The owner of Quebec’s main flyer distributor announced on Friday it will end the 45-year-old service, forcing more than 50 beleaguered local newspapers to rethink their strategy as well.
Starting in May, the Montreal-based packaging and printing company TC Transcontinental TCL-A-T plans to scrap the flyer bundles, known in Quebec as Publisac — distributed to 2.5 million households outside the city as part of a shift to a thin leaflet delivered by Canada Post.
Weekly newspapers across the province have depended on the door-to-door Publisac service to bring local news to Quebecers’ doorsteps, packaged in a plastic bag alongside grocery store flyers.
Renel Bouchard, president of Icimédias, which owns more than 20 print and online papers across the province, says he now aims to overhaul the company’s distribution plan by delivering editions to select drop-off points — such as local businesses and nursing homes — rather than houses.
Nonetheless, Bouchard remained upbeat.
“According to our figures, 60 to 65 per cent of copies delivered to homes are actually read, whereas at a drop-off point almost 100 per cent of copies will be taken by people who want to read them,” he said in a release.
Some weeklies in the U.S. have also found success with the drop-off point model, he added, citing an unnamed paper in Burlington, Vt. with a circulation of 30,000.
Publisac suffered a major blow earlier this year after Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said flyers would be delivered only to residents who request them, marking a win for environmentalists and prompting criticism from TC Transcontinental.
The move also became the last straw for Métro Média, which declared bankruptcy in September, permanently ending hyperlocal coverage by its more than 30 publications in the province’s two largest cities.
TC Transcontinental said its new leaflet, dubbed Raddar and already in circulation to one million households in the Montreal area, will greatly reduce the volume of paper used and include a digital version.
“At the same time, we regret the impact of the end of Publisac on several weekly newspapers as well as on our distribution partners” — the company has 140 — said Patrick Brayley, a vice-president at TC Transcontinental, in a release.
“Given recent and expected regulatory changes for distribution and their operational and financial impacts, the Publisac model had to evolve.”
In Quebec, Raddar will be rolled out between February and May.
Starting next week in Ontario, the leaflets will land outside one million doors in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area formerly served by community newspaper publisher Metroland Media Group.
In September, Metroland — unrelated to Métro Média — announced it would seek bankruptcy protection and shift to an online-only model as one of the country’s largest media conglomerates shut down community news titles. The move meant nearly 70 local papers were lost in Ontario and more than 600 employees lost their jobs.
TC Transcontinental said the Raddar pamphlets will also reach more than 300,000 households in the Vancouver area, where Glacier Media, a large Western Canadian community newspaper publisher, has shuttered news outlets, on top of closures in some other parts of British Columbia.