Layoffs hit Toronto Star’s tablet news division after poor reader growth

Patrick O'Rourke

January 15, 2016 3:33pm

Thirteen Toronto Star employees, many of them part of the company’s recently launched tablet edition, have been laid off today, according to a report from Canadaland.

Michael Cooke, The Star’s editor-in-chief, reportedly sent out a memo early today stating that ten Star Touch tablet team members and three digital employees have been cut from the Toronto publication’s staff. The Star also revealed today that the paper has plans to close its 3.2-hectare printing centre in Vaughan.

With print circulation in decline, last September The Star made a major investment in a new tablet edition called Star Touch, powered by technology developed by French-language publication La Presse. According to recently release stats, Star Touch hasn’t matched the impressive circulation statistics – 520,000 weekly readers – La Presse has reached, which encouraged the publication to scrap its weekday print edition at the start of 2016.

The Star claimed in mid-November that Star Touch has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in its first two months, but has yet to release weekly reader numbers. The publication has the goal of attracting 180,000 daily tablet readers by the end of 2016 and has launched an aggressive marketing campaign that advertises the tablet publication on bus shelters, billboards and in banner ads. Torstar, the Star’s parent company, has even opted to sponsor unconventional events like the upcoming 2016 Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo (eglx), likely in an effort to attract a different audience to its burgeoning platform.

In the face of rapidly declining print revenue and circulation, tablet editions are often seen as the traditional news industry’s saviour, despite the fact that worldwide tablet sales continue to decline. The world’s major tablet makers, which includes Apple, Samsung and Lenovo, shipped 48.7 million units in Q3 2015, a 12.6 percent decrease over the same period last year.

The Star also has plans to outsource its customer service and administration work, which will affect an additional 15 staff members.

Postmedia, the company that owns the National Post, Toronto Sun, and a variety of other Canadian newspapers, recently scrapped its short-lived evening tablet editions of the Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette after the digital publications failed to gain the traction the company hoped they would.

Yesterday, Postmedia posted a $4.2 million loss in 2015, a number bolstered by the company’s acquisition of Quebecor’s Sun Media newspaper chain. The company aims to cut an additional $80-million in operational expenditures by the end of 2017.

Star Touch is available for free on both iOS and Android.

  • Frederick The Great

    The reason that the Star hasn’t done well is because generally its a lousy left wing rag that is devoid of any compelling news stories or editorials worth reading. I wouldn’t be the least surprised the entire works goes teats up within the next couple years and few will shed tears except for the lunatic fringe who count on this as an organ for their propaganda.

    • cartfan88

      Heather Mallick is employed by that rag. The bile she spews is worse than garbage. It’s pathetic.

      I hope the Star keeps blowing it’s cash on advertising this junk. Hopefully the whole entity can just fold and then I don’t have to see their complimentary hard copies at McD’s or wherever stoops low enough to accept it.

    • cartfan88

      The stock is $2.60…maybe it goes up in smoke sooner. The employees have all got applications in at the CBC.

  • Crossed

    The Star: we only care about tragedies that effect Europe and North America.
    Tragedies caused by Europe and North America elsewhere: We don’t care.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      The bombing in Jakarta is just as bad as the one in Paris yet little or no news coverage about it.

    • Sighmonsez

      There was more coverage on the death of a French police dog than kidnapping/death of African students. #jesuischien or some bs.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      Its all about readership. LOL

  • yadeed

    what can I say, I never used it. The same for the globe and Mail, and do not start me with anything owned by union-buster par excellence and leader of the Parti Québécois Pierre Karl Péladeau.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      No offense but I am sure you never used these kind of devices since you are stuck in 1950. Didn’t you tell people to stop playing with their devices and go out then make some friends outside?

    • yadeed

      like I said to you previously my dear 12 y/o genius. If I do not need like you netflix, cable, TV ; it will follow much less this. Do I have to teach you everything ? Do I have to repeat myself to you and all the little brat feeling threaten every time you get exposed to a different opinion. Does the world revolve only around your vulgar childish consumerism ueber alles?.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      LOL…Whatever.. talk to yourself. I don’t need advice from a 90 year-old man.

      Why don’t you go out and spend time with the seniors. Save your ranting to them..

    • yadeed

      really boyo? and here you are commenting.. oh boyo, you made my day: El Capitan Morgan… really boyo how old are you …11 y/o? please go to bed is dark and do not forget to wash your dirty a*s.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      Look at the trolling old man. I guess now I understand why everyone here hates when you talk… You’re the one who tell people to stay away from the internet.

      Is this how you teach young people to talk? Look at yourself.. trash talking now. How do you expect people to listen to your rant.

      I’ll just be laughing at you!!!! a 90 year old man talks like 10 year old boy.

    • cartfan88

      yadeed would actually make a perfect Toronto Star reader…

    • TechGuru

      Phucking guy probably does

    • Mike Scott

      how about both of you pull up your big boy pants and go to a pub and settle it there.. arguing on the internet is lame.

    • El Capitan Morgan

      Hi Mike.. I don’t like starting fist fights especially to old people. I will still give my respect to yadeed even he gives lame advises.

    • TechGuru

      Boyo? LOL. What are you some Irish Muslim? YaDUMMIE

    • TechGuru

      Boyo? What are you some Irish Yid? LOL. Yadummie

    • TechGuru

      You sound like someone who can’t afford a tablet, phone or computer if any kind. You are likely posting from a library internet terminal and are quite bitter. Never seen someone so anti-tech posting in a tech forum. lol.

  • awhite2600

    I tried the Star Touch app when it was first released. I think I deleted it within 24 hours. I just didn’t like the way the stories were presented. It was hard to find something that I wanted to read. Once I did open an article there was a lot of scrolling, page flipping and big pictures. It’s much easier to read news on a newspaper’s website.

  • Patrick Rochon

    “the fact that worldwide tablet sales continue to decline” : because mostly every family has already one ! Those stats does not mean that tablets are less popular…

    • cartfan88

      Bingo. That tablet sales have fallen is completely irrelevant to the story as tablets are still showing up in more households on a year over year basis. It has more to do with the drivel contained in the Star and once people get a taste they delete the app.

    • Creaulx

      Amazing that these so-called “news” sources couldn’t put that together. The market is more or less saturated, and tablet sales are being cannibalized by the proliferation of larger phones. Also, name a compelling, affordable tablet… My son’s three year old Nexus 7 comes close, but I still use my Playbook the odd time I even pick one up. iPad mini is nice, but using IOS is enough to put me off. Yes, I know, old man yells at cloud…

    • TechGuru

      Playbook?? ROTFL. Where you get that? The bargain bin at Staples?

  • vn33

    Abandoned the Toronto Star a long, long time ago. In the Rob Ford years, they were more interested in waging a front-page war with RF than publishing news. They lost interested in bringing worthwhile news to the readers but moreso in pushing their own (left-wing) views

    • TechGuru

      Yeah true but Ford is a scumbag and if there is one good thing they did it’s helping chase that slob from office.

    • vn33

      I for one, am glad RF no longer represents Canada’s biggest city. However, TBH, I was getting tired of reading about The Star-RF feud and not much else “news”. Didn’t think RF need any help to be booted off, he was quite capable to do that on his own … lol!

    • TechGuru

      Meh…not sure. The media gave that buffoon a major pass when he ran in 2010 even though he had serious issues that nobody seemed inclined to report about but almost everyone knew about.
      When he finally became Mayor the problems seemed to become more pronounced and more prolific because of the nature of that job and so the Star certainly took the right approach in reporting about the crack smoking and forcing the issue. I feel that if they hadn’t stuck their neck out that clown could still be in office today, or worse his scumbag brother. That election was a close call that Tory could’ve easily lost because enough fools out there think these brothers are a couple of monks looking out for their interests.

  • deltatux

    Problem is what others have said, it just simply isn’t intuitive. What makes them more special than their mobile website or another competitor like CBC News which has a fantastic mobile app.

    Star Touch is too cluttered, it needs to be simple and able to convey the information in a quick and easy manner.

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