Open letter to Postmedia

Dear Postmedia,

I’m worried about you.

I realize times are tough for the newspaper industry. Ad revenues are down, costs keep climbing.

But how is it possible that the value of your shares could drop from an initial public offering of $13 per share last year to only  $1.14 per share now?

I’m glad to see your stock is climbing, since in July your shares were valued at a measly $0.70 per share!

It bothers me to see your financial situation is far more dire than it was for Apple during a dark time when their shares were worth only $7 (they’re valued at over $600 a share now).

How do I know this? You see, I’m part of a group of writers, who in 1997 launched a class action lawsuit against the Montreal Gazette for electronic copyright infringement of freelance-authored work. By the time we received a settlement offer, your predecessor, CanWest Global, was in bankruptcy court.

Our settlement for the class action is shares in Postmedia. So I have a true interest in seeing your company succeed.

I find it sad that while some of the newspapers in your chain (The Gazette, for instance) are in the black, they have to suffer job cuts because other newspapers in the chain are losing money. That’s probably an understatement, since you suffered a net loss of $12.1 million in your last quarter, the one that ended on May 31, 2012.

What can you do?

I realize a paywall worked wonders for the New York Times. But considering that you want to draw in young readers and not alienate your loyal, longtime readers who actually buy your printed newspaper, maybe you can reconsider The Gazette’s paywall. Or at least reserve some content for people to read sans paywall. I would rather watch an ad than sign up for the digital subscription you offer now.

How about replacing the paywall with amazing digital content? I’m most familiar with the Montreal Gazette, so here are a few suggestions for my local daily:

  • have interviews where your reporters give some behind-the-scenes insight into the stories they’re reporting
  • your tech journalist Roberto Rocha could give a how-to presentation on how to create a data map
  • restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman could disguise her voice and give a walking tour where she mentions some of her favourite restaurants. Or even tell us some harmless gossip she’s gleaned along the way doing these restaurant reviews
  • your wine expert could do video reviews
  • music reviewers could do video interviews
  • I would love a video interview with Aislin, your political cartoonist
  • how about software apps? You’ve teamed up with OpenNorth in the past. How about an app that lets people predict the Quebec election?
  • have some content geared for smartphone users and different content (say longer, more leisurely or investigative pieces for tablet users). You could offer digital subscriptions for certain types of content. I would pay for amazing investigative journalism. I don’t think I’m alone.
  • NOW Magazine in Toronto hires developers to create all sorts of apps that are integrated with content. One of their apps ties in with their restaurant guide. Let’s say you’re walking around Toronto looking for a restaurant, smartphone in hand. Once you download the NOW’s Toronto Restaurant Guide app and turn on the GPS on your phone, the app identifies nearby restaurants and shows you their ratings in NOW reviews. Not only that but you may even get a coupon for one of the restaurants

I notice the Montreal Gazette is hiring a Social Engagement Editor to boost The Gazette’s online presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, engage readers and apparently coach reporters on how to use social media sites such as Twitter (for anyone interested, the deadline is today, Aug. 10). That’s half the battle. You need content that connects people with The Gazette. And it can’t be behind a paywall.

Good luck!

-Stephanie

Open letter to Postmedia

Empress update

Are you wondering what’s happening with the old Cinema V building in Montreal’s NDG neighbourhood?

So am I.

Despite media reports to the contrary, the fate of the old Cinema V building is still uncertain.

Months back the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough said a decision on the building’s future would only come after an evaluation committee (jury) reviewing redevelopment proposals for the building tabled its report in June.

On June 26 the committee submitted its report to borough officials. Borough councillors will be taking time to review the report and no decision’s been made yet. The councillors are not even promising to approve any redevelopment proposal. They may take or leave the committee’s recommendations.

But if you listened to CBC Radio or read this story in the Montreal Gazette you might have thought a return of indie cinema to NDG is a definite thing, since the evaluation committee favoured the Cinema N.D.G. proposal over all others.

These media reports upset people who worked on the only other proposal the committee considered, one from the Empress Cultural Centre.

Here’s a recent statement from the Empress Cultural Centre explaining their stance:

Dear Empress Supporter.
Re: Results of the Selection Committee charged with evaluation proposals to redevelop the Empress Theatre building at 5560 Sherbrooke Street West

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Empress Cultural Centre, we would like to offer our sincerest apologies for the delay in getting this update to you. We hope that you understand that with the news that the jury charged with evaluating the proposals submitted to the CDN/NDG Borough has not recommended our proposal, there is a lot to consider.

We had wanted to have more information before writing this update but in the end we felt it more important to inform you now so as to clarify any misunderstandings regarding the process. Most of you have probably heard the news that the Cote des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace Borough Council has received a report from the jury charged with studying the proposals to redevelop the former Empress Theatre. This report, contrary to stories in some of the local media, did not decide the fate of the Empress Theatre building, it simply presented the jury’s recommendations to the five councilors of the Borough who must now vote on how to proceed.

In its report the jury recommended that the city choose the project put forward by the Cinema NDG group. This project includes a 4-room multiplex cinema and an artisanal brasserie/restaurant. We understand that there will be other commercial use(s) in this project but at this time the complete Cinema NDG project has not yet been made public.

Given our understanding that the evaluation committee report is a public document we thought it important to include their recommendations here (translated from French):

“Selection committee’s recommendations to management

The committee recognizes that uncertainties about the selected project’s completion perist because of the many funding hypothese underlying the financial plan. We are also aware of the difficulties for the proposing group to find funding without the status of the building being established.

For these reasons, the committee recommends that the borough directors select the NDG Cinema project, that meets the expectations of the sector and the district.
However, the committee submits the following reservations:

  • The applicant must confirm the financial aspects of the projet, notably the government subsidies;
  • The proposing group shall confirm the financial information regarding the costs of renovating the building and the costs of its project;
  • The proposing group must revise its schedule to make it more realistic

The Committee would like to see, as far as possible, the proposing group forge closer links with local organisations and attempt to integrate them in certain aspects of the project.

Finally, the committee recommends to the district to set a maximum time limit for confirmation of the above mentioned items.”

Upon receiving the report, Mayor Applebaum said that the dossier was now in the hands of the elected officials who would evaluate the recommendations of the committee and make a decision regarding the future of the building. It is our understanding that this decision could come as early as August 13th, the date of the next Borough council meeting.

According to the rules of the contest the city is not under any obligation to accept the recommendations of the committee.

The Board of the Empress Cultural Centre is currently evaluating the situation so that it may take an appropriate course of action.

We hope to follow up with more information in early August.

Should you have any questions or comments regarding this situation please do not hesitate to contact Jason Hughes or Paul Scriver 

Thank you,
Jason Hughes and Paul Scriver

our website: http://www.empresscentre.com
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EmpressCentre?ref=hl

The next borough council meeting happens on Aug. 13. Will this finally get resolved? I can’t help but wonder if this building carries some sort of curse.

Empress update