71 weekly community newspapers across Ontario, including several from the Muskoka area, are permanently ending print publication.
Metroland Media Group announced Friday that it is seeking bankruptcy protection. The Bracebridge Examiner, Gravenhurst Banner, Huntsville Forester and The Muskokan will no longer be available in print.
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,” read a statement prepared by the company. “We simply don’t have the financial resources required to fund large, sustained operating losses indefinitely.”
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. According to court documents, Metroland owes creditors $74.2 million.
“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.
Metroland and Unifor – the union representing 104 of Metroland’s laid off workers – have vocally advocated for the controversial Online News Act (Bill C-18), legislation intended to force tech companies to pay Canadian publishers for content shared on their platforms.
Tech companies have strongly opposed the Bill. As well as many digital-first news outlets who rely on social media networks to share and amplify their content.
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. Google has confirmed it intends to do the same.
Muskoka411 followers may have noticed they have been unable to view our content on Facebook and Instagram, which is the result of this Bill.
As the leading digital-first news source in the region, we will continue to keep the community informed on breaking news, weather and traffic updates via our website, e-newsletter and Twitter channel.