Toronto Star launches digital-only subscription model

torontostarHot on the heels of their successful eReads weekly e-book subscription, The Toronto Star is expanding their digital offerings to include digital subscriptions to the newspaper itself.

The somewhat confusing announcement offered a mishmash of different price points, with print subscribers who pay by automatic withdrawal getting it for free if they subscribe by December 31 and then escalating prices for print subscribers who don’t pay by automatic withdrawal and for people who don’t subscribe to the print edition at all.

What you get for this digital subscription doesn’t sound too inspiring, to be honest. You get ‘full access’ to the website (I visit it daily myself and have yet to run across content I’m interested in which isn’t freely available) and you also get a ‘replica edition’ of the print paper, which they say is ‘an exact digital copy of the daily printed paper with added interactive features.’ Yay?

There are a few things about this announcement which strike me as a little strange. Firstly, I am not sure that the road to digital success is to offer people a mere replica (with ‘interactive features’) of the product you sell in print. That strikes me as a not terribly imaginative way to rework the model here. And also, I am not sure why they are complicating things with all these extra rules. Why must people sign up by December 31? Why are they punishing the readers who, while loyal customers same as anyone else, choose not to pay by automatic withdrawal?

Their e-book subscription plan, to which I subscribe, was a fresh and innovative thing, and has been a good product. This new offering sounds a little ho-hum to me.

1 Comment on Toronto Star launches digital-only subscription model

  1. I used to love The Star. My second job in life was as a Star High School Sports Reporter. And I graduated to doing by-lined articles for their Neighbours and Business sections and un-bylined Sports stuff. I actually paid for the family’s newspaper subscription myself from about the age of 17 on. I battled vast hordes of delivery people (paperboys eventually turned into surly midnight drop-off drivers) over where my paper got delivered to. And that battle wore me down to the point where I stopped delivery about seven years ago.

    I still had enough friends on the inside that I was able to actually talk to the people who MANAGED the people who designed their web=site. I railed against placements of elements, especially in the early days of the update before the most recent update, when all articles were snaked around embedded links. It was one of the most awful designs I’ve ever seen from a communications company. And maybe I helped them make it less worse. But my influence, minimal as it was, has waned and this latest re-design of the site, courtesy of … well, let’s call them off-shore sensibilities, was beyond awful, almost as if they were trying to get rid of the customers before springing this “10 article a month plan” on the largest segment of their internet readership. I mean, why is it necessary to keep pitching me a horoscope while reading the sports news? I guess you have to be a veteran of the British newspaper wars to understand. I don’t.

    So, when the out of the blue, blue banners cropped up, I sighed and still middle-clicked three stories, one of which was a re-printed USA Today article, before getting to the bottom and finding the paywall was up and it was starting today (well, yesterday by now). That’s when I found out they were putting the Toronto Sun paywall to shame, halving the free monthly visitor reads. And that I had already used THREE of my ten articles for the month.

    I knew this was coming, so ending my visits to the site doesn’t surprise me or pain me in the way of inconvenience. I liked that the Star had more long-form reporting than most daily newspaper sites. I valued that. But no more. The pain of nostalgia given up will linger for a few days. But the radio and the sports networks provide me with information overload over local sports as it is anyways. I don’t wish the Star ill or well. I will take a while, but I will be able to say I just don’t care either way.

    A shame really.

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