Sunday, January 25, 2015

Canada’s Xtra closing print editions, going all digital

by Chuck Colbert

In a significant strategic repositioning, Canada’s leading gay and lesbian publisher, Pink Triangle Press (PTP), announced this month that it would move to an all-digital platform. Consequently, in February, PTP is closing print editions of Xtra, Canada’s leading LGBT newspaper, in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

The final print issues of Xtra Vancouver and Xtra Ottawa will appear on the streets on February 12. The Toronto edition of Xtra will close on the newspaper’s 31st anniversary, with the final issue distributed on February 19.

In making the all-digital move, PTP will focus on developing its journalism website DailyXtra.ca and gay adult dating website Squirt.org.

The all-digital direction is a result of an eight-month strategic assessment process that senior management at PTP began in spring 2014.

“For most of the past year, our management team worked with external advisors to arrive at an answer to this question: How can we best use our resources to continue to promote sexual freedom in a financially sustainable manner? We have concluded that a complete transition to digital media offers the best opportunity to continue to engage our audiences over the long term,” said Ken Popert, executive director and president of PTP, in a press statement.

Popert said that the move to all-digital journalism would bring with it significant benefits, including a wider audience for PTP’s message, greater currency, more effective advocacy and global news combined with local action.

As a part of its repositioning, PTP is also launching a new Social Sponsorship program. This initiative would offer a continued presence on the ground in its communities and open up the DailyXtra digital space in new ways to organizations and audiences, encouraging community involvement and enhancing PTP’s journalism as a social experience. The program is in an initial testing phase in the Toronto market.

“We have a good track record of online engagement through DailyXtra and other channels like YouTube,” said David Walberg, chief executive officer of digital media at PTP, in a press statement. “Most of our revenues already come through digital membership sales in the adult dating space, where we've had great success building a growing online community.”

In fact, as print advertising has declined over the years, “90 percent of our revenue comes from the digital operations on Squirt.org,” said Popert over the telephone from Toronto.

“We are looking to hone our journalism focus and develop a number of our unique strengths,” Walberg added. “We have a particularly strong relationship with our core local communities. Our editorial voice is also unique, in that we have consistently championed sexual freedom and freedom of expression. We are one of very few entities in the world producing gay and lesbian video journalism. We are also committed to exploring an international role for the press over the next few years.” 

 "In the short term,” he added in email correspondence, “we'll be launching a mobile version of DailyXtra in a couple of months, and a refreshed version of the website in the spring.”

“PTP has survived for more than four decades because it has not been afraid to innovate in the way we earn our money and deliver our message,” said Popert.

The print newspaper closures necessitate a cut in staff of 12 full-time employees from the company’s publishing and administration divisions. But five new digital positions are to be added. Overall, as a digital publisher, PTP will employ 57 people in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

Founded in 1971 to advance the struggle for sexual liberation, Pink Triangle Press’ defining activity is lesbian and gay journalism.

Over four decades, PTP grew from a small grassroots operation to one of the most diversified gay multimedia enterprises in the world, with a roster of brands ranging from print to online publishing and television production.

“Although the scale of the press has grown hugely since 1971, we remain true to our founding principles,” said Popert. “We have no owners or shareholders profiting from our work and our overriding message remains that collective action is the way to advance the common good.”

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