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Jeffrey Dvorkin on why Canadian newspapers are suspending print edition deliveries

Jeffrey Dvorkin (Photo by Ken Jones)

The Globe and Mail announced today that it will not publish a print edition on Labour Day Monday.

It's the latest experiment in a trend of reduced delivery models for Canadian newspapers struggling to adapt to new advertising and readership models. As more readers consume their news online, without wishing to pay for it, outlets are scrambling to make up for lost revenue—in sometimes surprising ways.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former vice-president of news for National Public Radio and former managing editor with CBC Radio, is lecturer and director of the journalism program at University of Toronto Scarborough and executive director of the News Ombudsman Organization.

On September 19, Dvorkin will speak with John Cook, editor-in-chief of Gawker, at an event organized by the Canadian Journalism Foundation called "Gawking, Gossip and Crowdfunding: Is this the New Journalism?

He spoke with U of T News about the state of the Canadian newspaper industry.

How significant is The Globe’s announcement that it won’t publish a print edition on Labour Day?

This sends a powerful message to readers and advertisers that The Globe has reached a disturbingly low level as it tries to find a way to monetize their product. Readers may accept this as just another sign of decline. Advertisers will look at The Globe much more critically henceforth.

When The National Post stopped printing Monday editions, The Globe launched a campaign saying “News doesn’t stop on Mondays—neither should your newspaper.” How do you think their editorial team might approach the fact they’re having to eat their words?

Media organizations everywhere are having to eat not only their words, but with a large portion of humble pie a la mode. This should cause the editorial team to be rethinking whether the paper's approach to news and features is the right one. The Globe seems to have decided that light features are the way to proceed. Perhaps a re-balancing toward hard news, breaking stories and more contextual journalism is now called for.

The lack of a print edition on Monday is irrelevant to the many readers who consume their news online (either by paying for online subscription or by skirting the paywall). Do you expect to see even fewer print editions in the near future—is this the beginning of a larger trend?

Newspapers are starting to re-think whether a paywall is really the way to go. A number of papers in the U.S. tried a paywall but have dropped it because it may have generated revenue in the short term, but paywalls have not found a larger or a younger readership.

Does it seem to you that anyone is genuinely surprised by this reduction of print editions?

Readers are not surprised, but as I said, advertisers will be concerned. Media commentators (most of whom are online) will see this as a vindication of their digital-first approach.

© University of Toronto Scarborough