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!


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