Thursday, July 03, 2008

TL blogs discontinued for editorial, ad and audience shortcomings

[This post has been updated]

[UPDATE (Friday, July 4): Doug Bell's Spectator blog goes out today at Toronto Life with its usual panache: a You Tube clip of the end of Dr. Strangelove. Bell also, gracefully, thanks the TL people who were involved in making the blog what it was:
I want to thank, in no particular order, the lawyer (Howard Winkler), the researcher (the essential Veronica Maddocks), the editors (Kelly Pullen, Carley Fortune and Matthew Fox—patience personified) and the copy editor (Amy Harkness, with an able assist from Lisa Fielding), whose life I’m sure I made a living hell. They all did exemplary work, and this blog would have been a good deal less than it was without them.]
[UPDATE: Torontoist publishes an item based on an interview with Douglas Bell and Matthew Fox, Toronto Life's online editor.]

magazine's former editor Bill Shields has dug into the disappearance of Toronto Life's blogs and his excellent report is that they weren't drawing sufficient audience to justify their costs and that advertising revenue was less and less forthcoming than had been expected.

The story confirms that Douglas Bell's Spectator blog disappears tomorrow, hard on the heels of what our earlier post reported, the discontinuation of Philip Preville's City State and James Chatto's Chatto's Digest. Also gone (though perhaps to be later revived) are a wine blog by James Lawrason and the Toronto Movie Index. The latter will re-emerge in the fall at the time of the Toronto Film Festival. Meanwhile, online music listings will replicate what is published in the print magazine.

Vice-president and group publisher Sharon McAuley said:
“Given the resources that we have now through Google Analytics as to page views and time spent and the number of comments that are being made, we’ve decided that we need to tinker with [our strategy] some more.”
She insisted that the decisions were editorial decisions alone.
“In response to this [assertion] that it’s all slashing and burning and cuts, these decisions were actually intrinsic to the editorial process. The editors themselves made these decisions. If you ask them, [they’ll say] it was in response to the fact that we need to focus on the things that connect with our users.

"I can see that some of the timing might have been affected by the broader environment out there but the fact is these were editorial decisions alone. And it’s a redeployment of the dollars, not a cutting of the dollars because we are going to be launching new initiatives.”
She said that the current ad climate may have had a part to play:
“I think the whole industry is grappling a little bit with what’s going on in the advertising world. The online world had always been forecast to have a greater ad-dollar growth curve than print, and our online revenues continue to grow [but not quite as much as anticipated].”
While there is not reason to doubt the grounds of the decisions, it should be pointed out that Preville's City State was announced with some fanfare, yet was given barely a month to get traction. Bell's Spectator was a carryover from the blog he did very successfully covering the Conrad Black trial, but in its Spectator form was given barely four months to prove itself.

The Masthead report says that City State may return but in a much altered form with food, shopping and real estate and multiple contributors.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one-fiftieth of the people who seem interested in this decision took an interest in the content they'd still have these blogs.
The idea of Toronto Life shooting arrows at the establishment online was doomed from the start. Stick to party photos and fawning over the spawn of the Canadian Establishment.

9:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say they're shooting darts at a dartboard located behind them, while blindfolded and patting themselves on the back.

1:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at St. Joseph Media and for a long time. The fact that they don't have a clear online strategy yet (in 2008!) is not a surprise. They continue to be way behind in this space. While they put their toes in they are getting killed in this space by TorStar and others. Too bad.

1:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's no wonder 20+ people have quit their web group in the past 24 months.

3:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND I heard they make 'em all use the same chair, so that each employee only gets to sit for 20 minutes a day, AND if they make a noise during prayer time, they have to sweep the WHOLE office

6:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noticed that Toronto Life started a new blog on their site today, so maybe that new approach McAuley spoke about is finally taking shape.

10:51 am  

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