As if things aren’t bad enough for small media outlets, TC Transcontinental announced on Friday it is rolling out its Publisac replacement throughout the province and into areas of Ontario and British Columbia that other flyer distributors have pulled out of.
This is leaving many Quebec publications worrying that what happened to Métro Média could happen to them.
When Montreal announced it was banning flyer distribution bags, and requiring opting in to flyer distribution generally, Publisac owner Transcontinental fought it as hard as they could, then turned to Plan B with the development of Raddar, a bagless flyer distribution system. Besides the online component, Raddar is a newspaper-like product that replaces bundles of paper flyers with a single folded newsprint leaflet of flyers, and is distributed by Canada Post, which conveniently gets around any municipal distribution bans.
The change led to the shutdown of Métro Média, which owned the free Métro paper and community newspapers across Montreal and Quebec City. Other newspapers distributed via Publisac, like The Suburban, also worried about their future, as distribution via Canada Post is more expensive.
On Friday, TC announced it was expanding Raddar throughout Quebec after its “successful launch in Montréal this spring”, replacing the Publisac between February and May 2024.
Hebdos Québec, which represents community papers across the province (many of whom used to be owned by Transcontinental), quickly reacted by saying it’s “an important part of our business model that is disappearing for a very large majority of publishers in Quebec.”
While struggling with sagging local economies, declining advertising, higher inflation, and the Meta news ban, regional newspapers now have to find alternative distribution systems, whether their municipalities have a distribution ban or not.
Hebdos Québec says governments need to step in to prevent news deserts from developing.
In the meantime, alternatives are being considered. ICI Médias, one of the companies that was built out of Transcontinental’s newspaper divestments, says it will deliver to drop-off points instead of individual homes. That’s undoubtedly going to have a negative effect on readership.
Meanwhile, Transcontinental announced Raddar is stepping in to fill gaps that developed in Ontario and B.C. In Ontario, Torstar’s Metroland announced in September it has ceased distribution of print editions of community newspapers and flyers in southern Ontario, and so Raddar is being rolled out in the GTA and Hamilton. Similarly, Glacier Media ceased distribution in greater Vancouver, and Raddar stepped in to replace it in August.
At least for those areas, there are no community papers anymore to complain about how they’ll be distributed.