Friday, September 30, 2005

Dressy centenary moves uptown

Maclean's magazine's 100th anniversary gala, postponed until November 15, is also changing venue. It was to be at the Windsor Arms Hotel. Now it is to be at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in its Main Stage Theatre at 5040 Yonge Street (what some will remember as the North York Centre for the Performing Arts). The black tie event (!) is a sit-down dinner and "curtain" at 7 p.m. What the curtain is being raised on (other than the next 100 years) has not been revealed.

Better than money?

The Department of Canadian Heritage is planning to give more than money to successful applicants for its various support programs for magazines. Under development is a "benchmarking" exercise whereby each applicant will receive tables and graphs that allows comparison with other magazines, other types of magazines. These will be fairly specific analyses of various components of cost and revenue, compared on a per-page or per copy basis. This data may replace some of the "census" information that Statscan has traditionally (but no more) provided to the industry. However, unlike Statscan, these benchmarks will only be of applicants to various programs such as Support for Editorial Content (SEC) or support for small or literary magazines.

In an industry as starved for good, reliable competitive information, this is very good news.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

St. Joes' team building

St. Joseph Corporation wasn't fooling when it said it was intent on becoming a major player. To do so, it needs the best management and it looks like it is well on its way to achieving this.

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

A story out of the U.S. today from the Center for Media Reseach shows so-called "blue state" voters were more likely to have high speed internet access got us to thinking. First, the highlights:
  • 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
Have any magazines out there used readership studies to profile the divide between dial-up and high-speed among their subscribers (understanding that sophisticated Canadians are more likely to have high-speed)? What have they learned? And has it made any difference to what they do?

Good news, maybe, we'll see

The implications of today's article in the Globe and Mail about charitable status are far-reaching. The story itself is about the possibility that Revenue Minister John McCallum may loosen or change the regulations to allow foundation status for The Walrus, whose entire financing model hinges on being able to transfer money from one charity to its own (the famous $5 million). That's very good news.

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

Eponymous, but anonymous

Interesting that the newish blog from the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (see it here) intends to publish a monthly celebration of member achievements. September's is heavy on kudos for publishing books, being on radio and television, winning awards, teaching courses and so on. But there is very little about achievements in actually writing for magazines. Are magazines not giving opportunities for their members to achieve? Or do they consider work they are doing for Canadian magazines not worth mentioning?

Ted's less than excellent adventure

If anyone was wondering what Ted Byfield, founder of the late Alberta Report, has been doing lately, the news is what he's not doing anymore. According to an item in the Western Standard's so-called Shotgun Blog his Christian History Project, to publish a series of books on the history of Christianity, is being wound up. The last straw, apparently (note the Biblical reference) was when someone stole their computer server.

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

That sound you heard was a shotgun going off. Gardening Life moves under the sole ownership of St. Joseph Media, effective September 30. It ends an 8-year partnership between St. Joseph (and, before that, Toronto Life Publishing Limited) and House & Home Media (publishers of the hugely successful Canadian House & Home).

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 industry rumbles into action about PAP as Magazines Canada and the Circulation Management Association (CMC) hold a joint session on October 19 at 9 a.m. at the Toronto Marriott; there, Michael Fox of Rogers, Magazines Canada's postal guru, will brief the crowd on the sordid details of the major increases and impacts facing magazines effective November 1. The cost of $49.95 doubtless includes coffee and some of those cute croissants.

Timely circ data: who'd a thunk it?

One of the largest auditing firms, BPA Worldwide, has announced its intention to move to release of at least the "top line" circulation of magazines for each issue, rather than in six-monthly reports as has been done since...forever. According to a report in Media Daily News, advertisers and agencies have long complained that data takes so long to be processed that it is next to useless in determining ad buys. If this reporting change happens, it will happen here, too, since we share both major auditing firms and there will be pressure on the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) to follow suit.

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

Ten Years of Ricepaper

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

We said earlier that The Beaver (never noted for its covers) was going to have a whole new look effective with its 85th anniversary issue, out October 3. Here's a sneak peek of what new Art Director Michel Groleau has wrought:

So we think we've got problems?

In Britain, newspapers and magazines are distributed together to retailers and newsagents, mostly by three large wholesalers. Some 90% of British magazines are sold by single copies or by "standing order" with the corner newsagent.

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.

Credit where it's due

The magazine industry is quick to complain that newspapers either slothfully or wilfully misreport the issues that affect us. So credit should be given where it is due: today's column by Kate Taylor in the Globe and Mail is as succinct and pointed an explanation about the PAP controversay as you could hope for. (Alas, the Globe charges for online access to its columnists. Search out a hard copy. It's on page R3.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More news from the Rogers campus

The redoubtable and excellent Paul Wells, who has a lease on the back page of Maclean's, has taken to defending the changes at his employer and points out in other conversations that more people were poached from the National Post by the previous incumbent, Anthony Wilson-Smith, than the present incumbent, Ken Whyte. He also confirms that Scott Feschuk is going to write a weekly column, and that Linda Frum will be joining the masthead as a "special interviewer".

The newsstand

I honestly don't know what to say.

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?

E-surveys cramped: not enough E-addresses

Many trade publishers, at least in the U.S., have e-mail addresses for fewer than half of their readers, according to an article in Media Business. Many have valid e-mail addresses for only 20 or 30 per cent of their records. This can cause some concerns about validity of results in what is now a headlong trend towards online or e-mail reader surveys. The savings that are possible by online surveys are so big that some publishers have given up on postal surveys altogether. The lack of addresses can be mitigated somewhat by sending to a larger sample. But the problem remains that the researchers and publishers can never be sure if the results they are getting is representative of the whole readership.

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 now wears Beaver hat

Perhaps it was summer, perhaps we were not paying attention, perhaps it was Ontario-centricity, but somehow we missed reporting that one of Canada's oldest magazines, The Beaver, has a new Editor.

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

Fact-checking, some other views

Back in June, the blog carried an item about fact-checking. Recently, it made the rounds of a newsgroup of freelancers in Toronto and at least one of them posted a comment (three months late, as he said) that's worth reading because it argues against fact-checking. Click here or on the head above to read the item and the belated comment.

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

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

In June 2002, Maclean's underwent a complete and substantial redesign, under the auspices of then-AD Donna Braggins. Now, it is being redesigned again by the new AD Christine Dewairy. And since the new look is wanted for its 100th anniversary, it explains why the huge black-tie party was pushed back to November. Apparently (despite having 100 years lead time) the anniversary issue was in danger of missing its deadline. Wrapped up in the redesign, Dewairy hasn't yet laid a finger on the day-to-day design of the magazine, leaving the whole thing to her somewhat disgruntled second-in-command Gary Hall.

It ain't what you pay but the way that you read it

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

A relatively new blog has been started by the Periodical Writers Association of Canada. It can be reached here. Of interest was the take of some of the freelancers about the sturm und drang in the industry about the cuts in PAP (see earlier items). One writer says:
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?

Tut tut

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

The chattering classes have always dismissed Maclean's as yesterday's magazine, quite unreasonably. It has a large and largely loyal readership. But what the chatterers haven't thought of is Maclean's as a lifeboat, which is what it seems to be for journalists fleeing the floundering (or is that foundering?) National Post.

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

PAP flap

In the recent kerphuffle over Publications Assistance Program's funding levels, Heritage's director general of publishing policy and programs Gordon Platt has suggested on Masthead Online [subscription required] that the industry should have known funding percentage decreases were coming in the current fiscal year ... i.e. (as I interpret his comments) that due to the lack of an increase in 2005-06 PAP funding, coupled with Canada Post's Publications Mail price increases, the writing was on the wall.

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

With all the kerfuffle about income trusts, very little of it has seemed to touch magazine publishing so far. But quietly, over the summer, a few quite good magazines were absorbed into the Osprey Media Income Trust, with its purchase of Town Media. Town's longtime President and Publisher, Wayne Narcisco, brought with him into the management fold the following titles: Hamilton Magazine, Biz,Visitors, Interiors, Ontario Golf, Golfstyle and Ontario Home Builder. Also absorbed were Town's trade show division, inclduing the Ontario Garden Show, Gourmet Food & Wine Show, Ontario Builders' Forum and a part interest in the Hamilton Better Living Home Show.

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?

The continuing Maclean's watch: 17-year veteran Senior Editor Barbara Wickens got her walking papers on Monday. We're losing count of the experienced, senior people who've been shown the door.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Smartmoves (TM) and privacy

Today (Monday, September 12) is the deadline for responses to Canada Post's invitation to Canadian publishers to collaborate in launching a "consumer" magazine tentatively called Smartmoves.

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

Another casualty at Maclean's. Writer Sharon Doyle Driedger, on leave for the past year to work on a book about the Irish in Canada, was due back at work today. That is, until Publisher Ken Whyte personally called her at home over the weekend and told her not to bother coming in. (The book was sparked by an article she did for the magazine about her Irish neighbourhood in Montreal.) Depending on how you figure it, that makes an even dozen out the door in the past few months.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

But are they read?

It has been reported that Mediamark Research International (MRI) will conduct a series of studies on readership comparing digital magazines with print magazines. It is being done in conjunction with Zinio Systems, a big purveyor of on-screen versions of some major magazines. This is in the U.S. of course, but measured audience and readership methodology is one of those things that must be settled before digital magazines (pdf or otherwise) are taken seriously by advertisers and become serious competition to traditional magazines.

The pinch in The Walrus wallet

Today's Mastheadonline records rumblings among freelancers about slow/late payments from The Walrus. To his credit, Ken Alexander, the Publisher, give a guarantee that everyone will get paid, eventually. But Mastheadonline notes that, as it always has, the long-term health of The Walrus hinges upon getting charitable status from Canada Revenue Agency.

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?

And, speaking of Maclean's, a cryptic e-mail has been winging about, pushing back the black-tie, by-invitation-only celebration at the Windsor Arms of the magazine's 100th anniversary. It was to be September 30. Now it's November 15. No reason was given. What to make of that?

Buy my magazine, puhleeze!

Early in August we reported a rumour about Maclean's magazine deep-discounting its subs. Then, it was only a rumour. Today, as a freestanding insert in the Globe and Mail, it is a fact:

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

Magazines Canada is reeling from a massive slap in the face from the Department of Canadian Heritage. DCH has quietly announced, without consultation and with less than 60 days notice, a huge cut in the Publications Assistance Program contribution to individual magazines. This came right after Magazines Canada had been able to take some comfort from a restoration of some funding to the program itself (if only for a year).

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.

New sales boss at St. Joe's Urban Group

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.

Way out west

Another in our sporadic series about Canadian magazines we love. This time, Prairies North.

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

Apparently Don Obe, retired head of the magazine program at Ryerson, is writing a piece for Masthead's back page on the crumbling wall between editorial and advertising, exemplified by the Maclean's deal with Cadillac last spring to "brand" an excerpt from Peter C. Newman's book. (I'm looking forward to Don's usually trenchant prose.)

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)?

Discuss, please.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

One after another after another...

More word on the wholesale changes being made to staff at Maclean's. Senior Editor Rob Sheppard is the latest to be let go. Recruited from the Globe and Mail, Sheppard has been at Canada's national newsmagazine for 8 years and was considered among its most seasoned reporters and craftsmen.

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

Stirred, not shaken

Search as we might, we cannot find a Canadian magazine that has its own cocktail. Which seems a shame. It came to us upon learning that Tin House, a hip new literary publication in the U.S. had a custom-made martini designed for it by the Four Seasons in New York (where it can be ordered). Now let's not argue about whether a martini can be anything except gin, vermouth and a garnish. The secret of the Tin House is apparently a thin film of Pernod swirled in the shaker before assembling what we would consider a classic martini.

Now, IF a Canadian magazine were to have its own cocktail, what would it be?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

She was outta there!

Kim Pittaway jumped from the editorship of Chatelaine, apparently, because she felt she was being pushed by Publisher Kerry Mitchell. This from today's Michael Posner article in the Globe and Mail. No notice or severance pay was involved -- she just quit and cleaned out her desk.

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.