Torstar hit yet another 52-week low Friday, down 38% from its one-year high and more than 50% off its all-time high, reached in 2004.
So, what's wrong with Canada's largest newspaper company?
I bet they blame the Internet again.
I am still marvelling at the Ottawa Citizen, which killed off its lame-o Sunday feature section to run TV listings. Yes, TV listings are cheap. But TV Guide went out of business last year for a good reason: anyone with cable or satellite has easy access to TV listings on their TV. Anyone so impecunious that they don't have cable or satellite is unlikely to pay a buck for a paper. If the Citizen wanted to fill the pages with useful copy, maybe they should have published hundreds of sudoku puzzles. More people would have bought the paper.
Yes, the Citizen's Sunday features were boring. Multi-page series on the great pilgrimage routes of Spain, self-congratulatory crap written by boomers who never left the office, eyesplitter columns. Even the body language in Citizen column pictures -- bland-looking, badly-dressed boomers with their hands aggressively placed on their hips or slovenly slipped into their pockets -- is off-putting.
Like I said earlier this week, the Internet is the best thing to happen to stupid media managers. It gives them an easy out. But here's my question: why are magazines doing so well? And book publishers are still doing relatively well, considering they, at least in this country, nearly priced their products out of the hands of the middle-class.
You ask anyone from a 13-year-old to a 90-year-old what's wrong with newspapers and you get the same answer: there's nothing in them.
What that means is there's nothing that they care about.
But are newspapers addressing that issue?
What happened to local journalism? Where are the journalists who are willing to take on power and influence? Where are the publishers who give a damn about informing the public?
They're few and far between.
And the numbers reflect that.
Here's my tip to the Aspers and TorStar: fire any editor who wants to run celebrity news, wine columns, stories about menopause, anything about Kingsley Amis, columns about wonderfully wonky kids doing the darndest thing, TV highlights, the Cannes film festival, and cottage decorating. Cut most national political coverage, especially poll-based stories and "who's hot, who's not" dreck. Stick to telling people about new laws. If there are no new laws, policies or taxes of note, maybe there's just nothing going on on the Hill.
Hire people who are eager to leave the office and talk to real people to get real news. Run unfashionable stuff like obits to get older readers back. Get more reporters into the courts and city hall. Cover the surrounding rural area a bit. Tell people ways they can save and make money. Be hyper-local. If you see stuff on the 'net, you don't want it in the paper. Run the stuff that you can't get on the Internet. No one can read about local people, local politics, local issues, and local crime on the Internet. Don't post that kind of material. Make people pay for it.
If people think your web page sucks, great. Make them buy the paper.