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Torstar targets bigger digital presence Add to ...

The publisher of Canada's largest-circulation daily newspaper has decided to invest more heavily in its digital properties as it tries to capitalize on an improving advertising market.

Torstar Corp. , which publishes the Toronto Star and the Metroland group of free dailies and owns the Harlequin book publishing business, said on Wednesday that earnings in the third quarter were helped by strength in the newspaper and digital divisions.

The company reported net income of $4.1-million, or five cents a share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with year-ago quarterly earnings of $4-million or five cents per share.

The company is now planning to expand its digital presence, chief executive officer David Holland told analysts on a conference call.

In October, Torstar launched a new personal finance website, Moneyville.ca, which includes business articles from the Toronto Star's website, financial calculators, and other columns and investment tips. Star publisher John Cruickshank told analysts the website is "an example of the kind of things that we will be doing lots of in the days ahead, identifying where we have a unique reach with large audiences."

Moneyville is the latest in a series of the media company's websites targeted to audiences on a specific topic. Others include sites dedicated to parenting, health and home ownership.

"I think you do appreciate what a competitive space this is," Mr. Holland said. "We don't want to be too specific about what we're doing or not doing, but we are making some investments in some areas where we think there's new revenue streams that are available to us."

Company revenue for the quarter totalled $352.7-million, up 2.6 per cent from $343.7-million last year.

However, Mr. Holland cautioned that profits in the fourth quarter could be weak. While advertising revenues strengthened during the summer, he said "Main Street advertisers" are still struggling more than national advertisers.

And while the Harlequin publishing business has been strong so far this year, slow economic recovery south of the border and concerns about consumer spending led the company to caution that its U.S. retail performance may weaken in the next few months.

"I think we're just a little cautious about with the economy is going to mean in the latter quarter of this year," Mr. Holland said.

 

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