Wednesday, August 31, 2005

PAP reprieve

Minister of Canadian Heritage Liza Frulla today announced her department will put off a $4 million reduction in the Publications Assistance Program until 2006 in order "to enable Canadian publishers to complete reconfiguring their business plans in anticipation of the previously announced reductions."

The Publications Assistance Program subsidizes the mailing costs of Canadian magazines. So the industry will continue to receive $49.4 million for another year. PAP today is only half what it was a few years ago. The announcement means that
lobbying by Magazines Canada and the Canadian Business Press has paid off, but it is only a reprieve, not a solution.

Phew, that was quick!

Here, from Antonia Zerbisias's excellent blog at the Toronto Star, is a story we wish we'd reported first:

August 30, 2005

Not Miss Chatelaine

That weeping and wailing you're hearing in the downtown area is the sound of Chatelaine magazine staffers mourning the sudden ''resignation'' of editor-in-chief Kim Pittaway. Pittaway, a longtime writer and columnist with the women's monthly, assumed the editorship of the magazine just last December, taking over from Rona Maynard.

No word yet on why she's leaving, or even whether she is doing so willingly.

Doesn't look like it was a happy parting of the ways.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Herding Cats

Word (from that the Communications Workers plan to organize on behalf of freelancers. Good luck to them. Not that there have been many examples of successfully corralling such a ragtag bunch of independents.

It should be recalled that the the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) was intended to do just that, from dictating pay scales to providing a contract template that magazine editors were to follow when hiring freelancer writers. However, the organization has morphed into more of a genteel service organization to which most of Canada's best freelancers don't belong (any more than most Canadian magazine editors belong to the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME)). It seems that people in the business are just not joiners. Fewer than a third of consumer magazines belong to Magazines Canada. Perhaps one-sixth of trade publications belong to the Canadian Business Press (CBP).

The freelancer's trajectory seems to be a)working for nothing or next to it, b) getting some contacts and reputation, c) starting to sell semi-regularly for perhaps $1 a word and d) becoming disillusioned about making so little a year and e) bailing from the business to take a job, which may or may not be related to journalism. Usually PR or some such.

Some time ago I stated the math, which is pretty unforgiving:
A freelance writer in a year writes about 10* pieces of an average 3,500 words, for $1 a word. Total income, $35,000. Income tax (29% on taxable income of about $23,000) is $6,675. Take home pay = $545 a week.
If an experienced trade union can do something to convince Canadian publishers that it is in their best interests to start paying a living word rate to freelancers, I say go to it. If it can get these guys to pull together, it will be a miracle. I'll sell tickets.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Web shadow looms large for newsweeklies

An interesting question is raised in a recent USA Today report on the declining circ of newsweeklies such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report (no mention of Maclean's, of course). In it, Samir Husni (who claims and is granted the title "Mr. Magazine" for reasons that continually evade me) is quoted arguing that the pursuit of website development carries with it the seeds of redundancy for its print-parents. Far from connecting readers to both, those readers will eventually get all the information they need from the web, in which case why do they need the magazine? The column also makes an interesting comparison between the spurt in growth of celebrity-junk titles like US and In Touch, compared with their more sober cousins. Which may explain why The Toronto Star is taking a plunge with its own such magazine.

[To read the column, click on the headline of this item.]

Friday, August 26, 2005

Another one bites the dust...

Brian Bergman, a 16-year veteran of Maclean's, is gone from the magazine's Calgary bureau.

Outlook index

A hopeful student asked the other day what I thought were the prospects for someone coming into the magazine business. She wasn't asking if she'd get rich, only if she had a reasonable shot at making a career and a living. I realized that I didn't have a very good handle on the attitudes of people working in the business so perhaps we should start trying to nail down an outlook or expectations index for magazines.

Here's how it could work:

Indicate one of three possible responses by replying to this post (click on the word Comments below) with a number:
1. I expect things to get worse
2. I expect things to stay pretty much as they are
3. I expect things to get steadily better
If you want to remain anonymous, click on that selection before sending.

If enough people tell me what they are thinking, I'll report back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Post-less delivery

Interesting that the Guardian Weekly, whose Canadian edition is printed in Montreal and fulfilled under contract by Time Canada, should be informing its Ontario customers that -- where possible -- it will be abandoning Canada Post for its delivery and using a private service. It does not say what that is, but it is likely the same contractors who deliver the Globe and Mail. Consideration of alternative delivery is being forced upon publishers by Canada Post's inexorable price increases. Guardian Weekly represents probably 20,000 copies a week across Canada, but it is the kind of big ticket, frequent flier that you'd think Canada Post could ill afford to lose. One of the reasons the paper is considering the change, staring September 9, is that it gets so many complaints from customers that it takes 5 or 6 days for a copy to get from Montreal to, say, Cambridge, Ontario.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bully for us

In all the newspaper blather and commentary about the North American Free Trade Agreement and how awful those mean Americans are to us and how we ought to stand up for ourselves and punch that bully right back, magazine people with even a moderately long memory may wish to remind the nation what happens when you even think of sticking up for yourself.

The so-called Canada-U.S. Agreement on Magazines came about because Canada tried to keep U.S. publishers at bay with legislation that forbade "split runs" where U.S. ads were stripped out of otherwise unchanged U.S. magazines and Canadian ads substituted. When Canada got a little uppity this way, the U.S. gave us the back of its hand and told us that if we persisted they would target...our steel industry. Of course the Canadian government folded like a cheap chair. The Americans got huge privileges of access and we got, basically, bupkis.

So for anyone who senses some ennui among Canadian magazine publishers when it comes to the softwood lumber issue and the possibilities of a spine transplant, that's why. We tried to defend our own, struggling industry and were slapped down. The tree-cutters are just getting more of the same and the outcome is likely to be no different, even if Derek Burney, Pat Carney and the entire Conservative Party do have second thoughts.

Stretching the shoestring -- The New Quarterly

As another in our irregular series about little magazines we love, we present The New Quarterly.

Started more than 20 years ago with $3,000 ($1,000 donated by each of Edna Staebler, Farley Mowat and Harold Horwood), The New Quarterly has had the usual ups and downs of a small literary magazine. But it has always enjoyed the loyalty and help of its friends, particularly the original Editor, Peter Hinchcliffe and the current Editor, Kim Jernigan, who has been with the magazine since almost the beginning. Jernigan's long and effervescent service should long ago have earned her great recognition.

The magazine had always distinguished itself from other literaries by its passion for writers and writing, and by its self-described sense of fun. (This will reach its logical extension when the magazine publishes a whole Comedy issue next summer.) The editors have prided themselves on reading and responding to every fiction submission received. The magazine also spends some of its precious capital and pages on publishing writing about the art and science of writing. Since everyone (and we mean everyone) works for nothing or next to it, this is all a remarkable act of faith and commitment.

Published out of donated space at St. Jerome's University (an affiliate of the University of Waterloo), using miscellaneous scrounged equipment, the magazine has in the last few years put 10,000 volts through itself, doubling its circulation, getting noticed and winning bigger grants from the arts councils. As well it might. A new board, a grant from Ontario's Trillium Foundation (your gambling dollars at work) and a few, key new staffers and the magazine is on a tear.

Two years ago it won both the fiction and poetry prize in the National Magazine Awards -- the only categories it entered. It is a perennial finalist and has frequently had pieces accepted for the Journey Prize. It has earned many influential friends in the Canadian literary pantheon. Robert Kroetsch, for instance, has said:
"In the hopscotch world of literary guessing, The New Quarterly turns always in the direction of happy surprise, gutsy slander of what is, and the celebration of the turned page."
TNQ still has a long way to go to be truly beautiful, but it makes the most of its limited resources and has specialized in annual theme issues (see the issue on Painting, Plays and Poetry, above). It hasn't had to fall back on the device of annual writing contests which many other literaries have become addicted to (gaining them bumps in circulation, but from people who rarely renew unless to re-enter the next year's contest). And the magazine stretches out into the community, holding fundraisers for literacy, sponsoring some heavy-duty conferences and loaning its Editor to various other kinds of good works. A real gem.

(You can reach TNQ's website by clicking on the heading of this article.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

New Art Director for Maclean's

This just in: the new art director of Maclean's is Christine Dewairy, being brought over from the National Post where she was art director and fashion editor for Post Fashion. She steps into the job lately held by Donna Braggins, let go recently by Editor and Publisher Ken Whyte. Whyte told his staff: "Christine has an excellent eye and good judgment and I'm sure she will be a great fit with our art, photography and editorial teams." No mention of experience managing an operation as complex as Maclean's, a real pressure-cooker.

Reading the tea leaves...

A friend recently pointed out an interesting sentence in the press release by St. Joe's Chairman Tony Gagliano, announcing Donna Clark's hire. Boldface added:
St. Joseph Media recently moved into state-of-the-art offices in the Queen Richmond Centre. From there, it is focusing on enhancing existing brands and launching and/or acquiring new ones; creating dynamic online brands; and funding and supporting the growth of paid circulation.
Could it be that the emphasis on "paid" circulation was a sidelong reference to Greg MacNeil, who left as President, and who has been known for years as a champion of controlled circulation with Elm Street, Homemaker's, Recipes Only, Saturday Night and so on...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

St. Joe's hires the A team

St. Joseph Media has hired Donna Clark to be its President. She starts September 12. Clark, it will be easily remembered,was with Rogers Media where she was responsible for the women's services division including Chatelaine, Flare, and Today's Parent and associated websites.

She and Paul Jones were both shown the door at Rogers earlier this year, despite being two of the most senior and well-respected people in the business. Rogers will wish there'd been some way to impose a non-compete clause because St. Joseph Corporation is on a tear, having hired Clark, Sharon McAuley from Transcontinental (to be Vice-President and Group Publisher of Toronto Life and Saturday Night magazines) and also Kenneth Maclean, as Vice-President, Interactive Media Services (ed. note: who he?), described as an "experienced integrated marketer".

Together, they sound like quite a powerhouse; certainly Clark and McAuley are likely to be formidable competitors. At least that's what Chairman Tony Gagliano of St. Joe's seems to expect: "The hiring of these three talented individuals represents an important step towards achieving our goal of becoming the best media organization in the country," he said, when announcing Clark's ascendance to the job previously held by Greg MacNeil.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The product placement rot sets in seriously

An article in AdAge reports that Black Book, a quirky, but seriously contending U.S. lifestyle mag, recently crossed -- nay leapt -- across the church/state line with an editorial item about a band that had featured in a Hummer commercial, with the edit featuring the Hummer in the display. (To read the whole story, click on the heading of this item.)

“There was and is absolutely no quid pro quo,” said Eric Gertler, CEO at Black Book Media. “Great editors know that great ideas come from a multitude of sources and great editors need to know how to frame those ideas and know that they are free of any outside influence.”

But, as AdAge pointed out, since Black Book conceived of, sold and ran the article, there never would have been an item without the magazine's initiation.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Fibs from FIPP

Noticed in a recent browse, looking for something else, that Canadian Heritage swallows the World Magazine Trends data from the Federation of the Interational Periodical Press hook, line and sinker. It publishes a table under the heading "Fascinating Facts" that shows Canadian magazine adspend share at 6.8% compared with U.S. share of 11.8%. All of which is based on FIPPs database which somehow shows Canada has less than half as many magazines and about 1/3 of the ad sales that were demonstrated by the most recent Statscan data.

This is baloney, no matter how you slice it.

U.S. Biz mags to make statement on placement

An article in Folio: reports that the American Society of Business Publishing Editors (ASBPE) is drafting a new guideline on product placement in editorial. We shouldn't hold out much hope for a ringing declaration, since past ASBPE efforts at guidelines have been notably mealy-mouthed. But it is an indication about how seriously the softening of the church and state line has become that they are doing it at all. Canadian associations: please copy.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fast company

Media Post has published the results of an international study about broadband use by country. This is a subject that many magazines are -- or should -- be interested in, since broadband users tend to be the largest users of magazine websites.

The story is interesting because, for once, Canada is leagues (54%!) ahead of the United States.

Subscriber Penetration

Korea         24.9%
Hong Kong 20.9%
Netherlands 19.4%
Denmark 19.3%
Canada 17.6%
Switzerland 17.0%
Taiwan 16.3%
Belgium 16.0%
Iceland 15.5%

Sweden 15.1%
Norway 15.0%
Israel 14.3%
Japan 14.1%
Finland 12.8%
Singapore 11.6%
USA 11.4%
France 11.2%
UK 10.3%
Austria 10.1%
Portugal 8.5%
Source: International Telecommunications Union, January 2005.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Playing the game

I guess it's just doing what everyone else does, but doesn't it seem a bit cheesy for Magazines Canada to try and kite the vote on a spurious Globe and Mail online poll? The poll question asks if the respondents were advertisers, which medium would they use to be most effective. Not only are such online polls just plain stupid, they are made more stupid by such write-in campaigns, although I imagine other media are doing precisely the same thing. In the end, on-line polling is a sampling of the kinds of people who fill out online polls. So it's not clear why Canada's premier organization representing the medium of magazines would stoop to such a response. Besides, the result is pre-ordained: the answer will be television. It won't be a thoughtful answer or even useful intelligence, but it is inevitable. Which will mean the magazine campaign will have been pointless.

Of course I say this having been one of those lunatics who helped stuff the ballot box for Tommy Douglas on the Greatest Canadian vote.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Yeah, we heard that too

Mastheadonline today published news of the lawsuit by Saltscapes magazine against the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, (habitues of this blog had this July 27). New to us, however, was that the suit has galvanized several magazines to band together with Saltscapes as the Nova Scotia Magazine Association.

Is old news better than no news?

A reliance on syndicated material from the U.S. and Britain is commonplace in newspapers, but occasionally it leads them to publish breathless features that a) are old news and b) give no local angle at all. Case in point is today's Globe and Mail business section feature from the New York Times syndicate about the "value added" gimmicks that magazines are using to lure advertisers. The huge illustration is of Lucky magazine and its sponsored stickers. Of course the Globe could have made a local call and Canadianized the piece with info about Lou Lou or Wish. But apparently they can't be bothered.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Customers at any price?

Has anyone out there received a direct mail offer for Maclean's that effectively means it is being sold to some subscribers for 57 cents a copy? If so, it is the lowest rate ever having been charged for the magazine. Its usual and published rate is 56 issues (52 + 4 free) for $55.08 or 98 cents an issue. In the past it has offered the magazine for as low as 78 cents an issue as an incentive for people to allow continuous billing by credit card. This latest offer is rumoured to be for 26 issues at $29.95 plus 26 bonus issues free.

His money is where his mouth is: a class act

Paul Jones is a class act, and his thank you note in the current issue of Masthead is proof. He took out an ad to thank his friends and supporters in the industry for the honour of receiving the Outstanding Achievement award at the recent National Magazine Awards in Toronto. It is worth noting whom he thanked (including wife Rona Maynard, his son, and longtime Maclean Hunter and Rogers colleague Sharon Murray). And whom he did not thank, which is anyone who is in senior management at Rogers.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Some of us are outa here...maybe

The Western Standard, a handsome, idiosyncratic and feisty publication tried to make news this week by publishing its own poll that says that 36% of westerners consider separatism an option. Of course that means that 64% think it's not. But it still makes for entertaining and stimulating reading, particularly the magazine's weblog called, somewhat ominously, The Shotgun. The Standard's publisher is Ezra Levant.

First project: proofreading

The just-released guidelines for the Ontario Media Development Corporation's Magazine Fund (previously Volume Two, son of Volume One) contain an error. The deadline at the top of the information form says September 30. The deadline for applications at the end of the information form says September 9. The application form itself says September 30.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pressure for placement

High end advertisers are starting to push for product placement on magazine spreads and covers south of the border. According to an article in AdAge, Lexus is openly asking for exposure for its pricey automobiles. It's not clear yet whether this is a straight payment option or whether the advertiser is making it a condition of signing a contract; perhaps a little of each.

Deborah Wahl Meyer, Lexus division’s vice president of marketing, says product placement is common in movies and TV shows and she doesn't see why magazines should be different:

“In TV, product placement has really stepped up,” she said. “That’s paid for and accepted by the public. It has become pretty widespread. There’s a lot of opportunity to do that in the print world, too.”

So far, in Canada, the practice is not evident or obvious, although there was a kerfuffle a while back when Flare featured an advertiser's car on the cover, with a model straddling the hood ornament.

However, what happens in the U.S. tends to trickle up.

(This emerging development, comes on the heels of major companies now formalizing "ad-pull" arrangements, demanding to see contentious or related edit, something that used to be insisted upon only by cigarette manufacturers. There are slippery slopes in every direction one looks.)