Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

A newspaper industry going nowhere but down

John Miller spent his career at the Toronto Star before heading off to the Ryerson School of Journalism. He’s retired now, but still fires off the odd jeremaiad.

From the Journalism Doctor (“Road to oblivion“):

When the history of Canadian newspapers (or, more likely, their obituary) is written, this may go down as the week we heard the first death rattles.
It started with the largest mass closure of newspapers in Canada’s history. Staff at 11 Ontario community newspapers and two free dailies in Toronto and Vancouver arrived for work Monday morning to find the doors locked. Their jobs were gone just like that. It was part of a swap of 41 newspapers by Canada’s two largest publishers. Thirty-six of them were or soon will be closed forever.
Three hundred jobs went down the drain to achieve what John Boynton, CEO of Torstar, described as “increased, geographic synergies.” That’s a corporate weasel language that means Torstar and Postmedia traded and closed those papers to give them monopolies for advertising in their chosen areas of Ontario. …
Alarm bells rang again on Friday, when the newspaper crisis got even more serious.

The Globe and Mail officially ceased to be a national paper. It stopped delivering a paper to the Maritime provinces, a move that its publisher said will save it $1 million a year. (In response, 220 readers in Halifax signed up to pay $9.50 a copy for the Globe’s Saturday edition to be loaded on a plane and flown halfway across the country, indicating there is a market for the product).
On the same day, the Globe unveiled a new design and new format for its print product.
Other details about the Globe content changes are even more concerning. It apparently acted on information gathered in focus groups conducted with readers in Toronto and Vancouver, that they wanted the paper to have a “friendlier” look. Friendlier usually means a smaller format, more white space, shorter stories, grabbier graphics and more colour. But the actual look was quite different. Great rivers of gray, small type spilled down pages.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Crawley said online data collected by Sophi, the Globe’s proprietary data analytics tool, have influenced the redesign, just as it is influencing daily editorial and advertising decisions.
“Sophi analyzes not only what kind of traffic it’s attracting but it also analyzes how many subscribers it converts,” he said.
“We know on a particular day which stories are drawing subscriber engagement, where people are saying, ‘OK, I want to read that, I will pay for it, I will go behind the pay wall and buy a subscription.'”
For instance, Crawley said Sophi has found that readers prefer to consume content from Globe staff over freelance or wire content, a hard-to-believe finding that perhaps explains the departure of a couple of prominent freelance columnists.
Oh, that’s great then. We have a smaller Globe and Mail. It’s practically unreadable. And we have news chosen not by experienced editors but … by robots. You wonder how long will it be until artificial intelligence writes the news too.

Sat, December 2 2017 » Main Page, Media