Hot off the press: Part 2
In the second of this three-part strategy magazine feature, we look at how Canada's national newspapers are rising to the challenges of an increasingly digital world.
On Friday, the Globe and Mail unveiled its dramatic redesign, featuring a new 11-inch format and glossy pages. In the following excerpt from strategy magazine (the second of three parts), MiC associate editor Katie Bailey examines how Canada’s national newspaper landscape is changing, and how our dailies are rising to the challenge.
The idea of time spent is a much different concept to the digital generation than it was to their print-raised counterparts, who typically either read the paper in the morning before work or spent the hour between getting home from work and having dinner poring over municipal politics and local crime stories.
Although popular opinion often runs to the contrary, young people, and the digitally inclined, aren’t spending any less time per se with newspapers than their parents or grandparents did, but are doing so in a completely different way, comments Catherine McKercher, a professor of journalism and communication at Carleton University.
‘I think young people are every bit as interested in the world as they always have been,’ she says. ‘They may not do the same kind of newspaper reading that their grandparents used to do…but the young people that I know consume six or seven different media in quite a short period of time. They try to be as well informed as anyone else. It’s interesting.’
The changes at the Globe are intended to address the changes in how people consume news today, from both a readership and advertising standpoint. The glossy, female-targeted lifestyle pages of weekend sections such as Globe Style are meant to extend the life of the print edition into the coffee table realm of magazines and the digital strategy will appease both the BlackBerry-toting exec and media-surfing university student. With advertising sold in packages across it all, the newspaper confronts the ‘web dimes for print dollars’ conundrum facing major media today.
‘I think it’s really smart of the Globe to leverage their brand as a whole rather than focusing on just the newspaper portion,’ says Laura Maurice, manager, print investments, UM Canada. ‘It will be interesting to see if advertising dollars start shifting if they are successful in scoring that new audience that other papers have yet to capture.’
Obviously, the Globe isn’t alone in its pursuit of audiences across platforms. The National Post, Canada’s only other national newspaper, has had new life breathed into it with the $1.1 billion buyout of its former parent company, Canwest LP, now known as Postmedia Network. The newspaper has upgraded to a new blog-style website, which the paper’s president Gordon Fisher says has already boosted traffic to NationalPost.com. And although he believes engagement with the website will increase significantly due to the simplified commenting functionality, he says content is what’s driving readers to the site and getting them to stay.
‘If you don’t have content that is different and compelling, if you’re just producing a website that is yesterday’s newspaper or simply commodity news and information that can be sourced [anywhere], you’re playing a loser’s game,’ he says.
In pursuit of that ideal, the editorial rooms of the National Post and all of the Postmedia papers are being restructured with a ‘digital first’ agenda, Malcolm Kirk, VP, digital media, Postmedia Network, explains. The first step in this still-being-defined evolution of Postmedia’s newspaper portfolio is arming all of its reporters and papers with the ability to break news as soon as it happens on multiple platforms and an increased focus on video content. That includes iPad apps for all the papers, set to debut this fall.
‘We’re going to radically transform our news gathering coast to coast to be able to deliver content on any platform a person chooses, and making that content as relevant as possible to that device to make [the news] as rich an experience as we can,’ Kirk explains.
This strategy will also include a new and much-intensified focus on local newsgathering, which Kirk hints will include a number of new content-sharing partnerships with local online media and community groups. ‘The potential for our company to expand in those markets is huge,’ he says.
Evolution in the digital landscape is key at this point, Maurice says, adding that from a media agency perspective, digital is really just a list of positives.
‘Newspapers are getting better at giving consumers what they want,’ she says, when asked what attracts media buyers to spending their clients’ dollars on newspapers’ websites. ‘I’d say there are only strengths at this point: instantaneous accessibility, critical mass with consumers, ease of use, ability to share with friends, and news feeds that are delivered in real time.’
But with all of this money being poured into Canada’s two national newspapers, it raises the question: do people still want to read them?
To be continued tomorrow with Part 3