It is a clear salvo in The Globe and Mail’s long-running tussle with Toronto’s two other daily broadsheets, The National Post and The Toronto Star.
On Oct. 1, The Globe and Mail, historically associated with the color gray, became the first major daily newspaper in Canada to print high-quality color on every page, many of which now use glossy, magazine-style paper rather than newsprint. The paper has also introduced a slightly smaller size, a redesign and an approach to news suddenly characterized by a willingness to ignore it.
“We have thrown down this gauntlet and said this is where we think the future of newspapers is,” said Phillip Crawley, the publisher and chief executive of The Globe and Mail. “This is, to me, the equivalent of our iPad.”
Mr. Crawley made his challenge at a pivotal time in the Toronto newspaper market. The Globe and Mail, which had been part of a privately held broadcasting conglomerate, is about to be returned to the full control of the Thomson family of Toronto, whose other holdings include Thomson Reuters.
At the same time, a bankruptcy restructuring has put The National Post, which was founded in 1998 and has never been profitable, in a competitive position many thought unlikely. And The Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation and advertising base of any Canadian newspaper, has recently replaced much of its senior management, in many cases with former employees of Conrad M. Black, the founder of The Post, and revamped its Web site and print pages.
(This month, The Star introduced a new weekly section of stories from The New York Times and a reduced version of The Times Book Review. The Globe and Mail’s distribution branch delivers the Sunday issue of The Times to homes in the Toronto area and other cities in Canada.)
The continuation of any kind of a newspaper war in Toronto in part reflects the fact that papers here have escaped the free fall of many of their counterparts in the United States.
John Cruickshank, who became The Star’s publisher two years ago, knows the contrast well. From 2003 to 2007 he held the same position at The Chicago Sun-Times, when Mr. Black controlled it.
“The Canadian newspaper market hasn’t been as overwhelmed by digital competitors as the U.S. market,” said Mr. Cruickshank, whose résumé includes time as a reporter and a managing editor at The Globe and Mail. “That may happen. But there’s still a much higher reliance on the national papers and metro papers in Canada. It’s almost cultural.”
That aside, Mr. Cruickshank said he was skeptical about his former employer’s renewed enthusiasm for paper and ink, even color ink.
“That doesn’t seem to be a big win for the future,” Mr. Cruickshank said. “I certainly wouldn’t be tying up an immense amount of capital in improving print quality.”
By some measures, The Globe and Mail has long been ahead of its competitors in digital publishing. It charges subscription fees for some online content and was early to embrace mobile applications. While The Globe and Mail and The Star offer iPhone applications, The National Post’s first version is still pending and its iPad app is farther in the future.
Mr. Crawley said that he had begun reconsidering print slightly more than three years ago, when executives from Transcontinental, which was then operating three of The Globe and Mail’s six printing operations across Canada, told him about a new line of German-made printing presses that promised much sharper color reproduction. They were also fast enough to allow color to appear on every page while printing on a mixture of glossy paper and conventional newsprint. (Best of all, for some, the inks would not rub off on readers’ fingers.)
To Mr. Crawley, the technology — acquired through an 18-year, $1.7 billion contract — was a way to lure new advertisers like cosmetics and fragrance makers. Some of the paper’s important advertising — particularly the expensive career ads in its substantial business section — has moved to the Web. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, The Globe sells an average of 299,929 copies Monday though Friday, and 369,450 newspapers on Saturday. Like The Post, it does not publish on Sunday.
The task of what to do with all that color and shiny paper was left to John Stackhouse, an author, reporter and editor at the paper who was named editor in chief last year after the abrupt dismissal of his predecessor, Edward B. Greenspon.
Mr. Stackhouse’s approach often treats articles in one of two quite different ways.
News articles, if they are not simply left to the Web site, are frequently displayed as a collection of fact boxes sometimes accompanied by a brief introduction.
But, throughout the paper, feature-length articles appear, including some that fill two ad-free pages each day. Many of the paper’s long pieces lack an immediate time element but are intended to touch off public debate.
Mixed in, sometimes uncomfortably, are celebrity lifestyle articles that rarely would have been in the paper’s news pages in the past.
“I think you can produce the sexiest looking newspaper on the planet and still be the most serious newspaper in the country,” Mr. Stackhouse said.
The advertising industry seems happy with the change. The revised paper contained more advertising than normal recently, and Sunni Boot, the president and chief executive of ZenithOptimedia Canada, an advertising buying agency, said that she had clients who were now considering newspaper advertising because of The Globe and Mail.
“They set a new high-water mark for newspapers,” she said.
Gauging reader reaction after the first week was more difficult. Mr. Stackhouse said that it was “overwhelmingly positive.” His competitors, unsurprisingly, were less certain.
“There’s a lot more ‘bitsiness’ to it, and I don’t think that’s a good idea for them,” Mr. Cruickshank said, referring the presentation of many news articles in The Globe and Mail. “Their role has always been as a serious readers’ newspaper.”
The Star, he added, will continue to focus on expanding niche Web offerings in a bid to lure readers who do not buy any newspaper.
At The National Post, Douglas Kelly, the publisher and former editor in chief, has the opposite complaint. In his view, the new Globe and Mail is not bold or different enough.
“At best, I think it was tinkering,” said Mr. Kelly, whose newspaper, like The Globe and Mail, is printed and distributed in several parts of Canada.
The Post, after initially spending freely, has had years of cuts because of financial and ownership instability and is left with just 140 people in its newsroom compared with about 345 at The Globe and Mail. What The Post lacks in reporting resources it makes up for by regularly taking on what Mr. Kelly calls “hot button issues” like abortion, euthanasia and religion, while emphasizing opinion writing.
Mr. Kelly is forecasting profitability this fiscal year, which began last month. Mr. Crawley acknowledged at least one misstep at the new Globe and Mail.
“The largest single complaint we’ve had is about the size of the Sudoku puzzle,” he said. “If that’s the worst, I can live with that.”
Globe and Mail Fights Press War With Old WeaponsIn Canada on November 10, 2010 at 12:05