La Presse to cease print editions, save for Saturdays

Montreal's La Presse, one of the country's oldest and largest newspapers, has announced the end of its weekday print edition.

Montreal French-language newspaper goes digital only with website and La Presse+ app

The cover of La Presse on the day it announced it was ceasing print publications featured a story about the Toronto Star's tablet edition, which it helped create. (Tracey Lindeman/CBC)

Montreal's La Presse, one of the country's oldest and largest newspapers, has announced the end of its weekday print edition.

Starting in January, the print edition of the 130-year-old French-language publication will only be available on Saturdays, president and publisher Guy Crevier announced Wednesday.

La Presse, which is owned by Power Corp., is banking on the success of its tablet edition.

Guy Crevier, president and publisher of La Presse, launched the tablet edition in 2013. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
The newspaper launched its free tablet edition La Presse+ in 2013 at a cost $40 million.

Crevier said the tablet edition has more than double to number of readers of its print edition and ad revenue from the tablet edition accounts for 70 per cent of the company's total revenue.

"Thirty months after its launch, La Presse+ is now more successful than the print version of La Presse after 131 years of existence," Crevier said in a statement.

Searching for profits in a digital world

In an interview, Caroline Jamet, vice-president of communications for La Presse, said as other newspapers have struggled to find ways to make money, La Presse has flourished.

"In the digital world information is free and it's an irreversible phenomenon," Jamet said. "You can see today a lot of people who've adopted paywalls are just going back because they realize people are not going there."

La Presse said the number of paid print subscribers decreased to 81,000 from 161,000 when the tablet was launched. Most of the remaining readers are expected to go digital.

Three quarters of La Presse's advertising revenues are expected to flow from the tablet in December, plus 10 per cent from its other mobile and web platforms.

'Wave of the future'

Mike Gasher, a journalism professor at Concordia University, said La Presse is leading a "wave of the future" in the newspaper industry.

"It's certainly a bold move," he said, adding that while some older readers may prefer the printed paper, younger people want to get their news digitally.

Gasher believes there's still a place for printed newspapers — although like television, radio and cinema before it, they need to evolve and find their niche.

Jacques Nantel, a marketing professor at the University of Montreal's business school, said La Presse is ending the printed edition because it's now confident that advertisers will follow to the tablet.

He expects the newspaper will now essentially force reluctant advertisers to come on board. Nantel said La Presse's move is a sign of changes to come in Canada.

La Presse's tablet team recently worked with the Toronto Star to help develop that newspaper's own recently launched tablet app, Star Touch.

Strategy carries risks

Still, some analysts say the strategy is risky.

Vladyslav Mukherjee, a tablet industry analyst at the consulting firm IDC Canada, said tablet sales are now in decline after peaking last year.

"I think it's a good start but in terms of platform support they should explore other areas as well," Mukherjee said of La Presse's plan.

He said more people are turning to so-called "phablets", tablet-like smartphones with larger screens, and by committing itself so firmly to one device, La Presse risks being left behind if the popularity of tablets fades.

La Presse said its app would continue to be free even after it stops printing its Monday-to-Friday editions.

with files from Canadian Press


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