Gay biweekly newspaper Xtra is going online-only, with its publisher announcing plans to stop producing print copies next month.
Pink Triangle Press, which bills itself as "Canada's leading gay and lesbian publisher," announced it will go all digital on Wednesday after an eight-month strategic review. Twelve full-time employees from publishing and administration will be let go as a result.
The final paper issues of Xtra Vancouver and Xtra Ottawa will hit newstands on Feb. 12, with the last print edition of Xtra Toronto appearing a week later – on the paper's 31st anniversary.
The publisher explained the move as an effort to concentrate on its online journalism, pouring resources into DailyXtra.com and Squirt.com, a gay adult dating site. It is also a gambit to become more financially sustainable. But it follows a trying year for free newspapers as advertising revenue faltered in 2014, Toronto news magazine The Grid folded and Torstar Corp. ditched the print editions of the free Metro dailies in London, Regina and Saskatoon, then shuttered them entirely.
"Certainly we've had problems with advertising revenue in the last few years, and it was clear to us it wasn't going to get any better," said Ken Popert, executive director and president of Pink Triangle, in an interview.
But he noted that with circulation of about 71,000 copies across the three cities, print advertising accounted for just 10 per cent of revenue in the last year. The costs of printing and circulation exceeded those revenues, and had become "an intolerable drain on our resources," so the company is "going to where most of our audience is moving," he said.
The company is also launching a "Social Sponsorship program" that aims to match volunteers with civic organizations, and perhaps even generate some revenue for Pink Triangle, to be tested first in Toronto.
Pink Triangle Press was founded in 1971 and launched Xtra Toronto in 1984, expanding the newspaper to Ottawa and Vancouver in 1993. But in early 2013, it shuttered another of its publications, the biweekly Fab, after 19 years in print.
"We have a good track record of online engagement through Daily Xtra and other channels like YouTube," David Walberg, Pink Triangle's CEO of digital media, said in a statement.