After 31 years of print editions of Xtra, its parent company is moving to a strictly digital platform.
Xtra’s editor-in-chief, Brandon Matheson, announced along with Ken Popert, the president of Xtra’s parent company, Pink Triangle Press (PTP), that Xtra will be printed for the last times in Ottawa and Vancouver on Feb 12, and in Toronto on Feb 19.
According to Popert, digital revenue had far outstripped print revenue for several years as print advertising declined. “Ninety percent of our revenue comes from our digital operations,” he says. “That’s how marginal from a financial point of view the print operation had become.”
Popert says that the decision was not made lightly — it took the better part of 2014 before a final decision was made later in the year.
“Nothing can replace the comforting signal the street box sends out that everything is fine,” Popert says. “There’s no way we can avoid it, basically.”
As a result of the decision, 12 employees will lose their jobs when the papers fold. Five new digital positions will be added and PTP will employ 57 people.
Matheson, who was also the founding publisher and editor of Xtra Ottawa (then called Capital Xtra), has decidedly mixed feelings about the announcement. “First and foremost above everything else are the people we are losing and the people who have actually poured a lot of their heart and soul into Xtra.”
However, Matheson notes that Xtra embraced online publishing early and that the website attracts a broader readership than the print editions. “We know that as Daily Xtra is going to grow, we concertedly want to focus on reaching a broader, larger audience and an international audience.” He also says that Xtra currently publishes more local news online than in print.
Though the print publication will no longer be on the streets of Ottawa, Toronto or Vancouver, digital media will continue to focus on local markets, blended with international coverage of queer news.
A mobile version of dailyxtra.com is slated to launch soon, and a revamped version of the site will be coming in the spring. “We decided to focus on a number of areas,” Matheson says. “Looking to the future, Daily Xtra will be possibly the centrepiece and a key part of our digital strategy, but it’s not the only thing.”