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The Globe and Mail

Q&A: Metro publications look to tap new markets

Metro newspaper boxes photographed at the Oakville GoTrain Station in Oakville, Ont.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Six Canadian cities will have something new to read next month, as Torstar Corp. rolls out new editions of its Metro commuter paper.

Saskatoon and Regina will be the only communities with a physical paper printed each day, while online-only offerings will be made available in Hamilton, Kitchener, Windsor, Ont. and Victoria. The papers are targeted at "youthful, active metropolitans aged 18-49."

The papers launch April 2. Media reporter Steve Ladurantaye spoke to Bill McDonald, president of Metro English Canada, who said if the digital papers work out the company would like to roll the model out in other Canadian cities.

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Why Saskatchewan?

We're focused there for two primary reasons – if you look at economic growth patterns they are doing very well relative to many other provinces. And particularly their focus on attracting young Canadians to move there with opportunities for great jobs and relatively low cost of living – that's appealing for us because we target a younger demo.

You'll do 20,000 a day per market?

Every weekday. Those will be the lowest circulation of any of our editions in Canada.

Is that because the cities lack a public transit culture?

Our single greater success story in terms of penetration is Halifax, and there's no train there. We have 20-per-cent market penetration on a read-yesterday basis in that city. It's about going to where the people are, and there they are on buses. We also go where they work. And in Saskatchewan, both cities have fairly strong, though small, downtown cores.

Will you need to hire journalists and support staff?

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We'll be hiring about 12-14 people in each of those cities in Saskatchewan and staffing up in head office in Toronto where we provide shared services – copy editing, marketing, national sales.

Why do digital editions?

We will have reporter on the ground in each city, but that will be it. We can manage everything else out of the central office in Toronto. Our intent is to try a different model, go digital only with a local news package along with everything else like national news, world news and entertainment. We'll test the water with the concept, but our feeling is long-term we can only go to a certain number of cities with a full portfolio of products. But maybe we're able to go to additional markets beyond those core markets for digital-only products. It's a model that's meant to grow.

Have you considered taking any of your existing papers to digital only?

No plans for that today, things are going very well in our other print cities. All doing extremely well. I don't see any pullback in any of those markets.

You don't actually publish financial information, right?

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No, you can find some references in Torstar reports but we are a privately held company. We've been doing well through last couple of months – marketers are very supportive across several categories, they look at our demographic profile differently than they do with other papers. Done well in telecommunications, in financial and education categories.

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