Canada's Toronto Star Tries Paperless Paper

The Toronto Star announced Tuesday that it is launching a downloadable afternoon edition, the StarPM, available in PDF form on its Web site. Canada's biggest daily newspaper, Star claims this is the first downloadable afternoon edition from a North American newspaper--beating out U.S. competitors. The move is part of a general repositioning of the paper and launches Sept. 5 at

According to Michael Babad, the Star's deputy managing editor for business, the afternoon edition will be a printable eight-page PDF in 8.5 x11-inch format, with up to four extra pages devoted to "sports, lifestyles, young working adults and people in the news." To appeal to commuters, the eight-page core product also includes a diversions page with puzzles. The goal is to feed "various and sundry reader desires," Babad says.

Star spokeswoman Heather Armstrong says the first afternoon edition has support from five major advertisers, whose ads will appear in banner format. The banner ads will rotate on the front-page PDFs of the same edition, giving each advertiser some exposure in the premium position. The edition will become available at 3:30 p.m. every afternoon, printable in both black-and-white and color versions.



In the Star's new strategy, Armstrong says, "breaking news is posted to the Internet, and the print newspaper is much more about explaining the context and background of events, answering the question of why things are happening." The newspaper hopes to reinvent itself as a "multi-product platform that services customers with news when they want it, in the ways they want it."

Some European papers with international readership--most notably the Financial Times' FT P.M.--have been offering late editions in PDF form since last year.

Ken Doctor, a newspaper industry analyst with Outsell, Inc., was skeptical that a downloadable afternoon edition could help major newspapers in their struggle with the Internet, although he believes it has some utility, particularly as an FT niche product. "If you can target a niche with data about market closings, for example, and if readers can benefit from the portability of print, it's ideal for a commuting audience," he says. But as a general news product, Doctor isn't convinced. "The growing competition from portable Internet-enabled devices like laptops and PDAs will shape where people get their news on the go."

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