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PODCAST: When to drop print and when to stand strong

Two newspapers launch an impressive tablet app: one kills off its daily print edition, the other stands by its newspaper. The tale of these two approaches is told in this episode of Press Play. Click here to subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Canadian newspaper Toronto Star last year launched an ambitious tablet app designed to reinvent the newspaper reading experience online.

Star Touch, as it was called, was built around a format developed and released in 2013 by its sister French-language newspaper, La Presse.

Both papers poured resources into their respective apps, but La Presse ended its daily editions after 131 years of print publishing, while Toronto Star remained determined to continue its daily.

Jean-Marc De Jonghe, vice president of digital products at La Presse, says framing the development of his app and the end of weekday print editions was key to persuading management that change was needed.

Development was centered on creating a highly-engaging product that replicated the business model of news print, not the web. Also, the company would continue with its weekend newspaper.

But when it came to La Presse’s daily, the choice was either to manage a slow decline or create a new business model and product that would accelerate adoption.

Mr De Jonghe said: “I prefer to have a new digital offering when I have still $100 million of advertising, and make them jump to a new platform . . . maybe only 80 per cent will  . . . than waiting for a time when you have only $30 million [and you need to] save the business.”

Some 88 per cent of La Presse’ top 200 print accounts have moved to La Presse+. And now only 12 per cent of its revenue comes from its weekend newspaper.

The story is a different for the Toronto Star. Its editor, Michael Cooke, points out that, unlike La Presse, his newspapers “still give us, probably like you (in Australia), 80 per cent of our revenues”.

La Presse’s print business case was wholly different. They were going down in real time,” Mr Cooke said.

The release of Star Touch has broadened commercial opportunities.

Advertising is interactive and even feature micro games and videos.

One example is an ad for a windscreen de-icer, which encourages readers to use their finger to wipe away frost from a windscreen. Only, they do this on the screen of their tablet.

Mr Cooke, said such ads received engagement from 95 per cent of the audience. “The advertisements – for me, anyway – are just as much fun as the copy,” says Mr Cooke.


Theme: “R.A.P.”, Jazzafari 2014. Licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.
Music: “Pop Brasilia”, Paddington Bear 2015. Licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.
Audio “La Press stops printing weekday editions after 131 years“, CBC News 31 Dec 2015

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