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Metro to end free newspapers in some cities

TORONTO - Three of Canada's free Metro daily newspapers will publish their last print editions on Friday and 25 employees will be laid off as a result of a management decision to focus on larger markets.

Star Media Group says Metro papers in Regina, Saskatoon and London, Ont., will cease production as it looks towards areas of the country with the "greatest potential for Metro."

Spokesman Bob Hepburn says all of the cities will continue to publish online with a single reporter in each of the cities, an editor in London and another to oversee both editions in Saskatchewan.

Star Media, a division of Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B), says it fully supports the decision, which was recommended by Metro's senior executive team.

"We intend to drive growth in the areas of greatest potential for Metro, across all platforms," said Star Media Group president John Cruickshank, who is also the publisher of the Toronto Star, in a letter to employees.

"This decision does not reflect any change in our commitment to Metro's future, both in print in larger markets and in digital in all markets."

Metro will still have free daily print editions in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Winnipeg after the changes. Online versions are also published in Hamilton, the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Windsor and Victoria.

Media companies have been grappling with eroding print advertising revenues and a shift in readership away from traditional newspapers. All of the country's big media companies have been scaling back staff and reworking operations to focus more on their websites.

Torstar has made some dramatic changes to its business this year, which include layoffs at the Toronto Star and the sale of its Harlequin romance novel division to global media company News Corp. for $455 million.

David Holland, president and CEO of Torstar, said in May that Torstar needs to keep an "open mind" as it navigates through the rapid changes in the industry.

"We've got a lot of reflecting to do around what our next step is, and our next stage,'' he said after the company's annual meeting.

Some of those potential opportunities could include entering into new areas of the digital media business through acquisitions, Holland said at the time.

Star Media Group is umbrella organization that oversees the Toronto Star, the Metro dailies and online advertising company Olive Media.

The Canadian Press is jointly owned by Torstar and the parent companies of the Globe and Mail and Montreal's La Presse.

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