Tag Archives: Metro newspaper

Metro screws up, but it’s just the wrong name

Metro reports Alan DeSousa quits Union Montreal. Except he didn't.

Congratulations to Metro, which had the scoop this morning (UPDATE: link now dead) that Saint Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa has quit Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montreal party to join the opposition Projet Montréal.

This news is a bombshell, coming halfway into the mayor’s third term. De Sousa is a high-profile figure in Tremblay’s party. And yet only Metro is reporting the news so far.

That’s because it never happened. DeSousa didn’t quit Tremblay’s party, and says he has no plans to.

Turns out it was another borough mayor, from another party, that defected today. Rosemont’s François Croteau left Vision Montreal, saying Louise Harel’s party has no political vision (I’m not sure if that was intended as a pun). You can read his full statement here.

Correction fail

Metro’s story reporting about Croteau adds a “précision” that the story about DeSousa was incorrect. I’m no expert on the French language, but the definition of “précision” doesn’t seem to fit “we got the story all wrong and made it all up”.

More importantly, though, the original story reporting DeSousa defecting was still online, with no correction, four 12 hours (and perhaps as many as 26) after the truth was known and the “précision” appended to the Croteau story. The writer says (see below) that this was a technical problem.

What’s interesting about that story, by reporter Mathias Marchal, is that it doesn’t cite a single source for its information, not even anonymous ones. No “Metro has learned” or any of the other euphemisms that journalists use to say they have a scoop. It’s written as if it’s already public knowledge and its status as a fact is unquestioned.

Except, of course, that it’s all made up.

Was it just a guess?

I’m curious how this story came to be written (see update below). It wasn’t in this morning’s print edition, and the timestamp shows it was first posted at 9:43am, with the press conference set for 11.

The press conference part was known. A press release announcing it was sent at 7:54am. It said a borough mayor would defect to Projet Montréal, but didn’t say which one (or from which party). My instinct (and hey, it could be wrong) is that this was a guess. There are 18 boroughs in Montreal whose mayor isn’t Gérald Tremblay. It obviously wasn’t Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez, who’s already part of Projet Montréal. And it probably wouldn’t have been Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor Pierre Gagnier, who quit Projet Montréal. But that still leaves 16 people. A rumour might have been enough to sway an inexperienced journalist into running with the story.

What’s ridiculous is how little gain there is from something like this. At best, other media will cite you for the hour between the time your report is published and the time the press conference confirms it. At worst, you look like a laughingstock because you got it all wrong, and the subject of your article has to issue a press release pointing out how you disappointed him.

This kind of thing always annoys me. I’ve seen so many times where a newspaper will get the details of an announcement leaked to them the day before and come out with an “exclusive” detailing them mere hours before the press conference. At least Metro didn’t label it as an exclusive, though the damage is the same.

Let this be a lesson to other journalists: An official statement that partially confirms a rumour doesn’t mean that rumour is correct.

And always, especially when you think you’re leaking information the public doesn’t already know (or when you’re taking information from another journalist who appears to be leaking it), cite your sources.

UPDATE (Nov. 2): From Marchal, on Twitter:

À l’origine du problème: un quiproquo au départ lors d’une discussion avec Projet Montréal. (A)ussi bête qu’un mélange entre bld St-Laurent et arrondissement St-Laurent.

Mon erreur, et je me suis excusé à Alan DeSousa, qui n’aurait pas dû être mêlé à ça. La nouvelle fut supprimée après 10 min, mais un problème tech. a fait qu’elle est restée accessible par certains URL.

And to answer the question in your blog, no it wasn’t a guess to gain anything! ;)

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

Life imitates art

Metro article, Thursday May 27, Page 6

Let’s put aside for a second that an article was written based entirely off a Facebook group with a few thousand members (actually I found four of them, the largest with more than 145,000 members), what’s interesting here is the photo that accompanies it (spotted by a commenter in the previous post). It’s not a photo of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, but rather one of actors Misha Collins and Laura Prepon portraying Bernardo and Homolka in the 2006 film Karla:

Misha Collins and Laura Prepon try their best to be creepy in Karla

From this I can draw only two conclusions:

1. These actors resemble their subjects much more than I think they do;

2. Editors at Metro are so young they have no idea what Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo look like

The real Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (right?)

Metro’s new look

Before: Last Friday's Metro, Pages 1 and 3

After: Monday's Metro

Gradients! Photo bylines! Giant numbers! Random unnecessary splashes of yellow! BOXY SERIFS!

Newspapers tend to make big deals of their redesigns, even if few people outside the newspaper care about them. Metro is no different. They teased this one for a whole week, and on Monday unveiled the new design with a giant centre-spread guide to it, as if people needed instructions all of a sudden:

Centre spread guide to the new design

The new look comes with a renewed focus on Metro’s original reporting (something that was virtually non-existent when the paper launched in 2001). Considering the reporting staff could fit into a minivan, that means a lot of repeat faces.

The basic design elements that make Metro what it is aren’t going to change though. It’s still littered with by-the-numbers infoboxes, trying to distill important facts into 20-word factbites. But then, that’s the whole point, right?

A day by any other name

When I first saw the tease at one of those orange stands last Monday, I was intrigued. Not so much because they were coming out with a new design, but that they said it would be in five days. My amazing addition skills put that on a Saturday, when the paper doesn’t publish. Were they going to launch a Saturday edition with the new look?

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. There’s no money in weekend editions of commuter freesheets.

Instead, Metro seems to have simply decided that Saturday and Sunday no longer qualify as “jours”, and that five days after a Monday, one day after Friday, is next Monday.

But maybe I’m just a stickler for these kinds of things.

Stands proudly announce the new-look Metro.

And I couldn’t help noticing this minor detail on the sports page:

Oops.

Trente has some brief words from Metro’s editor, saying the look is great and will help its journalists and make kittens even cuter and stuff.

Thoughts on local media

Kate McDonnell, author of the much-read Montreal City Weblog, does her yearly anniversary post and writes about how local media has changed since her blog was launched in 2001. A recommended read for people interested in the local media scene (like me).

Some thoughts to add:

Major local media have all redesigned their websites multiple times since 2001. Most now copy each other (much like print newspaper layouts copy each other), their homepages excessively long, far too much focus on Javascript, Flash and throwing as many links as possible into a tiny space. The idea of the Internet portal died a long time ago, but many still concentrate on the homepage as the single point of entry.

I don’t own an iPhone, and I use my cellphone strictly for making calls (and sending text messages), so I can’t comment on mobile offerings. But it would be nice if content-providing websites would open up their content a bit and let us make it work with our devices. Force us to go to your page for the full article if you’re worried about page impressions, but let us spread the technology to better connect those pages with the people who want to see them.

At some point in the future, the idea of paying for wire copy will be considered ridiculous. It made sense for newspapers. It doesn’t make sense online. Sure, keep your Canadian Press subscriptions for now, but at least separate the copy-paste wire dreck from original content your journalists create. Don’t lump it all into one feed and put it all on one page.

Local media need to hire more programmers and geeks. Even with all the advances there is still so much inefficiency when it comes to news websites and how journalists and editors perform their craft.

For many people, Twitter is replacing the RSS feed. That can be both good and bad. But a lot of people just use Twitter to replicate their RSS feed. That’s just bad. If I want to follow your feed, I’ll do it in Google Reader, instead of getting a truncated headline and bit.ly link. If I see “via twitterfeed” on your Twitter page, I won’t be following.

I can’t help but agree about the “old arts weeklies”. I don’t read Voir much (Steve Proulx excepted), but my interest in the two anglo weeklies has diminished considerably. I thought it was because they focused less on news and more on arts, but I think they’re falling behind in both categories, going through the motions instead of spending effort coming up with something new. I find I get more interesting news from The Suburban than Hour or Mirror, and that’s not saying much.

As for Metro, Transcontinental’s free daily, it has improved a lot since its launch in 2001, when it was exclusively wire copy. Now it has actual journalists. They’re not doing groundbreaking investigative reporting, but considering their budget it’s surprising the amount of original local content they get in. I’m not sure how much of their recent quality is based on competition with 24 Heures, whose journalists seem to exist right now solely to provide filler for the locked out Journal de Montréal, though. That might change if that labour conflict is ever solved.

Which brings us to Rue Frontenac, which has been working hard, but doesn’t look like the kind of website that needs 253 people to put together. Obviously people have other responsibilities like picketing, and not all of those employees are journalists, but the small core of people putting out most of the stuff at that website is arguably exactly what the Journal and Quebecor want.

Finally, as far as local bloggers are concerned, well, that’s the subject of another post.

Oh, and Kate, maybe it’s time to install WordPress and start allowing comments on that blog. That way I don’t have to write a response on my own blog to get it published.

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.

Metro expects journalists to work for free

In case you needed more evidence that news organizations are taking advantage of the naiveté of young journalism students to reduce their payroll costs, the Metro newspaper in Toronto has fired its paid staff and replaced them with but are keeping their unpaid interns.

One of these days, newspapers (especially crappy ones like Metro) will lose that prestige that allows them to abuse students who are so desperate to get into their dream career they’ll work for free.

UPDATE (Feb. 11): One of those laid-off journalists writes about his bosses escorting him from the building on his personal blog.

Metro to run all night during Nuit Blanche

The metro ... after dark?

The metro ... after dark?

According to Metro (the newspaper), the STM is announcing Wednesday that it will keep the metro (the subway) running all night during the Nuit Blanche Feb. 28.

The STM has only done this twice before, once during a snowstorm in 1971, and again on New Year’s Eve 1999. The overnight hours are when maintenance is performed on the tracks, cashes are emptied and other similar stuff is done.

The Metro article is so far the only source that confirms this story (Midnight Poutine surely uses it as a source without credit and Montreal City Weblog picks the story up from there), and its wording isn’t very clear, making me suspect they might have gotten the story wrong.

UPDATE: It’s true. The STM confirmed it today. The metro will run all night long (presumably all lines), in addition to the regular night bus service. (Though considering most of the Nuit Blanche activities are in the Old Port, the Plateau and the Quartier des Spectacles, the metro might not be the most convenient method of transportation between them – it’s more useful for getting home afterward.)

In the past, the STM has opened up the Place des Arts metro station during the Nuit Blanche for performances in the metro, though it confines it to the mezzanine and doesn’t have actual trains running.

Kudos STM, but would it kill you to do the same on New Year’s Eve once a year too?

UPDATE (Jan. 29): The STM is focusing on art in the metro, including a 15-station art rally quiz thing.