Good morning everyone. I think we should begin the meeting now.
This morning we have our first set of witnesses, from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
Welcome. Mr. Koenigsfest and Andy LeBlanc. You have 10 minutes to present, and then we will have a question and answer session.
You're aware of what we're studying and of the questions we're asking. We're looking for input on whether there is access across Canada to local news, to Canadian content, and to regional stories regardless of where you live and regardless of what broadcast medium you're using. We're also asking whether media consolidation has in fact had an impact on this access, and we're looking at whether digital media has an impact on this access, good or bad. Then we're looking at the future of how we can develop legislation, policies, or programs to ensure that Canadians have access to local news, regional stories, local stories, and Canadian content.
Begin, please, sir.
Our awards program for broadcast and now digital journalism was first launched 50 years ago and to this day an RTDNA award is regarded as great recognition for journalism excellence.
Despite concerns about the broadcasting industry and local journalism, our awards program is running stronger than ever. We had more than 700 submissions this year. Dozens of award categories are presented for video, audio, and digital storytelling, first in each of the four regions—so at a local level—and then at a national conference.
In addition to the regional and national awards, the RTDNA also acknowledges outstanding contributions to the industry through the lifetime achievement award and the president's award. Recipients of these awards include Lloyd Robertson, Linden MacIntyre, Vicki Gabereau, Robert Hurst, Henry Champ, Lowell Green, Rex Murphy, Craig Oliver, Dick Smyth, Knowlton Nash, and Jack Webster.
Next month we'll be honouring Peter Mansbridge, Tom Clark, and Lisa LaFlamme at our national convention.
Last year the president's award was given symbolically to the Canadian journalist. The citation stated:
|As an association, we are extremely proud of our Code of Ethics which has been put to the test repeatedly.... The code has been described as the standard for Canadian excellence in [broadcast] and digital journalism.... Our industry has been under extraordinary pressure on the very foundations that support journalistic freedom in our country and our members have not wavered.
To this end, in 2015 RTDNA Canada presented the president's award to Canadian journalists as they have stood firm in protecting not only the code of ethics, but the very essence of journalistic integrity.
Our founders followed the U.S. RTNDA standards and practices, until the Canadian association adopted its own code of ethics in 1970. This code has been modified slightly over the years, but over the past year a considerable rewrite of the code has been created. If the membership accepts the revisions at the national meeting, the new code of journalistic ethics will replace the current code now administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to adjudicate viewer and listener complaints. The CBSC has endorsed the revised code, pending the association's approval.
The proposed revised code reaches out to all practising journalists to use the RTDNA code of journalistic ethics as a guiding principle, along with the standards and practices defined by individual news organizations and independent journalists. The revised code is platform-agnostic. The code has been the standard for broadcasters in this country, and we hope it will also be the differentiator between online sources that do journalism and the pretenders who present information with a bias or deliberately misinform the public.
While we applaud the freedom of expression that exists in this country, we need to ensure that society continues to be informed and enlightened by factual, fair, and balanced storytelling, so the public and lawmakers can make informed decisions.
The existing code covers 14 articles, and the proposed code is divided into five general areas: accuracy, fairness, independence, integrity, and respect. In this code, as with others, the purpose is to always act in the public interest. Accurate, reliable, unbiased, and independently reported facts are what this code is about, and what journalism is about.
Our association could not exist without the tremendous support of the major networks. Their involvement as special partners and participants in our annual national conference and their ongoing commitment to our board and to our awards program are critical to journalism in Canada.
At our national conference this year, we are focusing on “Surviving and Thriving in the Changing Media Landscape”—finding the best way to transition from the successful business, technical, and editorial practices of the past to new strategies of engaging our increasingly fragmented audiences. Our panels will focus on new audience metrics, which we need to pay attention to, explore new tools that assignment desks are using to verify and break news, and outline new revenue models by publishing video and articles directly to social platforms.
Canadian journalists are resolute and adapting to the rapid pace of change, but they still require a steadfast commitment to protecting the integrity and efficacy of the profession by all news managers and by ownership. This partnership, we believe, will allow local journalism to continue to play its vital role in society.
Some of the possibilities that might be considered by the committee include the following.
One, the RTDNA recommends that the CBSC scope expand to include online journalists who commit to abide by our code of journalist ethics. The CBSC could adjudicate formal complaints as they now do for traditional broadcasters. Two, the RTDNA recommends that seed money be made available for truly local news online sites that agree to abide by journalistic standards. Three, the RTDNA in consultation with industry could help to administer a fund that would help maintain the existence of viable local news in communities across the country. Four, the RTDNA supports the call for funding research into how the quality of journalism is being impacted by the concentration of ownership at the local and national levels, and how rapidly changing factors affecting broadcast, print, and online journalism are being played out in communities across Canada.
In conclusion, we ask that the committee also consider a factor that is of crucial importance, that local journalism is an essential component of our Canadian democracy.
Madam Chair and members of the committee, thank you again for this opportunity to present our case to you.
I always thought that your organization was top down and that it really only centred around the news directors. In small and mid markets, everyone was scrambling in February because you have these national awards. To be frank with you, the journalists in the newsrooms were never aware of anything until somebody picked their story to go up for a national award.
I'm going to be very critical here, since the fact is that I've been in a newsroom for 39 years. We were never really associated with your organization as reporters. It was always top down. The news directors went to your meetings. They would never come back and share with us, unless your organization would happen to have its annual meeting in our city that year.
Has that improved? If you don't mind my saying, we never heard from you unless you guys actually had the annual meeting in Saskatoon. Or if I was up for a national award, and they knew in advance that I would win something, I might have had the chance to go to Brandon or Winnipeg, or wherever you were holding your meeting.
I really thought your organization was top down and didn't get the journalists on board. Has this changed in the last three or four years?
Yes, and thank you for your question.
We were in Saskatoon, I believe, in 2006; I think that's the last time we were there. In 2011 when we changed the name of the organization, we also changed the fact that it was not only for news directors, but open to journalists. I would say there has been a significant shift in the operation of the association to make it welcoming to students, for example, and to make it welcoming to reporters. At our last convention, we probably had more working journalists attending our sessions than we had news directors and news managers.
It's a valid criticism, but I would say that the process to change began in 2011, and we continue to make it an open and diverse group. With our new code of ethics, the move now is to push it even further and to include as many people as possible.
I think you have to go there, and I think you guys know that you have to go there. You're going to have to engage some journalists.
In a lot of newsrooms in this country, there is no PD, no professional development. It's just trial and error, and if you screw up, you're into the office the next day. That has to be addressed in this country, because many news directors are so busy pushing paper right now that they can't deal with the day-to-day stuff, and deal with journalists and to improve the product on the air.
You made a point, and you're very correct, that we're still filling massive hours. Every news bureau in this country still has the hours to fill and many of them are exceeding those hours, but the quality is certainly not there, as you pointed out.
I want you to talk about how we are going to get journalists up to speed, because the quality of journalism that I've seen in this country over the last 40 years has deteriorated greatly.
I came from a C market or maybe a B market. When we lose broadcasting in Red Deer, in Kamloops, and all these small markets, I saw the journalists coming into a mid-market or so, and they were struggling.
They used to be able to own their trade in really small markets and then jump to mid-markets. Now there are no small markets. I think that's where I'm coming from. That's maybe where your organization should focus, as I do see the bottom tier in the newsrooms really struggling right now.
They are coming in with little experience. The newsrooms just don't spend enough time on professional development, and they have never in my 40 years of broadcasting spent any time on professional development.
Can you comment on that, because we don't get anything: there is no personal development whatsoever. There is no PD in any newsroom. It is run day to day, 24-7. Nobody is accountable until you screw up.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Clearly, we're into a changing market.
Thank you for being here and sharing an interesting perspective, that of managers of various news services.
I have noticed that the media sector is changing. When your organization was created, the television had just become mainstream. It suddenly became a professional media service, along with print media. As my colleague Ms. Dabrusin pointed out, you are now in competition with members of new media and you are trying to include them in your organization. They have changed things.
The fact that we are receiving less and less information makes it seem as though the news is at risk, as though democracy is at risk. I noticed again this morning while watching TVA, that the same journalist was assigned to cover the story of the fires, the engineers' strike in Montreal, and the arrival of refugees at the Trudeau airport. There are no longer any specialized journalists. They have to be prepared to cover any story at any time. The same thing is happening at the CBC.
It seems as though journalists and new directors are providing information to you directly. Are you also working with international organizations? We know that this is a global problem. The democratization of information is a global phenomenon, particularly with YouTube, which is designed to allow people to see themselves on screen. This calls the entire system into question.
Are you in touch with other organizations similar to yours in countries other than the United States?
When talking about local news and the media, you said something very interesting about social media and local news, that the mainstream is still more dominant, or at least more beneficent towards local news than social media. Yet it seems that what we're seeing more and more often is that social media is media. It's increasingly becoming mainstream, when you look at how young people now acquire their news.
I agree with you on aggregators: they are not the same as those who produce content. That's for sure. But you can understand the challenges that confront this committee as we face a demand from our constituents for local news. They want more local news. They've never had access to more media than they do now, and yet when we look at the state of local news, what they actually get, and the cuts that these organizations have had to succumb to, we're trying to square that circle. I know you know that I know a bit about it, and I'm telling you that despite my years of experience, I don't know. We look to organizations like yours.
I know this stuff probably keeps you up at night. How do we square that circle, given that there is a generational change, given that this is the future and that the future is happening now?
We've had many discussions with so many people about this, starting with the very basic separation that all journalists are part of the media, but social media isn't part of journalism necessarily. If you're practising social journalism, you may be completely accurate in reporting what just happened, but you may not. You may have another motive. You may be trying to skew the information.
There is a certain amount of citizen justice that takes place when someone is very wrong on media, and we've all seen that. It equates to the social media equivalent of public stoning. People can get controlled.
The key is that at the very local level, we fear a time when the only news coming out of a community, the only information about things that are happening, is from people who have motives and specific bias. They're not putting it through the kind of filter that a journalist has, who has had years of experience understanding how to filter things that are happening and ask the other question. We fear a day when that doesn't happen at the local level.
I think we could probably say that at the very localized level, many small communities in this country do not have any local media representation, as in a journalist in town who writes about what is happening in town.
I think part of it is trying to spread the level of accountability that the proponents and those who use social media, who may not be affiliated with news organizations.... Our appeal is to try to bring them under our code of ethics so there is some level of accountability.
If journalism is expected to and does hold public officials to account, so journalists should be held to accounts as well. We feel the playing field is no longer level because, as you point out correctly, networks are competing with individuals with iPhones.
If there's a way to bring more people into the tents who understand and sign off on a code of ethics, at least we have a greater level of accountability amongst our profession. It's to try to find a way in which, regardless if you work for a network or for a local radio station, you have agreed to operate in an ethical way that will serve everyone.
I want to thank both of you for your presentation this morning.
As Seamus just mentioned, social media doesn't replace local media. I want to follow up on that.
Mr. LeBlanc, I think that's one of the comments you made earlier. We have seen a deterioration, perhaps, of some of the type of reporting.
You were talking about the credibility of journalists, the training and that sort of thing, the qualifications, and the standards you have. I'd like you to comment on the code of ethics a bit in regard to what is there and what you may see is needed down the road for the future as well. Or is it enough now just to make sure that more people qualify for it?
Also, I'd like you to talk about the quality of the analysis of research in journalism, which you think is needed as well.
I'll handle the research part and let Mr. LeBlanc discuss the code.
Because to our knowledge there probably isn't contemporary research in terms of what this committee's looking at, we've said that we support that, and I know there are many journalism schools and universities that are adequately and well equipped to conduct that research. We think that will provide us as an association, and also our membership, with a better understanding of the exact impact small communities in particular are facing with the demise of local news reporting and the impact that online, digital, and social media reporting is having on those communities.
I think that research needs to get under way and needs to happen quickly, because the landscape is changing so rapidly. It's become a cliché to say that, but it is. With the next social media application, the whole nature of collection and distribution of news and ideas changes.
We support that, and do so with a sense of urgency. It would would allow us, the industry, and practising journalists in Canada to fully understand the shifting sands in the nature of the business and how to keep abreast of those changes and to be in a position to ensure that communities receive local news.
We support that, and we support the notion that this is not just the networks. This is local journalists. This is about the people who you've referred to in the newsrooms in Kamloops and in the smaller communities in this country, who are often working in desperate situations and trying to keep up with the demands expected of them.
The code of ethics has been around for a good number of years. It really reaches back to the origins of the U.S. RTNDA. Over time, because of technological change and so on, there has been a need to update the code—or, because of experiences that have led to great ethical questions, there were more discussions that led to changes to the code.
Over the last couple of years, our association was hearing from its members that there was a need to update it, because many of the things we were saying were very applicable to radio and television and the tools that radio and television use, but the reality is that practically any journalist anywhere now is really a digital journalist. Certainly, radio and television use digital equipment now. A print journalist is using digital equipment now and very often posting video to the newspaper site, so really, where is that differentiation?
The real differentiation comes back to the terms of the code. Anybody today can pick up a camera. We all have cameras. There are probably 30 cameras in this room right now, with our iPhones and so on. We can shoot video and it could land on tonight's newscast easily enough. The technology is there. It's the ethical filter that isn't necessarily there in all cases of people picking up the camera.
We went through the code over the past year and updated it in such a way that it would be platform-agnostic, so that no matter what equipment you are using, whether you work in digital in any form, the rules would be applicable. Being accurate is the same anywhere.
I just wanted to say—
The Chair: You have 25 seconds.
Mr. Larry Maguire: There's an evolution in the rural areas as well, because there are not as many communities as there used to be. Is that the same thing that we're looking at in journalism? We're saying that there may be a shortage of credible journalism, and there isn't the same number of communities. Some of them are growing and some aren't. I've seen a number of them disappear over my lifetime in some of those areas as well.
When you talk about the quality of analysis, it's important to have the local quality of life represented through local journalists. That's what's keeping our weeklies alive, probably more so than some of the dailies. That's one of the areas. I wondered if you could comment on that. From your journalists and your organization, where do you see the future going?
I would like to talk to it. I'm not sure I have a complete answer, but I think it's a bit like the chicken and egg perhaps. Which came first, or which left first? Did the people leave the community; therefore, local journalism left the community? Or are they connected? Is there a sort of cause and effect there? I don't really know.
One thing I do know is that there was an organizational study that I read recently—I don't know if it was in the U.K. or U.S.—which essentially reflected on citizen engagement, especially at the local level, the small-community level. What they found was that in the small places where there was local journalism, people were more engaged. The number of people who would go out to vote and participate in civic events was much higher than in the places that did not have local journalism.
Is that the cause? That requires further study, as with many things, but there certainly does appear to be an association connected with that. We do know from voting results that at the federal level we have the highest level of voter participation. At the provincial level it's down a notch, and then we get down to the municipal level, and in many cases less than one out of three eligible voters is actually going to the ballot. Does that reflect—
Sometimes I wonder about the news and television services. Our goal is to verify certain things. I think that Parliament is doing its job, that it is trying to find solutions to a serious problem, which is only going to get worse.
The other day, I was watching KING 5, a Seattle television station that is associated with NBC. I was surprised by one of the ads. It was a corporate ad that sang the broadcaster's praises. It lasted about 30 seconds or maybe even a minute; it seemed fairly long to me.
Your local broadcaster does that.
It was interesting, but I think that sort of measure is a bit extreme.
Sometimes, I get the impression that the industry that provides content on our usual platforms is a bit like Canada's furniture industry, which is having the life sucked out of it by the Chinese. People think that a couch should not cost more than $500. I am sorry but that is impossible if you want a couch that was made by workers with good working conditions.
Right now, the competition is similar to that experienced in the music industry about 10 years ago when music suddenly became free. How can you compete with free?
We all agree that the purpose of our study is to show that regional news matters, that it helps build a sense of identity among people in that region. Whether the news is delivered via newspaper, radio, or television, it breathes life into a region, which as a result, is no longer just a bedroom community in the middle of a field with no local identity.
Could we not follow the example of great sites like GoGaspe.com? Someone talked to us about that. It is a news, local media, and local advertising aggregator. Would our large converging consortia agree to allow community television stations to broadcast their local news content? Today, my community was mentioned on the national news. Is that a possibility? I think that we need to rethink the model.
Before I turn the floor over to you, I would like to remind you that the music industry thought it had all the answers when I was working there. However, it was not until Steve Jobs came along that anyone thought of selling songs for $0.99. Have we gotten to the point where we have to sell news for $0.99?
I want to thank our witnesses.
This is about journalism and the ability to have journalistic integrity in the news, etc. This has been an issue that we've been talking about quite a bit, and we've heard people speak to it. You're the first one to tell that it could be possible with a code of ethics. So thank you very much for coming.
I'm going to suggest that we suspend for two minutes so that we can get our next witness, who is video conferencing, on board. Before we do, I should tell you that there are going to be bells beginning at 10 o'clock for votes at 10:30. We have someone who is coming online. I wanted to get some consensus from you, or a decision from you, as to whether we should give this person half an hour and then maybe leave here in time to get to the 10:30 vote at about 10:15 or just a little after that.
Can I get consensus on that? Can I get agreement?
I am very happy to be here today.
I basically want to talk to you about the newspaper business model and how we managed to majorly transform our industry with La Presse and La Presse+.
I would like to begin by saying that business in the newspaper industry is rather simple. There are two components: advertising revenue and readership revenue.
Over the past seven years, newspapers printed in North America have lost 63% of their revenue or $29 billion. During that entire period, newspapers only managed to generate $700 million in additional revenue on the Internet. We are talking about a loss of $29 billion on one hand and revenue of barely $700 million on the other. It is therefore easy to see that this industry is experiencing a serious crisis. I do not think that any industrial sector, even the traditional textile sector in Quebec, has ever run into so much difficulty so quickly.
The second important fact is that people have less intention to read the news. In a Canadian survey that began in 1998, people are asked whether they intend to read a newspaper, either paid for or free, this week. Results indicate that, between 1998 and 2011, there was a significant drop in intention to read a newspaper, whether it was free or paid for. We are talking about a 45% drop among people aged 16 to 24, a 54% drop among people aged 25 to 34, and a 33% drop among people aged 35 to 54. Only baby boomers, those aged 55 and over, are still interested in reading a daily newspaper.
According to the latest results of the survey from 2011, there has been tremendous growth in technology, namely, increased penetration of smart phones and more application development. If the same question were asked today, the numbers would be completely astounding.
The definition of post-boomers varies. If we interpret it broadly, we see that, today, that generation makes up 47% of the Canadian population. These people, who are between the ages of 20 and 40, have no interest in reading a newspaper in print or written format. That means that this industry not only needs support but that it also needs to be completely overhauled.
At La Presse, we created a new type of media. We started from scratch and tapped into the full potential of the tablet. We wanted to preserve the DNA of La Presse. I strongly believe in democracy. When we see everything that is happening today in the Middle East and other parts of the world, we understand just how important democracy is. In my opinion, having a quality newsroom and a large number of journalists in a market like Montreal is a guarantee of democracy. I believe that newspapers and journalists play a very important role in democracy. By changing our structure and making use of the tablet, we managed to create a new type of media. You will see that the results are quite encouraging.
Basically, we want to be a mass media outlet, an appealing media form. As you can see, people spend a rather large number of minutes per day with us, which allows us to obtain a high CPM. I am talking here about the amount that we ask advertisers to pay to run an ad on our tablet-based product. We were looking for a younger, more desirable readership and we wanted the tool for advertisers to work better. We also wanted to change our business model, which we did. We invested $40 million in developing an application. Of that amount, $2 million went to research on consumers and advertisers.
This year, the print edition of La Presse will celebrate its 132nd anniversary. Circulation of the newspaper hit a record high in 1971. People say that print newspapers are a baby boomer product and that is true. We are talking here about 221,000 copies sold.
Since then, there has been a gradual drop. We changed rotary printers in early 2000, mainly so that we could print more colours. We did some outsourcing. Circulation rose slightly to 207,000 copies. We then launched La Presse+ on tablet. An average of 260,000 tablets log on to La Presse+ each day. That means that, in its 30 months of existence, La Presse+ on tablet has managed to displace a newspaper in the same market that has been around for 132 years. That shows you just how quickly technology is progressing and how patterns of use are also changing.
Interestingly enough, giving people a high-quality technological product that allows them to get the information in a different way is a winning formula. People want to continue to be informed and consume cultural products. We see it with television. There has been a rather large drop in the number of hours of traditional television that people watch. It is not that people no longer want to be informed or entertained. What people are saying is that the traditional way of doing things no longer meets their needs.
Look at what happens when you offer a product that has been adapted to the needs of consumers. People spend an average of 40 minutes reading La Presse+ on weekdays, 60 minutes reading it on Saturdays, and 50 minutes reading it on Sundays.
We made significant gains when it comes to our readership profile. Look at the right-hand column and you will see that 46% of readers of the traditional print version of La Presse were between the ages of 25 and 54. It is important to note that 52% of Quebec's population is between the ages of 25 and 54. La Presse+ is a high-quality digital product for tablets that is well laid out, and 63% of readers are between 25 and 54. Today, we are one of the rare traditional media outlets that has managed to increase its penetration into the market of people aged 25 to 54. It is the same thing with family income. We are reaching a category of people who have an income, are active in society, and want to participate and work together.
That is the end of my presentation.
I will answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Crevier, thank you for your presentation and for being here today via video conference. Other effective forms of digital communication are also appreciated.
That is a rather interesting story. Your newspaper is well known and you eliminated the paper version. You really took some risks, but your results show that it was a profitable investment.
I am wondering what you are doing with all those profits. From the information we have, it seems that your revenue has increased. Since that is the case, it would be good to know whether others should follow this model.
However, the more important question is this: what impact did these changes have on local media or local and regional content outside the major cities?
There are two factors. I will give you a very broad answer, but I will still help you to understand what I believe is at the heart of the industry.
Earlier, you saw the tables on intention to read the news. Young people no longer want to read a paper copy of the newspaper. Regardless of the quality of the newspaper we give them on paper, they will not read it. In the long term, in the next 10 years, the print copy, black and white newspaper that is not interactive or updated every minute will inevitably cease to exist. Young people are growing up with tablets, iPhones and smart phones. We started from there.
It is also important to understand how the distribution network works. I will give you an example. We deliver La Presse to remote areas such as La Tuque. A truck cannot make more than 65 stops. That is the method of distribution. Fifty years ago, the truck made 50 stops. It would arrive in La Tuque, which is quite far from Montreal, and would leave about 100 copies of the newspaper. Just before we made the transition to tablet, the truck was making the same trip but was only leaving five copies of the newspaper in La Tuque. The distribution costs were enormous.
At La Presse, we managed to cut our shipping, printing, and ink costs by $80 million. Those are not value-added elements. In the media, value-added elements are the people who make the news and those who sell advertising. They generate revenue. The rest is an industrial approach. The industrial approach is changing.
To answer your question about the regions, I have to say that all of the studies have shown that local newspapers will survive a little longer than newspapers in major markets, but that the same fate awaits them. They need to move toward digital platforms.
The competition between the major digital players in the regions is much less than in the large markets with Google, Facebook, and other Internet sites, but it is still inevitable. The regions will experience the same thing as the big cities.
The Saturday paper edition, which we kept, accounts for 8% of our revenue. Today, the digital platform accounts for 88% of our revenue. We are the first media outlet in the world to achieve this result.
I am going to give you some information without naming any companies, because I do not want to talk about our competitors or other Canadian players. I have a table in front of me, which we could put up on the screen. This table shows the revenue of La Presse since 2011. Daily newspaper A is the largest newspaper group in Canada, and daily newspaper B is ranked second. These are public companies. Consequently, the figures I am giving you are not confidential, except for those of La Presse.
We launched our digital strategy in 2010. At the time, the three players mentioned had total advertising revenues of $100 million. In 2015, La Presse was able to retain $73 million in advertising revenue. Player A, the largest in Canada, had $50 million, and player B was able to retain $41 million. Those amounts are for the year. That means that we were able to keep $32 million more in annual revenue than our competitors.
We are very satisfied with this performance. This year, we are starting to make gains over the previous year. I believe it is the first time. In my opinion, even as traditional media our performance was better than the other television and radio media in the Montreal market in the previous year.
First of all, when we decided to adopt the tablet model, no one in the world was publishing a daily newspaper on a tablet. There were some tools available for tablet layout, but they were used more by magazines or weekly papers.
Producing a daily paper is a big job. I will give you an example. In Canada, we really love hockey. When a hockey game ends at 10:30 p.m., you have to be able to see all the information on the same screen. I do not know if you are familiar with the La Presse+ format. There are screens with multiple functions. You have all the results on one screen. You press on different buttons. The paper has to have a journalist who writes, a columnist who writes, a videographer who puts together a montage of the videos of goals scored, a photographer who works on the montage of photos, a statistician who provides the statistics. There were no such tools before. However, now, this tool lets five or six different people work on a screen at the same time.
When we embarked on our project, we had to develop five important pieces of production software from scratch. Some we developed in-house and others were developed for us by Canadian, U.S. and even European companies. One of our important applications was developed by a German partner. It took three years to develop it. It was a very long process.
Today, an organization could do it much faster. For example, the Toronto Star started a product similar to ours with our application in nine months.
That is what the first three years were like.
There is another aspect. We had a relationship with the readers of our paper edition for 132 years. We did not want to upset people. Thus, every six months we looked at improvements and at how people were doing. At the very end, the only people who had not migrated to the tablet edition were those who were averse to technology. We established programs to help these people buy a tablet, configure it, and make the leap. We were very respectful of our readers. In fact, communication about our project was so good that, at the very end, when we stopped printing the paper version, there were almost no complaints or raucous protests. We really supported people. We did a good job.
Your question is interesting. Sometimes there are large gaps between what we want and what the market can bear. You are absolutely right.
What is fascinating about our application, La Presse+, is that it allows us to know exactly how people use the time they spend on reading.
Earlier, I mentioned that we had a circulation of 221,000 in 1971, and 207,000 a little later. As an editor, I would not be able to tell you who reads the paper version every day. Even when it comes to the Saturday edition, I do not know who reads what, which pages, and what sections. With La Presse+, however, I can find out exactly what people are reading and how much time they spend on it.
Sunday is the day with the highest readership, that is, the largest number of readers and the most time spent on this activity. People have time to read on Sunday. However, the advertisers are absent. We do not know why. They have not figured out that this is a fantastic market for them because people have more time to read as a family.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, I would like to tell you how proud I am of you and of Quebec. I think that you have really reinvented the model. The president of Éditions La Presse, Caroline Jamet, spent many years in the music industry, and her experience certainly helped open new doors. She witnessed the demise of dogmatic thinking. You were very courageous to change the model. I am moved because I believe that when people take control of their tools, they become resilient. You took control of a tool and that is very courageous on your part.
I can say that reading the news can go on forever. I could read the news the whole weekend. On Saturday mornings, the children complain because we spend a lot of time reading the paper and even looking at the ads because they have suddenly become interactive. That thinking is original and innovative, and that is very healthy for our society.
Now for my question. When you share your program with other newspapers, does this result in a business model, a model for exporting your Internet protocol abroad?
As we are running out of time, I will ask my questions all at once and let you answer them one at a time.
With regard to advertising, is that also profitable? That should be the case, however, if it is not, what should we do to help you attract more clients?
Clearly, this model is advantageous. A community's advertising and the articles about it make up a newspaper. There is no reason why this chemistry would be negatively affected by advertising that is done elsewhere on the Internet.
Do you reach your sales targets with the current format and if you do not, why not?
In passing, I would like to thank Mr. Van Loan for being flexible and allowing this presentation to be given even though it is only in French.
I would also like to point out, with respect to your readers, the smooth transition that you mentioned. I think that you are pioneers, that you have set an example to be followed. I would like to tell you that my mother, who is 83 years old, bought herself an iPad. She went to Best Buy to get the training you provide. It's rather amusing. You have really managed to move your clients to the new platform. If, at 83, Canadians can make the transition, the future is promising.
Are your advertisers following you?
That was certainly necessary at the time, since we were the first. Now, there are opportunities for those who want to acquire our technology or a similar technology. I'm confident that this is the only way forward.
Four years ago, most of the traffic to the La Presse websites from phones and computers essentially came from Google searches, either by our own subscribers or other readers. Now, traffic primarily comes from Facebook. These days, all information is consumed via applications.
If I could give you one piece of advice, I would tell you not to support a dying industry. Its death is inevitable. When you look at advertising figures, transfers to digital, and reading habits, it is clear that this industry cannot survive. Some will make it through. I think that will be the case for The New York Times, since it is more specialized and is well known. People can also include it in their office expenses. That said, the money required should not be injected in the system to support this industry but to transform it.
It is not necessary to invest over the long term. If you commit to what I would call long-term support, you'll create a welfare system, if I can call it that. In other words, you should invest in helping companies transform. Don't forget that in Canada, we have been masters at developing cultural and production industries, even next to the American giant. We have always been pioneers. We've built a fantastic system. Today, this system is in jeopardy, just like other public and private systems are in jeopardy. Now, there is money and technology. There was an Internet company—
Yes. Now, the information is free. For example, think of how many websites around the world you can now visit to read about a major tragedy, an explosion, or a plane crash.
We decided to go with the free model, because we think it helps us reach young readers and helps us get new readers.
Over time, will this model evolve and will we offer special, for-pay content? Perhaps, but for now, it's free. That's why we have 260,000 readers.
The free model isn't uncommon. The broadcast model is also a free model. It's just a matter of looking at things differently.
First, I want to say that I was named editor of La Voix de l'Est
when I was 29 years old. The first time I ran a communications company was at La Voix de l'Est
, so I'm quite familiar with the market in Granby.
The problem with our application is that the newspaper would need a newsroom of about 100 people to produce the required content. The La Presse+ application is very graphics oriented. We need graphic designers, videographers, and photographers. That requires some rather considerable resources. As our application evolves, we develop more and more features. We have a lab of about 100 people. Half of these people are working on developing the application to offer new features, and the other half are improving the productivity of the application.
Over time, we're going to develop a lite version of our application, which will enable a small newsroom to produce the content, but right now, the newsroom will need enough resources to make use of the application.
However, regional newspapers are not feeling the push to transform right now. I think they have another three, four, or five years. Technologies will probably already be developed, and even our own technology should be useful to small newspapers within a few years.