KAWARTHA LAKES-80-year-old Darlene Sheehey says she will really miss reading the physical newspaper.
“I’ll definitely miss it, it’s one of my connections to the community,” Sheehey explains. “I don’t get out much I’m 80 years old. I sit for hours and read it from cover to cover. At my age, I like to keep up on the obituaries and I also miss the flyers and the real estate section.”
More than 70 weekly community newspapers across Ontario, including Kawartha Lakes This Week permanently ended print publication last week. 605 Metroland staff across the province were also laid off
“Metroland has faced substantial declines in both print advertising and the flyer business over the past several years, to the point where the community newspaper business is no longer viable in printed form,” said a statement by the company. “We simply don’t have the financial resources required to fund large, sustained operating losses indefinitely.”
According to court documents, Metroland owes creditors $74.2 million. The newspaper industry has been in sharp decline over the past years, as consumers opt to get their news digitally. Publications including Metroland – a division of the Torstar Corporation, who also owns the Toronto Star – have incurred significant operating losses.
“The Company has determined that in order to survive it must end its weekly paper and flyer businesses and convert to a digital strategy,” said the statement.
Print news publications have vocally advocated for the Online News Act (Bill C-18), legislation which aims to force tech companies to pay Canadian publishers for content shared on their platforms.
Tech companies and many digital-first news outlets that rely on social media networks to share and amplify their content oppose the bill.
Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – estimates it has generated upwards of $230 million in free marketing for publishers in one year, by driving traffic to their websites.
“The traditional news industry faces profound challenges. New technology has emerged, consumer behaviour has changed, and old business models don’t work anymore,” said a statement prepared by Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg. “Of course, everyone wants quality journalism to thrive. But it makes no more sense to claim social media companies are taking money from publishers than to say car companies stole from the horse and cart industry.
Bill C-18 received royal assent in June, and Meta has since ended news availability for Canadians on its platforms Facebook and Instagram. Google has confirmed it intends to do the same.
Residents and local businesses are paying the price. Local real estate expert David Ahrens says the weekly print real estate flyer was an effective tool for reaching segments of his target market.
“In the short term and the midterm, this definitely has an impact. There’s a negative impact for realtors and maybe an outsized impact on them for their marketing and advertising but I think the real losers in this are the readers.”Ahrens said. “There’s still a very big part of our community that still loves to turn pages instead of clicking or swiping.”
All of this leaves a “news desert” in Kawartha Lakes with options for consumers shrinking. Kawartha 411 followers have noticed they have been unable to view our content on Facebook and Instagram, which is the result of Bill C-18.
Kawartha 411 News is the leading news outlet in the City of Kawartha Lakes and we will continue to keep the community informed on breaking news, community events and weather. Follow us on X/Twitter or subscribe to our daily newsletter.
With files from Muskoka 411.