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City planning advertising to be pulled from the Calgary Herald

Calgary planning matters will transition from traditional print newspaper to online notices with accompanying awareness campaigns, hoping for increased reach and lower costs.  

Calgary city council approved the move in a 12-2 vote (Chabot and Chu opposed) at a continuation of the Combined Meeting of Council on Wednesday.

The admin report said that the city’s website, Calgary.ca, “has become the primary source of information related to municipal affairs, including planning and development.” It follows past decisions to transition notices in other city areas away from the print Calgary Herald to an online source.

The City is required to advertise planning matters as per the Municipal Government Act. It does authorize council to, by bylaw, use electronic means if they’re satisfied it will bring the required information to affected residents.

The estimated loss in Calgary Herald revenue is $114,000, the city report said.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot understood the need to go online but said not everyone uses the internet to find planning information. He said prior to the pandemic, many people would hit the local Tim Hortons and read a free copy of the paper.

“My concern is how it will impact some of our current users that rely on the newspaper as their primary source of reference for notifications of this nature,” he said.

City admin did say that Calgary has the highest access to internet in the country at 96.7 per cent. Along with the online notices, the city will send letters to adjacent land owners and erect proposed land use signs at the locations.  They will also be communicating with community associations.

Tech advancements of going online

Coun. Courtney Walcott, who moved the motion, said these small changes matter a great deal. He said even by redirecting people to the new Calgary.ca/planningmatters website, they already have things like Google Translate available on them.  

“You can do the bare minimum and probably still include more people than you have… with the Calgary Herald, given what we know about the data and readership and the paywall that is sitting in front of us,” he said.

“That’s our standard, that you have pay to access planning matters.”

Plus, there are a variety of tools to reach different audiences and to promote the information online, councillors heard.

Chabot said that the measure of success shouldn’t necessarily be reaching 100 people who may not care, but the 10 people who do.

Chabot said that he would vote against as we should be providing more opportunities to access the information not less.

Walcott closed by adding the Calgary Herald also recently cut their Monday newspaper – the day prior to public hearings going to council.

“In addition to that, if I’m just being honest, there is currently no measure of success with the Calgary Herald either. Zero,” he said.  

“We have no clue who even opens to that page.”

He said with online advertising they know exactly how successful it’s been and how changes impact how many people they reach.

The City spends approximately $200,000 annually to advertise planning matters. A portion of that will be spent on different communication methods. Advertising of planning matters will continue with the Calgary Herald until the end of 2022. They will advertise the switch to Calgary.ca via the Herald until May 2023.