La Presse embarks on a new era

Montreal-based company shifts its focus to online and tablet edition

French-language news outlet La Presse bid farewell to its weekday print edition on Thursday as it moved ahead with plans to stake its place in the digital era.

After 131 years of printing newspapers, the Montreal-based company owned by Power Corp. will shift its focus to a tablet edition and other content on its website.

Newspaper versions of La Presse will only run on Saturdays.

It’s a pivotal moment for La Presse, which has been a leader in responding to changes within a global media industry that’s in flux.

La Presse deputy publisher Eric Trottier said the mood in its newsroom was one of rejoicing, not of nostalgia.

“I’m looking forward to the end of the print edition because, for me, it will mean that our project to cross over to the tablet edition has been a success,” Trottier told The Canadian Press.

Last fall, La Presse announced it would reduce expenses — a move that resulted in the elimination of 158 jobs including 43 in the newsroom — to help the newspaper “cover its costs” in 2016, he said.

Trottier said the digital edition — called La Presse Plus — has a readership of between 225,000 and 240,000, about three times that of the print edition.

La Presse’s foray into digital has inspired Torstar to try to replicate the success in the English-language market with a Toronto Star tablet app called Star Touch.

But not every Canadian media company is as convinced that tablets will be the future of readership.

In October, Postmedia shut down its evening tablet edition in three cities as part of a decision to focus more on promoting its content through social media.

The Globe and Mail has catered to readers on tablets with some stories that utilize the screen’s design, but the newspaper hasn’t necessarily emphasized one platform over another.

But La Presse thinks there’s more of a future in selling advertising space in the digital world where companies are funnelling more of their marketing budgets.

In its final weekday print edition, La Presse tipped its hat to some of the most unforgettable front-page news events, from Neil Armstrong landing on the moon to the 1980 and 1995 referendums.

La Presse’s parent company holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with a subsidiary of the Globe and Mail and Torstar.

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