NYT’s take on the new Globe and Mail

The New York Times explores Toronto’s newspaper war and the latest tactics taken by The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post.

The Times writes that the Globe redesign makes it the first paper to use colour on every page and glossy, magazine-style paper. It notes that “The paper has also introduced a slightly smaller size, a redesign and an approach to news suddenly characterized by a willingness to ignore it.”

“We have thrown down this gauntlet and said this is where we think the future of newspapers is,” Phillip Crawley, Globe publisher and chief executive, told the NYT. “This is, to me, the equivalent of our iPad.”

The New York Times writes that the Globe’s $1.7 billion, 18-year investment in print comes at a “a pivotal time in the Toronto newspaper market.” The Globe is about to return to the full control of the Thomson family, which also owns Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, the National Post‘s recent bankruptcy restructuring has put the paper, which has never been profitable, in “a competitive position many thought unlikely.” The Toronto Star, which boasts the country’s largest newspaper circulation and advertising base, has “recently replaced much of its senior management, in many cases with former employees of Conrad M. Black, the founder of The Post, and revamped its Web site and print pages.”

The NYT reports that “By some measures, The Globe and Mail has long been ahead of its competitors in digital publishing. It charges subscription fees for some online content and was early to embrace mobile applications. While The Globe and Mail and The Star offer iPhone applications, The National Post’s first version is still pending and its iPad app is farther in the future.”

On the redesign, the New York Times reports that the Globe now approaches articles in two different ways:

“News articles, if they are not simply left to the website, are frequently displayed as a collection of fact boxes sometimes accompanied by a brief introduction.

“But, throughout the paper, feature-length articles appear, including some that fill two ad-free pages each day. Many of the paper’s long pieces lack an immediate time element but are intended to touch off public debate.

“Mixed in, sometimes uncomfortably, are celebrity lifestyle articles that rarely would have been in the paper’s news pages in the past.”

“I think you can produce the sexiest looking newspaper on the planet and still be the most serious newspaper in the country,” Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse told the NYT.

While the Globe told the NYT that reader response has been largely positive — Crawley notes that “The largest single complaint we’ve had is about the size of the Sudoku puzzle. If that’s the worst, I can live with that.” — the paper’s competitors have voiced their criticisms. The NYT reports:

“‘There’s a lot more ‘bitsiness’ to it, and I don’t think that’s a good idea for them,’  Toronto Star publisher Cruickshank said, referring the presentation of many news articles in The Globe and Mail. ‘Their role has always been as a serious readers’ newspaper.'”

National Post publisher Doug Kelly feels the opposite: the new Globe is neither bold nor different enough, telling the NYT that “At best, I think it was tinkering.”