Price Hike Last Straw For Sun Readers?

What will it take to alienate Toronto Sun readers for good?  Dropping numerous employees without much fanfare didn’t do it.  Quietly firing the paper’s Readership Editor Alison Downie didn’t do it.  Dropping the TV Guide from The Sunday Sun in areas outside Toronto this year didn’t do it.  Reducing the amount of original content in the print edition didn’t do it.  Continuing to offer a regular forum for dishonest writers like Michael Coren and Salim Mansur didn’t do it.
 
Maybe this will.  That’s right.  You’re paying $1.57 for your weekday Sun now ($2.50 plus tax for The Sunday Sun). 
 
If that’s not a big “fuck you” from Quebecor to the tabloid’s readership, I don’t know what is.
 
Regular visitors of this site will remember the numerous Sun Media pieces we offered between December 2006 and November 2007.  (Check them out in the Sun Media/Sun TV section.)  That was during a time when I was still either reading the print edition and/or visiting the paper’s official website on a regular basis.
 
Now, I don’t read the newspaper at all and can go weeks and even months sometimes without checking out a single item on the website.  It’s a sad state of affairs.  I used to look forward to reading what Val Gibson had to say about sexual matters and Bill Brioux’s funny and entertaining coverage of the TV beat.  (Thankfully, he’s now a busy freelancer who also finds time to blog.  As an aside, he deserves a lot of credit for the recent Sherri Woodstock concert being a reality.)  The late Sherri Wood did a nice job covering the club scene and doing various entertainment pieces.  (Her sunny appearances on Sun TV are sadly missed, as well.)  Rachel Giese was one of the few credible political columnists worth being loyal to.  Although Jim Slotek, Eric Margolis and Greg Weston, all good writers, are still with the tabloid, their work aside, it’s hard to warrant much enthusiasm for anything else in the paper.  That’s not terribly fair of me to say.  As with any newspaper, there are plenty of talented, hardworking reporters who produce stories the public hungers for and needs.  But with some of my favourite columnists no longer associated with The Sun, I can’t stay loyal to a publication that doesn’t stand by its talent.
 
John Cosway, The Toronto Sun Family blogger who noted the price hike last month, still has affection for the tabloid despite some strong criticisms:
 
“Sun readers being asked for $1.50, plus tax, as of today have to decide if the return on their daily investment through stories, columns, ads and other features, is adequate.

As mentioned in a previous posting, contributions of the old guard still make the Sun a good buy at $1.50, plus tax. The Sun has lost its edge as a tabloid, but still has its moments.

We could do without:

The 40-word leads;

Earlier deadlines at the expense of sports scores, concert reviews and late-night breaking news;

Those two and three-page special reports that belong in broadsheet newspapers, not a tabloid;

The numerous annoying throws to exclusive content on torontosun.com.

And while the heart of the Sun under Quebecor has all but vanished, along with a large number of employees, there are occasions when the Sun of old shines through.”

 
But is a shell of a newspaper worth a 50% price increase to The Sun’s remaining readership?  And furthermore, how much more bullshit can they take from a corporation that never gave a damn about them in the first place?
 
Time will tell.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
10:54 p.m.
 
UPDATE:  John Cosway has commented on this piece here.  Over the last couple of months, he’s been writing about The Sun’s revamped website as well as its new “e-edition”.  (More on the latter subject here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Regarding the website, at first, he was quite enthusiastic about the new look, despite some criticisms.  Then, his enthusiasm dampened significantly.  I mention all of this because Cosway makes a point of noting in his “Re Dennis Earl” piece that the tabloid’s Internet ventures, particularly its $4.99-a-month electronic edition, will be the determining factor in whether or not The Sun will survive outside its core readership in Toronto:
 
“Our feeling is the future of the print edition beyond the GTA will be determined not by price, but by the demand for the new online e-edition subscription service.

If the e numbers satisfy advertisers – and it is clear advertisers, not the needs of readers, motivate Quebecor – why bother catering to print readers in the 519, 705 and 905?”

 
That’s a very good argument.  But, of course, this all depends on how many readers have the option of permanently switching from print to the Internet in the first place.  For older readers who do have regular access to an online computer but are not accustomed to reading all their news on a monitor in a single sitting, depending on how much time they spend doing this, eye strain is likely to become a major concern.  And for those who prefer the print edition, will it be acceptable to them to pay over 30 bucks a month at the newsstand (if they buy the daily on a regular basis), I don’t know what the current subscription rate is, when the electronic version is a sixth of that price?  Which leads to two other important questions.  Is the e edition exactly the same as the print version?  If not, when will it be?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
3:34 p.m.
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Published in: on October 7, 2008 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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