Credit: Image from Pixabay

Canadian newspaper La Presse stopped printing its daily editions at the end of December, publishing instead on La Presse+, a tablet app launched in April 2013.

Around 250,000 unique devices access La Presse+ every weekday, a number higher than La Presse's circulation peak in print in 1971 when it sold 221,250 copies.

Some 100,000 new devices have started using the app weekly since the plans to discontinue the weekday print edition of La Presse were announced  – the Saturday edition continues to be published in print.

La Presse+ users spend 40 minutes on average inside the app, and the majority of readers are 25 to 54 years old, unlike the print edition where readers tended to be older.

"What we want to do is really work with what I call our ecosystem," said Guy Crevier, publisher of La Presse. "Be sure that we have a good product on the tablet, a good but very different product on the phone, on desktop, and all these products work well together to bring more people on the tablet.

"Because I think that's our future, that's the only technology that allows us today to have engagement, a good profile and a future."

La Presse+ generates more than three quarters of La Presse's total advertising revenue, and Crevier told he does not want La Presse to focus on the smartphone app market.

While the jury is still out on whether La Presse will publish any stories on Facebook Instant Articles or Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, Crevier explained it would be a limited offering if it does go ahead, as he does not want to reduce the contact readers have with the brand.

He has yet to see a business model that works on mobile, and competing for attention with social networks and other apps or sites on a smartphone does not appeal to him.

"We didn't want to compete with these people, that's why we have the tablet product. Maybe they will grab 50 or 60 per cent of the market, but we want to be the best one of the 40 per cent that's left."

In the UK, The Independent's publishers announced at the beginning of February that the newspaper will become digital-only from March.

A tablet app called The Independent Daily Edition was also introduced, although it operates on a subscription basis unlike La Presse+, which is free to access.

"I'm really supportive of people who do something to change the model," said Crevier. "There's no way the newspaper model will survive long-term except maybe for big newspapers with specialised content they can charge for.

"It's better to address that now when you're not already in a crisis. It's easier to transform yourself when you have money to do it, than wait too long."

After 15 years of being a newspaper publisher and after working as journalist beforehand, Crevier told he is now proud not to be in the newspaper business any longer as La Presse's transformation has been successful.

In the newspaper business, he said, the focus is on cutting expenses as revenues fall, and he does not see a future there. La Presse has been able to keep its resources and staff by cutting distribution and printing costs.

"Our goal at the beginning was to save what I call the DNA of La Presse, [doing] rich content, investigative journalism," said Crevier. "The newspaper plays an important role in the community and we're happy to be able to save that."

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