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June 12, 2018, 6:42 a.m.
Reporting & Production

Canada’s The Logic is a new subscription news outlet focused on the innovation economy, à la The Information

“Is it a tech story? Is it a business and tech or policy and politics story, is it a cultural story? Well, it’s actually all the above: The impact of technology on the cognitive, economic, and political ways we live is quite transformative.”

Information wants to be $300 a year — and it wants to be exclusive, high quality, and lower quantity.

At least that’s the bet being made by The Logic, the new Canadian subscription news outlet that soft-launches today. Modeled in large part after Silicon Valley news site The Information, its focus will be on the innovation economy and its impacts across business, policy, culture, and more. The site in beta will offer a free, curated 4 p.m. email briefing and an initial paywalled offering of two reported feature stories per week — though the editorial ideas and business model underpinning the site have been percolating for some time.

“I got advice early on that you’ve got to be passionate about what you’re creating as a business, and there’s nothing I’m more passionate about than the fourth industrial revolution,” David Skok, The Logic’s CEO and editor-in-chief, told me ahead of the launch. (Think nanotech, Internet of Things, self-driving cars, robotics, AI, wearables, and yes, even blockchain — the deep integration of technology into our everyday lives.)

Skok, a 2012 Nieman Fellow and a former top digital editor at The Toronto Star and The Boston Globe, said The Logic emerged out of a perfect storm of upheaval and layoffs in Canadian journalism and the meteoric takeover of the innovation economy — the Ubers, the Amazons, the cryptocurrency startups, the AI developments — in people’s daily lives. The stories will be Canada-specific, but “there’s nothing that prevents us from pulling that lens back, for what we’re reporting on to be of interest in Toronto as well as in Helsinki.” (Skok mentioned planned coverage, for instance, of a downtown Toronto “smart cities” project spearheaded by Google parent Alphabet’s initiative Sidewalk Labs.)

“I’ve been thinking about these issues for a long time, but have often felt hamstrung by traditional sections,” Skok said. “Is it a tech story? Is it a business and tech or policy and politics story, is it a cultural story? Well, it’s actually all the above: The impact of technology on the cognitive, economic, and political ways we live is quite transformative.”

The Logic, a startup itself trying to feel out an unsteady Canadian ecosystem for journalism, will start with five full-time staff (Skok, Sean Craig, Catherine McIntyre, Zane Schwartz, and Amanda Roth) as well as a contributing editor based in San Francisco (Julia Scott), and two interns (Hanna Lee and Caroline Mercer). It’s supported currently by investment from friends and family and without major VC funding or any institutional investors. The price of a full subscription will be $300 a year — from anywhere in the world — though maybe down the line The Logic will introduce pricing tiers, Skok said. The first group of paying subscribers will be designated a part of “The Logic Council.” The site is committed to staying advertising-free. From Skok’s welcome email:

Please join us, and other Canadians committed to the country’s future, by subscribing to The Logic. We also hope you’ll spread the word by sharing our articles and discussing our coverage. In return for your investment, we commit to working as hard as we can to produce reporting that is consistently engaging, factual and fair. Reporting that serves you, not advertisers. As with most startups, we are entering the world in beta. Our growth and success depends on your support. By subscribing early, you will be providing us with the operating capital we need to invest in longer-term investigations. With more subscribers, we will hire more reporters.

As an early subscriber, you will also join The Logic Council, a membership community of service-minded leaders that, facilitated through our journalism, will aim to move our country forward through exclusive events and discussions on the issues that matter in Canada’s innovation economy.

Skok is betting there are enough Canadian (and Canada-interested) readers willing to support the low-volume, high-quality type of business publication The Logic wants to be. He said there’ve been a few other twinkles of journalism innovation in Canada lately, despite a rough past decade. A national report published last year called The Shattered Mirror estimated that a third of Canadian journalism jobs have been lost since 2010. The most recent Reuters Institute Digital News Report found Canada ranked near the bottom of the countries it studied for proportion of people paying for online news.

“I firmly believe that at this moment in time, for all the reasons many others have already documented, people are willing to pay for subscriptions in a way they weren’t just a short time ago,” Skok said. “You hear all the time that Canadians won’t pay for news online, but the thing is, many of them are paying for news from U.S.-based organizations.” As part of its global push for digital subscribers, The New York Times has been making a land grab in Canada and seemingly found success. Subscription sports site The Athletic has a profitable operation in Toronto and sites in six other Canadian cities.

The Logic is looking to double its audience size every year, which, according to Skok, is a lower target figure than media watchers might assume (he didn’t share specific numbers) because “our cost structure is so low” (WordPress for production, Piano for the paywall, contractors for the site design). For many legacy media companies, over half of their revenue often goes towards production and distribution, and far less than half towards the actual newsroom and supporting reporting, he estimates. The Logic aims to spend upwards of 70 of its revenue on its newsroom.

“We believe Canadians will want to support journalism. There hasn’t been a true business publication for Canada, a totally new one — there’s a lot of great work from already very established outlets — in almost 20 years. For me, I think we can play a role in filling a tremendous void,” Skok said. “Our target reader is someone who is willing and engaged enough to want to constructively disrupt the status quo. The makeup of Canada has changed dramatically over the last 10 to 20 years, and I believe there’s a whole generation of Canadians who’ve grown up and don’t see the way we’ve always done things the way we should be doing them now. Our hope is that we can convene and facilitate conversations among all those people.”

Photo of The Logic’s staffers by Nick Iwanyshyn, used with permission.

POSTED     June 12, 2018, 6:42 a.m.
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