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.
- The Globe and Mail has some interesting numbers, including ones that show ads in the tablet cost more than ads in the paper when measured per reader.
- InfoPresse has some experts guessing at what this means for the industry.
- The Journal de Montréal gets some brief comments from former La Presse publisher Roger Landry.
- The Globe has some historical insight from Konrad Yakabuski
- A story in Les Affaires from a year ago explaining La Presse+’s incredible numbers