Friday, January 14, 2005

ROB: Torstar aiming at younger readers

The Toronto Star is changing its stripes. To compete with the Post and the Globe, apparently the editors of the Star are changing to a format that emphasizes fancy graphics and will have colour on every page. Apparently, Torstar is trying to create a magazine/newspaper hybrid that "will grace your coffee table for the week, dipping in and out as you please."

There's a point to this madness. If the newspaper spends more than a single morning in your living room, the ads therein will become correspondingly more valuable. Or so the argument goes.

This move can also be read as a direct salvo against the Internet. Several years ago everyone was talking about the persaviness of information and the need for currency. Information appliances like the BlackBerry and the Treo grew in popularity (although the tricolour TV station that did nothing but scroll news and provide the accurate time seems to have disappeared). Now, the newspapers are replying with a very different tactic. They're after something that is *persistent*, something that hangs around for days before making its way to the recycling box.

Will people actually browse through old newspapers days after their release (provided there is actually something else to read, such as some breaking CrackBerry headlines)? Will the papers find a better way of indexing back and forth through the various issues? I'm just not talking about serialized pieces or a "read also" column but some way of combining the various weekly issues. Is there a way to increase the collector value of these papers?

I remember sitting beside someone on a plane who explained a scheme concocted by some Japanese bank. They issued phone cards in a variety of denominations and they commissioned leading graphic novel artists to do the art. They also affixed a coating to each card that scratched very easily so to use the card was to destroy it. Inevitably, people collected the cards instead of actually using them--a more creative way of printing money. Now that Torstar is going the persistent route, can they formulate something similar?

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