Tag Archives: 24-Heures

Métro goes back in the metro

Métro newspaper stands in 2010.

Métro newspaper stands in 2010.

Remember these? They’re coming back.

Well, not exactly. The new stands will be green and grey.

Métro, the free newspaper owned by TC Media, announced today it has signed a five-year deal with the STM to once again become the exclusive newspaper of the Montreal metro system, as of Feb. 1. It replaces 24 Heures, which stole the contract from Métro five years ago.

The deal with 24 Heures was for five years but included a five-year renewal option. It seems Métro’s offer was good enough for the STM to decline that option (or 24 Heures decided it could no longer afford the cost).

The deal also means that the Info STM page will return to Métro from 24 Heures.

The STM refuses to say how much Métro is paying it for this exclusive contract, or whether it’s more or less than what 24 Heures paid for it. (The press release notes that there were two bids.)

Comme il s’agit d’une entente de nature commerciale entre la filiale commerciale de la STM (Transgesco s.e.c.) et un partenaire privé (Transcontinental), les détails de cette entente ne sont pas de nature publique. Il en est de même pour l’entente précédente avec le journal 24 h.
— Isabelle Tremblay, STM

The deal is actually signed with Transgesco, a commercial subsidiary of the STM that deals with advertising and other commercial revenue. Though we know how much Transgesco gives to the STM each year (about $30 million), we don’t know how that breaks down in terms of revenues for the paper contract, metro and outdoor shelter advertising and other revenues.

metro-dans-le-metro

Despite getting the metro contract for 2011-15, the Quebecor-owned free paper lagged behind its competitor in terms of readership, according to figures from NADbank (now Vividata). The latest data show Métro with 446,000 print readers for the average issue, compared with 414,000 for 24 Heures. Maybe this means the deal doesn’t mean that much, because both papers are given out by human distributors outside metro stations during the morning rush hour. Or maybe it means that readers still prefer Métro, regardless of how they get it.

In addition to the 320 stands in the metro system, Métro has about 1,000 other stands, including in AMT train stations.

NADbank numbers: Newspaper crisis? What newspaper crisis?

The latest batch of numbers on newspaper readership from NADbank have been released, and in general show newspaper readership about the same as last year despite doomsayers who predict the swift decline of the print medium.

You can see some national trends on NADbank’s website in a PDF presentation. In general, it shows that print is still way ahead of online, that most people still get their news from newspapers in print form, and that rich people are more likely to be print readers. They also show, unsurprisingly, that online readership is continuing to grow, and is more than compensating any losses in print (at least in terms of eyeballs – advertising revenue is an entirely different story).

Unlike services that measure number of subscribers, NADbank gets its data through polling the general population, asking questions like “did you read this newspaper yesterday?” Its polling covers only the market and doesn’t measure out-of-market readership in print or online.

Infopresse crunches the numbers for Quebec newspapers, which for some reason doesn’t include The Gazette. Their chart (PDF) shows little change among La Presse and the Journal de Montréal (which is down slightly from 2010 – is that because the lockout is over?). Le Devoir, meanwhile, has held on to significant gains made between 2009 and 2010, though it is still the last-read paper in Montreal.

Among the free dailies, both have achieved significant gains in readership. 24 Heures is up 12%, profiting mainly from the fact that as of January 2011 it has exclusive rights to distribute in the metro system. But while one would expect competitor Metro to lose a significant amount of readership because of this, it has only continued to grow, up 3% in the last year. It’s undoubtedly more expensive for Métro to hire all those people to hand out papers in the morning, but it is clearly working to stop too many people from switching.

The slower rate of growth for Métro means that 24 Heures is catching up. While in 2009 Métro had 26% more readership on a typical weekday, that’s down to 12%.

The Gazette says its combined readership has hit a five-year high of 554,800 per week. Its print readership is 283,300 on weekdays, 318,900 on Saturdays and 498,000 at least once a week. 24 Heures’s gains have pushed it past The Gazette in terms of average weekday readership.

Quebecor doesn’t inform when it doesn’t feel like it

Last week I told you about Quebecor’s new webpage where the media and telecom giant responds to criticism and perceived misinformation via open letter (instead of, say, responding to journalists’ queries).

Though I have issues with Quebecor’s way of dealing with news about itself (particularly its apparently systematic refusal to speak to journalists from Gesca and Radio-Canada, and to a lesser extent all other media as well), I thought this was a good step forward, that maybe the company would start interacting more with people and present its side of disputes more often.

Then, a few days later came the news that Quebecor was laying off 400 people across the country. This is a cull on the level of triple-digit job cuts two to three years ago by the CBC, CTV, Canwest and Rogers. And it’s about three years since an even larger cut at Sun Media decimated its workforce.

It’s hard to think of a way Quebecor could spin this positively, but they could probably talk about how this will affect their business, where the cuts will be concentrated, and what will happen to the workers.

Instead, the official response from Quebecor spokesperson Serge Sasseville was “no comment”. The “Quebecor vous informe” website is silent on the issue.

Canadian Press finally got he union to confirm the job cuts, half of which is through voluntary buyouts and another 100 through other forms of attrition, leaving only 100 people laid off. It’s still a significant cut, but at least some will be leaving on their own terms.

Had Sasseville decided he did want to comment and answer journalists’ questions, we might get an answer to why a company that just started up a 24-hour all-news network that depends heavily on the work produced by Quebecor’s existing print journalists is now making significant cuts to them. We might know why a company that seems to have no trouble making money feels the need to make such significant cuts in its workforce. We might know why the previous cut of 600 jobs only three years ago wasn’t good enough to bring efficiency to its operations.

But instead, we’ll just have to guess what those answers are, and it’s entirely possible those guesses will be wrong.

24 Heures cuts photo department

It’s unclear if these cuts are part of the 400, but news came out earlier this month that Quebecor’s free Montreal daily 24 Heures had fired its three photographers, eliminating its photo department, as well as a number of copy editors.

Quebecor wouldn’t confirm the news initially, but news came via social media, resulting in a blog post by former 24 Heures photographer Rogerio Barbosa, who quit his job there because the paper refused to pay his expenses. He then went to the Journal de Montréal, where he was locked out along with 252 others in January 2009. The newspaper he left, meanwhile, hired three people to replace them, apparently at a higher pay.

Barbosa’s blog post got picked up by Le Devoir’s Stéphane Baillargeon, who put this into context: Three photographers hired to replace one months before a lockout at the Journal de Montréal. During the lockout, many photos originally taken for 24 Heures got republished in the Journal. And then months after the lockout ends, suddenly all three photographers are fired.

It makes for a pretty strong circumstantial case that the three photographers were hired for the sole purpose of replacing locked-out Journal de Montréal photographers.

Nowadays, much of the photography appearing in Quebecor papers is done by Agence QMI, wire services, provided publicity photos or writers taking photos for their own stories.

(Baillargeon’s piece resulted in a reply from Quebecor’s Serge Sasseville, pointing out that 24 Heures still has eight journalists, two “journalistes-pupitreurs”, two editors and a designer. Sasseville said six people lost their jobs – three photographers and three editors (of whom four were permanent employees and two freelance).

Métro turns 10

March 1 marked the 10th anniversary of free daily newspapers in Montreal. It was 10 years ago that a partnership between Montreal-based Transcontinental and Swedish-based Metro International SA launched Métro in Montreal, replicating in French what they had done in English in Toronto the previous year.

Eight-page special issue in Tuesday's Métro

To celebrate the anniversary, Tuesday’s edition of Métro had an eight-page special insert – there’s also a website with the same content – about itself. Included in this are:

Plus the video, seen above, that makes the 10th anniversary of a newspaper seem like a Steven Seagal movie.

Aside from that, the press release includes a PDF of profiles of newsroom employees, who look a heck of a lot younger than the people in my newsroom.

Another anniversary coming

It was only days after Métro’s first appearance that Quebecor launched a competing free daily. Montréal Métropolitain had its first edition on March 12, 2001, and it would later be renamed 24 Heures.

From the beginning, that newspaper was distributed by hand outside metro stations (Quebecor fought but later lost a court challenge to Métro’s monopoly inside the metro – and recently outbid Métro for that same exclusive distribution right). Its readership numbers have always trailed Métro’s, but the gap has narrowed in recent years, and the distribution agreement with the STM could see 24 Heures finally pull ahead.

I haven’t seen any plans yet from 24 Heures to mark its anniversary.

UPDATE (April 5): There was an anniversary paper on March 28 with a small special insert, accompanied by a press release.

Can they last?

Looking back at some archives from 2001, it seemed clear that a lot of analysts didn’t hold out much hope for these papers. The consensus seemed to be that Montreal’s francophone market could maybe support one free daily like this, but not two.

It’s clear, 10 years later, that not only have both survived, but they’ve flourished, perhaps largely because of the fierce competition from each other. Both greatly increased the amount of original reporting by hiring more journalists (though 24 Heures’s decision to do so is seen in a somewhat negative light because the work of those journalists was then used to feed the locked-out Journal de Montréal). Both are now thicker and have more news than they did 10 years ago, while the paid papers are getting thinner in both size and content.

Expansion to Quebec City?

Also this week, Metro Canada announced that it would launch in two new markets: Winnipeg and London, Ont., bringing their distribution to nine cities.

With the addition of these two, Metro now serves nine of Canada’s 13 most populous metropolitan areas. Of the four it doesn’t serve, three are in southern Ontario (Hamilton, Kitchener, St. Catharines), between Toronto and London. The fourth, Number 7 on the overall list, is Quebec City.

Barring any unusual impediments unique to that area, expansion to Quebec City makes sense. There are no free dailies serving the city, leaving all the readership to Le Soleil and the Journal de Québec. And because there’s already a Métro in Montreal, much of the content – and even the design – could be shared between the two papers. Métro would only need to hire some local reporters and editors and arrange for distribution.

For that matter, it might be worth looking at whether it’s worth starting up an English version in Montreal. A quick calculation shows the Montreal anglo market to be about 750,000, which is about the same as Quebec City and Winnipeg and larger than London and Halifax.

If there’s an argument against it, it’s certainly not a question of numbers. Perhaps English Montrealers are already picking up the French Métro, or they’re too concentrated in the West Island where there isn’t any metro service. Or maybe there’s a worry about people getting confused seeing two newspapers that look alike. Or maybe there’s worry that there could be political fallout if another English newspaper were to launch in Quebec.

Or maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Transcontinental* had the option of launching an English Montreal paper back in 2001, but hadn’t made plans to do so.

*Transcontinental is the major partner in Montreal’s Métro, while Torstar is the major partner in the seven editions west of here, including the new ones announced this week. Both companies are co-owners of Metro Halifax.

UPDATE: Bill McDonald, president of Metro (English) Canada, says that “at this point, we have no specific plans for future expansion.  However, I can assure you we are not done yet.”

Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

These Métro newspaper stands will be replaced by ones distributing 24 Heures

A 10-year deal that has given a huge competitive advantage to one of Montreal’s two (officially) free daily newspapers is about to come to an end.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced today that 24 Heures, the freesheet owned by Quebecor’s Sun Media, has won its bid for exclusive distribution access in the metro system in a five-year (extendable) deal that starts on Jan. 3. As of that point, it will replace Transcontinental’s Métro, which has had this exclusive access since it began publishing in 2001.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Even though the two competing papers were launched virtually simultaneously, have the same type of content and even share similar design styles, this distribution deal meant that Métro could fill stands inside each station and let people pick the paper up throughout the day, while 24 Heures had to settle for being able to hand their paper out to people outside metro entrances. The result was that Métro at one point had four times the readership of 24 Heures.

Since then, the numbers have evened out a bit, but Métro is still significantly ahead of 24 Heures in the quest for eyeballs.

The exclusivity deal angered Quebecor so much that it tried to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight it. That battle was lost in 2005. Deciding that if you can’t fight them, might as well join then, 24 Heures then signed an exclusivity deal with the Agence métropolitaine de transport for distribution in train stations in 2006. And now it gets the metro deal as well (and it’s very happy about that).

The deal with the STM also includes a requirement to offer a page in each issue to the STM to communicate with its users. (The STM will need to change its format a bit, since the new newspaper is smaller.) And expect that there will be a provision for recycling their own newspapers, similar to what Métro had. (Does that mean the recycling bins will be orange instead of green?)

Continue reading

24 Heures gets Metro-like redesign

The day after labour day tends to be a good one to unveil new redesigns. Quebecor is tweaking the look of its 24 Hours papers across the country today, including 24 Heures in Montreal. Each includes an article praising itself for the new design and how much better it is. (The articles aren’t online yet, but you can read the 24 Heures version on their digital edition on Page 5.)

The biggest change in the layout is that the headlines and photos look bigger, which of course means less room for actual news (but nobody cares about that if they’re reading 24 Heures, right?)

You’ll also notice more use of yellow, particularly in highlighter-style behind smaller headlines and labels. I make note of that particularly because there’s a certain other newspaper in town that redesigned in May – and it too promised bigger headlines, bigger photos and more use of yellow highlights.

But to suggest that 24 Heures and its sister papers across the country redesigned so they could look more like the more successful direct competitor Metro, now that would be silly.

Here’s a before and after:

Old New

And a couple of other news pages from the new design:

Shockingly, people still reading newspapers

NADbank, the national newspaper readership monitoring service, released a report on Wednesday with some new numbers (PDF) for newspaper publishers to chew on. And, of course, with all the data there, each newspaper cherry-picks facts to make it look like they’re doing better than their competitors:

So what do the numbers show?

For the sake of comparison, I’m using the “five-day cumulative” number, which measures how many people read the newspaper (in printed form) at least once over the previous five weekdays. The numbers are compared to the last annual report released in March.

  • Journal de Montréal: 1,027,400, up 3.3% from 994,600 despite the lockout
  • La Presse: 678,200, up 0.9% from 672,300
  • Metro: 630,100, up 2.0% from 617,900
  • The Gazette: 454,200, down 1.1% from 459,200
  • 24 Heures: 516,400, up 13.9% from 453,200

Note that no numbers are given for Le Devoir.

The big news here is with 24 Heures, which has shown a huge jump in readership, surpassing The Gazette for fourth place in the market overall.  This is most likely due to more aggressive distribution as well as the increased number of journalists now employed by the paper since the Journal de Montréal was locked out. It also may have picked up some former ICI readers, since ICI is now a weekly supplement in 24 Heures.

For online readership, the numbers are all press-release-worthy:

  • La Presse (cyberpresse.ca): 359,000, up 10% from 326,200
  • The Gazette (montrealgazette.com): 134,900, up 6.5% from 126,700
  • Metro (journalmetro.com): 36,900, up 12.2% from 32,900
  • 24 Heures (24hmontreal.canoe.ca): 27,100, up 24.3% from 21,800

NADbank is also, for the first time, counting Journal de Montréal online readership (the Journal doesn’t have its own website, but Canoe groups some of its articles on a page here). It measures weekly readership at a paltry 130,700, just a bit less than The Gazette.

It’s unsurprising that online has grown quite a bit (in most cases it really has nowhere to go but up), and while Metro and 24 Heures have seen huge gains percentagewise, their numbers are still so small that NADbank puts an asterisk next to them to indicate the sample size was too small to be reliable.

Speaking of small sample sizes, the numbers also include Montreal readership for the Globe and Mail (97.600 Monday-Friday, 79,800 weekly online) and National Post (71,400 Monday-Friday, 41,100 weekly online).

So I guess the newspaper crisis is over, huh?

So Metro goes to the STM, 24 Heures goes to the AMT

First edition of La Page AMT, August 26, 2009

First edition of La Page AMT, August 26, 2009

The Agence métropolitaine de transport has announced that, starting Wednesday, it will be communicating with customers via a page in the free daily 24 Heures once a week. The first such page, announcing their new train cars, is available as a PDF. It appears on Page 12 of Wednesday’s edition.

If this idea sounds eerily similar to the Info STM page in Metro, it’s no coincidence. It all goes back to how these two newspapers got started.

A tale of two free commuter dailies

Metro began publication on March 1, 2001, a partnership between Swedish-based Metro and Montreal-based Transcontinental. A key part of the business plan for this newspaper was a deal it struck with the Société de transport de Montréal (then the Société de transport de la communauté urbaine de Montréal or STCUM). In exchange for exclusive distribution inside the metro system, the newspaper would give 2% of its advertising revenues (guaranteed at $900,000 for the first three years) to the transit agency. It would also give a free page in every issue to the STM so it could more easily offer information to metro users.

Before Metro’s first issue went out the door, Quebecor Media launched a campaign against the deal. Cease-and-desist letters went out to both the STM and Metro, followed by a lawsuit. Even a letter from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a member of Quebecor’s board of directors. Quebecor’s argument was that a restriction against other newspapers distributing freely in the metro was a violation of its right to free expression.

The lawsuit was rejected in 2003, and in 2005 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal. (A similar lawsuit happened in Philadelphia against Metro, and it too ended up losing in court.) Quebecor was clearly not going to win this battle in court.

24 Heures from four years ago (Aug. 26, 2005)

24 Heures from four years ago (Aug. 26, 2005)

24 Heures, Quebecor’s answer to Metro, was launched as Montréal Métropolitain less than two weeks after Metro began distribution. Because of the agreement between Metro and the STM, the paper is distributed outside metro stations. And because of Montreal’s ban on newspaper distribution boxes, the company has to hire people to actually hand copies out to commuters. Without a distribution system in the metro, 24 Heures suffered, and constantly lags behind Metro in circulation figures.

At some point since its launch, 24 Heures decided to focus more on places Metro doesn’t distribute (which is basically everywhere outside the metro). One of those places is commuter train stations, where you’ll find yellow 24 Heures boxes but no Metro.

So it makes sense that the AMT and 24 Heures team up with this page.

What’s unclear is whether the AMT is paying 24 Heures for this page, or whether it’s being offered as part of an agreement with the AMT. I’ve asked the AMT about it, and will update this post with what they say.

La Page AMT will be published every Wednesday in 24 Heures starting August 26. 24 Heures is available in virtual format free online.

Canadian newspaper readership stable

It seems to go against conventional wisdom, but NADBank results released this morning show that readership at major Canadian newspapers remains stable, with three quarters of Canadians reading at least one daily newspaper each week. Online numbers also remain stable, which is disappointing because they represent so little.

Both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail cherry-picked results to declare victory. The Star has more print readers on a daily, Saturday and weekly basis, but the Globe has more online readers and a higher total readership of both online and print (the Globe also says it won “key” demographics and implies that its readers are smarter). Other newspapers trumpeted their gains, especially the Calgary Herald, whose readership jumped 7% over last year,

In Montreal, the Journal de Montréal is still the undisputed print leader, with 578,800 having read it “yesterday” and 1,129,600 in the last week, 40% more than second-place La Presse (even throwing in Cyberpresse readers, against the Journal’s lack of a website, the paper still comes up short). Note that this is all before the lockout.

For those who care about comparing competing papers, there’s not much new here. The market percentages are almost identical to last year. A slight uptick in online readers for Cyberpresse, but only from 9% to 11% of the market.

In terms of raw numbers:

  • The Journal de Montréal lost about 3% of its weekday and Sunday readers.
  • La Presse lost about 30,000 weekly print readers but gained about 26,000 weekly online readers.
  • The Gazette (my paper) gained modestly in all categories, but online growth is robust, rising 11% since it relaunched its website last fall. In the Greater Montreal Area, it rose 31%. (Still, most of the website’s traffic comes from outside Quebec, an oddity among Canwest’s papers)
  • Metro lost almost 5% of its weekly readers, and though it gained almost 20% online, its web readership is still negligible.
  • 24 Heures gained 2.4% in weekly readers (perhaps partially at Metro’s expense). Its online numbers are similarly negligible.

In general, 49% of Montrealers 18 and over read a newspaper on the average weekday, 74% read at least one a week, and 76% read a newspaper or go to a newspaper’s website in a week (which means a tiny number – 4% nationally – go to newspaper websites but don’t subscribe). Freebie newspaper readership is at 24% here, with 717,000 people having read either Metro or 24 Heures in the past five weekdays.

Journal Daily Digest: Boycott 24 heures?

Youssef Shoufan, the guy behind this video about Journal de Montréal workers, has suggested through his blog and a Facebook group that Montrealers boycott Quebecor’s 24 Heures free newspaper in protest of its alleged bias in favour of Quebecor companies like TVA and Videotron.

It’s very unlikely such a move is going to make any difference, for the simple reason that people who care about the state of the news industry don’t read the free papers, and the vast majority who don’t care about media convergence won’t give this a second thought and will go on reading the newspapers boycott or no. You can’t threaten to cancel your subscription to 24 Heures.

Meanwhile, at the Journal, there’s little going on. Le Devoir had a piece from Paul Cauchon on Monday summarizing the stalemate, and focusing on all the anti-Quebecor articles that have appeared on RueFrontenac.com now that journalists have the freedom to say what they really think about their corporate overlords.

And at the little brother Le Réveil, which was also locked out by Quebecor, advertisers are pulling out of the publication in solidarity with workers (so says the no-agenda-here RueFrontenac). Saguenay’s mayor is under pressure to pull the city’s $130,000 worth of advertising from the free paper.

Keeping the machin running

I’m starting to like this overly-enunciative fellow. (The original, for those missing context)

Elsewhere

The Great La Presse Habs Scoop of 2009

La Presse scored the jackpot in Friday’s paper when it combined the four things that journalists and their bosses have wet dreams about:

  1. A scoop, a story that nobody else has
  2. A story filled with anonymous sources about a crime boss/drug lord/mafia king
  3. A story about a celebrity scandal
  4. A story about the Canadiens

The news dominated coverage yesterday and today, even as everyone was talking about Alex Kovalev’s performance problems.

Part of that was because of La Presse, whose hockey analysts were dropping hints on every TV sports show they could find Thursday night to say that a huge scoop would appear in the next day’s paper.

The various news sources did all they could to try and match La Presse’s story before it came out, but couldn’t gather enough before publication to put it all together. So while most just waited until it was out and summarized La Presse’s story or re-researched it, Quebecor-owned 24 Heures put out its exclusive story that four Canadiens players had been arrested.

The story, still available in the Google cache, by reporter Maxime Deland, quotes a single anonymous source “very close” to the Canadiens saying four players had been arrested on Thursday night on their return from Pittsburgh.

Of course, no such thing happened, so 24 Heures deleted the story. I found no correction on their website, and the story was not in Friday’s edition of the paper.

The story has gotten so big now we have the second (third?) day stories about whether the media is blowing this out of proportion. This piece at Fanatique summarizes the timeline of stories from the various news outlets, while Yves Boisvert, Patrick Lagacé and Mike Boone defend the media’s insane interest in the Canadiens as a mere reflection of what the fans want to read.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): Pierre Trudel says La Presse did a good job with its scoop… in an article in La Presse.

Journal Daily Digest: Do they regret the errors?

The big link for today is (like many of the ones below) from Rue Frontenac, the website put out by locked-out Journal workers. One of the pieces put up Thursday goes through editions of the Journal over the past week and points out some of the errors in the paper. (It didn’t take me long to find one myself – the Sunday paper’s inside index of columnists had the wrong page number for Benoit Aubin.)

Most of the errors are fairly small (misspelling hockey players’ names), some are a bit more severe (getting a hockey player’s team wrong), and some are just grammatical nitpicking. What is clear, though, is that they spent a lot of time going through the paper in order to catalog and report on these flaws. I guess they have a lot of free time on their hands now.

One of their criticisms, of the use of the phrase “setting a new record” (as if one could set a record without it being new) made me smile because it’s something that I’ve done a few times in headlines and has been marked in red ink by fellow editors more than once.

The rest

Last week I got a consumer survey in the mail, inviting me to fill it out and win crazy prizes. I actually started filling it out until I noticed it was asking me information that went way beyond what I’m prepared to divulge.

I did notice it had a section on what newspaper you read. But something didn’t seem right.

Notice something missing?

Notice something missing?