Print media to change, not die

by | Feb 11, 2016 | Editorial

Print is dead.

TorStar layoffs. Postmedia layoffs. Guelph Mercury dropping its print edition.

Our own school paper only exists as a website and PDF file.

Yet we at Et Cetera do not actually believe the print is dead — although it does need a shot in the arm.

Postmedia Network Canada Corp., owner of the National Post and the various Sun local papers lost $140.8 million in the third quarter of 2015 and is sitting on almost $26 million in debt.

In the year since purchasing over 175 papers from Quebecor Inc., Postmedia has had to merge its newsrooms in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa and cut about 90 jobs to manage its economic problems.

Meanwhile, although Torstar Corp.’s profits are in decline, the company still posted almost $250 million in profit for 2014, the most recent data available.

This didn’t stop them from cutting 220 full-time and 60 part-time jobs with the closing of their printing press in January. Bob Hepburn, a spokesperson for the Toronto Star told Et Cetera that outsourcing its printing is a result of the paper’s smaller circulation and the loss of outside contracts.

The Guelph Mercury, part of the Metroland family of community newspapers, shut down its print edition to focus on online delivery and closed its print newsrooms. Et Cetera similarly switched to an online-only model a year ago.

The strange thing is that people triumphantly announce the death of print, while Bell Media cuts over 500 jobs in a single year including high ranking executives and just this month Rogers Media announced a 200 employee cull. If print is dead, then is broadcast a shambling corpse?

Obviously, the market is changing. The Toronto Star now posts videos on its website (videos from a newspaper?! Inconceivable!) and the new Toronto Star Touch app for tablets had almost 2,000,000 downloads since its launch in September.

We believe that print media is certainly changing but that there is hope. People can get their daily news online for free and without advertising and print needs to adapt. Newspapers are the only place where people can get long form investigative pieces and the only way to guarantee a properly sourced commentary.

While TV and online can deftly deliver up to the minute news as it happens, the publication cycle of newspapers allows them a unique opportunity. They can examine and explain the causes, reaction and consequences of stories.

Information has become a basic commodity like drinking water or basic health care thanks to the internet. Where print thrives is through analysis, interpretation and assessment of that commodity, making it distinctive and of greatly enhanced value to the public.

Where print media were once the vanguard of information, they can now adapt to be the last line of defence against its mere exposition.