Making Ontario’s new daily construction newspaper a success: A report on its first weeks of publication

OCN D cover may1
The cover of the first daily issue of Ontario Construction News

Ontario Construction News staff writer

As Ontario Construction News prepares to start its seventh week of publication, readers and advertisers have noticed the new daily construction trade newspaper has some differences from the long-established competition.

“You’re fast,” one advertiser said, after discovering the live turn-around time from submission to delivery of her company’s Certificate of Substantial Notice (CSP) took just three business days. “We would always need to wait much longer for the documentation to arrive in the mail from the other newspaper – which you deliver but the PDF form and documentation you also send is good enough to complete the holdback release and that is time saved in gaining access to our funds.”

The cost-savings are significant, as well. Savings vary depending on the notice’s size, but most advertisers observe that they are saving upwards of $200 or more for the same legally mandated certificate.

But there is another aspect of the new daily newspaper’s achievements – and that it its speed in covering important news.

“It turns out our publication launch date on May 1 coincided with the end of the three year construction labour union contract periods,” said editor Mark Buckshon. “We’ve been rushing late-breaking stories especially relating to the plumbers, steamfitters and sheet metal workers – and thousands of readers have viewed relevant stories through social media.”

The new newspaper has stirred some controversy, as well.

At least one provincial industry association published a blog posting suggesting possible concerns about ‘fringe’ publications causing confusion in the industry.

“Many believe that there should be multiple construction trade newspapers in which substantial performance can be officially published in order to get competitive pricing,” Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) president Ian Cunningham wrote in a blog post.

“Others argue that contractors should not have to check 10, 15 or even more publications or websites in order to make sure substantial performance has been declared. They like the convenience and certainty of having only one place where this information resides. They fear that fringe publishers will see the publication of substantial performance as a cash cow and adjust their publishing schedules and content to match, at least to a scant minimum, the criteria to qualify as a construction trade newspaper.

“It’s an argument that has cost on one side and convenience and certainty on the other. If the marketplace becomes populated with fringe publishers that contractors would never think to check with, then a regulation change is in order.”

In a conversation with Buckshon, Cunningham clarified that he doesn’t consider Ontario Construction News to be a fringe publication. And in a follow-up memo, Cunningham confirmed that overcrowding in the market is not likely, citing the Ontario Construction Act’s regulatory definition of a “Construction Trade Newspaper,” meaning a newspaper:

(a) that is published either in paper format with circulation generally throughout Ontario or in electronic forma in Ontario;

(b) that is published at least daily on all days other than Saturdays and holidays,

(c) in which calls for tender on construction contracts are customarily published, and

(d) that is primarily devoted to the publication of matters of concern to the construction industry.

“This definition, which took effect on July1, 2018, is little changed from that in the former Construction Lien Act save for the ability to publish in electronic format in Ontario,” Cunningham wrote. “Since that time, there has been only one new entrant, Ontario Construction News/Ontario Construction Report, which increased its publication frequency and content to meet the criteria presumably to capture a share of the market previously earned by a single publisher, The Daily Commercial News.”

“I really can’t see how there can be an over-abundance of publications competing to provide this legal notification service,” Buckshon said.

“It is clear that the newspaper needs to have substantial content, with current news, tender opportunities and bidding information, and be exclusively focused on Ontario’s construction industry – so a simple website won’t do the job, and it is unlikely there would be many players rushing into the market.”

As it is, Ontario Construction News provides a readily accessible database of all certificate and notice advertisements and it is easy to check to verify they’ve appeared. And when readers do that, they can discover much additional content that will help them in their business, without needing to pay hefty monthly subscription fees.

And the business behind Ontario Construction News has been around – specifically serving Ontario’s construction industry – for more than three decades, through long-established publications including Ottawa Construction News and the GTA Construction Report.

Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) president Clive Thurston observed that “we have always had a good relationship with the Ontario Construction News. You have been very supportive of the OGCA and particularly the symposium over the years and I think all of that stands on its own as to your commitment to the industry.”

Buckshon said he is looking forward to enhancing and expanding the new publication’s coverage and depth. “We welcome comments and observations, and have listened to client’s feedback to improve our database, forms and certificates, without sacrificing the biggest advantages – cost savings and speed,” he said.

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