Toronto Star touts commitment to quality journalism in new subscription drive

Who: The Toronto Star and Toronto-based brand and communications consultancy Creative Business Company.

What: “Stay close to what matters most,” a new brand campaign promoting the daily newspaper’s ongoing commitment to the quality journalism embodied by its famed Atkinson Principles.

The campaign was in development prior to NordStar Capital’s $60 million purchase of Star parent Torstar earlier this year, says Liz Haq, who is responsible for strategy, editorial content and acquisition at the Star.

Revitalization (OOH)

When & Where: The campaign launched Monday and includes online video, paid social, radio, print and about 130 billboards around downtown Toronto.

Why: The goal is to promote the Star‘s subscription product and establish the brand among younger and new Canadians, says Anna Marie Menezes, Torstar’s vice-president of consumer marketing.

“Investing in the Star brand will help us strengthen our presence in market and ensure that we are relevant with a new generation of readers; both younger Canadians and new Canadians,” she says.

Investing in the Star‘s brand can also help reduce reliance on price-driven messaging, shifting the relationship with potential subscribers from merely transactional to something deeper, says Creative Business Company founder and president Faisal Siddiqui.

The subtext: It’s no secret that the advertising that sustained the newspaper industry for decades has largely dried up, a situation that has been further exacerbated by the global pandemic.

In May, Torstar reported a second quarter loss of $23.5 million, stemming from a 29% decline in print ad revenue. Digital ad revenues and flyer distribution revenue for the period fell by 12% and 27% respectively.

Like other papers such as The New York Times and Washington Post, the Star has determined that subscriptions are the most viable revenue option. The campaign is intended to show that the Star‘s journalism is worth paying for, even in an online world where consumers have become accustomed to free and have myriad free options at their disposal.

How: The video ads show the Star‘s longtime commitment to stories around social justice, which a briefing document describes as “the common concerns of all Canadians and for a Canada for all Canadians.”

They show that the Star has been devoting its editorial resources to current hot-button issues like racial inequality and gentrification for many years. There’s a bit of an inside baseball feel to the video spots, which show the stories being composed by reporters against a background using the Star‘s signature blue. All of the ads feature the super “journalism that fights for us all.”

And we quote: “Star journalists produce impactful work that affects the lives of Canadians, and we have for some time. We move the needle on policy, expose wrongdoing, highlight the experiences of communities who often go neglected. The strategy was born out of a desire to highlight this work… and specifically the importance of subscribing to ensure its future.” — Liz Haq, strategy, editorial content and acquisition, Toronto Star

Chris Powell