March 2, 2016 1:41pm
It seems tablets may not be the future of mainstream news.
Torstar Corp., the parent company of the Toronto Star, recorded a net loss of almost $235 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, largely due to write-downs of its assets as the company shifts from a print to a digital-focused publication.
In an effort to offset its continued losses, the company has invested heavily in its StarTouch tablet edition, a new digital-only tablet publication the media company launched last year. While Torstar said it plans to continue investing in digital during a recent investor’s call, the publication’s digital initiatives have reportedly seen slower than expected growth.
“We’re in the midst of a meaningful transition at Torstar,” said Torstar President and Chief Executive Officer David Holland during a recent analyst conference call. “We did not expect this transition to be easy.”
During the call, StarTouch also revealed stats directly related to StarTouch reader metrics. The Toronto Star’s tablet edition reaches 65,000 tablets weekly and only 26,000 tablets daily, with 50,000 daily app sessions. In total the app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times. Furthermore, the average reader uses the app three times a week and spends 22 minutes using StarTouch.
Torstar invested $14 million in its tablet app in 2015 after licensing the technology from French-language daily publication La Presse. The Star reportedly expects to spend an additional 10 million in 2016 in an effort to continue expanding its tablet audience.
In mid January, the company laid off 10 employees from its StarTouch edition.
Torstar isn’t the first mainstream news organization to peg its future on tablets. Postmedia, the parent company that owns the National Post, Toronto Sun, and most major newspapers in Canada, recently scrapped its short-lived evening tablet editions of the Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette after the digital-only publications failed to gain the traction it hoped they would.
With tablet sales in Canada, as well as North America in general, experiencing a stark decline, the Toronto Star’s continued focus on the company’s struggling tablet edition has been questioned by many Canadian media industry observers.