With the Toronto Star going behind a pay wall it’s time again to revisit the issue, not that anything much has changed from the last time I wrote about this. As a reader I understand and appreciate the Star’s need for an improved income stream in order to do investigative reporting, general reporting, cover special events and for columnists. However, it can be very counterproductive.
In my case twenty years ago I got about 70-80% of my news from newspapers and the rest from tv and magazines. Today it varies from about 1-40%, depending on the subject. The bulk of my news comes from tv, magazines, ezines, online lists like Newswise and All Aboard, press releases, blogs and websites. If the Toronto Star and most other papers were to shut down today I wouldn’t miss them as much as I would have twenty years ago.
So what to do? For starters the Star and other papers need get ads that people are actually interested in. I remember this one VERY annoying pop-up ad on the Sun Media papers websites for bridal dresses. It was totally irrelevant for me as I’m both male, very happily married and with no children. There have been other ads that were totally irrelevant to me on various newspaper sites, including the Star’s. What’s one thing that all of us need on a daily basis? FOOD! So where are the grocery store ads? I’ve yet to see one on any newspaper site. Put them on and I promise I will look at them at least once a week. The same thing for ads for other things that it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out what people might be interested in, like hardware and clothing stores.
Another thing, why, if I want to subscribe to several newspapers, do I have to go to the Toronto Star’s website and subscribe to the paper and then go to the Globe & Mail, New York Times, St. Catharines Standard and any other paper I may wish to subscribe to instead of going to just one website? It shouldn’t that hard to do. Heck I can go to a cable company and I can at least buy package deals on t.v. stations. Metrolinx has been creating one fare card for use across the GTA.
And why can’t there be two versions of a paper and several levels of access instead of just two? One version would be the full subscriber version. The other would be the free version with all the things that remain free with synopsis of non-free articles, like the investigative series the Star did on Marineland. From the shorter version of the article have a link to the full version, which would count towards the 10 or whatever free articles per month or require a subscription to. Right now my choices are 10 free articles a month or a full subscription. Why not another level that allows me to buy say 25 or 30 articles a month? For some people that might be all they need. It shouldn’t be that difficult to do this.
And please don’t do what the St. Catharines Standard did, which turned me off the paper. I quit subscribing to the physical paper as the price of the subscription kept going up and I didn’t think I was getting good value. I considered subscribing digitally, but when I investigated it found that I had to go through an American company and pay in American dollars or the Canadian equivalent. That has totally turned me off the paper.
I find it ironic that newspapers were among the first to embrace the Internet and yet are still having problems in learning how to deal with it. They remind of Kodak, who invented the digital camera and yet went bankrupt as they weren’t able to figure out what to do with it. It’s a shame because I VERY strongly that we still need newspapers, but not in their current form.
My advice to the Star, Standard and other newspapers, if you’re listening, which I doubt it, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER, if not and you are determined to commit suicide then please do, but do it quickly and get it over with. This slow death is like watching someone kill themselves by smoking.