Remedial Media: Ottawa Petfinder relaunch reflux

It comes as no surprise to hear that all the fanfare and foofaraw that accompanied the Ottawa Petfinder relaunch a couple of months ago has come to naught.

As reported in Franks passim, the Postmedia piffle sheet pumped well over a million dollars into its makeover, replete with ad slogans like, “Trending since 1845. Reimagined for today,” and featuring that retro hipster prat in a top hat, gazing smugly from buses, billboards and telephone poles throughout the city.

The makeover, a template that will roll out through the entire Postmedia chain over the coming months, was meant to boost circulation/revenue. Instead, it’s been an unmitigated disaster. The paper today has fewer subscribers than when it started, say Citizen insiders.

Rather than sell the idea the Petfinder had changed dramatically, the promotion crusade simply confirmed the impression the product is going the way of the wooly mammoth, on a campaign of desperation.

Hundreds of subscribers bailed, amid complaints the redesign looked like a dog’s breakfast of pastel post-it notes and news buried amid sections named “You.”

Granted, many thousands stayed with the paper, but quit the $30 home delivery in favour of the $10 digital (for which advertisers pay significantly less).

The biggest joke has been the vaunted four-platform strategy. The iPad app, for instance, can’t be downloaded by older tablets, and is such a pain that barely a thousand subscribers bother using it.

Meanwhile, as circulation for the Saturday paper slips below 75,000, Petfinder hacks talk openly of the paper shutting down.

In a sane corporation, a disastrous product flop would prompt the brain trust to pull it off the market, or at the very least, reverse course.

But at Postmedia, COO Wayne Parrish has ordered full steam ahead, damn the readers, wtf do they know?

Poor Wayne. The relaunch is his baby and he’s stuck with it. He can’t possibly admit he’s got another Windows 7 on his hands, so he’s going to inflict the Citizen design woofer on the Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette next month.

Of course, in Postmedia land, executive cock-ups are the norm.

In fact, they go handsomely rewarded.

Consider that after the last quarter of 2013, in which Postmedia revenues fell 8.4 per cent, its board of directors expressed their appreciation of president Paul Godfrey’s performance with a 50% raise in compensation to $1.7 million.

And they say there’s no money in media.


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6 comments on “Remedial Media: Ottawa Petfinder relaunch reflux
  1. gormab says:

    Interesting thing is that this fits in to a long Canadian newspaper tradition of trying to fix structural problems with cosmetic repairs. In the 1980s and ’90s, it was all USA Today layout, fact boxes, “news you can use,” and info-bites. All the while, throwing journalists over the side.

    Now that advertising has vapourized and they have to actually sell a product, metro dailies have very little product to sell. What do they do? Hire journalists? Beef up the news coverage? No. They do what they always do. Redesign. It’s cheap. You can dress it up in a load of complicated marketing and digital jargon and make it sound complicated. But it’s moronically simple. Slap a new coat of paint on the cracks and the foundation is as good as new.

    Back in the days when readers had no choice but to buy your product, a design makeover and some self-serving shit about making the paper “smaller and easier to read to serve you better” might have cut it. Today, when they have to actually compete for an audience, newspapers need content – but they killed off all the people who make it.

  2. reym says:

    Shurely you mean Windows Vista.

  3. diggle says:

    Whatever you mean, the nouveau Petfinder is a piece of shit, and I am on the verge of cancelling it out as well.

  4. orphancarguy says:

    Beat you all to it! I cancelled the Pifflespreader long before I even fled from Ottawa. I still follow it and its siblings in crime, Notional Putz and all, the same way the man with the broom follows the elephants–same job, actually. I hate to see a source of journalism and good writing close up, but since that doesn’t apply to the OC Transcript, good riddance. I missed Frank much more than I would miss Petfinder.

    I do remember still with affection the Ottawa Journal of my callow youth–tiny, money losing, skinny, and conservative in a large, fat Liberal town, but filled with good writing and terrible proofreading. We always took both. As my granny opined: “Oh, the Citizen for the cake recipes and travel sections, but the Journal to figure what is actually happening in the world, and to correct the Citizen’s errors of fact.” The Usurpers have managed to make the OC into a tiny (minded), money-losing, skinny, conservative, and like the Journal, soon to be late paper.

    • mmedesevigne says:

      Orphancarguy, I think that we must have been separated at birth. I rarely comment on these forums because I usually find that you’ve beaten me to it.

      In my own callow youth, I delivered The Journal and my entire Liberal family read it. It was a damn good paper.

      I came THAT close to breaking down completely when Frank left us a few years back. Thank God he is now beavering away at the old stand, as brassy and provocative as ever. I agree that The Petfinder will soon be a distant and unfragrant memory. I subscribe digitally, but mainly for the obits. I like to know whether my bridge game is still on.

    • portabletrading says:

      Sounds like your grandmother would say the same about Gawker vs. Frank.

      Google “Chelsea Van Valkenburg” for a glimpse into the world that “online journalism” has become. Last week I had no idea WTF Patreon was either.

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