Upheaval presents challenges, opportunities

It used to be that marketers knew the players in the Canadian newspaper game like the backs of their hands. You want high-income business folk in Toronto? You go to The Globe and Mail. You want broad, mid-income reach in francophone...

It used to be that marketers knew the players in the Canadian newspaper game like the backs of their hands. You want high-income business folk in Toronto? You go to The Globe and Mail. You want broad, mid-income reach in francophone Montreal? You go to Le Journal.

But recently the industry has been hit by a series of earthquakes that have shaken up the field so much, it’s hard to tell who’s reaching whom anymore.

In Toronto, the market has been completely transformed, first through the addition of the National Post, then by the launch of the free transit dailies Metro, FYI Toronto and GTA Today. The market has been further complicated with a couple of high-profile mergers and acquisitions. In July CanWest Global Communications announced its $3.5-billion takeover of Hollinger’s major dailies, its magazines, most of its community papers and 50% of the National Post. Then in September, BCE struck a deal with Thomson Corp. that combined their media assets – The Globe and Mail, CTV and the Internet portal Sympatico – into a single company, the $4-billion media giant now known as Bell Globemedia.

Such upheaval, while presenting the industry with many challenges, has also provided new opportunities for newspapers to entrench themselves in their traditional demos or branch out into new ones.

That this is make-or-break time isn’t lost on the newspapers – marketing efforts are up, way up, with The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Gazette and La Presse currently in the midst of multi-million-dollar, multi-media campaigns. And never has the content been tweaked so frequently, with new sections, new features and design changes more common than ever before.

All this has come to a boil in Toronto, where there are now more daily newspapers than in any other city in North America.

The Toronto Star still boasts the city’s largest readership, with over 1.2 million readers a day. The secret of its success, says Victor Kruklis, the Star’s director of strategic planning, has been to aim as broadly and widely as possible by leading in local news. Still, that doesn’t mean the paper doesn’t have its eyes on bolstering the same readership demographic that almost every other paper in the world is after: people with money.

‘We view ourselves as a mass market paper targeting all social and economic groups,’ says Kruklis. ‘That said, readership numbers increase with education and income. On weekends, we reach 44% of the Greater Toronto Area, and that number jumps to 50% or 60% of the top income earners.’

The Star’s intensified run at the moneyed set includes an enlarged and enhanced business section, as well as a new section called @biz, with which the paper hopes to attract people with an interest in Toronto-based technology issues.

The Star is also looking to boost readership among women and younger readers by launching a revamped version of its StarWeek TV guide on March 24, with more entertainment-related content, backed by a strong marketing push.

While the Star seems to be aiming for traditional Globe territory, The Globe isn’t really responding by looking to the Star’s stronghold, although it has beefed up its local Toronto news section over the past year. Rather, the paper is concentrating on shoring up the educated, upscale demo it has always pursued.

‘Our overall marketing approach, both in terms of consumer and trade, hasn’t shifted from anything we’ve done in the past,’ says Ali Rahnema, vice-president, corporate strategy and marketing. ‘The general target demo remains the exact same, and that’s thinking, educated Canadians and the marketers who want to reach that crowd.’

The Globe’s latest TV ad campaign, currently underway, still features the ‘Well Written, Well Read’ tagline, but builds on it with the new sub-line ‘Inform your opinions.’

‘That was really meant to underscore the critical role and the competitive advantage of The Globe in the newspaper marketplace,’ says Rahnema, ‘and focus on the fact that we provide the facts, the analysis, the commentary and the different points of view on every issue.’

In Montreal, the scene is a little more peaceful, with only one English-language and two French dailies.

Le Journal de Montreal, which boasts a daily readership of just over one million (according to last October’s NADbank figures), is the populist French-language paper, much like The Toronto Sun. La Presse, its closest competitor, has a daily readership of 713,400, and aims for a more highbrow francophone audience.

But change is in the air here as well, with talk of consolidation and yet another battle over the high-end market. And it’s a battle that’s heating up, with last year’s NADbank results showing that for the first time, Le Journal beat out La Presse in the $75,000-plus market.

But Mario Savard, vice-president of marketing and newspaper sales at La Presse, says his paper is fighting back. He points to Actuel, a new business section launched last October to service a growing business community in the city, as well as the ongoing personal finance section, Vos finances personnelles, sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

Like the Star, La Presse is also making overtures to women and young readers with last September’s launch of Arts et Spectacles, a new daily arts section launched concurrently with the paper’s new six-section format.

These changes have in turn touched off a new campaign about, well, change. Last October saw the debut of Le Monde Change, a TV effort from Montreal-based Cossette Communication-Marketing. In one spot, a family is sitting around a dinner table when two girls bring in a birthday cake for their mother…who turns out to be a man. In another, a woman sits in a hospital bed smoking marijuana.

So far, the plan seems to be working, with 11,000 new sign-ups in the past year pushing total home delivery up to 183,000 subscribers.

However, Le Journal de Montreal still wins when it comes to overall numbers, and it hopes to lure even more francophones away from La Presse by producing more business-related material of its own. For starters, the paper will take the computer and business supplement Journal.com from bi-weekly to weekly in the very near future, says Michel Valois, Le Journal’s director of marketing and development.

The 364,600-reader strong Gazette, Montreal’s only English-language daily newspaper, is an interesting study because there is no real local competition.

Just the same, efforts are being made to capture a younger audience. In particular, a new section, Metropolis, aims to persuade readers ages 18 to 35 to pick up The Gazette more regularly.

Cathy Hamilton, The Gazette’s vice-president of marketing, notes another, more surprising, demo-enhancing move for the paper: ‘Our marketing is no longer unilingual English,’ she says. ‘The old-school English market exists in smaller numbers now and more people are growing up fully bilingual.’ According to Hamilton, some 20% of Gazette readers are now French-speaking.

That many Gazette readers are of various linguistic backgrounds has prompted The Gazette to go out of its way to promote its paper in the allophone community, according to Hamilton. (Allophones are people whose mother tongue is neither English nor French.)

That means The Gazette supports theatres, cultural events and cultural communities through sponsorships, and tries to weave the paper into the fabric of Montreal life, across linguistic and cultural boundaries.

Still, the main thrust of the marketing effort is aimed at the English community, hence a campaign on Global TV’s Montreal station highlighting the paper’s columnists, its special reports and upcoming features.

The daily newspaper battleground is quietest in Vancouver, where the same company, CanWest Global Communications’ Southam Publications division, owns both of the most widely-read papers: The Province, with 517,200 readers and The Vancouver Sun, with 521,500 readers. The biggest threat here appears to be the prospect that a new Metro transit daily could soon hit the West Coast.

‘We’re taking the potential threat very seriously,’ says Jaimie Pitblado, director of marketing at The Vancouver Sun. He adds that the Sun has already entered into discussions with Translink, Vancouver’s transit commission, about producing a transit paper of its own.

Also in this report:

- Going beyond grey: Hot daily market breeds specialty advertising opportunities p.B2

- Media planners show there’s more to newspaper than you think p.B5

- A medium for all messages: Papers an ideal ad vehicle for info-to-image bridge p.B6