February 3, 2016 Last Updated 7:25 am

It’s party time for the publishing industry; iPad app Star Touch by Toronto Star goes to version 2.0

Morning Brief: Canadian daily updates app built off the La Presse+ platform, though the paper recently announced that ten positions tied to the tablet edition would be eliminated

While much of the executive class of the magazine industry was gathering to discuss how wonderful things are in their industry, (but that things must change anyway), the Earth still turned (no link, I merely assume this), the stock market fell again, and another journalism scandal has occurred. It’s that time of year again, just after the holiday break, when much of the industry wastes another month or two congratulating each other for awards won because they paid the entry fee while their competition cut back on award entries. (“See, we’re doing so much better than them because we still budget for awards!”)

partytime-400It may seem cynical to not be a fan of the red carpet act, but it gets tiring because after this is all over we return to notices of layoffs, title closings and more digital-first initiatives (which generally involve layoffs and title closings). I suppose the tens of thousands of dollars spent on these silly events wouldn’t save many jobs, but still one wonders if the money wouldn’t be better spent on launching new web and app products, on beefing up the editorial and ad staffs, or at least adding better dental benefits. Maybe on making those P&Ls a little blacker.

But, it could be argued that you have to eat, even if you are a publishing executive, right?. So why not attend an event where lunch is served, where you can rub shoulders with celebrities, gossip with your fellow execs, and maybe, just maybe, find a private equity company that can bail you out?

I guess one could argue that the time period between Thanksgiving and the end of the events and awards cycle is the only time of year these execs actually enjoy being in the publishing business. As one editor told me yesterday, he loves this time of year, his boss is off at meetings and conferences the first two months of the year and he is left alone to do his job. The worst time of the year, he said, was when his boss returns.

Developers are still to work, their conferences are in the summer, with the big on still being Apple’s WWDC. So we’re starting to see the rate of app updates increase.

Star Touch iPad newspaper La Presse+The Toronto Star has issued its first update for 2016 for Star Touch by Toronto Star. This is the iPad app built on the La Presse+ platform.

The app had involved a big commitment to tablet editions for Canada’s highest-circulation newspaper. Print weekday circulation fell to 175,411, 278,961 on Saturday, and as elsewhere the paper is facing a tough ad environment.

As a result, just over two weeks ago the paper announced that 13 newsroom jobs would be cut, ten of which were tied to the tablet edition. The new tablet app had only been released in September of last year.

“Many outstanding employees – in our newsroom, the press centre and elsewhere in the company – will be leaving, sadly. There is no way to put a positive face on that,” editor in chief Michael Cooke said in the memo.

Nonetheless, the new Star Touch has been updated to version 2.0. Overall, reader ratings are very good, with less than 10 percent of readers marking down the app. The written reviews are more mixed, however, though one wonders if many were written by critics of the paper who would have criticized anything the paper attempted to do. Yes, it’s a tough time out there for the newspaper industry. Just read the comments on any story in the NYT or WaPo that talks about the primary campaigns.

What’s New in Version 2.0.0
Major redesign of the application to enhance the navigation experience of daily editions on earlier model iPads. Screen refresh will be quicker and transitions from one screen to another more fluid, particularly on iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad4, iPad mini and iPad mini 2 tablets.

Earlier in 2015 the paper announced that it would be pulling down its paywall. That experiment with digital subscription had only just started in the fall of 2013, so one has to wonder about management’s commitments to its initiatives.

“Listening to our audiences is critical to the success of our daily newspaper and our digital offerings and we are committed to continually adjusting our digital strategies to provide them with what they want,” the paper said at the time.

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