Torstar to move to a subscription model, charge readers for online news

Excerpts from the article by Emily Jackson on Financial Post

Torstar to move to a subscription model, charge readers for online news

Torstar Corp. plans to charge readers for online news once more in its latest strategy to recover after the internet disrupted the newspaper industry.

Chief executive John Boynton announced Wednesday that the media company, owner of the Toronto Star and dozens of other publications, will move to a digital subscription business model, emulating recurring revenue models in industries such as music and entertainment.

“In some cases, it turned around entire industries,” Boynton said at the annual general meeting in Toronto, pointing to Spotify and Netflix as success stories.

Boynton did not reveal details on the subscription model, including when it will launch or how much it will cost, but said it will apply to the Toronto Star and StarMetro brands. The Globe and Mail and the National Post already use online subscription models.

This marks the Star’s second foray into charging for access to online content. In August 2013, it launched a paywall that asked readers to subscribe for $9.99 per month. It dumped the paywall less than two years later because it couldn’t get enough people to sign up. It subsequently launched subscriptions for Star Touch, a tablet app, but axed that product after sinking $23 million into the experiment.

But Boynton, who was hired last spring to help the company transition to digital, is convinced it will work this time thanks to better technology, shifting attitudes and leadership changes.

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