Star Touch, the $35-million tar baby that was (is?) the future of The Toronto Star celebrated its first birthday last weekend.
Champagne, cake, balloons and congratulatory speeches to the 75 hard-working sluggos, who bring the glossy tablet product to life each morning at 5:30 were all rolled out.
In fact, a modest 200-word story on Page 8, under a one-column headline, was the only acknowledgement of the date last Saturday.
And any cheering came with endless echoes, because there are now only two dozen employees left toiling in the vineyard, down from nearly 80 a year ago.
But the words from on high still remain brave:
“It’s been a glorious year for Star journalism on this exciting new platform,” gushed Michael Cooke. “We’ve learned so much more about different ways to tell stories. And from what we hear, our readers are enjoying the ride too.”
Alas, not so many of them.
Launched with the goal of 180,000 daily readers, The Star confessed over the summer that fewer than 60,000 are having a look every week, even though 250,000 have downloaded the app in the fading world of tablets.
By contrast, the venerable printed product claims a weekly readership of more than a million sets of eyeballs. And the paper has slashed its promotional spending on the product to boot.
For One Yonge Kremlinologists, however, the Saturday story provided a tantalizing bonus.
It featured the first public utterance from the Honderich princeling most likely to clamber onto the throne when John Honderich (70 last July) gives it up.
There wasn’t much to it: “What Star Touch provides is a richer, more in-depth way to tell stories,” quoth Robin Honderich. “It’s a complete experience that gives the reader choice in how they take in a story.”
The thirtysomething, first-born Honderich was revealed as senior product manager, Toronto Star Touch.
Sound familiar? That’s because the job was previously held by the notorious Jon Filson, punted from the newsroom following the tawdry soap opera that featured suicide and high-level leg-overs.
Young Honderich has been in the family fold for two years now, and was part of the Star Touch development team, before, mirabile dictu, his ascent. (There is a formal arrangement under which offspring of the five families who control Torstar get jobs in the empire. Presumably layoff-proof.)
Robin’s qualifications? After a philosophy degree from Guelph, he spent five years at TSN packaging highlights. Then it was off to Curtin University in Perth Australia for a masters in media management. That was followed by18 months with an agency that finds speaking gigs for Aussie professional athletes.
There’s no place like home when you’re a Honderich.