What are the chances that Toronto’s newspapers will go all digital?
News came out on Friday that the Montreal daily La Presse has a plan to embrace the Internet era with gusto: according to reports in Le Devoir, the “iPad plan” relies on a gamble that readers of La Presse will take a three-year subscription to the newspaper in exchange for an iPad (or, since the plan is expected to be complete in 2013, the iPad 4 that will come with holographic brain downloads). It is a big leap into the digital world, and could offer both massive cost savings as well as an interesting way for newspapers to reshape their business models. Given that in the U.S. more than half of readers are now getting their news on-line, the time seems right for a major Canadian daily to take this kind of leap.
Being Torontonians, we couldn’t help but wonder if the same thing will happen to one of Hogtown’s dailies. Here, we rate the odds of local newspapers going all-digital in the next five years.
National Post: 1:3
Unencumbered by the dead weight of Canwest’s television debt, the on-line team at the National Post has been getting a lot of attention lately for some innovations we’d like to see other large media adopt, like landing pages for stories that draw readers from big aggregators and being one of the strongest proponents of “digital first” publishing. The Post already went digital-only on Mondays back in the summer of 2009. It’s just one short step from that to the whole digital enchilada.
Globe and Mail: 1:10
The Globe, like the Post, has a strong on-line side, but they just spent millions of dollars revamping their print edition. That would be a heavy bet against going all digital. However, there is that recent CTV-Bell merger: if this La Presse gamble pays off, we could see Bell (which owns 15 per cent of the Globe) wanting to find new reasons to sign people up for iPads. It’s still not likely, though. We kind of suspect the Globe’s readers will be having their morning paper with soft-boiled eggs well in to the 2030s.
Toronto Star: 1:8
The Toronto Star could be a really strong competitor in on-line news, but one of the things that makes it unique (the traditions of the Atkinson family) might hold it back in this case. Whatever happens, the Star can continue losing money in print runs indefinitely as it gets subsidized by more profitable forms of publishing in Torstar—like Harlequin.
Toronto Sun: 1:20
We expect that the last artifacts that are left when alien archaeologists dig up the remains of Toronto will be some issue of the Sun (cover story: “Apocalypse How? End of world caused by high taxes”). But as much as we enjoy Sue-Ann Levy’s Twitter account, the Sun Web site is probably the least relevant among those from Toronto dailies. Quebecor’s big push into television news suggests that the company probably isn’t going to make any other big plans in the next five years, unless Kory Teneycke’s summer project implodes, and they need to fire the printers and truck drivers to balance the books.
(Image: newspaper boxes, Randy Landicho)