Among the many things that are changing as 2015 becomes 2016, La Presse is moving from a six-days-a-week newspaper to a Saturday-only one, publishing the other six days (including Sundays) on its tablet edition La Presse+.
In a note to readers, publisher Guy Crevier notes that the tablet app has more than half a million readers every week, and 70,000
new readers every week more weekly readers since Sept. 1*. And notes that with 283 employees, La Presse will still have the largest newsroom in Quebec.
We don’t know much more than we did in September when this move was announced, but it certainly feels more real now. And that’s not just for readers. With the reduction in printing, La Presse saves a lot of money, but much of that money went to people — printing plant employees, home delivery people, print advertising and layout people and others, whether directly employed by La Presse or a contractor. La Presse is cutting 158 jobs directly, which the union has been trying to fight. It recently scored a victory getting the company to offer buyouts, according to the Globe and Mail.
The Globe and other media (CBC, Radio-Canada, Journal de Montréal, Presse Canadienne, CTV) have been reporting on the print edition’s demise, including interviews with print subscribers unhappy about switching to a tablet (or steadfastly refusing to do so).
The big thing that’s changed since then is that sales of iPads have slowed and even declined in the past two years. Whether that’s because they’re too expensive or people aren’t replacing them fast enough, I don’t know.
That’s not to say La Presse+ is doomed, since it already has those half a million readers. It’s because of La Presse+ that La Presse is more read now than the Journal de Montréal. But it emphasizes that this is a huge gamble, replacing something that’s more than a century old by something that’s about a decade old.
Not that newspapers have the luxury of playing it safe anymore.
*Corrected to note that the 70,000 new readers figure is since Sept. 1, not every week. Thanks to John D. for spotting this error.
UPDATE (Jan. 22): Le Devoir tells Radio-Canada its subscriptions have gone up 10-15% since the beginning of the year. Le Soleil and Le Nouvelliste have also reported print subscription increases. (No word on the Journal de Montréal.)