There were lots of rumours, but very little news, about the alternative weekly Hour yesterday.
Rather than spread some of those rumours, I waited to hear from the people there. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting.
The Gazette talked to the president of Communications Voir, which owns Voir and Hour. Though he called the rumours of a shutdown “bull—-“, he said they are “restructuring some things in the organization. There’s no news. We’re not closing. We’re not doing anything. It’s none of anybody’s business. It’s internal.”
We know, based on a somewhat cryptic tweet on the official Twitter feed that there are some cuts to editorial staff and freelancers, but we don’t know who they are. (If anyone does know, feel free to share that information. Otherwise we’ll just wait and see whose bylines disappear.)
UPDATE: Brendan Kelly says during Friday’s Daybreak (MP3) that editor Jamie O’Meara is gone, and other sources say the entire editorial staff is getting laid off over the next few weeks.
Pierre Paquet, the president, would neither confirm nor deny the layoffs, saying “it’s possible. It’s not public,” and “we’re replacing a couple of staff” and “we’ve revised our content.” When The Gazette asked about freelancers, he said “I don’t know … I don’t control the market.”
Paquet is allowed to be this coy. Communications Voir is a private company, and doesn’t have to answer to shareholders.
But Hour is also a newspaper. And it seems ridiculous to keep such information from the public, particularly if we’re going to find out eventually anyway.
The idea of Hour shutting down makes sense as a rumour. It was less than two years ago that the French side of the alt-weekly scene went from two papers to one with Quebecor’s Ici closing shop (it’s now an insert in 24 Heures). It wasn’t long before people started wondering if Montreal could support two anglophone alt weeklies at the same time.
On the English side, the situation is somewhat reversed. The Voir-owned Hour is younger and now noticeably thinner than the Quebecor-owned Mirror, though until today both seemed to be relatively healthy, and neither of the anglo papers have to compete with free dailies.
Paquet’s way with words notwithstanding, Hour’s going to need to do better to assure advertisers that it’s not going to close up shop in the next six months. A bit of honesty would go a long way in that regard.
This is bad news for Anglo media in Montreal. I noticed that the Hour had become extremely thin in recent weeks so this is not much of a surprise. I hope a new alternative weekly comes along sometime soon.
The Hour had become a joke for quite some time. I don’t know how anyone could take it seriously when it only published 15 pages, of which only 4 contain actual content. Why not just read the McGill Daily or the Concordia Link?
RIP Hour, but you were dead a long time ago.
You’re allowed to spell out “bullshit” on your own blog.
Yeah, but I’m quoting from the paper. And the paper says “bull—-“. (Maybe he said “bullcrap” or “bullfuck” or “bulltwat”, who knows?)
Bad news, but not surprising. Hour has never been as robust as the Mirror, and the fact that they paid their freelancers less than half the Mirror’s rates suggests that they’ve been dealing with a financial straightjacket for a long time.
A free weekly is obviously going to survive on advertising alone. If the revenue stream from advertising starts to diminish, and if you are unable to stir up new ad revenue, you’re basically left with just a couple of options. One is to cut expenses which, unfortunately, usually means cutting staff. The other is to reduce the size of the publication so as to cut your expenses. That of course could also mean getting rid of people who were writing for you.
Either way, if you have less content, you’ll have less readers. Less readers means fewer people to support the advertisers. If advertisers don’t get reaction from readers, they don’t buy more advertising and so the vicious circle begins.
Obviously ads were becoming scarce but the saddest thing about Hour is (was?) what they do with the little content they have. Two-page film reviews of blockbusters? 800 words on a dance company with a single photo and no subsections? Absolutely no attempt to draw the reader in or write for a modern, local audience.
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