic is approximately 37 million, [with] 10 million [monthly uniques]. Our goal is to maintain 40 million or more.
      from http://www.mediashepherd.com/2014/06/christian-science-monitor-launches-multiphase-strategy-for-growth/

      Reply
    3. Dilbert

      For CSM, you have to consider that getting away from print has in fact allowed them to EXPAND the size of their potential market. Newspapers by definition are a local or regional thing, there are only a very few national or international papers out there (USA Today and WSJ in the US, National Post in Canada, etc). Most papers are local to their market. CSM as aa digital paper isn’t restricted by the need to be printing for distribution, meaning they are just as available in Abbottsford or Zimbabwe.

      So even if their existing market distribution / exposure dropped, the increases from all of the other markets more than offsets it. Picking up handful of readers in thousands of different markets more than makes up for the losses.

      Reply
  5. ClearChannel

    The newspaper is going the way of film photography, before it was exposing rolls of film in my case 35mm cameras then taking the film in to have negatives and prints made. All that fine equipment sitting around collecting dust now. However, I still prefer reading a paper, too long looking at a screen close up and my vision gets a bit blurry.

    Reply

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