Tag Archives: newspapers

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

Cult MTL tries twice-monthly print issue as it turns a year old

Cult MTL staff at their December 2012 issue launch.

Cult MTL staff at their December 2012 issue launch.

It’s not often you get to write a happy news story about struggling print media. Heck, the blog post just before this one is about hundreds of jobs being lost and big papers shutting down. But while other papers have decades of history and so-called “legacy costs” and are slashing their workforce to face the new industry reality, Cult MTL is building itself up slowly from the ground. And through a mixture of incremental steps and fuelled by a large amount of good-will unpaid or underpaid work, it’s establishing a future for itself and filling the hole that was left by the shut down of Hour and Mirror last year.

It was one year ago today that the cultmontreal.com website published its first articles. And in today’s Gazette, I talk to the brains behind the operation about their progress and future plans.

It’s during that meeting a little over week ago that they told me Cult was moving to a twice-monthly schedule (the next issue comes out starting on Thursday) and that they’re looking for permanent office space.

The three senior editorial staff were surprisingly open with me about how things are going there. Part of being so independent is not having to keep too many trade secrets. I didn’t ask them for their tax returns or anything, but they answered every question I asked as best they could.

Here’s a roundup of things they told me.

Continue reading

Voir to publish twice a month

Voir

Voir, the last remaining of Montreal’s alternative weeklies, will soon no longer be a weekly.

Editor in Chief Simon Jodoin announced on Wednesday that, beginning this summer, the paper will publish twice a month instead of weekly. In a fine example of burying the lead on bad news, the announcement is at the very end of a long story talking about the paper’s future in upbeat tones.

The news comes a year after the company shut down Voir’s Saguenay and Mauricie editions, as well as English alt-weekly Hour. Last month, it killed its Gatineau edition.

But Jodoin isn’t presenting this as bad news. Instead, he says Voir will concentrate on writing longer, more in-depth articles and focusing more on related businesses (including one that apparently involves creating websites). I’m a bit skeptical about whether this will make a difference, or even whether people who pick up a free newspaper and read it on the metro want longer in-depth pieces. But clearly Voir isn’t throwing in the towel yet.

More coverage (well, mainly rewriting of Jodoin’s column) from Le Devoir and HuffPost Quebec. Pieuvre.ca asked for some thoughts from yours truly.

UPDATE (June 11): The Estrie edition is now also dead.

NADbank: Journal still reigns as print falls and online grows

NADbank, the company that surveys newspaper readership, released its 2012 survey results on Wednesday. In general, it shows that online readership of newspapers in Canada is growing as print readership is declining, and that is reflected in the numbers for the Montreal market.

Comparing last year’s numbers to this year’s for the Montreal market, there isn’t much change. The Journal de Montréal is still tops in most categories, with La Presse behind it. And Metro still beats 24 Heures in print and online, despite the fact that 24 Heures is distributed in the metro system.

I’ve compiled the numbers into a chart below. Red shows declines in real numbers, green shows gains. Bolded numbers are where there has been a change in rank. In the first case, it shows that for average combined print and online readership on weekdays, The Gazette has gone back ahead of 24 Heures after slipping behind it last year.

The huge gains online have also shaken things up. The Journal de Montréal more than doubled its online readership in a year, bringing it ahead of The Gazette for second place (though still only about a half of La Presse), and Metro has climbed ahead of the National Post for 5th place behind the Globe and Mail.

Overall, weekday print readership has continued to decline, with four of the five local dailies showing double-digit declines. Saturday was especially bad, with declines ranging from 11% for La Presse to 31% for the National Post. But thanks to the gains in online, every paper has a larger weekly reach than it did a year ago (except The Gazette, which is exactly the same), so everyone can claim gains here.

You’ll notice that Le Devoir is not included in this chart because its numbers weren’t published by NADbank. According to the Journal de Montréal, Le Devoir had a total weekly audience of 226,900, which puts it last among the local dailies.

Newspaper readership in Montreal

Paper Any paper The Gazette Journal de Montréal La Presse Metro 24 Heures Globe and Mail National Post
Avg. weekday print 2011 1,484,100 283,300 (5th) 597,900 (1st) 436,500 (2nd) 349,700 (3rd) 312,300 (4th) 40,900* (6th) 28,200* (7th)
Avg. weekday print 2012 1,381,600 (-7%) 239,300 (-16%) 532,400 (-11%) 438,100 (+0.4%) 311,400 (-11%) 252,900 (-19%) 35,400 (-13%) 29,700 (+5%)
Avg. weekday print/digital 2011 1,594,200 308,700 (5th) 617,500 (1st) 525,600 (2nd) 352,900 (3rd) 316,800 (4th) 64,600 (6th) 31,200* (7th)
Avg. weekday print/digital 2012 1,742,900 (+9%) 298,300 (-3%) (up to 4th) 612,800 (-1%) 689,800 (+31%) 325,900 (-8%) 263,400 (-17%) (drops to 5th) 80,300 (+24%) 57,500 (+84%)
At least one weekday 2011 2,163,900 464,200 (5th) 1,077,700 (1st) 722,100 (3rd) 789,700 (2nd) 637,000 (4th) 122,000 (6th) 78,700 (7th)
At least one weekday 2012 2,124,400 (-2%) 439,900 (-5%) 1,085,400 (+0.7%) 761,200 (+5%) 812,900 (+3%) 652,800 (+2%) 108,800 (-11%) 73,600 (-6%)
Saturday print 2011 1,362,700 318,900 (3rd) 617,300 (1st) 552,400 (2nd) N/A N/A 50,200 (4th) 37,200 (5th)
Saturday print 2012 1,164,500 (-15%) 268,300 (-16%) 513,400 (-17%) 489,300 (-11%) N/A N/A 40,200 (-20%) 25,500 (-31%)
Sunday print 2011 407,900 N/A 407,900 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sunday print 2012 372,600 (-9%) N/A 372,600 (-9%) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Print at least once a week 2011 2,266,400 498,000 (5th) 1,163,800 (1st) 820,100 (2nd) 789,700 (3rd) 637,000 (4th) 132,200 (6th) 84,900 (7th)
Print at least once a week 2012 2,220,500 (-2%) 465,900 (-6%) 1,164,300 (+0.04%) 834,900 (+2%) 812,900 (+3%) 652,800 (+2%) 122,700 (-7%) 77,900 (-8%)
Web at least once a week 2011 578,800 144,000 (2nd) 111,500 (3rd) 293,800 (1st) 36,300* (6th) 35,200* (7th) 78,500 (4th) 50,200 (5th)
Web/digital at least once a week 2012 1,155,600 (+100%) 177,500 (+23%) (drops to 3rd) 252,700 (+127%) (up to 2nd) 553,000 (+88%) 67,600 (+86%) (up to 5th) 50,100 (+42%) 98,200 (+25%) 61,600 (+23%) (drops to 6th)
Print or web average week 2011 2,370,800 554,800 (5th) 1,188,300 (1st) 941,200 (2nd) 796,600 (3rd) 648,200 (4th) 186,600 (6th) 117,200 (7th)
Print or web average week 2012 2,505,200 (+6%) 554,800 (unch.) 1,276,600 (+7%) 1,104,700 (+17%) 844,000 (+6%) 674,800 (+4%) 207,300 (+11%) 128,900 (+10%)

* Small sample size

We’re all number one!

And the self-congratulatory press releases/stories:

Gazette begins charging for website access

Pop-up box that comes up when you hit the Gazette's metered paywall

Publisher Alan Allnutt announced in Wednesday’s paper that The Gazette is moving back to a paid model for its website.

Based on a similar move by the New York Times earlier this year, montrealgazette.com will have a metered paywall, which allows a certain number of free articles a month and then charges for access beyond that. The model is designed to get heavy users to pay for content while not discouraging occasional readers who might reach an article through a Google search or a blog link.

The system, which is managed by Press+ and expected to be running by the end of the day, will allow 20 free articles a month, then charge $6.95 a month (or $69.95 a year) for access. This compares to $26.19/month for six-day print delivery or $9.95/month for the Digital Edition.

Print subscribers will, once they register, have unlimited access to online content.

The meter will only apply to “premium” content from The Gazette and Postmedia News, including photo galleries and videos. “Major” breaking news stories, blogs and content on affiliated websites like Hockey Inside/Out and West Island Gazette Plus won’t be subject to the meter. It’s unclear whether other wire copy (Reuters, AFP, etc.) will apply. Wire stories, including those from Postmedia News, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, will count toward the meter, even though many of those are freely available elsewhere.

Users of the iPad app will not be metered. Nor will mobile users.

“A great deal has been written about the economics of publishing newspapers in 2011,” Allnutt writes. “The ‘old’ model – selling newsprint products very cheaply to readers and selling the audience to advertisers for the majority of income – is increasingly challenged. Simply transferring advertisers from print to online may not work for all. In order to continue our investment in the quality and depth of our award-winning journalism and offer you the features and functions you want from our website, we believe we have to find new sources of revenue.”

Once upon a time, The Gazette used to charge for online access, under a model similar to what Le Devoir uses today: Some articles free, but most completely locked down behind a paywall, with only the first paragraph available to non-subscribers. Like the Times, The Gazette abandoned this model with the hope that increased advertising revenue would be more profitable than the subscriber revenue that comes out of the paywall.

The big question, of course, is whether or not this will work. The Times got 100,000 subscribers in its first month (most of those at 99 cents for four weeks), but its model isn’t universally loved, and it has been criticized as being too loose and having too many loopholes. More importantly, there are still plenty of free sources of local, national and international news online, so paid sites need a significant amount of original content that can’t be found elsewhere. People aren’t going to pay for stories about highway crashes, politics and press releases they can get from six different sources.

There’s also the added difficulty that, as part of the Postmedia Network, The Gazette shares content with websites of other newspapers, and those newspapers share content with it. Charging for a Gazette article will be pointless if it can be found unmetered on ottawacitizen.com. The Victoria Times-Colonist is also moving to a metered system (one that charges print subscribers as well), but other Postmedia websites are not. Postmedia is waiting to see how The Gazette and the Times-Colonist fare.

Of course, as much as I’m a fan of an open Internet and getting things for free, being a Gazette employee I stand to benefit indirectly if this results in a lot of new revenue. So subscribe away!

A page of frequently asked questions has been posted, and subscriptions are being taken.

Continue reading

Rue Frontenac ends paper edition

Rue Frontenac has been publishing weekly since October

Citing an unsustainable business model that was based on advertising revenue that never materialized, Rue Frontenac coordinator Richard Bousquet announced on Wednesday that the publication of formerly-locked-out Journal de Montréal workers will no longer be publishing a weekly printed edition.

Rue Frontenac has published weekly on Thursdays since October. Small, squarish, with all its pages in full-colour and very little advertising.

When I talked to Bousquet in January on the anniversary of the lockout, he said that advertising was starting to pick up, and that the big problem was that so many marketing companies plan advertising campaigns months in advance, that they want the stability of a paper they know will last that long. Bousquet mentions in his piece that large companies and even governments prefer to deal with ad placement agencies for the sake of simplification, and that made it difficult for Rue Frontenac.

Though it was played down at the time, there was also the nervousness from some businesses about antagonizing the Journal de Montréal, something that was expected to end when the lockout was ended with Quebecor apparently blessing the continuation of the newspaper and website.

In the end, though, I think the biggest problem goes to the larger problem of Rue Frontenac’s business model. Not only do they have far more journalists than they can afford, but they’re trying to squeeze into the most overserved market in Canada: Francophone Montrealers. They’re fighting against five daily newspapers, including two free ones that are handed out every weekday morning outside metro stations. Rue Frontenac, meanwhile, is distributed like an alternative weekly, with distribution points in bars, supermarkets, restaurants and random places where the papers can easily be forgotten or missed among the dozens of others vying for attention.

So now Rue Frontenac will focus its efforts on its website. Bousquet notes that it’s growing in popularity – if not so much in advertising revenue – and there are no plans to end that part of the project.

But part of the idea behind a printed edition of Rue Frontenac was to provide enough revenue to at least partially subsidize the work of journalists who report online.

Now they’ll have to find some other way to make money. Even though the lockout ended more than two months ago, Bousquet and his team are still trying to figure out a viable business model.

If I can offer one piece of advice, the most important move they will make in that direction will be finding a niche audience that is willing to give them a lot of attention or a decent amount of money. Billing itself as a generalist news publication that’s just better journalism than the Journal de Montréal isn’t going to work in a market that has Le Devoir, La Presse, Radio-Canada and others.

NADbank numbers: Journal, free dailies gain readers

The latest NADbank newspaper readership numbers have been released, and as you can imagine it’s fantastic news for every news agency with the ability to spin:

  • Halifax: Metro has a 20% increase in daily readership.
  • Montreal: The Journal has had “spectacular” growth, with 58% more readers than its closest competitor La Presse and 64% market share.
  • Ottawa: The Sun’s readership has “skyrocketed”, with Saturday readership up 43%. Metro’s readership is up 22%.
  • Toronto: The Sun is “the fastest growing paid English language daily newspaper in Canada”, with 19.5% growth since the last full survey, far outgrowing its competition. The Star, meanwhile, clobbers its competition by a factor of more than 2:1 in readership, reaching more than half of the GTA’s adult population.
  • Edmonton: The Journal’s online readership has jumped 21 per cent since the last survey, and weekday print readership has shown “stability.” Metro has gained momentum with the second-highest growth increase.
  • Calgary: Metro is the fastest-growing daily newspaper in Canada.
  • Vancouver: The Sun’s online readership jumped 19 per cent in the past year. Metro has a lot of “traction” in its key demographic.

Of course, it’s all about selective cherrypicking of numbers:

  • Readership numbers down but you’re still No. 1? Don’t talk about growth, and concentrate on how X% of the market is choosing you
  • Still far behind the big players in a market? Talk about how fast you’re growing, and leave out how your competitor still has twice as many readers.
  • Print readership numbers suck? Point to the online numbers. Compare those to 2007 if necessary.
  • Numbers stagnant? Talk about “stability” and imply you’re ahead of the curve that is quickly leading to the extinction of newspapers.
  • Still nothing? Focus on some key demographic – young adults are the best – to show how the cool people choose your product.
  • Little exciting news about your paper? Focus on the national scene and what the numbers show nationwide for online vs. print readership.

Montreal numbers

Infopresse has the numbers for Montreal (PDF) as part of its analysis. Here they are compared to last year at this time, using five-day cumulative numbers:

2009 2010 Difference
Journal de Montréal 1,027,400 1,124,700 +9.5%
La Presse 678,200 650,100 -4.1%
Métro 630,100 688,800 +9.3%
24 Heures 516,400 561,900 +8.8%
The Gazette 454,200 442,600 -2.6%

Of note here:

  • The Journal de Montréal continues to gain readers despite its lockout. This is being explained as more papers being given away free or cheap (this survey measures audience, not subscribers or subscription revenue).
  • Métro has replaced La Presse as the No. 2 paper on weekdays. When you consider on-island readership (this survey covers the entire region), the difference is even greater.
  • Online readership is mostly stable for all five (down slightly for The Gazette/La Presse, up slightly for the rest). La Presse kills in this category, with 330,300 weekly readers, more than twice that of the Journal and The Gazette. In fact, it’s slightly more than all the other four combined.

O, I C

A Cmore tag on A2 of Tuesday's Gazette

Gazette publisher and editor-in-chief Alan Allnutt introduced a new feature in today’s paper: articles are being outfitted with little boxes containing keywords, which when texted to a special short code sends an email with a link to the article (and any online extras attached to it).

It’s a three-month pilot project being tested by The Gazette and the Calgary Herald. The technology side is handled by Montreal-based Cmore Media (not to be confused with C-More Systems, which makes gun sights).

The idea is similar to the one that has led to 2D barcodes appearing in newspapers such as the National Post: It’s a way to bridge the gap between the non-electronic physical newspaper and the endless possibilities of Internet communication. People who want to get online-only extras related to a story or who want to share the URL with friends online have to go to the newspaper’s website and search for the story. This is inconvenient, so these tags are designed to make it automatic, taking advantage of the fact that people carry cellphones with them wherever they go.

But while Scanlife, the system used by the Post, requires a mobile device to have a camera and a special application, the Cmore system requires only the ability to send a text message (and the patience to do so).

Here’s how it works:

Continue reading

Don’t call the newspaper worthless

It’s a cute little video from Search Engine’s Jesse Brown, making a point about how newspapers aren’t all that. And his arguments are valid – there are a lot of ads, wire service stories, opinions, comics, games and other not-original-news in your local newspaper.

But what bothered me was the implied conclusion: Newspapers are so full of not-news that they don’t deserve to be saved. They should be left to die, because they’re worthless.

This, while he’s holding up a copy of the Toronto Star.

Continue reading

The Daily Miracle: Exaggerated, but only slightly

(From left) Arthur Holden, Jean-Guy Bouchard, Ellen David, Sheena Gazé-Deslandes and Howard Rosenstein in David Sherman's The Daily Miracle

Over the weekend, I joined a group of journalists (in fact, two distinct groups – one veteran and one up-and-coming) to see a production of the Infinitheatre play The Daily Miracle, written by former Gazette copy editor David Sherman.

I’ll spare you the usual theatre review stuff, because (a) I’m not a theatre critic and (b) it’s already been talked about in The Gazette (along with a feature article), La Presse, Mirror, Hour, the Suburbanthe West Island Chronicle, the McGill Tribune, the Concordian, the Link, Le Quatrième and maybe some other places too.

We’d first heard about this play years ago, when Sherman left his copy editing job at The Gazette. By the time he made his leave permanent to become a playwright (and work on his first play Have a Heart for Centaur), there were rumours floating that he would use the copy desk as the basis for a production – and the editors potentially as models for his characters.

I should add here that I know Sherman – he was a copy editor when I was an intern at The Gazette, and he was one of the people who I got the most on-the-job training from.

Though I got a sneak preview at a reading a while back, the people I went with on Saturday didn’t quite know what to expect from this play. Though the name of the newspaper is the Montreal Star (taken from the former newspaper of the same name – they even used the same logo on computer screens and papers on set) and its parent company is called WestPress, it’s pretty clear which major newspaper the play is based on. Even some of the characters are familiar, either as composites (Gazé-Deslandes’s Carrie, the pretty young desk intern) or as near-ripoffs (Jean-Guy Bouchard’s Roland reminded most of my former colleagues of a particular person with a similar personality and accent).

But what’s most familiar is the work. The play, staged at the Bain St-Michel (literally inside a pool that had been converted into a theatre) is set in real time, between the 10:30pm first edition deadline and the midnight final. It’s a time when copy editors and other night staff get chatty (the stress of making first edition deadline having just been lifted) and start airing their grievances with the paper and the news industry, along with spreading personal gossip.

It’s hard to evaluate the play objectively because I’m so familiar with what it’s based on. It’s the life I lived for three and a half years at The Gazette. I know the terminology, I know the stress, and I know the characters and their roles.

Still, for the benefit of those who don’t work on a copy desk, I can tell you that what happens in this play is a dramatization. I for one never saw anyone come to work five hours late, pop pills like they were candy and start sexually assaulting his coworkers. But maybe it’s just because I wasn’t there in the old days.

One of the people who saw the play the same night as me was Thomas de Lorimier, who works as a copy editor at La Presse. He agreed that there was a lot more drama here than you’d see on a normal night (but then, that what we’d want in an entertaining play, right?) but that the elements of the characters’ personalities and the way things work are what you’ll find on the copy desk of a major newspaper. A line about how disasters in China need a triple-digit death count before becoming news is entirely true. Having a picture of a pop diva on the cover solely because she’s famous and she performed at the Bell Centre that night is also spot on, as are the staff’s reactions to the burying of (what they considered to be) real news in order to emphasize fluff.

One thing de Lorimier and I both agreed on that was missing from the play was pun-offs. That’s when an editor takes a story and makes a really bad pun (like saying Haiti’s “all shook up”) and other editors jump in with even worse ones. It’s part defence mechanism against the horrors of life they’re exposed to on a daily basis, and partly a way to hone their skills as wordsmiths.

It’s a skill Sherman clearly doesn’t need too much help with, judging by this play.

If you’re interested in getting a dramatic look at a newspaper’s news desk on deadline, The Daily Miracle is a good way to spend an evening. It’s on every night until Sunday, Feb. 14. Details at Infinitheatre.com

The new Page 1 Story

It’s that time of year again, when journalists all take their vacations, the B-teams take over to deal with any breaking news (like, say, an unscheduled mob shooting), and the news media fill the lack of news with retrospectives of the year gone by, the journalistic equivalent of a clip show.

The Gazette devotes a page a day over 10 days to the subject, looking back at both 2009 and the 2000s as a whole.

Dave Bist, a highly-respected senior news editor at The Gazette, wrote one of those year-in-retrospective stories for Sunday’s paper about the Michael Jackson story, and his decision not to tear up the front page to run with it.

His reasoning was that by the morning after, everyone would have known that Jackson was dead (including readers of montrealgazette.com, where the story was played up), and because The Gazette had nothing original to offer on the story (the original plan for A1 had a Gazette exclusive, albeit a small one). So instead, Jackson took over the skybox above the Page 1 flag, as well as a large part of the Arts section inside.

It’s a decision that makes sense, but wouldn’t have 15 years ago before the creation of the Internet. Though I worry a bit sometimes about newspapers being so desperate to “advance” a story that they neglect to mention what actually happened for the record (like, say, “Man walks moon“). People still pick up newspapers even if they know what the story is, just to see it on paper. Barack Obama’s election, the Alouettes’ Grey Cup win, or the next Canadiens Stanley Cup, which should come any time now. If I pick up the paper, I want to see “Canadiens win Cup”, not “RDS hurries to schedule parade coverage after NHL playoffs end early”, even if the latter advances the story.

And while the print world considers what to do about their front pages, the online world is still trying to figure out how to balance so-called “top stories”. Right now, the emphasis seems to be on time more than importance – big news websites are expected to change their top story on an almost hourly basis, unless the story is so important that it trumps all others. People complain when they see that the top story is about some recent traffic accident or something sports-related, but they’re applying the old newspaper Page 1 logic to the Internet.

I’m still conflicted about it. This blog is strictly chronological, so an important feature might be pushed down by some funny cat video I found online a few minutes later. That clearly doesn’t work for a large media organization that has so much content that nobody should be expected to read it all. But keeping the same story up for hours or even days at a time makes it boring and discourages people from coming back.

Ideally, we’d have a dual system, where you can check the top story on the homepage or see the stories posted chronologically, depending on your preference (the Toronto Star is trying something like that). And, of course, tagging, RSS feeds and topic pages means the homepage won’t be the point of entry for many visitors.

So maybe this whole discussion will become irrelevant.

We’re Number 2.7!

Lookin' good

Lookin' good

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (the people who measure how many people subscribe to newspapers, as opposed to NADbank which measures how many people read them) has released numbers for this summer.

Media In Canada looks at the national numbers, and InfoPresse looks at Quebec. Both cite The Gazette as bucking the trend, with a 2.7% increase (it went up more than that in the spring numbers).

The National Post went down considerably (20% due mostly, I’m guessing, to their decision to not publish Mondays this summer), the Globe went down too (8%), as did Le Soleil (5%) and, just barely, La Presse and Le Devoir (less than 1%).

Sun Media, which owns the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec, is part of rival CCAB, and so numbers aren’t available for those newspapers.

Still, a conclusion is hard not to reach here. The Gazette is the only paper with a significant circulation increase, and it is also the only paper that currently employs me.

I expect my huge bonus cheque will be waiting for me in my office mailbox this week.

The Link looks at media democracy

The Link, one of the student-run papers at Concordia University, focuses this week on the challenges facing the news media in its Media Democracy special issue.

The eight-page insert is part of the weekly paper, available for free on campus or for download in this 10MB PDF file. Or you can read the stories online.

Among the articles is this interview with some know-it-all complaining about his doomed career.

Also in this section:

The Free Press ain’t free

Rumours, reported by the CBC last week, that the Winnipeg Free Press would cut its Sunday edition and simultaneously come out with a newsstand-only Sunday tabloid have turned out to be exactly true.

Friday’s paper contained a headline noting the most important part of the story: “More in Saturday Free Press“!

Yeah. So the newspaper will, starting Oct. 31/Nov. 1, be moving some Sunday regular features (i.e. comics) to the Saturday paper, and the new Sunday tabloid (called “On7“) will be newsstand-only to save on the cost of home delivery (the FP story even suggests carriers will welcome this news because they’d get to sleep in once a week).

What the story doesn’t say is that seven-day subscription rates, now that they have become six-day subscription rates, won’t change. On7 will be $1 or $1.25 an issue.

It’s true that La Presse (Sundays) and the Victoria Times-Colonist (Mondays) have cut a day off the week, and the National Post did so temporarily this summer (Mondays). But none of those was paired with a new product that they refused to deliver to home subscribers.

As the union told the CBC: “If you are a seven-day home subscriber, you will have to go out and buy this product. I would be a little p-o’d at that.”

One organization that’s not pissed off is the competition, the Winnipeg Sun. Their article on the subject points out that the Sun will be the only paper with home delivery on Sundays, offers quotes from the Sun’s publisher saying if they subscribe to his paper, “after a week or two I’ll bet they won’t miss their old paper at all”, and even helpfully offers the phone number of their circulation department.

Stay classy, Sun.