Placing a dollar value on MediaScout

A unique but little-heralded force in Canada’s digital media scene, MediaScout, sent readers a survey asking how much, if anything, they would be willing to pay for the currently free daily news digest. The survey also asked if readers would tolerate advertising embedded in the news analysis that reaches their inboxes.

Like many digital publications, it is trying to work out what people might be willing to pay for.

MediaScout sends a morning run-down of the nation’s headlines to people who want to know how The National’s nightly broadcast compares to the front page of the Globe and Mail.

Seven legacy news outlets are analyzed: The Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, La Presse and the Ottawa Citizen as well as The National with Peter Mansbridge and CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson.

A writer scouts the presses reads five newspapers, evaluates the goods, and writes a quippy and intelligent, 1,200-word post at 10 am EST. The day’s foremost, influencing stories are tracked for prominence, placement, and coverage.

Insight and humor are strengths of MediaScout, so is the knack to chastise the “Big Seven” over an a.m. cup of joe. Check this post from October 23:

An editorial in the Globe uses five hundred words and the assumption that deficit spending is always inappropriate to construct their proposal for an ideal economic policy, while the [Toronto] Star takes four hundred mots juste to congratulate [Ontario Premier Dalton] McGuinty for his decision not to significantly cut programs, without once acknowledging the problems inherent in running a deficit or the possibility that the premier might have better managed the province’s money in these recent tense months. In sum, it seems that centre-right papers prefer centre-right economic policy because it seems better to them, whereas centre-left papers prefer centre-left policies because, well, they think they’re the way to go. MediaScout doesn’t expect Big Seven sources to produce innovative work in economics; all we ask is for more fairness and less straw men in the mornings.

MediaScout writers are not shy in giving advice or laying blame when they think Canada’s press can do better. At times, they take on an advocacy role, campaigning for strong, factual and balanced news with an emphasis on analysis.

One of the column’s flaws is the lack of coverage east of Toronto. Discounting the national outlets, no Western publication is considered. Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal (in this case, a francophone newspaper) are represented but Vancouver, Canada’s third-largest city, is nowhere on this media map.

No doubt this has to do partly with a three-hour time difference, but readers prepared to pay a fee could lobby for the inclusion of a Vancouver newspaper.

The site is funded by Maisonneuve magazine, one the country’s best but far from the most flush publications. Yet at $125 a week for writers alone, MediaScout is seeking more and/or additional backing.

Around 3,000 people read MediaScout each day. It will be interesting to see what the coming months bring and how a fee or ad revenue might change this valuable service.

Post Author: Neil Black