The newspaper has partnered with Montreal’s La Presse to develop a new tablet edition of the Toronto Star.

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

The Toronto Star anticipates it will eliminate its digital paywall in 2015—just two years after it launched.

The decision to eliminate the paywall stems from a new partnership with Montreal-based La Presse to develop the Star’s tablet edition. The Star will launch its tablet edition in fall 2015, which will be based on the same technology used by La Presse, which currently offers its tablet edition for free.

Publisher John Cruickshank said in an analyst call on Wednesday that the decision to remove the paywall wasn’t based on a revenue problem. Rather, it was an understanding that print and digital audiences are discrete and there wasn’t much crossover between the two, which meant the company has to treat the two products as separate businesses.

“This is another important step forward for our industry,” said Cruickshank. “The new tablet edition will be a key element of our multi-platform evolution. We are encouraged and impressed by the reception of La Presse+, which has attracted a highly engaged younger audience.”

The partnership will allow both companies to offer joint marketing opportunities to national advertisers who want to tap into French and English readers, the Star said in a press release.

Industry insiders were baffled when La Presse launched its tablet edition, La Presse+, for free in 2013 after a $40-million investment. As newspapers moved towards new ways to get subscribers to pay for digital content, La Presse did the opposite by giving away it for free. The “numbers just don’t make sense,” said media watcher Steve Faguy at the time and the publishers of the Star and The Globe and Mail echoed the same sentiments at a recent CJF talk. But one year later, La Presse said its strategy has paid off, citing that La Presse+ accounts for 30 per cent of all the ad revenue for the newspaper.

“We are excited and proud to share the La Presse+ tablet technology with the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper,” said Guy Crevier, president and publisher of La Presse. “Together, we are leading the digital transformation of news media.”

Cruickshank said Torstar, the newspaper’s parent company, expects to spend $1 million to $2 million in the fourth quarter on tablet development and an additional $10 million to $12 million in 2015. He added the Star will leverage some of La Presse’s services and technology, but other elements of the development will be moved in-house.

Torstar releases third-quarter results

By The Canadian Press

Torstar Corp. reported a third-quarter profit of $125.3-million as the sale of its Harlequin romance book business boosted its bottom line.

The newspaper publisher said Wednesday the profit amounted to $1.56 per diluted share for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with a loss of $70.9-million or 89 cents per diluted share a year ago.

However, excluding the sale of Harlequin, the company reported a net loss from continuing operations of $87.0-million or $1.08 per share in the third quarter compared with a loss of $80.2-million or $1.01 per share in the same quarter last year.

Operating revenue slipped to $199.9-million from $215.7-million in the third quarter of last year.

Torstar sold Harlequin to global media company News Corp. for $455-million.

“We were pleased to complete the sale of Harlequin in the third quarter and all outstanding debt was retired using a portion of the sale proceeds,” Torstar president and chief executive David Holland said in a statement.

“Looking forward, for the balance of the year, we expect continued challenges in print advertising revenues combined with relative stability in multi-platform subscriber revenues and flyer distribution revenues.”