The Mario Blog
Tablets are nice, but those smartphones dominate

As more readers of all ages get their information on the phone, tablets take a back seat. For The Toronto Star, its Star Touch app will cease to be by the end of July.

It is not as if tablets are likely to disappear any time soon.

But each day we get another kernel of evidence about the importance of those smartphones, the rise of mobile and how more people are consuming information on those small screens.

This week, The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper took the bold step of shutting down its much publicized Star Touch app, designed specifically for tablets, and which the company thought would be a way to lure those elusive young readers.

Well, those young readers are attached to their smartphones, consuming most of their news and information on them, and barely separating themselves from the phones every moment that they are awake.

The Star Touch app was created in 2015, using the technology of La Presse+, the Montreal-based media firm, which publishes entirely on the tablet, and for which a tablet edition has been a most successful venture.  The app included videos, photo galleries, and kept the finger of users happy, with tons of visuals and good engagement.


It is sad that this well done tablet app disappears, especially since Toronto Star execs had pinned such high hopes on it. Here is what John Cruickshank, the newspaper’s publisher, said in 2015:

“It’s the biggest change in storytelling in a century. The newsroom is producing for the tablet, and everything else will fall out of that. And that’s huge.”

The other sad news and a direct result of the app’s demise:   The Toronto Star is laying off 30 employees as it shutters its Star Touch tablet app.

Star sources say that the tablet-only app will be replaced by one for smartphones as well as tablets. A so-called universal app will be available to readers before the end of July, while the Star Touch’s latest edition will run on July 31.

I believe many of the visual storytelling components and innovations that made Star Touch unique can be utilized when writing/designing for the smaller screen of smartphones.

What went wrong?

Apparently, Star Touch was an editorial success with a loyal audience — but one that was too small.  Not enough of those young (or old) readers were reading on the tablet.

As I always mention in all my workshops, there are three verbs to conjugate in newsrooms these days: shift, change, disrupt.

The Toronto Star has shown that it follows these patterns, and now will have to shift its strategy, hopefully using some of the disruptive ideas that made the Star Touch app popular with its loyal, albeit small, audience.  As more media houses create hierarchies for the media quintet, it is for sure that smartphones are the lead voice!


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