Tag Archives: Metro newspaper

Métro Média shuts down operations, blames Montreal’s Publisac ban

If you see one of these, it’s a keepsake now.

Métro is no more.

Saying it pained him to do so but he had no choice, Andrew Mulé announced late Friday afternoon that the activities of Métro Média, including the free Métro newspaper, community newspapers in Montreal and Quebec City, and the journalmetro.com website, are being suspended.

Unless some magic saviour steps forward to rescue them, this means the end of the last free “daily” newspaper in Montreal (24 Heures still exists but no longer in print format), the last Metro-branded newspaper in Canada, and the jobs of dozens of journalists doing hyperlocal news.

In his note to readers, Mulé says the pandemic was hard but the “devastating” blow came from Montreal’s decision to no longer allow the distribution of the Publisac flyer bag, which Métro used to distribute its community papers. Between paying more for Canada Post to distribute the papers or doing without print advertising that still represented a significant part of their budget, they couldn’t make the numbers work.

It wasn’t for lack of trying to create a new business model. Two years ago Métro redesigned the print product, redesigned its website, redesigned its mobile app, and adopted a 100% local strategy.

Mulé also turned over every stone trying to get funding, but hit a brick wall this week.

The legacy of the former Transcontinental papers

Métro Média was born in 2018 with the purchase of the Métro daily newspaper and community papers in Montreal and Quebec City from Transcontinental, which decided a year earlier it didn’t want to be in the print media business anymore and put all of its papers up for sale.

Of the 93 publications Transcontinental put up for sale that day (92 in Quebec, plus the Cornwall Seaway News, though the number is a bit fuzzy because it includes things like weekend editions and monthly inserts separately), all but four were eventually sold. But I count only 46 of them still publishing. That’s just less than half.

Of them, 20 are owned by Icimédias, 12 by Médialo (formerly Groupe Lexis Média), and five by Gravité Média.

For other former Transcon papers, it’s not much better:

A lot of nuance can be added to this tally. It doesn’t take into account new publications (whether print or online) that spring up to cover communities, for example. But it’s a good indication that the situation is bleak for print news media, whether large or small.

The transition to … whatever will be the new way we get news in this world may require steps like this. But those steps are painful. They mean the loss of institutions and many people doing good work who now have to find some other way to make a living.

Métro Média’s president explains its redesign and 100% local strategy

The first issue of the redesigned Métro, its first without the distinctive globe.

“Removing the globe was natural,” Métro Média President Andrew Mulé told me in a recent interview. “We’re no longer bringing the globe to Montreal, we’re bringing Montreal to Montrealers.”

It’s been several years that the newspaper has had no official link to Metro International, the Swedish publisher whose brand has been used on free commuter newspapers in large cities across the world since 1995. (Transcontinental took full ownership of it in 2012, before selling it to businessman Michael Raffoul in 2018.) So it was overdue for a design change.

But Métro went further than just changing its logo. Its entire raison d’être has changed. Mulé explains the changes himself in Métro, and shares some more insight with me below.

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24 Heures transforms into weekly as free newspapers adapt to pandemic

24 Heures’s first edition as a weekly, from Feb. 11, 2021.

24 Heures, Quebecor’s free daily newspaper distributed in Montreal, has undergone a metamorphosis, one that makes it look a bit more like the next reincarnation of Ici than it does the 24 Heures of old.

This month, it launched a “new platform” at 24heures.ca (no more being just a subsection of the Journal de Montréal website), where it promises to “get to the roots of issues you care about, in addition to covering daily news, and inspired by solutions journalism,” according to a message posted on that website.

The website is now broken down into categories:

  • En bref, which has news
  • Panorama, which has content about “social movements, innovation, digital culture, sexuality” … so lifestyle content
  • Urgence climat, which is devoted to climate change, and is its own section so you know they take it seriously like the youth of today
  • Porte-monnaie, which has content on money, personal finance and entrepreneurship
  • Lifestyle … so more lifestyle content
  • Pop, which will have “viral content”

The website has some wire content, from Agence France-Presse, Agence QMI and Quebecor’s other websites like Silo 57, but most of it so far is from 24 Heures’s own writers. And while some of it is viral-content-churnalism, there are some real stories in there as well.


The print edition has the more major transformation. It now runs weekly, on Thursdays, and it has a new design and new logo. It’s also thicker — the first two editions are 32 pages each.

But it’s the content that’s most different. The issues are themed — Black History Month for Feb. 11, sex and social media for Feb. 18. You’ll see less hard news and more feature stories and columns, and those columns are new, younger and more diverse faces.

It’ll be interesting to see how long they keep this up. A newspaper is going to put its best foot forward for a launch like this, but a year or two down the line will we see more repurposed Journal de Montréal content?

You can read the digital versions of the paper editions of 24 Heures here.

This isn’t Quebecor’s first youth-focused free weekly newspaper. In 2009, it shut down Ici, its answer to free alt-weekly Voir. That was followed by the shutdowns of Montreal’s other alt-weeklies: Hour, Mirror, and finally last June, the remnants of Voir.

The new reality of the commuter freesheet

24 Heures’s move comes after competitor Métro changed its schedule last fall. After taking almost the full month of August off, it returned on a twice-weekly schedule, publishing Wednesdays and Fridays.

Both newspapers were hit hard by the pandemic, not just because of the dramatic reduction in advertising, which is their only source of revenue, but because fewer people are taking public transit and sanitary rules prevent them from having their human distributors at rush hours handing out the paper to passersby.

Métro and 24 Heures are the last remaining free dai… uhh, right they’re not daily anymore. But anyway, they’re the last of its kind in Canada. The 24 Hours chain was a victim of the 2017 Postmedia-Torstar paper swap, while the last Metro newspapers were shut down by Torstar in 2019.

The end of the free daily newspaper in (English) Canada

About 20 years after it first became a thing, the free daily commuter newspaper will cease to exist in English Canada.

Torstar announced on Tuesday that it will cease production of its StarMetro dailies (formerly Metro) in the five cities it currently operates — Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax. The result will be more than 120 layoffs, according to Unifor, which is using the news to demand additional government help for print media.

The closure means Canada is left with only two free daily print newspapers, both of which are in Montreal: Métro and 24 Heures. Both were once part of nationwide chains but got split up from them.

Metro operated newspapers in:

  • London
  • Regina
  • Saskatoon
  • Ottawa
  • Winnipeg
  • Vancouver
  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • Toronto
  • Halifax

24 Hours operated in:

  • Gatineau
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Ottawa
  • Vancouver
  • Toronto

There were also independent efforts, particularly in Toronto:

  • FYI Toronto and GTA Today, free papers launched by the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star, respectively, when the craze began in 2000.
  • Dose, the Canwest free daily that lasted just over a year in five cities
  • t.o.night, which tried to make an afternoon free daily a thing

Now they’re all dead.

So what about Montreal?

Montreal’s remaining free dailies have unique circumstances, but they aren’t immune from the same economic forces — a reduction in advertising revenue, an increase in expenses, as well as less attention from readers who can now spend their morning commutes checking Facebook on their phones.

Métro, formerly a Transcontinental paper, was sold along with Montreal and Quebec City community papers to Métro Média, a company owned by Michael Raffoul, an entrepreneur who owns a print media distribution company.

24 Heures, owned by Quebecor, is a de facto sister publication to the Journal de Montréal. It no longer has its own website, and its stories live on the Journal de Montréal’s site. It saves money by using stories from the Journal and TVA.

Neither newspaper has any guarantee of surviving in the long term. Quebecor could shut down 24H at any time, and few people would notice (it disappeared for a week this summer and nobody raised an eyebrow). Metro, meanwhile, is part of a larger group of newspapers that is increasingly codependent, and a shutdown there might be devastating for what’s left of the on-island community newspapers (though many of them are little more than advertising vehicles these days).

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tries something new in Toronto. It’s a city of millions and just seems a bit odd that it wouldn’t have at least one free news daily. But maybe it’s time to acknowledge that this method of getting news hasn’t kept up with technological progress.

Which isn’t all bad. It’ll mean fewer discarded newspapers clogging up subway systems.

Toronto Star rebranding Metro newspapers to form pseudo national chain

Metro is dead. Long live StarMetro.

Torstar, which owns the Toronto Star and the remaining Metro newspapers in English Canada, announced Monday that it will be rebranding the Metro papers to StarMetro and bringing them closer to the Star fold, moving their websites to thestar.com and sharing stories between the two. At the same time it is adding 20 journalists to three of the Metro newspapers — Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The Star’s story on the announcement, as well as nearly identical insert-city-name-here stories in each of the Metro papers (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax), don’t give much details beyond that, but expect to see more Metro content in the Toronto Star, and more Toronto Star content in the Metro papers.

Despite the this-is-good-news nature of the announcement, there are no plans to resurrect Metro papers that have been killed recently. Metro Ottawa and Winnipeg were sold to Postmedia in November to be shut down. Metro also previously had papers in London, Regina and Saskatoon, plus digital-only editions in four other cities.

Métro Montréal, Canada’s only French-language version of the paper, is owned by Transcontinental, which has put it up for sale.

The Torstar changes take effect on April 10. At that point, the Metro app will also be shut down, and visitors to the metronews.ca websites redirected to The Star’s new pages for each city.

Postmedia/Torstar deal results in almost 300 jobs lost as dozens of newspapers shut down

It’s been a while since we had news about triple-digit job cuts. Today’s news is that Postmedia (my employer) and Torstar have come to an agreement where they swap dozens of newspapers and shut most of them down.

No cash is being exchanged in the transaction.

Most of the newspapers going either way are Ontario-based community publications, but there are four major-market free dailies affected: Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver. All will close.

J-Source reports that Postmedia’s closing of ex-Torstar papers will result in 244 job losses. Torstar’s closing of ex-Postmedia papers will lay off another 46, for a total of 290.

Competition Bureau approval is not required for the transaction, the companies say, so there’s no government regulatory step required for the deal. The bureau did nothing to stop the deal between Postmedia and Quebecor that saw major-market dailies come under the same roof. Nevertheless, the bureau says it will review the deal after the fact.

Unifor has unsurprisingly condemned the shutdown.

As bad as the news is, and as many communities are losing local coverage, the deal won’t be cutting the last local paper out of most communities. Many are community papers covering parts of cities that have a daily, or competed directly with another newspaper being kept. Exceptions are the tiny town of St. Marys, near London, and Meaford, near Owen Sound.

There’s also Barrie and Northumberland, which lose dailies but are still covered by weeklies.

More coverage and reaction from:

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Metro screws up, but it’s just the wrong name

Metro reports Alan DeSousa quits Union Montreal. Except he didn't.

Congratulations to Metro, which had the scoop this morning (UPDATE: link now dead) that Saint Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa has quit Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montreal party to join the opposition Projet Montréal.

This news is a bombshell, coming halfway into the mayor’s third term. De Sousa is a high-profile figure in Tremblay’s party. And yet only Metro is reporting the news so far.

That’s because it never happened. DeSousa didn’t quit Tremblay’s party, and says he has no plans to.

Turns out it was another borough mayor, from another party, that defected today. Rosemont’s François Croteau left Vision Montreal, saying Louise Harel’s party has no political vision (I’m not sure if that was intended as a pun). You can read his full statement here.

Correction fail

Metro’s story reporting about Croteau adds a “précision” that the story about DeSousa was incorrect. I’m no expert on the French language, but the definition of “précision” doesn’t seem to fit “we got the story all wrong and made it all up”.

More importantly, though, the original story reporting DeSousa defecting was still online, with no correction, four 12 hours (and perhaps as many as 26) after the truth was known and the “précision” appended to the Croteau story. The writer says (see below) that this was a technical problem.

What’s interesting about that story, by reporter Mathias Marchal, is that it doesn’t cite a single source for its information, not even anonymous ones. No “Metro has learned” or any of the other euphemisms that journalists use to say they have a scoop. It’s written as if it’s already public knowledge and its status as a fact is unquestioned.

Except, of course, that it’s all made up.

Was it just a guess?

I’m curious how this story came to be written (see update below). It wasn’t in this morning’s print edition, and the timestamp shows it was first posted at 9:43am, with the press conference set for 11.

The press conference part was known. A press release announcing it was sent at 7:54am. It said a borough mayor would defect to Projet Montréal, but didn’t say which one (or from which party). My instinct (and hey, it could be wrong) is that this was a guess. There are 18 boroughs in Montreal whose mayor isn’t Gérald Tremblay. It obviously wasn’t Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez, who’s already part of Projet Montréal. And it probably wouldn’t have been Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor Pierre Gagnier, who quit Projet Montréal. But that still leaves 16 people. A rumour might have been enough to sway an inexperienced journalist into running with the story.

What’s ridiculous is how little gain there is from something like this. At best, other media will cite you for the hour between the time your report is published and the time the press conference confirms it. At worst, you look like a laughingstock because you got it all wrong, and the subject of your article has to issue a press release pointing out how you disappointed him.

This kind of thing always annoys me. I’ve seen so many times where a newspaper will get the details of an announcement leaked to them the day before and come out with an “exclusive” detailing them mere hours before the press conference. At least Metro didn’t label it as an exclusive, though the damage is the same.

Let this be a lesson to other journalists: An official statement that partially confirms a rumour doesn’t mean that rumour is correct.

And always, especially when you think you’re leaking information the public doesn’t already know (or when you’re taking information from another journalist who appears to be leaking it), cite your sources.

UPDATE (Nov. 2): From Marchal, on Twitter:

À l’origine du problème: un quiproquo au départ lors d’une discussion avec Projet Montréal. (A)ussi bête qu’un mélange entre bld St-Laurent et arrondissement St-Laurent.

Mon erreur, et je me suis excusé à Alan DeSousa, qui n’aurait pas dû être mêlé à ça. La nouvelle fut supprimée après 10 min, mais un problème tech. a fait qu’elle est restée accessible par certains URL.

And to answer the question in your blog, no it wasn’t a guess to gain anything! ;)

Métro turns 10

March 1 marked the 10th anniversary of free daily newspapers in Montreal. It was 10 years ago that a partnership between Montreal-based Transcontinental and Swedish-based Metro International SA launched Métro in Montreal, replicating in French what they had done in English in Toronto the previous year.

Eight-page special issue in Tuesday's Métro

To celebrate the anniversary, Tuesday’s edition of Métro had an eight-page special insert – there’s also a website with the same content – about itself. Included in this are:

Plus the video, seen above, that makes the 10th anniversary of a newspaper seem like a Steven Seagal movie.

Aside from that, the press release includes a PDF of profiles of newsroom employees, who look a heck of a lot younger than the people in my newsroom.

Another anniversary coming

It was only days after Métro’s first appearance that Quebecor launched a competing free daily. Montréal Métropolitain had its first edition on March 12, 2001, and it would later be renamed 24 Heures.

From the beginning, that newspaper was distributed by hand outside metro stations (Quebecor fought but later lost a court challenge to Métro’s monopoly inside the metro – and recently outbid Métro for that same exclusive distribution right). Its readership numbers have always trailed Métro’s, but the gap has narrowed in recent years, and the distribution agreement with the STM could see 24 Heures finally pull ahead.

I haven’t seen any plans yet from 24 Heures to mark its anniversary.

UPDATE (April 5): There was an anniversary paper on March 28 with a small special insert, accompanied by a press release.

Can they last?

Looking back at some archives from 2001, it seemed clear that a lot of analysts didn’t hold out much hope for these papers. The consensus seemed to be that Montreal’s francophone market could maybe support one free daily like this, but not two.

It’s clear, 10 years later, that not only have both survived, but they’ve flourished, perhaps largely because of the fierce competition from each other. Both greatly increased the amount of original reporting by hiring more journalists (though 24 Heures’s decision to do so is seen in a somewhat negative light because the work of those journalists was then used to feed the locked-out Journal de Montréal). Both are now thicker and have more news than they did 10 years ago, while the paid papers are getting thinner in both size and content.

Expansion to Quebec City?

Also this week, Metro Canada announced that it would launch in two new markets: Winnipeg and London, Ont., bringing their distribution to nine cities.

With the addition of these two, Metro now serves nine of Canada’s 13 most populous metropolitan areas. Of the four it doesn’t serve, three are in southern Ontario (Hamilton, Kitchener, St. Catharines), between Toronto and London. The fourth, Number 7 on the overall list, is Quebec City.

Barring any unusual impediments unique to that area, expansion to Quebec City makes sense. There are no free dailies serving the city, leaving all the readership to Le Soleil and the Journal de Québec. And because there’s already a Métro in Montreal, much of the content – and even the design – could be shared between the two papers. Métro would only need to hire some local reporters and editors and arrange for distribution.

For that matter, it might be worth looking at whether it’s worth starting up an English version in Montreal. A quick calculation shows the Montreal anglo market to be about 750,000, which is about the same as Quebec City and Winnipeg and larger than London and Halifax.

If there’s an argument against it, it’s certainly not a question of numbers. Perhaps English Montrealers are already picking up the French Métro, or they’re too concentrated in the West Island where there isn’t any metro service. Or maybe there’s a worry about people getting confused seeing two newspapers that look alike. Or maybe there’s worry that there could be political fallout if another English newspaper were to launch in Quebec.

Or maybe they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Transcontinental* had the option of launching an English Montreal paper back in 2001, but hadn’t made plans to do so.

*Transcontinental is the major partner in Montreal’s Métro, while Torstar is the major partner in the seven editions west of here, including the new ones announced this week. Both companies are co-owners of Metro Halifax.

UPDATE: Bill McDonald, president of Metro (English) Canada, says that “at this point, we have no specific plans for future expansion.  However, I can assure you we are not done yet.”

Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

These Métro newspaper stands will be replaced by ones distributing 24 Heures

A 10-year deal that has given a huge competitive advantage to one of Montreal’s two (officially) free daily newspapers is about to come to an end.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced today that 24 Heures, the freesheet owned by Quebecor’s Sun Media, has won its bid for exclusive distribution access in the metro system in a five-year (extendable) deal that starts on Jan. 3. As of that point, it will replace Transcontinental’s Métro, which has had this exclusive access since it began publishing in 2001.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Even though the two competing papers were launched virtually simultaneously, have the same type of content and even share similar design styles, this distribution deal meant that Métro could fill stands inside each station and let people pick the paper up throughout the day, while 24 Heures had to settle for being able to hand their paper out to people outside metro entrances. The result was that Métro at one point had four times the readership of 24 Heures.

Since then, the numbers have evened out a bit, but Métro is still significantly ahead of 24 Heures in the quest for eyeballs.

The exclusivity deal angered Quebecor so much that it tried to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight it. That battle was lost in 2005. Deciding that if you can’t fight them, might as well join then, 24 Heures then signed an exclusivity deal with the Agence métropolitaine de transport for distribution in train stations in 2006. And now it gets the metro deal as well (and it’s very happy about that).

The deal with the STM also includes a requirement to offer a page in each issue to the STM to communicate with its users. (The STM will need to change its format a bit, since the new newspaper is smaller.) And expect that there will be a provision for recycling their own newspapers, similar to what Métro had. (Does that mean the recycling bins will be orange instead of green?)

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Life imitates art

Metro article, Thursday May 27, Page 6

Let’s put aside for a second that an article was written based entirely off a Facebook group with a few thousand members (actually I found four of them, the largest with more than 145,000 members), what’s interesting here is the photo that accompanies it (spotted by a commenter in the previous post). It’s not a photo of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, but rather one of actors Misha Collins and Laura Prepon portraying Bernardo and Homolka in the 2006 film Karla:

Misha Collins and Laura Prepon try their best to be creepy in Karla

From this I can draw only two conclusions:

1. These actors resemble their subjects much more than I think they do;

2. Editors at Metro are so young they have no idea what Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo look like

The real Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (right?)

Metro’s new look

Before: Last Friday's Metro, Pages 1 and 3

After: Monday's Metro

Gradients! Photo bylines! Giant numbers! Random unnecessary splashes of yellow! BOXY SERIFS!

Newspapers tend to make big deals of their redesigns, even if few people outside the newspaper care about them. Metro is no different. They teased this one for a whole week, and on Monday unveiled the new design with a giant centre-spread guide to it, as if people needed instructions all of a sudden:

Centre spread guide to the new design

The new look comes with a renewed focus on Metro’s original reporting (something that was virtually non-existent when the paper launched in 2001). Considering the reporting staff could fit into a minivan, that means a lot of repeat faces.

The basic design elements that make Metro what it is aren’t going to change though. It’s still littered with by-the-numbers infoboxes, trying to distill important facts into 20-word factbites. But then, that’s the whole point, right?

A day by any other name

When I first saw the tease at one of those orange stands last Monday, I was intrigued. Not so much because they were coming out with a new design, but that they said it would be in five days. My amazing addition skills put that on a Saturday, when the paper doesn’t publish. Were they going to launch a Saturday edition with the new look?

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. There’s no money in weekend editions of commuter freesheets.

Instead, Metro seems to have simply decided that Saturday and Sunday no longer qualify as “jours”, and that five days after a Monday, one day after Friday, is next Monday.

But maybe I’m just a stickler for these kinds of things.

Stands proudly announce the new-look Metro.

And I couldn’t help noticing this minor detail on the sports page:


Trente has some brief words from Metro’s editor, saying the look is great and will help its journalists and make kittens even cuter and stuff.

Thoughts on local media

Kate McDonnell, author of the much-read Montreal City Weblog, does her yearly anniversary post and writes about how local media has changed since her blog was launched in 2001. A recommended read for people interested in the local media scene (like me).

Some thoughts to add:

Major local media have all redesigned their websites multiple times since 2001. Most now copy each other (much like print newspaper layouts copy each other), their homepages excessively long, far too much focus on Javascript, Flash and throwing as many links as possible into a tiny space. The idea of the Internet portal died a long time ago, but many still concentrate on the homepage as the single point of entry.

I don’t own an iPhone, and I use my cellphone strictly for making calls (and sending text messages), so I can’t comment on mobile offerings. But it would be nice if content-providing websites would open up their content a bit and let us make it work with our devices. Force us to go to your page for the full article if you’re worried about page impressions, but let us spread the technology to better connect those pages with the people who want to see them.

At some point in the future, the idea of paying for wire copy will be considered ridiculous. It made sense for newspapers. It doesn’t make sense online. Sure, keep your Canadian Press subscriptions for now, but at least separate the copy-paste wire dreck from original content your journalists create. Don’t lump it all into one feed and put it all on one page.

Local media need to hire more programmers and geeks. Even with all the advances there is still so much inefficiency when it comes to news websites and how journalists and editors perform their craft.

For many people, Twitter is replacing the RSS feed. That can be both good and bad. But a lot of people just use Twitter to replicate their RSS feed. That’s just bad. If I want to follow your feed, I’ll do it in Google Reader, instead of getting a truncated headline and bit.ly link. If I see “via twitterfeed” on your Twitter page, I won’t be following.

I can’t help but agree about the “old arts weeklies”. I don’t read Voir much (Steve Proulx excepted), but my interest in the two anglo weeklies has diminished considerably. I thought it was because they focused less on news and more on arts, but I think they’re falling behind in both categories, going through the motions instead of spending effort coming up with something new. I find I get more interesting news from The Suburban than Hour or Mirror, and that’s not saying much.

As for Metro, Transcontinental’s free daily, it has improved a lot since its launch in 2001, when it was exclusively wire copy. Now it has actual journalists. They’re not doing groundbreaking investigative reporting, but considering their budget it’s surprising the amount of original local content they get in. I’m not sure how much of their recent quality is based on competition with 24 Heures, whose journalists seem to exist right now solely to provide filler for the locked out Journal de Montréal, though. That might change if that labour conflict is ever solved.

Which brings us to Rue Frontenac, which has been working hard, but doesn’t look like the kind of website that needs 253 people to put together. Obviously people have other responsibilities like picketing, and not all of those employees are journalists, but the small core of people putting out most of the stuff at that website is arguably exactly what the Journal and Quebecor want.

Finally, as far as local bloggers are concerned, well, that’s the subject of another post.

Oh, and Kate, maybe it’s time to install WordPress and start allowing comments on that blog. That way I don’t have to write a response on my own blog to get it published.

Shockingly, people still reading newspapers

NADbank, the national newspaper readership monitoring service, released a report on Wednesday with some new numbers (PDF) for newspaper publishers to chew on. And, of course, with all the data there, each newspaper cherry-picks facts to make it look like they’re doing better than their competitors:

So what do the numbers show?

For the sake of comparison, I’m using the “five-day cumulative” number, which measures how many people read the newspaper (in printed form) at least once over the previous five weekdays. The numbers are compared to the last annual report released in March.

  • Journal de Montréal: 1,027,400, up 3.3% from 994,600 despite the lockout
  • La Presse: 678,200, up 0.9% from 672,300
  • Metro: 630,100, up 2.0% from 617,900
  • The Gazette: 454,200, down 1.1% from 459,200
  • 24 Heures: 516,400, up 13.9% from 453,200

Note that no numbers are given for Le Devoir.

The big news here is with 24 Heures, which has shown a huge jump in readership, surpassing The Gazette for fourth place in the market overall.  This is most likely due to more aggressive distribution as well as the increased number of journalists now employed by the paper since the Journal de Montréal was locked out. It also may have picked up some former ICI readers, since ICI is now a weekly supplement in 24 Heures.

For online readership, the numbers are all press-release-worthy:

  • La Presse (cyberpresse.ca): 359,000, up 10% from 326,200
  • The Gazette (montrealgazette.com): 134,900, up 6.5% from 126,700
  • Metro (journalmetro.com): 36,900, up 12.2% from 32,900
  • 24 Heures (24hmontreal.canoe.ca): 27,100, up 24.3% from 21,800

NADbank is also, for the first time, counting Journal de Montréal online readership (the Journal doesn’t have its own website, but Canoe groups some of its articles on a page here). It measures weekly readership at a paltry 130,700, just a bit less than The Gazette.

It’s unsurprising that online has grown quite a bit (in most cases it really has nowhere to go but up), and while Metro and 24 Heures have seen huge gains percentagewise, their numbers are still so small that NADbank puts an asterisk next to them to indicate the sample size was too small to be reliable.

Speaking of small sample sizes, the numbers also include Montreal readership for the Globe and Mail (97.600 Monday-Friday, 79,800 weekly online) and National Post (71,400 Monday-Friday, 41,100 weekly online).

So I guess the newspaper crisis is over, huh?

So Metro goes to the STM, 24 Heures goes to the AMT

First edition of La Page AMT, August 26, 2009

First edition of La Page AMT, August 26, 2009

The Agence métropolitaine de transport has announced that, starting Wednesday, it will be communicating with customers via a page in the free daily 24 Heures once a week. The first such page, announcing their new train cars, is available as a PDF. It appears on Page 12 of Wednesday’s edition.

If this idea sounds eerily similar to the Info STM page in Metro, it’s no coincidence. It all goes back to how these two newspapers got started.

A tale of two free commuter dailies

Metro began publication on March 1, 2001, a partnership between Swedish-based Metro and Montreal-based Transcontinental. A key part of the business plan for this newspaper was a deal it struck with the Société de transport de Montréal (then the Société de transport de la communauté urbaine de Montréal or STCUM). In exchange for exclusive distribution inside the metro system, the newspaper would give 2% of its advertising revenues (guaranteed at $900,000 for the first three years) to the transit agency. It would also give a free page in every issue to the STM so it could more easily offer information to metro users.

Before Metro’s first issue went out the door, Quebecor Media launched a campaign against the deal. Cease-and-desist letters went out to both the STM and Metro, followed by a lawsuit. Even a letter from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a member of Quebecor’s board of directors. Quebecor’s argument was that a restriction against other newspapers distributing freely in the metro was a violation of its right to free expression.

The lawsuit was rejected in 2003, and in 2005 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal. (A similar lawsuit happened in Philadelphia against Metro, and it too ended up losing in court.) Quebecor was clearly not going to win this battle in court.

24 Heures from four years ago (Aug. 26, 2005)

24 Heures from four years ago (Aug. 26, 2005)

24 Heures, Quebecor’s answer to Metro, was launched as Montréal Métropolitain less than two weeks after Metro began distribution. Because of the agreement between Metro and the STM, the paper is distributed outside metro stations. And because of Montreal’s ban on newspaper distribution boxes, the company has to hire people to actually hand copies out to commuters. Without a distribution system in the metro, 24 Heures suffered, and constantly lags behind Metro in circulation figures.

At some point since its launch, 24 Heures decided to focus more on places Metro doesn’t distribute (which is basically everywhere outside the metro). One of those places is commuter train stations, where you’ll find yellow 24 Heures boxes but no Metro.

So it makes sense that the AMT and 24 Heures team up with this page.

What’s unclear is whether the AMT is paying 24 Heures for this page, or whether it’s being offered as part of an agreement with the AMT. I’ve asked the AMT about it, and will update this post with what they say.

La Page AMT will be published every Wednesday in 24 Heures starting August 26. 24 Heures is available in virtual format free online.