Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Food and Dreck

Today's Globe and Mail Review section has finally caught up to a month-old story: the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association criticism of Food and Drink magazine. In this weblog (passim), we have talked about the issue. How the Liquor Control Board of Ontario uses the glossy controlled mag as a marketing device, paying roughly $5 million to publish a free magazine that brings in about $3 million in advertising and justifying it by saying that its promotional value is $10 million extra a year in liquor and wine sales.

Along the way, it shafts legitimate magazines who have to pay for such fripperies as circulation (the LCBO distributes the magazine in all its stores and shuts out other wine and drink magazines) and cannot compete with the leverage the magazine has with booze companies who rely wholly on the LCBO for sales.

What most people don't say about Food and Drink is that it is crap. Glossy, yes, colourful, yes, printed on high quality stock, yes, and beautifully photographed. But it has the style and the soul of a catalogue. Its contents are the worst sort of bland, so-called "lifestyle" dreck. Sure, lots of people pick it up, but that's because it's free. We'll wager nobody reads it (although I wouldn't go so far as to say that nobody is influenced by it; hence the claim of a $10 million sales bump) It's a brochure on steroids, with all the editorial integrity of a billboard.

We shouldn't begrudge the freelance contributors taking the LCBO's money; go for it, we say. But it's still crap, and it's predatory crap, having tilted the so-called level playing field so far to its advantage that it is shameful. Your tax dollars at work.

[P.S. the 2005 Print Measurement Bureau shows that F & D is female-skewed: 1.3 million female readers; 863,000 men. I have no idea what this means.]


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