Toronto Star plans hiring spree in advance of tablet launch

Editor Michael Cooke calls 2015 ‘the year of the tablet’ in internal memo

In a refreshing change for an industry gutted by layoffs in recent years, the Toronto Star says it will add up to 60 new staffers in advance of the planned fall launch of a new tablet product.

In an internal memo published Tuesday on the journalism industry site, Star editor Michael Cooke pledged that 2015 would be “the year of the tablet” for the country’s largest daily newspaper.

The Star announced in November that it would eliminate its paywall later this year, instead partnering with Quebec daily La Presse to develop a free ad-supported tablet edition that would mimic the latter’s hugely successful La Presse + product.

In the memo, Cooke said the tablet product will become a vehicle for long term financial success by leading the Star to a digital audience, including people who don’t currently read the publication.

“We will not abandon our existing audience – in fact, we will continue to provide value to ‘traditional’ readers and advertisers through a high-quality printed Star as well as our online and mobile offerings,” said Cooke in the memo.

The publication plans to add approximately 60 new designers and journalists. “They will bring an explosion of freshness our newsroom has never before seen in such a concentrated time,” said Cooke, urging staff to help recruit new talent. There are “great opportunities at The Star,” he wrote.

In its third quarter report last year, Torstar said it planned to invest between $1 and $2 million in the tablet product in the fourth quarter, and an additional $10-12 million in 2015.

The Star introduced its digital paywall in 2013 in an attempt to offset declining ad revenues. Print advertising revenues at the paper fell 19.7% in the first nine months of 2014.

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