The Toronto Star is boasting a solid start to the big bet it placed on a daily tablet edition, saying its Toronto Star Touch app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in its first two months.
The newspaper, which is the flagship daily owned by Torstar Corp., also told staff on Friday that readers are spending about 18 minutes a day on average on the app, which launched on Sept. 15.
Downloads of the app give little hint at how often readers open its editions. But getting onto 100,000-plus tablets marks the first milestone on the way to the newspaper's goal of attracting 180,000 daily readers by the end of 2016. And it gives ownership some early data to show to advertisers whose willingness to buy tablet ads will ultimately determine whether the Star's gamble, which is costing the company up to $25-million this year, will pay off.
"We've gotten out of the gate," John Cruickshank, the Star's publisher, said in an interview. "We're now sort of trending in the way we want."
The Star's tablet edition is based on the design and technology behind La Presse+, a similar product produced by its namesake daily in Montreal. The Star's is updated once daily and free to download, although only for iPads so far. (An Android version is expected before the end of 2015).
La Presse's version, which launched in April of 2013, now boasts 520,000 readers each week, and the edition is opened on an average of 220,000 tablets daily.
The Star won't say yet how many people are opening the app daily or weekly. "It is still early days," Torstar chief executive officer David Holland said on a Nov. 5 conference call.
But Mr. Cruickshank said the Star still has work to do to promote its sleek new digital edition.
"There's still lots and lots of people saying, 'Huh? What is this?' So we're still working with [our ad agency and marketing staff] to try and define further what it is. It's not the newspaper on the tablet. It's something quite different," he said.
Launched as Star Touch, the company has now switched to calling the app Toronto Star Touch in its marketing – a "refinement" after the company found "a certain number of people out there" didn't understand it was a Toronto Star product, Mr. Cruickshank said. "It seemed to us important that that be clear."