Key to Sportsnet success was filling a gap with quality, says publisher
A lot of people thought that Rogers Publishing was crazy to try to launch a national sports magazine, says Sportsnet's publisher and editor-in-chief Steve Maich. And it wasn't the easiest time to launch a magazine, in the teeth of a recession two years ago when no Canadian teams got into the second round of the NHL playoffs, he told a session called the Future of Magazines, presented Wednesday in Toronto by Magazines Canada. But the magazine has done much better than people expected, particularly on the advertising side.
He shared a few things that the publishing team learned along the way:
There was, indeed, a gap in the market, one where Canadians spend billions of dollars annually on professional sports;
Sports are special and Canadians are passionate about them. "Our job is to create a magazine about sports that is directed to that passion; if we don't, then we're not doing our job."People want to work in the magazine medium -- the number of talented people who left secure gigs to join Sportsnet "should be very encouraging to us".The future is in multiplatforms and being inside the Rogers Publishing group gave the venture huge advantages, from linking with other media (radio and TV) to having some leverage with Canada Post. Print was really the final piece of a puzzle where Rogers had all the other pieces. Magazines are still a great business, he said. "We're investing millions of dollars because that is an important part of the puzzle." It's a mistake to assume that readers won't appreciate comprehensive coverage. They will read long and short items if they are high enough quality. "The thing that kills us isn't when a reader says they don't have time to read, it's when the reader flips through in 10 minutes and thinks they're done."The old ways of circulation are not the best ways for a magazine of this type. "Our industry tends to build circ by going to known magazine readers. That approach is not going to get us where we want to go. Sports fans are not on that list. We've got to strike partnerships, a whole different way of reaching them." The old audit rules, he says, just don't make allowance for these new ways of reaching -- and measuring -- readership.The future is paid. "The onus is on us to make products worth paying for."The magazine considers itself a brand that is about telling sports stories. "We do a great job of promoting other people's brands, but we've got to support our own brand."