Sun and Province president publishes appeal to readers
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 10:13PM PDT
The president of Vancouver’s two major daily newspapers published an appeal for support from readers Wednesday, as their parent company revealed a third-quarter loss of $112 million.
In a letter printed on the seventh page of the Sun, Pacific Newspaper Group president Gordon Fisher revealed that declining ad revenue was forcing the paper to hike monthly pre-tax delivery rates to $27.
“It is still great value. For less than $1.10 per day – less than the cost of your morning coffee – we will deliver to your door every morning a complete newspaper, the result of the effort of a large number of editorial, production and other staff,” Fisher wrote.
“There was a time when the price of a cup of coffee and a newspaper were about the same.”
The move coincides with a new strategy to offer platform-specific content through the paper’s website, ePaper, smartphone app and tablet app.
Fisher is banking on the approach to keep the two papers afloat, but news of parent company Postmedia Network Inc.’s losses – $100 million worse than the same quarter last year – has some longtime readers worried they could soon be reading either the Sun or Province’s obituary.
Journalism instructor Ross Howard said apart from dwindling ad revenue, the papers are suffering from a shortage of staff to deliver quality reporting.
“That’s the crisis now: they can’t do content because they’re so short on staff,” Howard said. “There’s tragically little really original, important, local content.”
Last month, the Sun and Province saw a further reduction of 100 employees through voluntary retirements, totaling 17 per cent of overall staff, and Howard pointed to a trend of running numerous stories in Vancouver that were produced and distributed out of a Postmedia hub in Ontario.
He believes the erosion in revenue is so severe the company that owns the two papers is poised to eliminate one, so long as it can find a way around the competition rules that require both papers to operate.
“The people who own them are principally interested in making money, and they’re not making money now,” Howard said. “They’re in desperate straits. I mean, they’re losing $5-$10 million a month.”
But he believes there could be a future for both papers, should one of them be picked up by another company.
Fisher, a 68-year-old who’s been in newspapers since he left high school, told CTV News the company is working to control costs, and he has faith in the new web strategy – taking most of the paper out of the newspaper business.
“The only reason I’m still working is that I actually see a future,” he said.
“Since the day I arrived and since, I’ve had a number of people tell me that the intent is to shut down one of these newspapers. That is not the intent. The intent is to work as hard as we can to keep them both alive.”
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Rob Brown