Friday, September 30, 2005
Better than money?
In an industry as starved for good, reliable competitive information, this is very good news.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
St. Joes' team building
Two pivotal managers have been appointed at St. Joseph Media, both hired away from Rogers Media Publishing. Andrew Crane has been consulting for the past few months with the Style Group at St. Joe's, after leaving Rogers. He now is to be Vice-President Corporate Development. Donna Clark, the President of St. Joseph Media told staff he was going to be working with her on "ambitious expansion plans". One of Clark's trusted colleagues at Rogers was Clarence Poirier, Research Director. Effective October 3 he is now to be Vice-President Research. Poirier worked closely with Clark at the Rogers' Women's Division and was a key player in repositioning Chatelaine and developing the very effective womens' service websites associated with Chatelaine, Flare and Today's Parent.
The race is not always to the swift
- Eight states had broadband penetration over 35% - all voted for John Kerry in 2004
- Eleven states had broadband penetration at or below 20% - all voted for George Bush in 2004
- Cumulative broadband penetration in states that voted for Kerry was 33% - compared to 25% in states that voted for Bush
It seems impossible that the policy would only benefit The Walrus, however. Let's assume that "the minister is in the midst of considering" a policy change (to quote the unnamed staffer quoted by the Globe) means what it seems to mean. The ripple effect among dozens of cultural and literary magazines would be immediate. We could see them re-apply for status that had been turned down and becoming able to offer charitable tax receipts for donations that could be channelled directly to the magazine. Previously, the principal function of a foundation had to be anything but publishing, which could only be an adjunct to "public education". (See posts past).
Even more important, it would take the heat off the magazines which already enjoy this status but have to defend it periodically from Canada Revenue zealots who want to take the status away . Once it becomes permissible for magazines to be not-for-profit charities, many more of them of them will be and it will become a commonplace. Here's hoping.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Ted's less than excellent adventure
For those who don't know, Western Standard is the inheritor of the mantle of Alberta Report. Same western alienation. Similar right wing opinions. Handsome package. Wacky blogsters (recently one called Naomi Klein "an opportunistic communist" and "a celebrated anarcho syndicalist"). It does have some interesting publishing initiatives (the latest being a luxury cruise with various mossback commentators). The publisher is the notorious Ezra Levant.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Only room for one in this garden
Gardening Life's unusual partnership came about during a shakeout after a flurry of launches of gardening titles 10 years ago.
St. Joe's will move the now wholly-owned Gardening Life and its staff under the Style Group umbrella, helmed by Vice-President and Group Publisher Giorgina Bigioni. The Style Group publishes Fashion, Fashion 18, Wish and Wedding Bells.
In a joint press release, Tony Gagliano, St. Joseph Media chairman and Lynda Reeves, President of House & Home Media, said nice things. Reeves said: "We are confident that the capable and experienced team at St. Joseph Media will lead Gardening Life into its next great stage of publication, and we wish them well." Gagliano said: "We are thrilled to gain full acquisition of one of the leading specialty consumer magazines in Canada."
Friday, September 23, 2005
To the barricades
The same report said that Time Inc. has been subpoenaed to appear before U.S. federal investigators to explain the always dodgy practice of magazines counting free magazines distributed on airlines and to business travellers as "paid".
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Ricepaper magazine is celebrating 10 years of publishing, an evolution from a hand-stapled newsletter into a slick and authoritative magazine of Asian Canadian culture. Many magazines with similar roots have flagged and failed over the past decade, but Ricepaper has grown to become one of the leading sources of information about established and emerging Asian Canadian artists, publishing such well-known names as Wayson Choy, Joy Kogawa, Kid Koala and Sook-Yin Lee. Plus it has ventured deeper year by year into non-fiction, covering issues of the Asian Canadian experience.
The anniversary will be celebrated at Wild Ginger in Vancouver on Saturday, September 24 (the eve of Word on the Street).
Sometimes we lose track of what's going right in the Canadian magazine industry. Ricepaper is one of those things.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Sneak peek at the Beav
Now, because this distribution system in some way is considered to contravene European Union regulations, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in Britain is considering forcing newspapers and magazines to be delivered separately, according to a report in the Guardian. In part, the story says:
At first glance this may seem like no change at all, or at least not an important one, but if the OFT's draft decision is upheld - its final ruling is expected next month - not only could up to 1,200 independent corner newsagents be forced out of business, but magazine publishers warn that up to 1,000 titles could close. For good. Large retailers would carry only the best-selling titles, and the demise of the smaller retailers would hit people in rural areas.The reasoning behind this apocalyptic scenario is that the costs of maintaining two systems of distribution will be passed on to retailers. As the thinking goes, the large retailers will mitigate the cost by dropping magazines that have a relatively low sell-through. The smaller corner newsagents will see their margins severely pinched or go out of business altogether.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
See Masthead Online today, lead story (the longest I recall them ever publishing online). [Subscription required]
Let's just throw it open for discussion. What's everyone think about this?
Media Business is published by B to B Online. If you click here you can download the entire most recent issue for US$15.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Murdoch Davis, dumped in April as Publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, is in the chair for the redesign and relaunch of the venerable Winnipeg-based history magazine. (Its redesign is due to be unveiled with its 85th anniversary issue, due out October 3rd.) His appointment was announced in an early August press release.
If the name is familiar, it may be because Davis was head of Southam News and was a ferocious defender of CanWest Global's decisions to force "national" editorials onto the editorial pages of all of their papers across the country. He was particularly adept, not to say acid, in his letters to the editor on the subject. According to Black Rod, a somewhat reactionary Winnipeg journalists' blog, his sudden departure was unmourned at the Free Press.
The Beaver is the 50,000 circ flagship of Canada's National History Society, which recently launched Kayak, a digest-sized children's history magazine (see earlier item). CNHS is the inheritor of the legacy, archives and endowment of the Hudson's Bay Company, which started the magazine as a house organ. It evolved into a consumer title with an aging but fiercely loyal audience and a near-invisible profile in the business. Deborah Morrison, the President of the Society, also now Publisher, has been attempting to put 10,000 volts through it to liven it up and grow its audience and have some attention paid.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
In addition, another correspondent of the newsgroup, a doyenne of fact-checking who has trained many of today's fact checkers, sent a response directly to me with a number of other people's comments on the topic. (Since I don't have permission to name them, these responses are presented anonymously):
Not surprisingly, I'm pleased to hear these comments in support of fact-checking, since I spend a lot of time teaching people how to do it and have published an article that argues for its existence.
As to the question of whether to hyphenate fact-checking, I usually do. But I also never spell copy editing the same way twice when I'm not being paid to get it right -- copyediting, copy-editing, copy editing; dictionaries differ. The shoemaker's kids go barefoot, the doctor's kids die young and the copy editor is inconsistent. Don't tell [my boss].) The Canadian Oxford Dictionary doesn't list fact-checking, but it does hyphenate fact-finding,which would seem to be a grammatically parallel form.
I, too, appreciate the work checkers do on my stories. (A special nod to the great ones I've so often dealt with over the years -- Veronica Cusak, Dawn Promislow, Geri Savits-Fine, Charles Rowland, Cynthia Brouse.) I'm mainly a writer, & I know that especially with longer features writers understandably end up seeing the forest more clearly than individual trees. After you've lived with a story for weeks or months, even careful re-reading may not spot an error that a fresh set of eyes might.(Sometimes the handling editor, although that person is preoccupied with structure & bigger picture issues; sometimes the copy editor, but copy editors aren't scrutinizing every fact.) Every writer knows that tiny pieces inevitably fall through the cracks. The fact checker is the invaluable safety net catching as many of these stray pieces as possible. It's a great tradition in the magazine business & it's depressing to observe it gradually eroding.
Just thought I'd throw in my two cents here, as someone who supplements his freelance income with regular checking jobs.
I'm not a huge checking partisan or anything - though I am glad to have an
hourly wage supplement to my buck a word ( a buck on the good days, that is. But here's the thing: in three years of fact-checking features, I have
*never* run across a feature that didn't have several mistakes in it. They're generally minor mistakes - money amounts that mix US with Canadian dollar figures, misspelled names of minor characters, etc. - but they're real mistakes nonetheless.
The majority of features I see, including those written by top people, have roughly TEN TO FIFTEEN of these types of comparatively minor errors in them. The absolute cleanest feature might have three to five.
Now, you could argue that these types of errors are things that the writers, had they been working in a checking-free zone, wouldn't have let through. But I don't think that's generally true. I think that most of these mistakes are just a product of the writing process, of the tricky nature of capturing reality in words. There's no way a single mind can account for every single little factual detail in a 5,000 word piece - especially at a buck a word or less.
To me, this justifies checking for mags, hands down (I shudder to think of
the howlers that make it into books and papers on a regular basis, given their lack of checking). And frankly, I find the attitude of DB's friend surprising. I know I'm personally thrilled by the fact that my mag work getschecked - it's not insulting, it's a kind of insurance policy for my research, helping me to breathe easier when the piece comes out.
Let me repeat: I have never in my career as a checker met an error-free
feature.--To add my two cents, I've been lucky to secure a part-time internship that
allows me to do a lot of the work from home, including fact-checking some of the larger stories. Having done graduate research before, I'd thought that fact-checking would be a breeze, but this recent exercise has opened my eyes to just how skilled good fact-checkers are. Beyond simply knowing where to go to look up facts, I've found that it also requires a huge amount of tact,patience and (sometimes) humour, as well as skillful sleuthing.
I've just begun checking one of our features and have already found about half of Nick's quota of errors. I've also noticed that there is a lot of variance between authors -- some submit 'clean' copy that is a joy to check; others submit copy that's a little more difficult to decipher and definitely more of a challenge (though I'm not saying I don't like a challenge!).
Thinking about it now, I probably should have taking the fact checking course at Ryerson if I'd known how difficult this would be. In fact, I may end up taking it in any case!
Friday, September 16, 2005
Looks aren't everything
How much readers pay for a subscription is a less important indicator of value to an advertiser than how engaged they are with the content (edit and advertising). This said during a high-powered panel in New York, reported by Media Daily News. Rebecca McPheters, president of McPheters and Company, said her company's research showed price did not in fact predict the quality of the reader. Much more important was 'proof' of circulation and 'return on investment'.
Tom Robinson, managing director of Affinity Research, noted that although slightly lower than for paid readers, overall readership of editorial features and recall scores for print ads for non-paid readers still remained surprisingly robust in his group's research.
They were speaking in a panel sponsored by the Magazine Publishers of America.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Another county heard from
I'm sympathetic with those who ask: why should writers support publishers in their quest for subsidies, when they never bother to let any of that money trickle down to us?
Lewis Lazare, a columnist at The Chicago Sun-Times described the New Yorker decision last month to publish an entire issue sponsored by one national retail chain, Target, as “the most jaw-dropping collapse of the so-called sacred wall between editorial and advertising in modern magazine history.”
The August 22 issue had 18 pages of Target ads
He and other critics aren't impressed by the rather flaccid response from the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), whose guidelines for the separation of advertising and editorial are considered the gold (or at least gold-plated) standard for the industry. (The Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) modelled its own guidelines on ASME's.)
ASME noted mildly that its guidelines require a single-sponsored magazine to include a note telling readers that this didn't influence the editorial in any way. The board of ASME issued a statement:
“Our guidelines do call for a publisher’s note to readers in single-advertiser issues, and The New Yorker has agreed to include such a note when and if they do this again.”ASME's ultimate sanction could be to deny the New Yorker eligibility to enter the National Magazine Awards (the "Ellies", named after the Alexander Calder sculpture of an elephant that is given out). But since the New Yorker was contrite, apparently, the board said it wasn't considered necessary.
Everybody into the boat
Latest word is that Scott Feschuk, ex Postie, ex PMO speechwriter, is to join as is Barbara Amiel, turfed from Maclean's as one of the last acts of Tony Wilson-Smith before he was replaced by Ken Whyte. Now Whyte is throwing experienced people over one side of the lifeboat (talk to your union rep, you whiners) and pulling bedraggled Posties over the other gunwale as fast as he can. Most will, of course, sit on the starboard side (that's the right, for you landlubbers).
[sorry for so many Maclean's posts: but it's making news these days]
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The only thing being, as far as I can recall, it has been nigh on impossible for Magazines Canada to find out exactly how much of PAP's maximum funding level was actually being used as part of the program. Moreover, I don't think anyone has publicly divulged how much of PAP funding was expected to be (or is being) drawn by the new(ish) PAP on request-circulation copies. Does anyone out there know differently?
Wasn't PAP a "black box" -- its budgetary figure consisting of a maximum contribution amount, the warning bells only set to go off when that ceiling was in imminent danger of being reached (i.e. now)? Or have I missed something?
Osprey swoops down and swallows Town
Because it hasn't worked in the spotlight in Toronto, Town has not known very much buzz since Narcisco founded it in 1978. He has steered the little ship through good times and bad and has now, apparently, cashed out (or is that in?)
Hamilton magazine has consistently been professional and quite handsome, a surprise to people who think of Hamilton (the city) as a pretty lunchbucket kind of place. But there is a lot of high end housing and a lot of wealth in the area and the magazine catered to it with a healthy dose of lifestyle/shelter and fashion as well as the usual citymag features and listings.
Since Osprey needs to keep on pumping out those payments every month (one of the attractions for investors in income trusts) the purchase must have been predicated on the maturity of the properties and their ability to contribute to those relentless payouts.
But, once again, a mid-rank magazine company is swallowed up by a bigger firm (last time it was Avid by Transcon), leaving a big hole where entrepreneurial, well-financed and innovative magazine publishing should be.
Who's left to put out the magazine?
Monday, September 12, 2005
Smartmoves (TM) and privacy
It would apparently be a controlled circulation title, sent to everyone who files a change of address with the post office. At the moment, the content can only be speculated upon -- likely to be a highly "lifestylized" book and a kissing cousin of magalogues everywhere.
There has been much gnashing of teeth among industry groups about the government, or a Crown corporation, competing with the private sector publishers. That's a real question, every bit as much as it has been for Food & Drink, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's glossy catalogue or a similar book in Nova Scotia.
But nowhere has there been any discussion of privacy. Government legislation is causing no end of grief for magazines and other direct mailers who are forbidden to solicit from acquired lists or to sell lists without the recipients' express permission. And while that's probably as it should be, how is it that the post office -- the only option for most people -- is able to take change of address information and convert the data into a mailing list to send an un-requested magazine?
Going into competition with its own customers is not the smartest move Canada Post could make, but it will be interesting to see how many of Canada's largest publishing companies (all of whom do contract publishing to a greater or lesser degree) will bite at the proposal.
Make that leave permanent
Thursday, September 08, 2005
But are they read?
The charitable status is necessary so that much-needed money can flow from one charity (the Chawkers Foundation) to another (the Walrus Foundation). Meanwhile, Alexander has been paying for the magazine out of his personal, considerable but not inexhaustible, resources. Masthead says this totals $2.5 million so far.
What the item did NOT say was that The Walrus was already turned down once by the CRA and parted ways with the law firm that was considered to have failed in its mission.
As many other Canadian magazines before it have discovered, if you think applying for charitable status is hard, try appealing a ruling that went against you. Even magazines which have charitable foundations supporting their work (for instance, Red Maple and This Magazine) find themselves under seige from time to time, challenged to defend retaining their number.
There are no rules or specific legislation governing who gets charitable status, who keeps it and who loses it -- it is all based on common law and precedent and, some would say, bureaucratic whim of the charities directorate of CRA. The fact is that over the years, the government has allowed such status to be given out willy nilly to a total of more than 70,000 such charitable numbers*, and has been trying to claw them back ever since. In the case of magazines, they qualify only if the majority of their work is "educational" in nature and simply publishing a magazine does not do the trick. One must hold conferences, publish (non-political) books, run internships, do training and lectures and so on and (wink, wink) publishing a magazine can only be one of the things you do. Most magazines apply, of course, to channel money directly to the support of their publication. That, says the CRA, is not allowed, even if the magazine is a not-for-profit corporation, or a struggling literary.
The charity bureaucrats are looking, always, for ways to take back numbers and not give out new ones (after all, every charitable number in theory means foregone taxes). And the word on the street is that it is 10 times harder to win an appeal than to get a number in the first place. Hence the frantic activity of Alexander in appealing all the way to the minister responsible for Canada Revenue Agency, John McCallum. If McCallum demurs, who knows what will happen next.
*The ludicrosity of the situation is that virtually every little Canadian Legion branch has its own charitable number and is considered a separate charity. That's who gets your poppy money. And virtually every church in the country has such status because one of the "qualifications" is the "promotion of religion". But if you wanted to start a charity that promoted atheism? You'd be out of luck.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Wasn't there 100 years to get ready?
Buy my magazine, puhleeze!
The handsome, 12-page digest-sized FSI makes an offer of 4 issues free, plus 24 issues for $29.95 and 24 bonus issues for no extra cost. The total, including taxes, is $32.05 in Ontario, $34.44 elsewhere.
The effective rate (net of tax) is 57 cents a copy, apparently the lowest price for which the magazine has ever been offered. Plus there's a "personal digital assistant" as a bonus gift.
To see the same offer online, click here.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Magazine postage bills take it on the chin
Here is some analysis of the cuts provided by Michael Fox, Senior Vice-President of Rogers Media and the Chair of the Magazines Canada's postal committee:
On Nov. 1, 2005, small magazines will face an increase of 7% or more in their postal costs. For high-circulation magazines, the increase will be 35%.
For example, for a 200,000-circulation magazine, PAP now pays 61.66% of postage. As of Nov. 1, that is cut to 50.33% -- a shift of more than 11 percentage points from PAP to the publisher. The publisher's share goes from 38.3% to 49.7% -- which works out to a 30% postage cost increase for the magazine.
There's more bad news to come. Based on current activity levels, PAP will have another huge gap in the next fiscal year. Heritage will need to slash PAP percentages further, effective April 1, 2006, in order to cover a gap for 2006-07 estimated at $8.3 million.
Simply put, the cumulative impact of postage rate increases by Canada Post Corp. (CPC) has devoured all the funds allocated for PAP while the program continues to fund roughly the same volume (212 million copies for 1,200 periodicals).
In May 2005, Magazines Canada leaders had told the government that an additional $7 million in PAP funding was required for the current government fiscal year that ends March 2006 in order to continue the PAP subsidy at the percentage level it has traditionally maintained (averaging 62% of postage costs). Since then, there has been no news and no consultation with the industry -- so the severity of the cuts is a shock.
Tracy Miller has been promoted to Director of Sales at the Urban Group of St. Joseph Media. She replaces Associate Publisher Kim Peacock who is leaving to become Publisher, Western Magazines for Transcontinental Media, responsible for Vancouver and Western Living.
This is one of the first moves announced by Sharon McAuley, who just started as Vice-President and Group Publisher of the division that includes Toronto Life and Saturday Night.
Miller has been with St. Joes for 5 years and sold Saturday Night when it was still oversize and part of the National Post.
When a magazine is published so far off the beaten track as is Prairies North, it had better be good. And it is. Norquay, Saskatchewan is a village with one restaurant and one magazine about three good hours drive east of Regina. The magazine is published out of an airy, sunny, renovated house in the town, a world headquarters that the publishers were able to buy on their Visa card and renovate with their own hands.
Originally called Sasakatchewan Naturally, the magazine celebrates the considerable flora, fauna and drop-dead vistas of (particularly) northern Saskatchewan as well as a lifestyle that is not as well known to the rest of Canada as it should be. People from elsewhere tend to think of Saskatchewan as flat flatness, covered in wheaty wheatness, but know nothing about the enormous wetlandsand riverscapes and general stunningness of the Saskatchewan NOT bissected by the TransCanada Highway. For one thing, Saskatchewan is a terminus on a cross-continent migration route for literally millions of birds (something the magazine has made its business to report upon).
Publisher Michelle Hughes and Editor Lionel Hughes (yes, it's a family business; formal name, September House Publishing Inc.) found that the original name, while reflective of the contents (tending to often whimsical writing and lavish photo spreads), tended to make the magazine appear to be published by the government. So, rather than accepting this, they took the bold step of rebranding (and in the process giving themselves the possibility in future of covering more than Saskatchewan but also the whole, sprawling Prairie provinces).
To give you some of the flavour of the magazine, take but one issue, the May "Centennial kickoff" celebrating Saskatchewan's 100th, the magazine contains the following miscellany, much of it compulsively readable: A piece about Carole Stratychuk, the Dandelion lady of Deslisle; a gorgeous mutli-page spread with story and photos by frequent contributor Larry Easton about canoeing the Paull River; an all-season advertorial guide to the Churcill River headwaters (produced by September House); a memoir about the mid-century boom in building grain elevators across Saskatchewan (now being torn down just as fast); a perhaps unintentionally funny story about a man who has created an enormous, portable rig called Merv's Pitchfork Fondue, with the pitchfork used to dunk huge cuts of meat to cook in a vat of boiling grapeseed and canola oil; a first-person celebration of cottaging on Bright Sand Lake in northern Saskatchewan (and with a sidebar investigating the destruction being wrought by declining water levels -- a possible fallout of climate change).
Monday, September 05, 2005
That fabled wall between church and state
Now, we have a suggestion that -- at least in part -- Kim Pittaway's departure from Chatelaine had to do with mandated association of an advertiser's brand with a feature. So, is this all about Rogers? Or is this a general trend out there?
Are magazine journalists and editors being too exquisite about this "church and state" separation, something that isn't sustainable in the hyper-competitive world? Or is the preservation of editorial integrity and reader trust a lesson that has to be constantly re-taught (or re-learned)?
Saturday, September 03, 2005
One after another after another...
Apparently disheartenedby the steady erosion and demoralization of the staff, former Assistant Managing Editor Bob Marshall, who has been working steadily on contract for the magazine since being terminated, walked out, after telling Publisher/Editor Ken Whyte that it was no way to run the place. Marshall had always been known as the conscience of the magazine, a senior guy who had seen it all but had somehow kept a sense of optimism and gave wise counsel to his colleagues.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Now, IF a Canadian magazine were to have its own cocktail, what would it be?
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Her departure was the culmination of a series of exchanges, some written (I'd love to read that e-mail) and some face-to-face. Pittaway told the Globe:
"It boiled down to a fundamental disagreement about which areas of responsibility were mine and which were the publisher's."The sudden move was a surprise, apparently even to Mitchell, who is now faced with a magazine where both the Editor and the Managing Editor Bonnie Reichert are gone.