Toronto Star Paywall: A Mid-Scandal Report
November 12, 2013 | 4:27 pm
By Joanna Cabot
CTV News has a great write-up detailing the quarterly earnings reported this week by Torstar, parent company of The Toronto Star. The Star erected a paywall this summer, and I was curious to see if their earnings had reflected any changes as a consequence.
The report confirmed what I had already heard anecdotally: website hits were down—by a lot—but print revenue was up a tiny bit. John Cruickshank, the Star’s publisher, did, however, have this caution:
“It’s so early that it really is difficult to give you a response…we’ve looked at models that are like the model that we have adopted, and looked at the experience of those newspapers, and tried to give ourselves some sense of where we want to be after six months. After six months I’ll have a better sense of if we’re tracking there.”
Indeed, these first six months did encompass one very significant outlier—the Rob Ford story, in which the Star was a leader, reportedly paying $5000 for an exclusive copy of the Ford Death Threat video. This was in contravention of their own policy regarding paying for news information, but I suppose in this Wild West age of internet news, anything goes.
Speaking anecdotally, I stopped visiting the Star’s website as soon as the paywall went up, but I still get much of their content because the free commuter newspaper which is given away on the subways every day (and which I read for free via Apple’s Newstand app) uses abbreviated versions of the Star’s content. I do miss some of the columns and features—the Star has always been a consistent source of content for me—but I don’t miss it enough to pay $9.99 a month for it.