Torstar Corp. is closing its Metro digital publications in seven Canadian cities, abandoning all of the free news site's digital-only markets.
The decision, announced on Wednesday, will shutter Metro websites in Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Regina, Saskatoon, Victoria and Windsor.
Three staff members – one each from London, Regina and Saskatoon – will be let go as a result. And the move comes little more than four months after Torstar stopped producing print editions in those three cities. The other four Metro markets closing had no local staff, and relied on content produced from Toronto. Metro newspapers producing print editions in several other cities, such as Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, are not affected.
"We experimented with digital-only publications in this market, and we've concluded that based on the results, that a digital-only business model is not viable in those markets," said Bob Hepburn, director of communications for the Toronto Star, in an interview.
In July, Torstar restructured management at its Star Media Group, which operates the Toronto Star and free daily Metro papers. The role of president and publisher for Metro English Canada, then held by Bill McDonald, was eliminated as part of the shuffle, which created separate chief operating officers for print and digital.
At the time, Star Media Group president John Cruickshank told The Globe and Mail it was "a possibility" that more of its print products could become digital-only in future.
Torstar also closed The Grid, a weekly news magazine, after three years in business in early July, citing inadequate advertising revenue to make it viable.
In the most recent quarter, Star Media Group revenues fell 10.8 per cent, compared with a year earlier, though digital revenues rose 5.1 per cent year-over-year.