Monday, January 03, 2011

The Toronto Star, an Anachronism in iPad Age

Toronto and Canada have traditionally had a healthy, competitive newspaper environment. The Toronto Star boasts it's Canada's largest newspaper by circulation, averaging (as of Canadian Newspaper Association's 2009 figures) 314,173 per day or 2,199,214 per seven-day week. The Globe & Mail, ostensibly Canada's national newspaper, comes in at 315,272 average per day and 1,891,629 weekly total in a six-day publishing schedule. Meanwhile, the National Post, the upstart that's supposed to go belly up every year, averages a daily circulation of 156,646 and six-day weekly of 939,874.

Those figures are down, for in 2009, circulation declined by almost 10 percent in the Toronto market, which comprises one-fifth of the national circulation.

So you'd think these newspapers would be hot to trot for the eSubscriber, the one who reads newspapers on the web but now increasingly on the iPad or eReader or smartphone. Andrew Coyne has been critical on Twitter about not only the absence of Canadian newspapers and magazine apps on the iPad -- the perfect venue for newspaper and magazine reading -- but also once they eventually show up their crap designs. I so agree.

When The New York Times trumpeted their app for the iPad, I expected Canada's largest newspaper to be close on their heels. When American papers and mags piled on to the iPad bandwagon, refining their designs in the process, I waited in vain for the Canadians. It's astounding because the Canadian consumer public is right in the forefront of online life, just waiting to be scooped up by present-thinking publishers.

The Globe & Mail was the first out of the gate with a decent iPhone/iPod Touch app and then a so-so iPad app (really wish they'd fix the way the article is all squished up in one column). The National Post followed suit recently. They both joined kobo's newspaper stand out of the gate, with advertising-free paid subscriptions at a decent price.

Kobo, the electronic side of the Indigo book chain, is aggressive in not only getting in on the eBook market, but also snagging newspaper and magazine subscriptions for its Reader and apps.

So where is the Toronto Star?

Um, well, I asked the staff at 416-367-4500. No clue. I hunted around for "Toronto Star". No find. Then recently I stumbled upon an iPad app called thestar.com, based on its website, like way to go in helping interested readers in finding you Toronto Star. I downloaded it and checked it out. How should I describe it? Um, gag me?

Are they so into tradition, so disdainful of the electronic bunch that they tossed the job to the janitor. Oh sorry, didn't mean to insult janitors. More like they gave it to an untrained monkey as a sop to readers while they discussed this new-fangled iPad. Or maybe they're having endless committee meetings on the perfect design. Or perhaps they're dithering over offering content free or paid on the iPad or teaming up with another Canadian company, kobo, to offer their product as an eSubscription. And anyway, they probably figured it's only a passing fancy so why spend the moolah. Plus they are Canada's largest newspaper so why the hurry.

Well, the hurry is lost subscribers.

This subscriber began a gazillion years ago by getting the parental units to be the first sale. When I became a carrier, I figured I'd better read the product to know what I was selling and how to sell it. I tripled my route, made it so large, three boys had to take it over, it was too much for just one. Wimps. That made me probably the perfect kind of customer, loyal to a good employer, the first employer. But that will soon change if The Star doesn't get its head out of the sand and into the Tablet age. I want to be able to read it on my iPad in a well-designed app that works and clip articles to Evernote for later reference. I don't want to read it in print, then go to my computer to find the article that got my attention, then clip it to Evernote. Too much work. Too much time wasted. Plus I'd like to reduce my recycling load.

I know carriers will lose jobs as people no longer subscribe to the print edition -- but us kids lost one of our few job opps when The Star and other papers went to adult only. Adults have never provided as good service as kids either. So tough. Jobs are changing all the time as each age gives way to the next and people once again find jobs. That is not a good enough reason to stall. And I can't think of any other reason why the Toronto Star insulted its readers by that amateurish, pathetic, doesn't-even-work app. I tell you, it makes my blood boil.

Time to get with it Toronto Star or start losing more readers as we switch over to lesser papers (ahem) who at least give us the product in the way that we want. Something you used to do.

2 comments:

CQ said...

Still using dial-up, I've noticed how drasticly slower it is to load the Star's main page during the past month. Often I have to reload 2 or 3 times to actually load the page. Comment pages have been slow or impossible to load since late October. Yet there is nothing extra on its page to take notice of?

Also, their Workopolis site is currently buggy as to order by date choice and skimpier even with recruit company fillers. I'm using a fairly current ordinary Firefox browser.

I did get to read their physical newspaper over the annual holidays - with my hands getting all inked up. They're losing out by not featuring regular advertisers online, as most of my buying advice interest went to other sources. I read many of the Boxing Day sheets simply as scanned before Christmas Day itself.

Canada's best newspaper company, thousands of additional GTA based programming students available each year... sad.

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

CQ, I hadn't thought of the dial-up issue but that's a good point as there are many Canadian communities where broadband isn't available, neve mind affordable. Given how much effort The Star has put into design in the past, you'd think they'd have taken into account this issue too.

Your last paragraph said it all. Tis sad.