Torstar announces new subscription model

Torstar will invest millions and adopt a new subscription model to revamp business in 2018.

Chief executive John Boynton made the announcement Wednesday when the Toronto Star parent company held its annual meeting and released its first quarterly report of the year.

According to the report, Torstar will spend an estimated $11 to $13 million to help transform its business in 2018. Within the first quarter alone, Torstar incurred $1.4 million in those expenses.

A net loss of $14.5 million was reported in the first quarter of 2018, which translates to $0.18 per share. It is a slight improvement compared to a loss of $24.3 million ($0.30 per share) seen in the first quarter of 2017.

The announcement comes shortly after Torstar increased its investment in free commuter newspaper, Metro – relaunching it nationally as StarMetro in print and online in April. The company also sold its Workopolis related assets that month, with proceeds being estimated between $2 million and $4 million.

Revenue for Torstar’s community papers segment (which do not include its new StarMetro properties) was $59.8 million, down from $65.8 million in Q1 2017 (this was prior to the sale and subsequent of several of Torstar’s community papers to Postmedia last fall). Print advertising, which makes up the biggest share of the community papers’ revenues (38%) brought in $22.8 million (down from $26.8 million). Digital advertising fell to $6.1 million from $6.9 million. Distribution and subscription revenues were also down slightly.

The daily segment’s revenues were also down ($71.2 million down from $75.1 million). Print advertising fell to $30.3 million from $34.9 million. Digital advertising, however, stayed flat at $5.8 million.

Torstar’s digital ventures continued to increase slightly, bringing in $16.4 million, up from $15.8 million. It now represents 11.1% of Torstar’s revenues, up from 10.1% in Q1 2017.

Boynton did not confirm the launch date or specific details about the new model, however this is the second time the company has introduced a fee for its online content, launching a paywall in 2013 that was discontinued in 2015.