Monthly Archives: March 2009

Est-ce que tu vois, toi aussi?

I’ve always been (easily) impressed with the Justiciers’ song parodies (well, most of them anyway), but this one taking on 1000 coeurs debout, the theme for Star Académie (99¢ download, of which I better get a cut for that link), is particularly good. It’s actually the second version, done after the Canadiens’ two-and-a-half-game winning streak forced everyone to jump back on the bandwagon. The first version was much more cynical about the team (the week before, the Justiciers were even more cynical).

You can see more Justiciers videos on their website or directly on their YouTube channel.

The future of street advertising

Tourist guide pillar at Ste. Catherine and Peel

Tourist guide pillar at Ste. Catherine and Peel

Earlier this month, the city installed a new one of those tourist guide pillars on Ste. Catherine St. just east of Peel. Since that’s just outside the Gazette office, my colleagues quickly took notice. A bit bigger than the three-sided pillar it replaced (but not as big as those giant cylindrical ones), it is noteworthy because the map side is actually an interactive touch screen.

An information screen above a larger touch screen with tourist information

An information screen above a larger touch screen with tourist information

In fact, it’s two screens working in concert, though the top one is easily ignored because its black background blends in so well.

It’s a prototype developed by Astral Media, which owns the other pillars. Right now the touch screen consists solely of a downtown map and some buttons that allows you to locate various types of locations on it (metro stations, hotels, etc.). There’s also a video camera to deter vandalism or attempted theft.

Ads are slightly less static too

Ads are slightly less static too

The other two sides have static display ads. Though there’s some “innovation” there too. The ads are actually scrolled (I mean that literally) back and forth to either allow some timesharing or just impress some marketing executives.

Tourist information runs on Windows

Tourist information runs on Windows

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, the touch screen runs on Windows. Here it’s asking me to help install new hardware (perhaps the touch screen itself, since touching didn’t work).



This one is a bit old, but I haven’t noticed much coverage of it in the anglo media: TQS has signed a deal with UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) to air 52 hours of UFC programming in Quebec, including four live matches, the first one on April 1. The programming will be produced by IDI, the production company of Marc Trudeau and Anne-Marie Losique, who I guess want a little violence to combine with their sex.

It’s a pretty big step for the bankrupt television network whose budget was so small it couldn’t put a simple entertainment news program on the air without it becoming a laughing stock.

French FAIL

This week, Canadian Press issued a press release announcing some mobile portal. It sounds really impressive but it isn’t. Still, websites that specialize in rewriting press releases (or just cutting and pasting them) picked it up and regurgitated it without doing any research.

Had they done such research (and by “research”, I mean “going to the websites being talked about”), they might have noticed that the French version,, doesn’t have a word of French on it. Oh, and the website asks us to “enter your US mobile phone number”, basically because this CP website just redirects to the Associated Press version.

Memo to CP: Before announcing websites, maybe it would be best to do some sanity checks first.

CBC cuts hit closer to home

800. It’s really just a number, an abstract concept that we sort of understand. Most of us don’t even have 800 Facebook friends. Our high schools didn’t have 800 students. It’s hard to imagine that many people losing their jobs.

So when the CBC announced it was cutting 800 jobs on Wednesday, we knew it was bad, but we didn’t know how.

Now, details are beginning to emerge about more specific cuts to CBC programming. There are already lists of cuts nationally for English and French services, mainly from the English headquarters in Toronto and the French headquarters in Montreal.

In Quebec, as far as local programming goes, Quebec City will be hit worse than Montreal. Here’s what’s on the chopping block:

Even with these cuts, it’s apparent that it could have been a lot worse. The network level is taking the brunt of the job losses, and the CBC has promised that no regional stations will be shut down.

Employees at the Téléjournal serving eastern Quebec are breathing a sigh of relief (and perhaps disbelief) that their broadcast won’t be cancelled.

News about cuts at CBC News in Montreal won’t come until mid-April, after employees decide whether or not to take buyouts.

Even with all this, I know of only one person who’s actually been cut. No doubt there will be more in the weeks ahead.

STM adds Saint-Michel express bus

The STM moves to its spring schedule on Monday. Here’s some of what bus users can come to expect:

Welcome to the Saint-Michel Express

The biggest change comes to the 67 Saint-Michel, the STM’s single busiest line, which like its counterparts along Côte des Neiges, Parc and Pie-IX will get a little brother. The 467 Express Saint-Michel takes the same route as the 67, but with only 15 stops. The STM estimates this will cut 10% off travel times (via CPTDB), thanks to the help of two McGill urban planners (thanks Dave). Other measures, such as a reserved bus lane (coming this summer) and priority traffic lights (coming in 2010), are designed to shave another 5-20% off.

The route will have 126 departures from 6am to 7pm in both directions, Monday to Friday.

The 467’s stops are:

  • Henri-Bourassa
  • Fleury
  • Sauvé
  • De Louvain
  • Émile-Journault
  • Robert
  • Jarry
  • Villeray
  • Saint-Michel metro
  • Bélanger
  • Beaubien
  • Rosemont
  • Masson
  • Saint-Joseph
  • Joliette metro

72 extended to Côte-Vertu and Fairview

The 72 Alfred-Nobel, which connects the Saint-Laurent industrial park with the Du Collège metro, is having its route extended on both sides. On the western side, the route will end at the Fairview terminus (via Hymus), and on the eastern side, continuing on Decarie up to the Côte-Vertu metro (where all the other West Island buses stop). Service intervals will also drop slightly for this route, which operates Monday to Friday from 7am to 7pm.

Other notable scheduling changes I stumbled across

  • 12 Île des Soeurs: Dramatic increase in weekday departures, which are now 23 minutes apart instead of 30 during most of the day.
  • 16 Graham: New eastbound departure at 7:20am
  • 68 Pierrefonds: Service intervals westbound on Saturdays drop from about 22 minutes to about 16 minutes in the afternoon, with more buses in the morning and afternoon going all the way to Timberlea/Anse-à-l’Orme. Eastbound Saturday mornings a departure is added at 8am. And for some odd reason, the 1:40am westbound departure on Saturday nights (half an hour later than the rest of the week, consistent with a later metro closing time) has been eliminated.
  • 150 René-Lévesque: Weekday departures are now 31 minutes apart instead of 30, in order to remove a departure from the schedule.
  • 173 Métrobus Victoria: Service intervals decreased from 20 to 15 minutes during high-traffic times (eastbound during the morning rush hour, westbound during the afternoon rush hour)
  • 201 Saint-Charles-Saint-Jean: Midday Saturday service intervals drop from about 32 minutes to about 22 minutes between departures.
  • 207 Jacques-Bizard: An annoying schedule quirk for this predictable (every half hour on the half hour) schedule has been partially removed. After 10pm, the departures in both directions would happen every hour instead of every half hour. Those who didn’t look at the schedule closely enough might get stuck wondering why the bus didn’t come. On weekdays, the departures return to being every half hour, but still every hour after 10pm on weekends.
  • 209 Des Sources: Added departure northbound at 11:39pm. Previous final departure was at 10:55pm
  • 215 Henri-Bourassa: Between 9am and 12pm Saturday mornings, time between westbound departures drops from 30 minutes to 20.
  • 480 Pointe-Nord Île-des-Soeurs: Service intervals drop from 15 minutes to 10 minutes at rush hour peak
  • 515 Vieux-Montréal-Vieux-Port: Service intervals increase from every 13 minutes to every 20 minutes during the day (it’s unclear if this reduction in service is a seasonal thing, as more people are expected to walk places in warmer weather, or if it’s a reaction to how little the bus is used)

Notice anything I haven’t seen? Comment below.

Time to cut back on messages from the mayor

In case you missed it, last month the borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-dame-de-Grâce-de-our-borough-name-is-too-long relaunched its quarterly newsletter, renaming it “Le Citoyen” and giving it a newspaperish look. It also moved to a five-issues-a-year schedule instead of four.

This caused some concern from those who saw this as the borough attempting to replace the NDG Monitor, which recently decided to stop its print edition, with a government propaganda machine which would never be critical of the borough.

The Gazette’s Henri Aubin takes a critical look at the first issue of Le Citoyen, which is available as a PDF in English and French on the borough’s website. The Suburban’s Dan Delmar also looks at Le Citoyen, with quotes from journalist-turned-borough-PR-director Michel Therrien.

A direct comparison is somewhat silly here. One is a quarterly newsletter, and the other was a small, understaffed weekly newspaper that had maybe one article a week that provided anything resembling interesting local news.

Still, there’s a larger question here: If the private news media is unwilling or unable to provide loal news, will it be up to the towns themselves – and their seemingly limitless communications budgets – to provide it for us? Could future newspaper shutdowns be followed by newsletter startups that try to fill the gap in information about local events and (uncontroversial) informtion?

It’s not the borough’s fault that The Monitor shut down, so there’s no sense in blaming them for it, or calling it unethical, as The Monitor’s Toula Foscolos does.

What should be outraging people (like former councillor Jeremy Searle and Aubin) is that the borough is spending $73,000 a year (and probably more in editorial, design and other costs) to distribute a newsletter to 80,000 people who won’t read it because it’s filled with self-congratulatory messages that don’t say anything even remotely useful.

Take this from borough mayor Michael Applebaum:

Applebaum message in Le Citoyen (Feb. 2009)

Applebaum message in Le Citoyen (Feb. 2009)

Now, other than the fact that Applebaum is now on Montreal’s executive committee, responsible for sports and recreation, did you learn anything from the text above?

This isn’t a problem limited to CDN/NDG. All the boroughs have these kinds of newsletters, and they’re all filled with messages from elected officials talking about how honoured they are at something or other. Some include messages from each of the councillors as well, wasting untold amounts of space and money.

Not only do our highest elected officials have to spend time writing (or, in Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s case, hire writers to compose) absolutely pointless messages, but they then must be edited, translated and laid out in these newsletters, which are then printed and sent out.

There’s a usefulness to borough newsletters. The last one in my borough gave details about changes to garbage and recycling collection schedules. But nobody in my apartment building read it because these things get tossed away as soon as they arrive (just like the local Transcontinental weekly and the Publi-Sac).

Perhaps, during this time where everyone is cutting back their budgets, it might be a good idea to spend less time on these self-congratulatory messages and only distribute printed newsletters that contain information that’s actually useful to citizens.

And maybe the city can spend its communications budget making its website easier to navigate instead of patting itself on the back in print (or putting up ads everywhere asking people not to move to the suburbs).

The Gazette’s new blog … about Montreal

The Gazette’s Andy Riga, apparently not content enough with his new transportation beat, has started up a new blog called Metropolitan News at

In its inaugural post, Riga promises the blog will “offer quirky looks at Montreal events, news and personalities; highlight the city’s vibrant online community, from bloggers to Twitterers to video posters; and tell you what is being said about our fair city in other parts of the blogosphere.”

I look forward to seeing what he’s got in store, and not just because I’m on his blogroll. Riga also has a Twitter account associated with this new project, which is worth a follow.

CHUM-AM: TV on the radio

CHUM AM in Toronto, apparently concluding that an oldies format doesn’t work, has decided to kill almost all of what little programming remains and just replace it with audio from CP24, starting Thursday as CP24 launches a new morning show (among the show’s hosts is Steve Anthony, a former morning man at CHOM and who has since worked at The Mix 99.9 in Toronto).

While I understand there’s some value to listening to audio from television on radio (just this evening I listened to part of CBC News at Six on 87.7 FM while I was on the train), this strikes me as a let’s-not-even-bother-trying move, turning a radio station into nothing more than an audio rebroadcaster.

Can nothing more interesting be done with an AM transmitter than that?

UPDATE (April 15): The Toronto Star looks at CHUM AM’s history.

Trente explores Cyberpresse

Trente, Quebec’s journalism magazine and a website I should go to more often (I would if they had an RSS feed), has some interesting articles this month, including an inside look at Cyberpresse. It follows Hugo Meunier, a journalist who is specializing in breaking news, and talks a bit about the agreement reached last year to give Cyberpresse workers the same salaries as La Presse colleagues.

It also includes an interview with RBOer André Ducharme, who says he wants journalists to go beyond the press release and look at stories from unusual angles, and a pessimistic look at the Journal de Montréal lockout.

If you missed it, the last issue had a piece on the Montrealization of media in Quebec, which it says people in the regions aren’t doing much to fight against.

Impact broadcast schedule same as last year

Impact scarf

The broadcast schedule for this year’s Impact games has come out, and it’s exactly the same as last year:

  • Radio-Canada will broadcast nine home games and one away game, as well as all playoff games
  • CKAC and the Team 990 will broadcast all 15 home games, two Canadian Championship games at Saputo Stadium (against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC) as well as all playoff games

Both press releases talk about how the Impact has become more mainstream in Montreal and has attracted a lot of fans, especially thanks to its CONCACAF Champions League run this year.

But the news is still disappointing to me. None of the broadcasters has increased its commitment, and none of them will be broadcasting regular-season away games (besides the one on RadCan). Choosing only to broadcast home games during the regular season no doubt saves a lot of money, but it sounds pretty half-assed.

So for another season, Impact fans who want to catch away games will be forced to fork over money watch it online for free at

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.

Parking meters: It’s all supply and demand

So it seems the Association des restaurateurs is in a tiff because the city suggested that its opinions on parking meters (namely, that they shouldn’t exist) are “marginal”.

Okay, they’re only saying that their hours should be reduced, but business-owners groups always comes out against increases in meter rates or hours, and in favour of their reductions. They also oppose most reserved bus lanes because those take parking spots away.

The argument is that drivers’ are frustrated at having to pay excessive meter rates, and this encourages urban sprawl and moves to the suburbs.

Really? I’m not a driver, so I can’t speak from experience, but it seems to me drivers aren’t annoyed at paying meter rates as much as they are annoyed at having to drive around the block 50 times looking for a spot. After all, as pissed off as they are about paying meter rates, they’re not pissed off enough to stop using them to capacity.

Parking spaces are a finite resource downtown. Trying to accomodate drivers is a strategy that is destined to fail. Therefore the alternative is to encourage other forms of transportation, like buses and taxis (which don’t need to be parked) and bicycles (which don’t take up much space).

Even if you reject that conclusion, parking meter management should be simple, conforming to the rules of supply and demand. If the meters are used to capacity, the rates should go up until the demand is reduced. If demand is so low that the spaces are unused, rates should be reduced to encourage more use and keep those businesses happy.

What’s so complicated in all this. I mean, besides the political grandstanding?

CBC cuts 800 jobs

560 at Canwest

600 at Sun Media

100 at Rogers

105 at CTV, plus another 118 at A-Channel

In an environment where about one journalist in six in Canada has lost their job, that number just got a lot worse. CBC/Radio-Canada announced 800 job cuts today (about half split between the two sides to maintain political correctness) as part of an effort to balance a $171-million budget deficit. Even then, most of the money will come not from job cuts but from sales of assets (CBC owns quite a bit of land, for example, including the Maison Radio-Canada downtown, which it is hoping to convert into condos) and other vaguely-described programming cuts. Senior executives’ salaries are also being reduced by 20%.

Some statistics:

  • 393 cuts in English services, 336 cuts in French services, 70 cuts at the corporate level
  • 80% of cuts will come at the network level, 20% at regions. The CBC says it won’t shut down any regional stations
  • 17% of cuts are in radio, 83% in television. No plans to introduce advertising on CBC Radio, and the television schedule is to remain “largely intact” with no additional U.S. programming

Perhaps most telling, the CBC’s Hubert Lacroix said the network wants to transition “from being a TV provider to a provider of video content” (and similarly for radio). Not quite sure what that means exactly, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Appendices: Come back, please

Julien Corriveau and Dominic Montplaisir of Les Appendices

Julien Corriveau and Dominic Montplaisir of Les Appendices

OK, I know this is going to sound like a total asskissing, but I really like these Appendices kids, and I have ever since I first heard of them two years ago. When they got a deal with Télé-Québec to develop a weekly half-hour show, I was excited, and after seeing their premiere I knew they had something good going. (In fact, they’ve exceeded my expectations by keeping the show fresh every week, even while they’re pushing running gags.)

So you can imagine my disappointment that Télé-Québec is sitting on the fence about renewing the show for a second season. They haven’t cancelled it outright like they have Ça manque à ma culture, but they haven’t given it the green light either. They’re in a period of “reflection” about it.

I can’t describe their comedy in a way that gives it justice, so I’ll advise you to just check it out online. They show the latest episode for a week after it airs, and have archives of sketches from past episodes. In a nutshell, their humour is absurd, non-topical, philosophical and family-friendly, focusing mainly on sight gags, word gags, taking the cliché and inserting an element of absurdity, or just explaining something that makes no sense to us as if it does.

(Incidentally, they also have a content-rich website, with not only the usual stuff like desktop backgrounds, a Facebook group and clips from sketches, but fan-made comics, web-only blooper reels/behind-the-scenes footage, video greeting cards and downloadable bumper music used during sketch intros. They even post scripts online, in case you might find that useful.)

Richard Therrien gave the show a 7.5/10 rating, on par with Tout le monde en parle, in his mid-season review. That should tell you something. The fact that it’s one of a handful of French-language TV programs I’m loyal to should tell you something as well.

Tonight at 7 is the season finale (and the series finale if they’re not renewed). The stars themselves will be celebrating it with fans at Bar la Rockette, 4479 St. Denis, unsure of whether or not it’ll be their swan song.

The show will also be announcing the winner of its Fais ça sketch contest, in which viewers submit their versions of Appendices sketches.

Here’s hoping it’s the beginning, and not the end.

Les Appendices, 7pm Tuesday on Télé-Québec