Tag Archives: newspapers

Transcontinental/Chronicle Herald sale continues regional monopolization of newspapers

The Halifax Chronicle Herald surprised me this morning by announcing it is purchasing almost all of Transcontinental’s print assets in Atlantic Canada, including 27 newspapers, one online-only news outlet, and four of Transcon’s six printing plants. (This despite the fact that the paper is 15 months into a general strike.)

Included in the sale are newspapers like the St. John’s Telegram and Charlottetown Guardian. The sale takes effect immediately, Transcontinental said. No word on purchase price, but we’ll probably learn that at Transcontinental’s next financial report to shareholders.

This sale follows several recent region-wide newspaper selloffs, including Quebecor selling 74 community papers in Quebec to Transcontinental, Transcontinental selling its 13 Saskatchewan newspapers to Star News Publishing, Transcontinental buying all of Rogers’s business-to-business magazines, Gesca selling all its newspapers except La Presse, and swaps of newspapers between Black Press and Glacier Media in B.C. (Not to mention the whole Postmedia/Sun Media thing.)

The result of most of these transactions is that the country is being divided up regionally, and community newspapers are avoiding competition so much that their owners are swapping assets to stay away from each other’s markets.

After the Transcon/Chronicle Herald deal, the new owners (who have incorporated as Saltwire Network) made it clear they have no plans to expand into New Brunswick (beyond the purchased Sackville Tribune Post, which is on the Nova Scotia border) to avoid competing with the Irving-owned Brunswick News. The Transcontinental-Quebecor deal ended the companies’ competition in Quebec, which had heated up a few years earlier when Quebecor decided to launch some new publications on Transcontinental territory.

A look at which groups own more than a nominal number of newspapers in each province shows how fragmented it has become (numbers are based on a quick count and may not be exact):

  • British Columbia: Black Press (77), Glacier Media (25)
  • Alberta: Postmedia (36), Glacier Media (17), Black Press (12)
  • Saskatchewan: Glacier Media (15)
  • Manitoba: Glacier Media (9), Postmedia (9), FP Newspapers (9)
  • Ontario: Torstar (115), Postmedia (61)
  • Quebec: Transcontinental (100)
  • New Brunswick: Brunswick News (24)
  • Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island/Newfoundland and Labrador: Saltwire Network (34)

Besides Alberta and Manitoba, no province has more than two major community newspaper publishers (as measured by number of titles). But just as importantly, no publisher operates substantial operations in more than four provinces.

As a result of the latest sale, Transcontinental will drop to being a Quebec-only newspaper publisher (except for papers in Cornwall, Ont., and its partnership in the Halifax Metro free daily).

The transactions make sense from a business perspective, and as much as we can complain about lack of competition, the truth is that healthy competition in community newspapers just isn’t possible as the industry continues its slow death march.

We may see further consolidation (particularly in western provinces) in the future, and if the situation doesn’t improve, major shutdowns. And if one of these companies goes under and is forced to shut down completely, it could leave an entire province without community media.

N.D.G. Free Press newspaper shuts down

The Free Press newspaper, which launched as the N.D.G. Free Press in 2009 and later expanded to include neighbouring west-end communities, has published its final issue, its editor told Mike Cohen and the Montreal Gazette.

Its sister paper, the Westmount Independent, will continue to publish, David Price says.

As a free paper, distributed mainly through the mail, the twice-monthly Free Press required advertising revenue to survive, but despite a recent plea to readers, the paper couldn’t find enough advertisers to become profitable.

The Free Press wasn’t the kind of news machine that you’d find at the Montreal Gazette or CBC or La Presse, but it was independent, and it tried to fill the hole left after Transcontinental shut down what was left of the old N.D.G. Monitor. There’s still The Suburban, which has a west-end edition, and of course the daily Gazette, but residents of that part of town will be less connected to what happens in their community.

City councillor Marvin Rotrand tweeted something offering hope something could be done to save the paper, but that seems too little, too late at this point.

The end of an era for La Presse as last weekday print edition is published

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 MontréalPresse 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).

For a more detailed analysis of La Presse+, I’ll point you to this post from two years ago, as well as this long series from the website NetNewsCheck.

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.)

Journal de Montréal still most read in print, La Presse most read overall in Montreal

La Presse continues to be the most-read newspaper overall in Montreal even though most of its readers don’t read it on paper, the latest readership data shows.

Results were released Thursday by Vividata, which was formed by the merger of NADbank and the Print Measurement Bureau. It determines readership of newspapers and magazines by public surveys.

The top-line data from the latest survey shows La Presse has an average daily (Monday to Friday) audience just above 1 million, who read it either in print form or online.

As we saw previously with NADbank numbers, the Journal de Montréal has more readers in print than La Presse (530,000 vs. 429,000), but the latter makes up for this by having almost twice as many digital readers (858,000 vs. 473,000).

If you compare La Presse to other newspapers, you also see that few of them have anywhere near the kind of relative success that La Presse does on digital. It has exactly twice as many digital readers as print, while most other daily newspapers in Canada have fewer digital readers than print or only slightly more. The only others with a 2:1 ratio like this are the national newspapers (the Globe and Mail and National Post) and Le Devoir (whose print readership is very low).

La Presse is now third in print readership, falling below Métro and just slightly ahead of 24 Heures on the average weekday. The Montreal Gazette is fifth overall and in print, followed by Le Devoir, though the latter has a higher online readership than the Gazette.

Data for magazines is published here. Reader’s Digest remains the most read magazine in the country according to this measurement.

Transcontinental kills the Chronicle and Examiner, the last of its English newspapers in Quebec

It’s true. Transcontinental, the publishing company that owns community weekly newspapers across the province, has confirmed that, for financial reasons, it is ceasing publication of the West Island Chronicle and Westmount Examiner. Their final issues are next week.

The Montreal Gazette has the details, as well as some comments from former Chronicle/Examiner reporters.

But as much as people are reminiscing the official passing of two institutions (the Chronicle dates back to 1924, the Examiner to 1935), the mourning began long ago. The newspapers aren’t so much being shut down as they’re finally being put out of their misery.

The fact that only three people are losing their jobs because two newspapers shut down should be as clear an indication as any of how far these papers had fallen in recent years. Where once they each had a small team of reporters and editors covering stories as best they could, at the end there was only a single reporter being shared by both papers. At that point, to call what’s being done journalism might be a bit of a stretch. The reporters that have gone through there have accomplished herculean tasks, and many have better jobs at larger media outlets now, but there’s just so much that can be done with no resources.

You need only take a look at the Chronicle’s last issue to see how thin it has become, or how much of it is ads, or advertorials. There’s journalism there, too, but nothing even remotely close to what it used to be.

Fortunately, Transcontinental will give them one last issue, just after the federal election, where they can publish results and maybe say goodbye.

The shutdown follows the conversion of the former N.D.G. Monitor to an “online newspaper” in 2009. That no longer exists, its old website URL redirecting to Métro. And this summer, Transcontinental turned another old newspaper, the Huntingdon Gleaner, into an insert in a French-language weekly, getting rid of the Gleaner’s staff. (I’ll have more on that in a future story.)

So now what? Transcontinental made a reference to the western Montreal market being served by alternatives. In the West Island, there’s the weekly West Island section of the Montreal Gazette (my employer). In Westmount, there’s the Westmount Independent. And in both, there’s the Suburban. Will one or more of these boost their resources to attract the closed papers’ former readers (and their advertisers)? Or will less competition open the door to them cutting back?

More coverage:

UPDATE: A “wake of sorts” in memory of the West Island Chronicle is planned for Nov. 11 at Le Pionnier in Pointe-Claire.

La Presse to become a weekly newspaper on Jan. 1

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.

Further reading

Your morning paper no longer has last night’s lottery results

Loto-Québec made a big presentation today about a group of Rona employees who are sharing in a $55-million Lotto Max jackpot they won in Friday’s draw.

But none of those employees learned about winning by reading the numbers in Saturday’s paper, because they weren’t there. Instead, the papers had the results of Thursday’s draws.

And it wasn’t a misprint or error, but rather an unfortunate consequence of a decision to push back draw times.

Starting a week ago, the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation, which includes Loto-Québec and four other lottery corporations covering Canada’s provinces and territories, pushed back the deadline to buy tickets for the Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max draws from 9pm to 10:30pm Eastern Time. Loto-Québec decided “in the interest of consistency” to apply the same deadline to its other draws.

On the plus side, this gives people more time to buy tickets, particularly out west where the time difference put the deadline as early as 6pm. But on the minus side, it also pushes back the publication of results of the draws to around midnight, too late to make it into the next day’s newspaper.

The change also affects TV broadcast of the results, though the change is more minor. CTV Montreal used to broadcast the results at 11:30pm, just before the late-night local newscast. Now the results are broadcast around midnight. On TVA, results appear in the ticker the next morning during Salut, Bonjour and the noon news, and throughout the morning on LCN.

For newspapers, under the previous system, Loto-Québec purchased ads every day that would be filed on deadline. Often the page with the results ad would be among the last typeset, because results would come in between 10 and 10:30pm.

Results coming at midnight means they could only make some editions of the next day’s newspapers at best. So Loto-Québec is now running newspaper ads on a one-day delay. Wednesday’s paper gets Monday night’s results, Thursday’s paper gets Tuesday’s results, and so on.

It’s perhaps another sign of the declining influence of print media. The fact that there has been so little discussion about this change is perhaps another.

Le Devoir replaces its paywall with a meter as it struggles financially

As Canadian newspapers have gone back and forth over the idea of charging online readers directly for access to content, trying to find that sweet spot between encouraging them to subscribe to read high-quality reporting and getting as much ad revenue as possible through traffic to popular stories, one newspaper’s strategy has stayed the same for the past decade.

Until now.

As it made its yearly announcement of its financial situation to the public recently, Le Devoir announced that it is opening up holes in its paywall. What was previously a hard paywall that restricted access to most of its exclusive content to paid subscribers has now become a metered system similar to what most paid newspapers (including my employer’s) have adopted.

People without subscriptions will now be able to access 10 paid articles per month before the paywall comes down. (And, of course, as with any metered paywall, there are many ways around that restriction.)

This news is good for those of us who follow just one particular subject. And it might help improve their ad revenue situation slightly. But Le Devoir is facing the same troubles as other major newspapers. And as this analysis shows, the numbers are getting worse.

Le Devoir launches tablet app

After La Presse and the Montreal Gazette, Le Devoir has become the latest Montreal newspaper to launch an enhanced tablet app.

Le Devoir’s app, which like its website is available only to paid subscribers (but is free until Dec. 8), isn’t as flashy as its competitors, but it does offer some nice features, including working crossword puzzles and the ability to read in portrait or landscape mode (La Presse+ and the Gazette app are landscape-only). The app is also meant to be read offline after downloading.

It’s available for both the iPad (iPad 2+) and Android tablets (OS 4.4 and above). It promises each edition (Monday to Saturday) will be ready by 4am.

If you don’t subscribe to Le Devoir, you can buy each issue for $1.99. Or you can get a web-and-tablet subscription with no delivery for $17.75 a month, or a digital subscription plus Saturday-only paper delivery for $19.75 a month.

For more details, Le Devoir has an information page with frequently asked questions, and an introduction from publisher Bernard Descôteaux. He also explains that the print edition isn’t going anywhere, and that they don’t have the means to compete with La Presse+ directly.

And Mario Garcia has an interview with designer Lucia Lacava.

NADbank: La Presse has more readers overall than the Journal de Montréal

NADbank, the organization that measures newspaper readership, has come out with its mid-year national survey. Based on its large-market readership numbers:

When combining print and digital readership, La Presse and the Journal de Montréal both reach 1.241 million people a week. The difference in the official numbers is only 300, or 0.02%, which is far below the margin for error in such a survey.

Even more surprising, the daily readership of La Presse, measured by asking survey respondents which papers/websites they read the day before, is significantly higher than the Journal de Montréal, at 750,000 to 582,000.

La Presse has closed the gap with the Journal mainly through a huge increase in digital readership. The survey doesn’t distinguish between digital methods, but La Presse’s publisher Guy Crevier says this is mainly due to its now-flagship product La Presse+. Its digital readership jumped from 571,000 a week to 721,000 a week, a 26% increase.

In fact, more respondents said they read La Presse on a digital medium the day before than read the print paper. Other than the national papers Globe and Mail and National Post, no other major-market daily has more daily readers online than in print.

Even more amazing, La Presse reported slightly more daily digital readers in Montreal than the Star did in Toronto.

Excluding digital media and focusing just on print, the Journal de Montréal is still tops on weekdays and weekly, and that’s what it focused on with its press release. But on Saturday, La Presse has slightly more readers in print alone.

This dramatic increase in digital readership — and the fact that it has resulted in an increase in readership overall instead of just cannibalizing print readers — is yet another statistic justifying La Presse’s new strategy. And as if on cue, publisher Guy Crevier has another interview, in which he says 35% of La Presse’s revenues come from La Presse+, and that he doesn’t expect the print edition to still be around (at least as a daily) by 2020, or maybe even 2018.

Other facts in the NADbank numbers:

  • More than three years after 24 Heures became the official newspaper of the metro system, Métro still has more readers overall (300,000 vs. 270,000).
  • Métro and 24 Heures both get more than 90% of their readership from their print product. Their online readership is so low NADbank warns the numbers are statistically unreliable.
  • Only two papers in Montreal had more than half their weekly readers reading on any given day: La Presse and The Gazette. Readers of these publications are more likely to be everyday readers, compared to occasional readers for the others. (The Gazette has more daily readers than Métro or 24 Heures, but fewer weekly readers, because of this.)
  • More people said they read The Gazette online the previous day than the Journal de Montréal, despite the Journal’s gains online. The Gazette’s weekly online readership is up 37% from the previous report.
  • The Globe and Mail beats the National Post in both print and digital in all major markets. (In Edmonton, the Post has more daily digital readers, but fewer weekly digital readers and fewer readers overall.)
  • This isn’t new, but I just noticed it now: The Journal de Montréal has more readers in its home market than the Toronto Sun, daily and weekly.

Montreal Gazette redesigns paper, launches new website and iPad and smartphone apps

Monday and Tuesday editions of the Montreal Gazette

Monday and Tuesday editions of the Montreal Gazette

The project called The Gazette Reimagined went live at 12am on Tuesday, with a four-platform relaunch that includes a dramatic print redesign, a new website and new iPad and smartphone apps.

The new website went live at midnight, though it may take a bit of time for the DNS changes to propagate through the Internet. The new smartphone apps are in the Apple app store and Google Play store, and the new iPad app is also in the Apple app store. (The old smartphone and tablet apps will remain available, for those who want to read website stories on their smartphone but don’t want to use the mobile website.)

Editor Lucinda Chodan explains the general changes in a note to readers that appears on Page A2. There’s also a news (well, business) story about the changes and a podcast interview with Chodan an managing editor Michelle Richardson. But for the more attention-to-detail crowd, here’s some nitty gritty about what’s going on that I can finally tell you.

Continue reading

Alt-weekly death spiral spreads to Toronto

A little over a week ago was the second anniversary of the death of Mirror, the last of two alternative weekly newspapers in Montreal. That move came less than two months after the other, Hour, finally ceased production. It’s been five years since the death of ICI, and one year since Voir’s Montreal edition cut costs by going biweekly instead of weekly (it also killed editions in Mauricie, Saguenay, Gatineau and Estrie in the span of about a year).

Now, Canada’s largest city is feeling our pain. Word came out Wednesday that The Grid (a successor to Eye Weekly) is shutting down immediately after years of losing money for its parent Torstar. Thursday will be its last issue.

The shutdown leaves NOW as the only alt-weekly left in Toronto.

The Grid’s end is particularly painful for those who appreciated its award-winning design. While other papers were cutting back on the little things and going as cookie-cutter as possible to save money, The Grid put in the extra effort and created a paper that was as interesting to look at as it was to read.

NADbank: Journal de Montréal is still king, but…

NADbank, the company that measures newspaper readership through audience surveys, came out with its latest report recently, which on the surface doesn’t show much to write home about. Overall, the Journal de Montréal is still the most read newspaper in the metro area with 1.17 million readers, or 1.25 million if you include digital. (Quebecor has its press release crowing about this with some cherry-picked numbers, as well as some slides comparing its demographics with La Presse.)

But reading a bit deeper into the numbers and we see some interesting facts popping up.

La Presse has two and a half times the Journal’s digital readership. Two major changes explain this. First is La Presse+, the iPad app launched last year that’s the new flagship product for that company. But even with all the hype, the data shows only a 3% increase in the number of people reporting they read La Presse in a digital format in 2013. The bigger factor is a 9% drop in the Journal de Montréal’s digital readership, which is probably explained mainly by the setup of a paywall in September 2012.

Métro has more weekly print readers than La Presse. Even though La Presse’s print readership is up by 5%, Métro’s up by twice that, and can now claim to be the #2 most read newspaper in Montreal. (It already claims to be the #1 paper on the island.) Métro has 903,900 print readers a week compared to La Presse’s 879,200. And that’s with Métro putting out one fewer edition a week. But La Presse has 28% more people reporting they read that newspaper “yesterday” (i.e. the day before the survey was taken), meaning La Presse’s readership is more loyal and more interested than Métro’s.

24 Heures shows double-digit gains in print readers. Compared to 2012, 24 Heures had a great year, at least in print (and it doesn’t hesitate to tell people that). The number of people reporting having read the paper the day before shot up 25%, from 252,900 to 317,300. Weekly, the paper is up 15.5%. But three years after 24 Heures wrestled away the right to distribute its paper exclusively in the metro system, it still hasn’t managed to beat Métro in readership. Métro now has 10% more readers than 24 Heures though, and that margin is smaller than it used to be. And 24 Heures is now effectively tied with La Presse in terms of print readers on weekdays (it reports to be slightly ahead, while NADbank’s numbers report it slightly behind).

Several papers are showing double-digit drops in digital readership. Whether it’s paywalls or disinterest or something else, there’s a lot fewer people reading newspapers online. Overall, the market showed an 8% drop in weekly digital readership, while print gained 2%. Other major markets showed little change in digital readership. Here, the smaller papers took the biggest hit. 24 Heures’s digital readership is down 21%, the Globe and Mail’s is down 19%, and the National Post’s is down 18%.

As for The Gazette, the numbers put out by NADbank show modest drops across the board, though internally the paper is reporting increases, particularly in digital. Overall, it has 240,000 print readers on an average weekday and 499,000 people read it in either print or digital format every week (which I’m sure I can extrapolate into meaning that half a million people read every article I publish in that paper).

For the full numbers for each paper, you can read this chart from NADbank. The chart below shows the difference between those numbers and the previous year’s.

Change Yesterday print Yesterday total Weekday total Saturday print Sunday print Weekly print Weekly digital Total weekly
Any +2.80% -0.11% +1.67% +6.40% +4.43% +2.20% -8.39% -0.75%
La Presse +2.53% -0.54% +2.10% +8.13% +5.31% +3.24% +1.25%
Journal de Montréal +6.40% +18.13% -1.40% +17.20% +4.43% +0.52% -8.86% -1.73%
The Gazette -1.63% -1.21% -10.18% -3.39% -8.20% -0.56% -10.06%
Métro +12.59% +9.97% +11.19% +11.19% +9.17% +9.72%
24 Heures +25.46% +22.40% +15.53% +15.53% -21.56% +12.97%
Globe and Mail +11.58% -9.71% +7.63% +37.56% +5.87% -18.53% -16.40%
National Post -3.70% -20.35% +23.23% +62.35% +22.72% -18.18% -1.94%

Further reading

La Presse+ turns 1: Has the gamble worked?

La Presse spent $40 million to develop its iPad app.

La Presse spent $40 million to develop its iPad app.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of La Presse’s $40-million gamble that its future lies in an iPad app.

La Presse marks the occasion with a press release (reproduced below) in which it lauds the fact that it’s now installed in more than 450,000 tablets, making it the most popular Newsstand app in Canada. It also reminds people that it’s about to launch its first Android app, which will be available on some Samsung Galaxy and Nexus tablets starting next week.

The company does a lot of self-congratulating, throwing out some statistics to suggest how successful it has been with this giant gamble. It points out how much time people spend with the app (44 minutes on weekdays, 50 minutes on Sundays and 73 minutes on Saturdays) as well as favourable demographics (58% are in the 25-54 demo, compared to 50% for a paper like the Globe and Mail), and even a stat suggesting people like the adds on the app.

The most interesting statistic is that “nearly 30% of La Presse’s overall ad revenue” comes from the iPad app. Even if we assume that print ad revenue is falling sharply, that’s still an impressive stat.

Because La Presse+ is free, its business model is entirely based on advertising. As I explained six months ago in my analysis, La Presse has priced its iPad ads along the lines of print ads, figuring that it can create an environment where the ads are noticed like print ads are, instead of ignored like most online ads.

We don’t have access to much financial information from La Presse, because the company is privately held by Gesca, which is in turn owned by Square Victoria Communications Group, which is in turn owned by Power Corporation. But even if some bad-news figures are being held close to the vest, that 30% ad revenue figure is pretty impressive.

We can also compare the 450,000 figure to La Presse’s goals. The company had hoped to reach 200,000 readers by September, but got that in May. It hoped to get 400,000 by December, and announced in January that it had surpassed that mark in installations.

When I met with La Presse last year, the estimate was an average of 1.5 readers per tablet, since many families share them. That estimate was later confirmed by a CROP survey. But when you consider the number of people actually reading at least one issue a week (versus those who download the app and rarely use it), the ratio is closer to 1:1. Late last summer, it gave a figure of 250,000 tablets installed and 196,000 people consulting at least one issue a week. At the end of November, it was 340,000 tablets and 250,000 weekly readers. That gap will probably increase as time goes on.

At 250,000 people a week reading at least one edition of La Presse+, the tablet has a bit less than a third of the reach of the print newspaper, or about half that of the printed Gazette.

From her on out, the road gets more difficult. There will be a surge once the Android app version comes out, but then with all the geeks and early adopters already on board, and a big chunk of the general population, it will be up to convincing the hundreds of thousands still sticking with print to shift over to the iPad. And then, eventually, the big decision of what happens to the print paper.

I was handed a free copy of La Presse — on a Saturday morning — at a metro station last week. So clearly they’re not planning on shutting it down any time soon.

La Presse+ is still not perfect. It’s improved its live-news system, even while the iPad edition itself remains a once-a-day thing. It’s also added crosswords and other missing pieces since it launched.

For online readers without tablets, it remains a bit annoying. Its pages can be shared online, but videos aren’t, and dossiers with multiple articles aren’t linked to each other, making it pointless to share many major stories from the app.

Unfortunately much of this is apparently by design. The environment of the iPad app is the reason they can charge so much to advertisers. Put those same stories on a website, and you’re back to the ignorable banner ads that get pennies on the dollar. If this is the future of newspapers, it’s going to be kind of an awkward one for people who read news on anything but a tablet.

So far I haven’t heard of any major media organizations making big changes as a result of La Presse+. But if it continues gaining readers and ad revenue, that may change in the near future.

Continue reading

Can La Presse save the newspaper industry by doing everything wrong?

La Presse+ ipads

La Presse has made a $40-million bet on a new tablet platform that it hopes will replace its newspaper.

The newspaper industry is dying. The data is conclusive. As baby boomers die off, so will the business model of the daily newspaper, and there’s no way to stop it.

As someone who works for a daily newspaper, it’s tough to hear this. People in this industry want to pretend that there’s some magic solution waiting, but everyone has that fear that maybe the death spiral will continue until the business model collapses in on itself and there’s nothing left but some novelty papers kept for the sake of posterity.

But what really got me wasn’t what I was hearing, but who I was hearing it from: Guy Crevier, the publisher of La Presse, one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious newspapers.

And he wasn’t just repeating some attention-grabbing phrases he heard at the latest industry conference. Crevier’s conclusions are based on numbers and analysis that his company has spent millions to produce.

Continue reading