This week Montreal’s 131-year-old French language newspaper La Presse announced it would no longer print newspapers on the weekdays. Instead the paper is focusing on its online edition during the week and printing only on Saturdays. In the same week, The Toronto Star announced the its launch of an upgraded tablet edition along with a new outreach campaign targeting younger readers.
Columnists and media professionals have decried the death of print media since the dawn of the digital revolution in the early 90s. Even so, the drive to go digital is less about killing print as it is saving media as a whole. Let’s look at the timeline of this shift.
Bandwidth is viewed as a plague to media companies.
Writing in 1998, author and usability expert Jakob Nielsen, foretold that access to higher bandwidth Internet connections would kill the media — not just print but all media.
“Most current media formats will die and be replaced with an integrated Web medium in five to 10 years,” said Nielsen, explaining that when computer monitors reached higher resolutions there would be little value in newspapers and magazines. “Around 2008, all computer users will prefer using the Web over reading printed pages; high-end users may make this switch around 2003.”
A study performed by CBC found that 16 per cent of Canadians are cord cutters, meaning they no longer pay for traditional television. Delivery of newspapers to homes has dropped more than 20 per cent since 2000.
While some media companies have shut their doors, as Nielsen predicted, others have survived through conglomeration. Torstar, Metroland, QMI, PostMedia, Bell Media, Rogers and Quebecor own the vast majority of print publications as well as most media outlets in the country.
In spite of this, the media industry prevails. Newspapers are still sold, television broadcasts are made multiple times a day, and books are purchased. Media companies are innovating and doing so in a cooperative fashion,.
The Freemium or Freep (free to premium model) is becoming more popular.
The Winnipeg Free Press, one of Canada’s oldest and only independent newspapers, has recently adopted the model as an experiment. Additionally, The Free Press allows readers to read three news articles for free before payments are required to continue. The stories are then 27 cents each, which is billed to a user’s credit card at the end of the month up to up to $16.99—the price of a monthly online subscription.
Freep or Freemium, a combination of the words free and paid, describes a micro-transaction model wherein newspaper readers provide credit card information up front but only pay for they consume. The idea is similar to how iTunes per song transactions works or how games and books are purchased on platforms like Amazon or Steam.
In Germany a Dutch start-up called Blendle has cornered the market with this model. As Business Insider reported every daily or weekly newspaper in the country has signed onto the service.
This may be the beginning of the end for La Presse’s life in newsprint or the beginning of an evolution to maintain it for another 131-years.