Canwest pulls out of Vancouver and Ottawa free papers

CanWest MediaWorks is pulling out of a partnership that publishes the free Metro newspapers in Vancouver and Ottawa.

The two other partners in the papers — Torstar and Metro International SA — will now each own approximately half of the businesses.

The two companies already jointly own the Metro editions in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

From a news release:

“This new ownership structure extends the solid foundation that already exists in the Metro operations in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton,” says Jagoda Pike, President Star Media Group and Chair of the Board of Directors of the English Canada Metro newspapers.

“With a consistent ownership structure now in place in all five English Metro markets, the Metro newspapers will be managed with a single-minded focus on the development and growth of the Metro brand across English Canada.”

CanWest owns the paid dailies in Vancouver and Ottawa, so its withdrawal from Metro will likely deny the free papers any support on content and advertising. This could be good news for readers, though, with Metro becoming a genuine competitor to the paid titles.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Video: Downloading and discounting kill iconic music shop

A downtown Toronto landmark will disappear at the end of June. The giant Sam the Record Man store, on Yonge near Dundas, opened in 1961 and quickly became famous for its vast selection of music and for the neon signs that were probably visible from outer space.

It’s where I bought singles and LPs as a teenager, vinyl artefacts of another era that I still throw on to the turntable now and then.

But times change. Recordings are cheaper at the big discount stories. DVDs have shouldered CDs aside. And music can be bought cheaply, track by track, online. [Video report below]


Optimizing baby’s name

Selecting a baby’s name was seldom easy. You had to please the parents, and the grandparents, and make sure it wasn’t going to be an invitation to playground taunts.

But nowadays savvy parents also have to be sure their child’s name is search-engine optimized.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the occurrence [I’m not sure we can call it a trend yet] of parents-to-be selecting a name for their child that will appear high in search engine rankings.

It’s essential for these parents to find a name that is uncommon, otherwise their child may be on page 89 of results for “Britney Jones” or “Jason Smith”. That’s virtually unsearchable, which is only a step away from non-existent.

According to the WSJ:

US internet users conduct hundreds of millions of search queries daily. About 7% of all searches are for a person’s name, estimates search engine Ask.com. More than 80% of executive recruiters said they routinely use search engines to learn more about candidates, according to a recent survey by executive networking firm ExecuNet. Nearly 40% of individuals have used search engines to look up friends or acquaintances with whom they’d lost touch, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Microsoft Corp.’s MSN unit.

But what if the parents cannot find, or agree on, a search-friendly name? That’s when it’s time for Search Engine Marketing. Just make sure you bid high on the keywords for your child’s name. It’s a small price to pay for the kind of visibility that could help your kid succeed.

David Berkowitz at Search Insider goes even further, with some excellent marketing ideas. Here are just a few:

Write a press release the day your baby’s born with the baby’s name in the headline, and optimize the entire release. As soon as the little one takes its first breath, he or she can even appear in the body of Google’s natural search results thanks to universal search.

Buy all potential domain name misspellings of your baby’s name. If you’re blessed with ample foresight or come from an ages-old tradition of arranged marriages, buy versions of the last name of any potential suitor you have in mind. Redirect the names to your baby’s main dot-com domain.

Googlebomb your baby’s domain around the phrase “world’s cutest baby,” “future Nobel laureate,” or “Harvard class of 2025.”

While Berkowitz claims his advice is tongue-in-cheek, he also says some of his ideas would work just as well for, say, your business, as for your baby.

Canadian New Media Award winners

NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence - Click to watch

The Canadian New Media Awards were announced in Toronto last night.

The award for excellence in news and information went to NFB Filmmaker-in-Residence, pictured above, produced by Vancouver’s Subject Matter Inc.

For culture, lifestyle and the arts, the winner was Terminus1525.ca by zinc Roe New Media of Toronto.

Winnipeg-based cafesonique.com, a virtual community for the music industry, was recognised for best use of social media.

And TV Ontario’s Independent Learning Centre was named best learning site.

>> More winners and finalists

Toronto Star elevates local coverage, gets easier to read

New Toronto Star masthead

I’ve never understood why a newspaper called the Toronto Star would relegate Toronto news to the B section of its print edition. The Star is without peer when it comes to covering this city, and yet it wasn’t always obvious when you picked up the paper.

Well, with changes introduced today, the local news is where it ought to be — in the A section.

Another obvious change is right on the front page. The famous blue banner has been removed from the paper’s name, and applied instead to the words “Voice of the GTA” [Greater Toronto Area] which appear above an unadorned “Toronto Star” [pictured above]. It’s a lighter look, just as we’re seeing on many news websites.

The Star’s body type has been enlarged from 9.9 point to 10.25 point, with greater leading, to improve readability. Handy for those of us whose arms just aren’t long enough to read as well as we used to.

The paper is also incorporating the results of its website polls and online comments in a daily feature called Traffic Report. Great.

Late this summer, the Star will shave an inch off its page width, and a lot of dollars off its newsprint expenses. The new width will be 11.5 inches, a half inch narrower than the recently slimmed Globe & Mail.

Full credit to the Star for explaining the changes to readers — even getting publisher Jagoda Pike and Editor-in-Chief Fred Kuntz in front of the camera for an online video. It’s all nicely done, except for the fact that some material published on the thestar.com hasn’t been adapted for online reading; it’s just copied from the print edition complete with references to page numbers rather than hyperlinks.

Ad spending up 22% at US newspaper sites

According to the latest “preliminary estimates” from the Newspaper Association of America, advertising expenditure on newspaper websites rose 22.3 per cent to US$750 million in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same quarter last year.

The increase reflects the twelfth consecutive quarter of double digit growth for online newspaper advertising since NAA started reporting online ad spending in 2004. Advertising on newspaper websites made up 7.1 per cent of total newspaper ad spending in the first quarter compared with 5.5 per cent for the same period a year ago.

“The percentage of ad spending generated by newspaper websites continues to grow as advertisers realize the value of the medium’s web audience – a group of consumers who have higher household incomes and shop online more frequently than other internet users,” said NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm. “We expect advertising on newspaper websites to continue to contribute to the industry’s overall revenue stream as newspapers provide innovative content and up-to-the-minute news and information our audience demands.”

Advertising expenditures at newspapers and their websites totaled US$10.6 billion for the first quarter of 2007, a 4.8 per cent decrease from the same period a year earlier. Spending for print ads in newspapers totaled US$9.8 billion, down 6.4 per cent versus the same period a year earlier.

So, it’s the familiar story. Websites need to increase revenue (e.g. by selling more ads and/or more expensive ads) to offset the declining print advertising revenue.

Never too old for rock ‘n’ roll – taking the CHUM tour

More than 300 people waited to tour the studios of Top-40 icon CHUM radio in Toronto. Picture / Neil Sanderson  

The scene was a genuine blast from the past — at least 300 people packing the sidewalk at 1 o’clock this afternoon in front of legendary Toronto radio station CHUM. From the front door at 1331 Yonge St, the queue stretched a half block north before disappearing around the corner and along Rosehill Ave.

But instead of hoping for a glimpse of Elvis or the Beatles, this crowd of seriously over 40s just wanted to see the station that introduced rock ‘n’ roll to Canadian radio. [All right, maybe some of those lined up had hopes the King might be somewhere in the building. After all, CHUM is still playing the same songs as in its heyday, even if we now have to call them “oldies”.]

The CHUM studios were an unlikely addition to this weekend’s list of Doors Open Toronto buildings. The former book bindery hardly exudes architectural charm. But with the station now celebrating its 50th anniversary playing rock’n’roll, the owners decided to open the doors for a limited three-hour span today only. And CHUM proved it could still pull a crowd.

Changing concepts of privacy

Just came upon this feature from New York magazine [published Feb 12] in which young people talk about their willingness to post personal information and pictures online. Writer Emily Nussbaum sums it up beautifully:

Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your emails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones.