On the eve of the biggest redesign in the Globe and Mail’s history, editor-in-chief John Stackhouse stood before a group of people and announced: “Newspapers 1.0 is dead.” Enter the new Globe, now 18 months in the making, a newspaper he says is unlike any the world has seen.
In a speech hosted by the Economic Club of Canada, Stackhouse conjured up a dreary list of American newspaper siren calls: distressed property, bankruptcy, layoffs, foreign bureau closures. There’s no doubt some are questioning the Globe’s gamble on the print industry, which includes a $1.7-billion, 18-year print contract with Transcontinental.
And as for the print vs. online debate, Stackhouse admits that his team
“keeps an eye” on cannibalizing its paper assets by offering the same
information in other platforms, but so far it hasn’t been the case.
While tablet computers didn’t command much of Stackhouse’s speech, he
acknowledged that he reads “5-6 dailies” on his iPad. The Globe is
also experimenting with mobile apps — Stackhouse announced plans to
hire a “mobile team” that will focus on packaging news for smart phones and
tablet computers. Later, this strategy was reaffirmed when the audience
snored through a raffle of theatre tickets but gushed in unison when
organizers raffled off an iPad.
“Newspapers 2.0 — trying to put product on a screen — is starting to fade,” Stackhouse said. He thinks the Globe redesign might be the industry’s much-needed 3.0 version, where “content and community” are king, different platforms are embraced and journalism is only limited by your imagination. “The redesign is somewhat daring — sometimes I think too daring,” Stackhouse said, “but I think there’s a great future for a quality printed daily.”
Stackhouse hopes the glossy front page (a North American first) and full-colour, highly stylized design will lure readers and advertisers alike. He boasts that he’s had to turn “big-name advertisers” away from the first redesigned Saturday paper — now rebranded The Weekend Globe — which will “rattle the fashion publishing industry” with beautiful, glossy ads that can be turned over in a matter of days, not weeks.
Among the semi-gloss pages and new dedication to graphics, charts and giant photos, Stackhouse insists great journalism will continue to be a core Globe value. “We’ve recently added 20 journalist jobs. While others are in retreat, we’re growing, believing there’s an enormous future for our product — journalism.”
What form that journalism will take remains to be seen. In a note on the site, Stackhouse wrote “We’re also investing more in serious reporting and analysis. On most days of the week, you’ll find a major spread in our front section devoted to the best story and issue of the day. In today’s chaotic media world, it will rise above the noise to produce sophisticated and visually scintillating journalism. Consider it a Hollywood-free zone.”
During the speech Stackhouse said he will continue to staff the Globe’s eight foreign bureaus and place journalists in global hot spots: a correspondent stayed six months after Haiti’s earthquake, 12 reporters cover Parliament Hill exclusively and reporters are permanently stationed to cover the war in Afghanistan. (Last week the Globe took home an Emmy, it’s second in two years, for a multimedia series about Afghan women.) Stackhouse says the Globe is committed to continuing this sort of “statement journalism”. “We know people value that we address the issues, events and people that matter to Canadians. It can be hard to do in a digital world where sensation gets so much attention.”
Stackhouse sees “fantastic opportunity” in the print model, and said the Globe is investing in the the “dead tree business” for good reason. While U.S. papers continue to bleed red, “We’ve had a completely different experience here in Canada. [At the Globe], we’re coming off one of our best years ever. Readership is up 5% [over last year]. Weekday readership is up 7%. Digital revenue is up 28% and print revenue is up 10%.” True, the Globe hasn’t yet reclaimed its 2007 readership numbers, but Stackhouse is confident his so-called “Proudly Print” approach will bring eyeballs back to the printed page.
Not that the digital side has been ignored. The redesign includes a revamped Globeandmail.com. “Digital readers come to you in huge numbers and they leave you in huge numbers if you don’t hook them.” He says the new site isn’t competing with its Canadian newspaper peers. “Our competitors are the Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, the BBC. Our readers want innovation.”
Stackhouse introduced an eight-part series, to be launched next week, that will explore “issues facing Canadians.” Early in the process, an online forum was created and readers “applied” to gain membership and were asked to share their thoughts and help shape the issues that the reporters explored. “We’re going about journalism differently,” Stackhouse said, “we’re including readers from the get go.” Call it community journalism 3.0.
Report on Business has launched a new online network called Economy Lab (Lead story on launch: “How the Nobel prize may have sparked the credit crisis” )
In a ROB post, Economy Lab’s editor Rob Gilroy writes:
“The Globe and Mail has assembled more than a dozen of the country’s top economists and experts, along with our staff of economic writers and bloggers, to take readers beyond the headlines.
“Every day, we are hit with a barrage of economic sound bites, charts and statistics. But what does it all mean for Canadians with mortgages, kids in college, car loans and looming retirements?
“We’ll strive to help you understand, with analysis, news and opinion. And, we’ll try to have some fun as well. After all, it really isn’t such a dismal science.”
The Globe is also launching the first online camera club in Canada, where photojournalists and photo editors will give tips on shooting: Stackhouse hopes the club will become a community in itself. The twin pillars of the new Globe, Stackhouse said again and again, are community and content: “great reporting and great editing” that serves the “4.5 million Globe readers that are the real leaders of the country.”
There have been challenges: on route from Vancouver to Toronto, a
flatbed truck carrying a new Trancontinental printer was run off the
road and crashed into a side of a cliff. The driver survived, the
multi-million dollar printer did not. Here’s hoping the print industry doesn’t meet the same fate.
John Stackhouse will be speaking at a CJF Forum on October 21 at Innis Town Hall in Toronto.