Thursday, November 17, 2005

Innocence abroad?

On October 31, Liza Frulla, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced $4.8 million in funding to the Association for the Export of Canadian Books (AECB). The purpose? To help Canadian publishers penetrate international markets by providing $3.9 million in direct assistance for marketing of books, marketing of rights and hiring expertise.

The minister noted that books represent 21 % of Canadian cultural exports: "I congratulate members of the AECB on the work they do. They provide professionals in our book industry with substantial assistance so they can represent us abroad and better promote Canada's creativity and rich cultural diversity."

Now, just for fun, substitute the word "magazines" for "books" and see how it looks. For years, this industry has made excuses that Canadian content is not of interest to Americans, that the economies of scale are too overwhelming, that the industry lacks the capital necessary to penetrate the American market and that the magazine industry is so much different than the book industry (they have rights and inventory, we do not, for instance). Is this true? Are Canadian magazines un-exportable? Inquiring minds*
want to know.

*Minds which have hitherto simply accepted that the border is porous, but the flow is only one way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shambala Sun?
Vice magazine? (launched in Montreal, but now with offices, and I think editions, in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Scandianvia, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Japan)
Seed, though it has since moved to New York.
And in a little café in the farming town of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, last year, I found a copy of Azure. Where did they get it? First from the newsstand at the Barnes & Noble in "the mall," but then they subscribed (because "isn't it beautiful?").
So it can be done -- even without the Heritage Minister's help.
The problem for more commercial magazines is that marketing managers don't like to pay for ads in some other guy's territory. If your magazine has half its circ in the U.S. and half in Canada, which Ralph Lauren branch, U.S. or Canada, pays for the ad? For Vogue or Vanity Fair this doesn't matter. Canada is a lagniappe -- "go ahead, take it, it's free." But when the reader ratio gets closer to 50-50, nobody on the media buying side knows what to do. Maybe Mags Canada should chew on that one for a while.

2:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget Adbusters and Performance Auto & Sound...huge numbers in the U.S.

6:13 am  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I bow to my colleagues' examples, although I think they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

If we looked at the list of 80-odd PMB measured magazines (most of them paid), representing the largest and -- arguably -- most successful Canadian magazines, none of the titles they cited are on it. Ascent and Shambala Sun are tiny over all; Azure is somewhat larger, but Architectural Digest isn't probably quaking. As noted, Vice and Seed succeeded by decamping to New York. Adbusters is a good example, but is also a maverick, which is its unique selling proposition.

If you think about mainstream titles, not so much is happening. Partly it is for the very real reasons Charles Oberdorf cites. I agree that if a significant portion of your circ were in the States, Canadian advertisers and agencies would be sceptical about paying for access to people they don't think of as their customers.

However I still ask whether, among the roughly 125 titles over 100,000 circ in Canada, why are there so few that have (like Harper's in the other direction) say 10% of their circ in the U.S.? Even the Walrus, which is avowedly outward-looking, is having no more penetration than any other title. I can understand the economic connundrum of having 50% of circ in each country.But we don't even seem to have proportional representation, even in the northeastern U.S. states, which have a great deal in common with us. Perhaps it is not just money, but lack of interest on our part, as well as theirs. So I ask again, are Canadian magazines basically unexportable?

12:23 pm  

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