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May 11, 2018 5:23 am  #1

Torstar rebuilds the pay wall

The saying goes that insanity is doing the same thing multiple times expecting a different result.

Netflix and Spotify aren't comparables. They offered convenience and a lower price than consumers were already paying. Torstar is competing with free content that's already easily accessible on every device. Where's the point of differentiation? Reading the same syndicated newswires everyone else runs, except with added identity politics? Comparing local politicians to Americans? More syndicated American pieces entirely irrelevant to Canadians? Even more condescending opinion columns written by obnoxious individuals? If people wanted that you wouldn't be changing business models in the first place. The only thing they have in common with Netflix and Spotify is that not a single one is profitable.

I don't believe the majority of Canadians are getting their news from dubious overseas websites, so who do they plan on calling fake news? Their biggest competition, the always free, government subsidized CBC? Good luck with selling that idea to The Star's audience. Newspapers/TV channels/radio stations that are owned by much bigger companies than Torstar and run the same Canadian Press stories they do? That's definitely a fight they won't lose. The Star, of all outlets, isn't going to lure the people paying for Ezra Levant's tire fire. So their audience is going to be people already reading The Star. But the problem is that there wasn't enough of them to sustain an ad-driven format which they only moved to because there weren't enough Star readers interested in paying for a subscription ...

Short of a La Presse-style shift or finding a Canadian Jeff Bezos, I'm not sure there is a plan that would save The Star. The internet has irreparably damaged this kind of content. Online ad revenue is garbage and encourages bottom feeders to post whatever will get attention. On the flip side, a subscription model is tough. Your main content is effectively a commodity. There is nothing propetiary to the news. You might have the scoop on a big story through a rare investigative report, but that cost a tonne to produce and will be easily disseminated by other outlets.

The good news is since they're not chasing clicks their standards should improve. Hopefully.


May 11, 2018 8:08 am  #2

Re: Torstar rebuilds the pay wall

The one part of the FP article that worries me can be summed up in this sentence, based on something the CEO says.

"The new product will analyze what readers are reading, when and where in order to better curate content and target ads."

So does this mean that if a majority of subs show they're more interested in reading say, a piece on the Ikea monkey rather than something boring but important that happened at Queen's Park, we'll get more of the former and less of the latter? That's a danger to good journalism, where sometimes it's necessary to inform readers of things they may not otherwise care about but need to know. 

Maybe that's not what he's saying, but that's how it reads to me. 

I'm not sure how many know that the Star (along with a few other newspapers) is now one of the owners of the Canadian Press, purchased to help fill in the gaps on stories some of the big papers couldn't staff. It saved CP, but at what cost down the road?

And if this latest solution for the Star doesn't work, what's left? (Although I guess at the Star, almost EVERYTHING is "left!") 


May 11, 2018 9:38 am  #3

Re: Torstar rebuilds the pay wall

Who doesn't get a kick out of Rosie D's columns?


May 11, 2018 10:43 am  #4

Re: Torstar rebuilds the pay wall

Kilgore wrote:

Who doesn't get a kick out of Rosie D's columns?

Especially when she's giving Joe Warmington a smack-down.  That's delightful!