Torstar records net loss of $235 million, reveals StarTouch reaches 26,000 tablets daily

Patrick O'Rourke

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.

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

  • deltatux

    Problem also is that their tablet app sucked, the design is too busy, it’s not a simple way to read news. I still prefer links and then a small description underneath, only opening articles if I find them interesting. How the Toronto Star does it for their Star Touch is like a magazine and I think a lot of people are like me, they want to find the things that interest them, not read the entire magazine if we don’t have to.

    • Harold Mitchell

      Or perhaps it’s simply readers are finally fed up with their ongoing bias and one sided reporting of events.

    • Patrick Cuyegkeng

      Isn’t that ALL news on every new site? Bias is a natural part of writing unless you are stating only purely factual information (and even then, you can omit or highlight facts that appeal to the author).

    • Harold Mitchell

      Agree somewhat, but editorial commentary is where the bias should be shown, not on stories purporting to REPORT news.

    • Can’t Fix Stupid

      No, their writing is childish and offensive. Heather Mallick? Anyone that employs her deserves to circle the drain.

    • Harold Mitchell


    • awhite2600

      Very well said. I tried the Star Touch app when it first launched. I think I deleted the app the next day. I just didn’t like the layout of the news. Too many big pictures and too much browsing around to find the few articles that I wanted to read.

    • Personally, I love the app, as well as the unique interactives The Star has been creating in the app, I just don’t think tablets are the future of news.

  • oborune

    Why cant I get this on my phone? why does it have to be tablet?

    • Mr Dog

      Exactly, why don’t they create a nice app for the phones?

      There app as of now is average.

  • mola2alex

    My app has almost the same numbers lol.

  • Can’t Fix Stupid

    The sooner this “news” organization goes bankrupt the better. Then I don’t have to see the free copies littered everywhere.

    Hinging their future on something that only hits 26,000 tablets daily? Go for it, sounds like a great plan.

  • I installed StarTouch after hearing their ads on Indie88, and discovered that the app is by far the least efficient way of consuming the written content. It forces landscape view, squeezing text into a narrow column, and navigating the interface and articles—and one really has to question why individual articles need navigating!—was completely unintuitive. I don’t want to think about how to interact with an article, I just want to read the damned thing! The New York Times has a great interface that is article-centric and awesome.