The $40-million tablet app, which the industry was baffled to see La Presse make available for free, now accounts for nearly 30 per cent of total ad revenue at the newspaper. 

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

When La Presse launched its app for free after a $40-million investment, industry insiders were baffled. As newspapers move toward digital subscriptions, paywalls and other revenue streams, here was La Presse giving away content for free.

Media blogger Steve Faguy said “the numbers just don’t make sense,” and at a recent Canadian Journalism Foundation event, the publishers of The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star echoed the same sentiments. But a year later, La Presse said its gamble paid off. La Presse+ now accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all ad revenue for the newspaper.

The app has been installed 450,000 times on iPads and more than 58 per cent of its readers are in the 25-to-54 age range, according to a press release. The Montreal company said readers spend on average 44 minutes with the app on weekdays, 73 minutes on Saturdays and 50 minutes on Sundays.

“These remarkable successes are a good illustration of the enthusiasm of readers, advertisers and industry players for this innovative digital edition,” said Guy Crevier, president and publisher of La Presse. “They also show how La Presse+ has rapidly stood out as a medium of the future, one that is accessible and adapted to the current needs of news consumers.”

La Presse will unveil an Android version of the app on April 23.

It declined an interview request with J-Source and would not reveal how much of its $40-million investment has been recovered.

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.