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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What the failure of Star Touch teaches us about a media bailout

The Toronto Star announced yesterday that it was shuttering its flagship Star Touch tablet app, laying off 30 employees and eating something north of $20 million in investment costs.

This comes a week after a group called “News Media Canada” — basically a legacy news media lobbying group — pitched the feds on a plan for the government to give the industry $350 million in support that would include funding 35 per cent of newsroom costs.

Clearly, the failure of Star Touch proves the need for the bailout money, yes?

Actually, no, it proves the exact opposite. Star Touch is exactly why the feds need to leave the news business to its death throes.

Some quick background: Star Touch was an attempt to recreate the walled garden of print in a digital format, to provide a closed environment where readers would come and stick around, paging through the heavily designed and curated app. It was explicitly sold as a multimedia version of a daily newspaper, “complete news experience with your favourite features, sections and columnists, not to mention a few extras you’ll find only in the app.”

Newspapers have been trying this trick for over a decade now, with one god failing after another. Star Touch was based on the app experience sold by La Presse, which has since shut down its print operation and gone digital-only. La Presse has been touting the success of its La Presse Plus app for a few years now, suggesting that they have succeeded where everyone else on earth has failed.

The Star bought the hype, and bought the technology. So props to them for trying, right?
Well, not really. Star Touch was always going to fail, for reasons that were obvious to anyone paying attention...

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