Newspapers and Tablets: A Cautionary Tale

Star Touch app icon

Does anyone reading this have a daily or weekly newspaper subscription? I suspect not.

That’s not to say that you haven’t bookmarked your local newspaper’s website (or included its feed in your RSS reader), but what I’m talking about is an ongoing subscription to a bundled newsprint edition, thrown at your door every morning to ink up your hands as you plod your way through its many ad-riddled pages over a cup of coffee. Yeah, no thanks.

Does print media even have a place in a world with blogs, Facebook and YouTube—plus a smartphone that you can take with you onto the train or into the bathroom to consume them?

Newspapers have slowly begun to realize this, but for some reason have decided that the tablet is their saviour—and are now collectively losing their shit as tablet sales are slowing worldwide. I can think of no better example to illustrate this than the tablet edition of a local paper called Star Touch.

I haven’t downloaded Star Touch for my tablet and I don’t plan to—my only interactions with the Toronto Star are through direct links from reddit or RSS feeds. And numbers out this week from parent company Torstar would suggest that nobody else is using it, either. Though the app has been downloaded 200,000 times in total it can boast only 26,000 daily users. For a paper that enjoyed a daily print circulation of almost 400,000 copies in 2010 there’s no way to sugar-coat this. It’s a disaster.

So it only make sense that Torstar Corp. lost $235 million in Q4 2015, and laid off 10 employees in the Star Touch department this past January. The Star, like newspapers everywhere, needs to realize that it no longer has the luxury of dictating how its audience consumes its content. A newspaper’s job is to make that content available to anyone on any service and any device.

Until they figure that out, I fully expect Torstar’s losses and layoffs to continue.

Sources: Mobile Syrup, Wikipedia

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