The Coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, the group that took over the six regional dailies formerly owned by Groupe Capitales Médias, has decided to suspend daily print editions and keep only the Saturday edition of each of those newspapers as they face a sudden disappearance of commercial ad revenue.
Affected are Le Soleil in Quebec City, Le Droit in Ottawa/Gatineau, La Tribune in Sherbrooke, La Voix de l’Est in Granby, Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières and Le Quotidien in Saguenay.
They’re also laying off 143 workers, almost half their staff, temporarily during this crisis.
And no refunds “for the moment” because they don’t have enough staff to handle that.
It’s just the latest media outlet to have to make drastic measures as COVID-19 causes traditional advertisers to pull their ads in what BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman calls a “media extinction event.”
Among the dramatic changes in Canada:
- In Halifax, the weekly The Coast has stopped its print edition and laid off 20 staff.
- In Abitibi, Le Citoyen has laid off six of its 10 journalists.
- The Hockey News magazine has laid off eight (it later brought them back).
- In Montreal, Voir laid off seven
- Métro Montréal has dropped freelancers and some contract workers.
- Atlantic Canada’s Saltwire Network has announced it is laying off 40% of its staff and suspending publication of all its weekly newspapers for the next 12 weeks, and cutting hours for remaining staff (read its letter to readers here).
- La Presse is cutting employee salaries by 10% and temporarily reducing pension contributions
- Cogeco Media is cutting 130 positions and adding network programs to its Rythme FM stations in Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières
- Montreal’s 91,9 Sports is cutting back on programming and putting midday shows, including one hosted by Georges Laraque, on “pause”.
- Francophone media in Ontario and New Brunswick have had to make cuts
If the crisis continues over the long term, the situation is likely to get worse.
It’s a perfect storm of problems:
- The crisis itself has put increased pressure on news outlets, particularly television and radio, to increase coverage
- Absences due to sickness or self-isolation measures
- Event advertisers pulling ads because there are no more events to advertise
- Local businesses pulling ads because they’re closed
- Online advertisers opting out of placing ads on pages related to the outbreak
- Fewer newsstand sales of newspapers because of those closed businesses
- Less subscription revenue because newspapers and TV channels have considered themselves morally obligated to provide COVID-19 coverage for free
- No more sports or arts to drive audience numbers
There are some effects working in the other direction — higher audience for news content, some virus-related government advertising — but the impact on the bottom line is very negative.
Governments have acknowledged this, and in Quebec at least, we may see some additional direct financial assistance to the media. Unifor is calling for emergency measures from the federal government, and it looked like they listened, with Justin Trudeau announcing new measures would be coming, but that turned out to be false.
So for now, the guillotine continues to fall day after day.