Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day. Posting will resume Tuesday.

The New Quarterly presents storytelling in Stratford in aid of breast cancer funder

The New Quarterly, an award-winning and critically acclaimed literary magazine published in Waterloo is presenting two spoken word programs drawn from its pages, in Stratford this summer (one, next week).

It is part of a larger series of song, dance and the spoken word throughout the summer in support of THE QUILT: A Breast Cancer Support Project.)

Forbidden Fruit & Forbidding Mushrooms - a pair of rollicking tales on the theme of food performed by Festival story-teller Mary-Eileen McClear. Saturday, July 8 & Saturday, August 12, 11:30 a.m.

Childbirth & Other Complications - stories by writers Carrie Snyder and Marian Engel Award winner Terry Griggs about characters whose experience of giving birth goes comically awry. Saturday, July 29, 11:30 p.m.

Both performances at 55 Downie Street, Stratford (Back of THE QUILT)

Fees and a portion of all proceeds go to THE QUILT: A Breast Cancer Support Project, the only national organization dedicated to raising money for breast cancer support programs. For more information and exact times and locations of all events, go here.
Cost is $18 for Adults , $15 for Seniors & Students (both plus GST and a $5 handling fee). To reserve tickets and for more information call (519) 272-2588

Is TVO to become yet another ad competitor?

It's a sideline issue about another medium, but there is one interesting aspect about the announcement yesterday about TV Ontario's revamp. A story in today's Toronto Star says that one of the outcomes may be selling advertising on the previously ad-free channel.
"While Education Minister Sandra Pupatello pledged $7.5 million in new funding for each of the next two years for digital equipment and an additional $10.4 million in "transition" funds, the head of TVO pointedly did not rule out advertising down the road. 'Over the next two years, we'll be placing a great deal of emphasis on building a sustainable business model for TVO, and key to that is building new revenue streams," said TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde.' We have the benefit, the good fortune, of receiving an operating grant (of $45 million) from the government of Ontario every year. But I, like Jeff Skoll who invented eBay, believe you can serve the public interest and you can balance your books.' "
Antonia Zerbisias's media column in the Star confirms that de Wilde did not talk about investment in content at all, but didn't rule out ads as a stream of revenue, quoting her as saying:
"This strategy is not ratings based," she said. "This strategy is about educational content aligned with the minister's priorities, where we will be doing something that is unique in the market place."

Kinder, gentler couture the rule at Canadian fashion mags

The devil may be in the details, but not in Prada, in Canada at least. Comparisons with the just-released movie, The Devil Wears Prada, based on former Vogue intern Lauren Weisberger's "fictional" memoirs of her own experience working for the tyrant Anna Wintour at Vogue are a long way from how things are in Canadian magazines.

"The truth is that the Canadian magazine industry can't pay anyone enough money to dress in designer duds twenty-four/seven, so we scrounge for second best," says Kate MacLennan, an assistant editor at Fashion magazine, in an article she wrote for the Vancouver Sun.

"In the film, naive, frumpy and earnest wannabe-journalist Andrea takes a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole and goes from poly-blend peon to couture co-worker with a quick visit to magazine's legendary merch room," says MacLennan. "The merch room, allegedly a fashion columbarium at the offices of Vogue, is where the world's most revered designers dump last season's samples for even the most lowly fashion magazine employees to gorge upon. This is exactly the kind of thing happens at Canada's fashion magazines. Uh, no, trust me, it doesn't."

Canadian fashion magazines have merch rooms, alright, but they're temporary storage locations for clothing borrowed for fashion editorial shoots.

"Once in a while we'll be flowed a cute top (never couture) or pair of jeans from a compassionate clothing rep, and one lucky Christmas Louis Vuitton took pity and sent the country's fashion editorial top dogs (certainly not the interns) cute little handbags, but for the most part we are on our own," she says.

"Otherwise, most Canadian fashion magazine folk squeeze their size 0 through 14 bodies into well-styled vintage, almost-designer pieces (think stores like Zara, H&M and the ilk), locally designed gems, or any designer clothing they are fortunate enough to score at places like Winners."

"I've discovered, as Andrea did, that life in this industry is much easier if you dress well. That much is true. People treat you better when you have on a respectable (and that's respectable on a fashion industry scale) ensemble, but you also feel more appropriate and therefore more confident. That said, I left the movie deeply considering what I felt was its most important message: that clothes can make the woman, but ultimately it's the woman who must make the clothes."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Third time lucky?

Cut down by its investors twice before, hip New York magazine Radar is taking another run, according to an interview with the New York Times. Maer Roshan said the magazine’s web site will be launched in August, but the magazine itself won’t hit newsstands until 2007. Radar was launched in 2003 and was suspended a few issues later because of money woes. News tycoon Mortimer Zuckerman financed a relaunch last fall, but pulled the plug in December.

ABC rolls out self-serve, "Rapid Reporting"

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is rolling out "Rapid Reporting". An article in Folio: says that consumer magazine members in good standing will be allowed voluntarily to report their top-line circulation data on an issue-by-issue basis, usually within weeks of circulation to subscribers and on newsstands. Information on the system is available here, including samples and a tutorial. Starting July 1, the system will be live to all members with online access.

Members submit information through the ABC web site about subs (paid and verified); single-copy sales; rate base; and analyzed non-paid circulation. Publishers can make changes to their figures as they receive updated sales and return figures, but not after the Publisher's Statement covering those months is released.

"The data entered into the Rapid Report system is obviously not audited initially," says the Folio: but reports are available for dowloading directly into Microsoft Excel.

"With ABC serving as an independent third-party administrator of the program, advertisers and advertising agencies know that the data will be credible," says Mark A. Wachowicz, ABC's senior vice president of marketing and sales. "Increasing their reporting frequency will also allow publishers to be more competitive with other media platforms."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

OMDC application deadline announced

Half the magazines published in Canada are published in Ontario, so it's a big deal when there's some money available. The Ontario Media Development Corporation has put out a call for its Magazine Fund. It provides support up to $25,000 for projects that have clear, objective and measurable results that will support the overall business growth of Ontario-based magazine. Several kinds of projects are contemplated by the guidelines. The deadline for applications is August 24 at 5:00 p.m. An information session is to be held July 20 at 10:30 a.m. at the OMDC 3rd floor conference centre, 175 Bloor Street East, North Tower in Toronto. To register in advance (required) you can go here.

Good news for B2B magazines -- they work

More than half the executives who read business to business magazines (B2B) have acted on an ad they saw, according to a new study by Harris Interactive conducted on behalf of American Business Media (ABM).

"Fifty-seven percent [of respondents] said it had caused them to make a purchase or recommend a purchase" for their company, recalled Regina Corso, research director for Harris Interactive. "When someone sees an advertisement in a B2B magazine, it really does spur them to do something."

According to an article in Media Daily News, Harris surveyed 588 execs from 21 different industries. "They all said they go to B2B magazines," Corso said. In fact, of 12 different sources of information, B2B publications were second only to live salespeople in their ability to engage executives.

The Harris study also showed:
  • trade shows and expos were very effective, with 70 percent of respondents saying interactions with company reps at industry functions caused them to make or recommend a purchase to their company.
  • B2B Web sites in influencing buying decisions. Here, 49 percent of respondents said a web site caused them to make or recommend a purchase for their companies, and 88 percent urged an "integrated" B2B initiative involving print, online, and trade shows.

"Advertisers shouldn't just be focusing on just one B2B platform," Corso said. "They specifically said when they saw an ad in multiple media, it really did make that product top of mind."

Naughty, but not that naughty

The raunchier they get, the more nervous the industry gets, at least in Great Britain. So called "lad mags" are in danger of being segregated to the top, back row of the newsstands, behind the modesty shields and in company with skin books unless the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) can persuade the British Parliament otherwise.

According to a story in the Guardian, The PPA has written to Members of Parliament to argue against proposed new legislation. Claire Curtis-Thomas, the Labour MP for Crosby, Merseyside, has called for new laws to govern the display of lads' mags (such as Zoo and Loaded), men's lifestyle magazines and newspapers such as the Daily Sport and Daily Star. She wants magazines and papers containing sexually explicit material to be kept out of sight of children.

But the PPA (an industry trade group that is Britain's equivalent of Magazines Canada) believes existing voluntary Home Office guidelines are stringent enough (e.g. don't put lad mags like Zoo near comics such as the Beano, for instance).

"Magazine publishers and retailers believe the resultant code is strengthened, and its voluntary nature is far more effective and flexible than any statutory regulation, given that standards of taste and decency are constantly changing," the PPA said in its letter to MPs.

"Ultimately it is the retailers' responsibility to sell products, and to use their discretion and judgment as they see fit to display and sell those products, including magazines."

The letter added: "It has been acknowledged that 'lads' mags' do not contain pornographic material, and are not adult materials in the sense that they do not contain such material."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Maclean's closing...early

[THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED] The current Macleans (July 1) contains the news that the magazine, which has been published on Mondays for as long as anyone can remember, is going to come out on Thursday from now on.

"After nearly 30 years of putting out a magazine every Monday, Maclean's has decided to stop. From now on, we'll be putting out a magazine every Thursday," said the upfront note from the editors.

"Weekly current affairs magazines in North America have been published primarily on Mondays for as long as they've existed. There may have been a rationale for this long ago, but we don't believe the schedule suits the lives and habits of our readers today. The simple fact is that people have more time to read at the end of the week and on the weekend. And since we've increased the amount of content offered in each issue of Maclean's by 50 per cent over the last year, it makes sense to deliver it when readers have more time to enjoy it."

The old newsmagazine model was to close the issue as late in the week as possible. For years, Maclean's closed its last edit page sometimes as late as 5 p.m. on Saturday and would often tear apart and remake whole forms late in the week. Once the magazine was printed, this necessitated airfreighting copies to the west coast so it would be on Vancouver newsstands first thing Monday morning. A few years ago, it was decided that this punishing schedule was unnecessary, and that the late nights and weekend work wasn't resulting in a magazine that was any newsier, or beloved, than one that closed routinely at 5 p.m. Friday. And so, it was.

Now, apparently, the idea is to get the jump on the fat weekend papers and the paper will go on sale on Thursdays. Which will mean the magazine will have to close editorial pages on Tuesdays.

Home delivery of Maclean's (and it must be remembered that 97% of the copies go to subscribers) will still depend on the vagaries of the post office, which often doesn't deliver a Monday issue until Thursday. Now, coming out on a Thursday, it is quite possible that some home delivery won't happen til the following Monday. (And gawd help them if Canada Post ever makes good on its threat to cut home delivery back to every other day.)

For now, one has to wonder whether this will make the magazine more attractive to advertisers. It's hard to see why that would be. The nature of the audience is not changing, only the day of the week that the magazine arrives in their mailbox.

[UPDATE] From Maclean's press release on the change:
"We took a look at our audience and our advertisers and we believe that increasing our speed to market will benefit both," says Deborah Trepanier,associate publisher, general manager and vice-president, Maclean's.

The magazine will now arrive fresh on newsstands when buyers are out shopping. Retail traffic is highest at the end of the week. Maclean's newsstand sales were up 36 per cent in the first quarter of 2006 compared to the same period last year, and the magazine expects a further advance as a result of the move.

Free magazines are less valued & lack awareness, says MMR study

Was that a slight shiver that ran down the backs of the necks of controlled magazine publishers everywhere? Could be because they have seen a recent study commissioned by Emmis Communications, one of the largest publishers of city and regional magazines in the U.S. (Texas Monthly, Atlanta Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Cincinnati Magazine).

The results of the admitedly self-serving study were recently reported to the 88-member City and Regional Magazine Association in the U.S and were published in an article in MediaDaily News. It says that consumer who receive unpaid subscriptions to upscale magazines are far less inclined to read them and -- when they do -- they value them less than magazines they pay for.

This has been an argument made for years by paid circ publishers, but there's never been much definitive to go by, except for the fact that controlled books tend to have lower readership in independent research like the Print Measurement Bureau.

The "affluent study" was carried out by Monroe Mendelsohn Research (MMR) and involved 2,250 randomly selected consumers in key markets. (We're not aware of -- but would be glad to hear about -- any similar study having been done in Canada, where controlled circulation is widely used and where newspaper-delivered magazines have proliferated.)

In Dallas, they found that only 4.5% of respondents had "never heard of" paid-circ Texas Monthly, while 80% were "unfamililar" with rival title Brilliant. Similar results were found in Atlanta and Los Angeles. (This, of course, may be yet another proof that branding helps people identify with a magazine, which is why eponymous city magazines or magazines with "Canadian" or "Toronto" in their name generally do better than those that do not).

Susie Love, executive vice president-director of sales and marketing at Emmis, says the company simply wanted to know what impact the incursion of free urban magazines were having on their market, and whether Emmis should also explore that approach. The answer, she says, was a definite "no."

"The reason we did it this was that we kept hearing from agencies and people from the [Magazine Publishers of America] making statements like, 'Does paid really matter?' We're built on paid circulation. And we felt if people are asking that question, we should find the answer."

Love says that following her presentation to the association, "eight or nine" other paid magazines are planning to conduct similar research in their markets.

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Fuller signs on for another, richer, tour

Bonnie Fuller, the celebrity-magazine editor has renewed her contract as editorial director for American Media for three years. According to the New York Times, she signed the new deal on Friday and is to receive the same $1.5 million annual base salary as in her current three-year contract, but more in bonuses over the next three years than she did in the previous three.

"Under her old contract, she earned an average bonus of $275,000 a year, based on the performance of Star, the tabloid turned glossy magazine that she oversees, bringing her average annual pay to $1.775 million, " said the Times. "This time, she is guaranteed an annual bonus of at least $500,000, based on the performance of Star, for a guaranteed minimum of $2 million."

So speculation (see earlier item here) was just that. Apparently the wunderkind has been able to increase her package even as circulation falls.

Taking the long view

Masthead magazine does the industry a huge favour each year by calculating total revenue for the top 50 magazines in the country. It is done by multiplying the advertising pages tracked by LNA and the key 1x page rate and the audited circulation numbers published by the magazines. Masthead applies a weighting factor to take account of discounts and special offers and, while publishers grumble about the results, it is generally accepted that these numbers are in the ballpark. And, after all, ad and circulation dollars are how publishers keep score.

Year over year, these numbers don’t tell us much except who’s up and who’s down in the rankings. But if you keep the long view, there are some revealing trends. So, here are a few selected observations, based on the data from 2001 and 2005.
Chatelaine magazine has claimed and retained its number 1 position by steady, impressive growth. While there has been a lot of criticism in the industry about things like taking 9 months to replace the editor, it is hard to argue with this kind of performance. In five years, it increased its total revenue 25% to more than $50 million.

Canadian House & Home ranked 15th in revenue in 2000 and today ranks 6th, having increased its revenue from $12 million to $16 million in the past 5 years (33%).

Maclean’s was Canada’s 1st magazine in 2000; in 2005 it was 4th. Its revenue went from $40 million to $36 million. But it has to be pointed out that, in 2005 it increased its revenue for the first time after four years of decline. Whether this is the talked-about turnaround? We shall see.

Reader’s Digest retained its number 3 position, but for the first year in five saw a 5.4% decline in revenue. In 2001, the magazine made $38 million. In 2005, $37 million. In dollar terms, taking inflation into account, it is actually losing ground.

Flare and Fashion and have traditionally jousted for pre-eminence in the fashion category. Over the past five years, Fashion has been closing the gap steadily. Flare retained its ranking lead (number 9 in 2005, up from 10 in 2001). Fashion moved to 14, from 20 in 2001. In dollars, Flare has increased revenue $3.5 million (25%) from $13.9 million to $17.4 million in total revenue; Fashion has increased revenue by $4.4 million (50%) from $8.7 million to $13.1 million.

TV Guide has declined 39% in revenue from $28.9 million to $17.7 million in the past five years. Starweek declined by 38% ($13.6 to $8.5 million) and tv hebdo by 26% ($10.5 to $8 million)

Canadian Living and its French language counterpart, Coup de Pouce together increased revenue 20% over five years ($46.2 million to $55.5 million). Compare this with Chatelaine and its French language counterpart Châtelaine which together increased revenue 31% over the same five years ($50.7 million to $66.3 million).

Monday, June 26, 2006

High stakes advertising; what's the deal?

The so-called "World Series of Poker", is running an insert in the July issue of Maxim magazine, (on Canadian newsstands now) and featuring Full Tilt Poker star player and erstwhile sex symbol, Clonie Gowen. She is a member of "Team Full Tilt", a group of accomplished poker players assembled to play each other and all comers online by In turn, the Full Tilt Poker software is developed by a Los Angeles Company TiltWare LLC. It in turn is licensed to Kolyma Corporation, A.V.V. which is regulated and licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada. The Commission regulates and controls gaming and gaming related activities conducted within and from the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake that straddles the Canada-US border near Cornwall. Full Tilt Poker is but one of more than 200 online poker and gambling websites licensed by the native-run commission. Start trolling through the list of sites for the licensees and you'll start to see why some estimates are that about $US 8 billion will change hands in this business by 2008.

There are those who would find gambling advertising as distasteful as gambling itself, but you still have to wonder why, if the target audience of Maxim is attractive to promote this business, in Canada, shouldn't such lucrative advertising be running in Canadian magazines too? Yet you don't see it much. One immediately thinks of Toro. The core demographic of gambling is also the core demographic of magazines; in fact, research is showing that the most avid online gamblers are women over 40. Chatelaine, anyone?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Is traffic killing us?

Spacing magazine, which this year won a gold medal in the Editorial Package category* in the National Magazine Awards, runs something called spacingwire, a daily log of interesting articles on urban planning and environmental issues that should be of great interest to all of us. One posting caught our eye, discussing the effects of traffic on health, based on a report released this spring by the Toronto Medical Officer of Health (the posting includes a link to the report). Worth a look.
*(I was a judge in this category).

Magawards TV

For those who weren't able to show up, booze and schmooze, the National Magazine Awards Foundation has now posted a web show that includes a video record of the awards night at the Carlu in Toronto on June 9. It's a welcome innovation, not least because it makes available a record of the host's best (and worst) jokes and the finalists and winners that goes beyond the terse paragraph of the news reports. What it provides is evidence of the outstanding work being done by magazines from one side of the country to another. And of the gracious and inspiring acceptance speech by Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Macfarlane.

UPDATE: Not quite so welcome: the number of misspellings, garblings and misattributions in the captions in the photo gallery that accompanies the site. I'm sure Ernest Hillen wonders who that guy is over his name. Jossage for Gossage? And since he went to the stage so many times, Antonio De Luca of The Walrus was surely known to them.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Group buy offered in horseracing books

Two smallish Canadian horse magazines -- HorseLife Magazine, the official publication of Equine Canada and The Racing Journal, a print and online publication which covers thoroughbred and quarter horse racing in Western Canada and the United States -- have signed on with Racing Unified Network (R.U.N.), a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto-based Sungold International Holdings. R.U.N. will sell advertising to national advertisers on behalf of these publications and their web sites.

In addition to the two Canadian titles, Sungold announced it was also going to represent The HorsePlayer, a popular California-based thoroughbred magazine (circ. abt 50,000) and Washington Thoroughbred Magazine (circ. <5,000). Larry Simpson, R.U.N.'s president said: "Historically, these magazines have had difficulty in attracting national advertisers, perhaps because of their individual circulations. With the aggregation created by Racing Unified Network's media program, advertisers will be more interested, as collectively these publications can boast a larger circulation and a target audience."

It's not just commission that R.U.N. is after. "Most importantly," he added, "as we introduce new advertisers to these publications, we will be establishing the contacts needed for marketing our own between-race video ads that will cycle between our Horsepower® World Pool races. We can offer a unique service by 'bundling' print advertising, flash ads for web sites and eventually video stream ads for our own Horsepower® World Pool product. Horseracing and other equine disciplines is a very affluent and attractive market for advertisers."

He said that this type of sales concept they are not restricted to just horse and horseracing publications. "Eventually we intend to 'bundle' some other sports and leisure publications into the mix as well."

(Sungold has two other 100% wholly owned subsidiaries: Horsepower Broadcasting Network (HBN) International Ltd., which sells a pari-mutuel, virtual horse-racing system delivered on video and SafeSpending Inc., an anonymous Internet payment system which allows consumers to pre-purchase spending vouchers for purchases online without divulging any confidential information as would be necessary if one used a credit card or any other traceable transaction service.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Howe takes over Canadian Living and Homemaker's

Very good news that Canadian Living and Homemaker's have been added to the responsibility of Vice-President and Group Publsiher Jacqueline Howe at Transcontinental, according to an article in mastheadonline (sub req'd). This consolidates English language consumer publishing for the company in Toronto. Howe, the former president of Avid Media, joined Transcon when it bought Avid (Canadian Gardening, Outdoor Canada, Canadian Home Workshop and Canadian Home and Country). Howe enjoys high regard among the people who work for her. She will continue to report to Francine Tremblay, Senior Vice-President, Consumer Publications who has been helming the two large titles until now from Montreal.

Canada Post rate increase likely to be 3%

Canada Post has apparently heard what the magazine industry was saying and moderated its rate increase, which will come into effect in January. According to a letter sent to Canada Post president Moya Greene by Magazines Canada President Mark Jamison, the rate increase will be about 3%. It will be officially announced in July. Last year, in some categories, postage rates for magazines in some weight categories went up by as much as 9%. The Canadian Business Press reports on its website that industry talks with Canada Post have convinced the Crown corporation to hold increases to close to the rate of inflation.

Magazines Canada is not so happy about Greene's comparison of publications mail with the Canada Post business of delivering small packages.
"While we were hopeful that CPC would not increase Publications Mail rates again in 2007,we recognize that a 3% increase as you announced is less dramatic than the increases the sector sustained from 2002 – 2005," said Jamison. "We encourage Canada Post to continue to moderate rate increases in order to maintain and build Publications Mail volume.

"We do wish to take issue with the comparison made between postal rates for individual magazines and those available to small business parcels. There are significant differences between these products and the relationship of these business sectors with Canada Post. Magazines are shipped in great volume and provide volume commitments to Canada Post.As part of this relationship, the vast majority of magazines are pre-sorted, saving Canada Post considerable cost. Additionally, magazine delivery standards allow for slower deliverythan business parcels.

"In addition to the Publications Mail category, Canadian magazines contribute millions more in business to Canada Post through first class lettermail, parcel delivery, business reply cards and admail."
Meanwhile, the industry is keeping its powder dry. A select group of consumer industry heavyweights have been working on a feasibility study about creating an alternative delivery system. It is highly likely that Canada Post has heard about it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Corporate Knights dubs Shoppers tops

Corporate Knights magazine named Shopper's Drug Mart as Top Corporate Citizen as part of the fifth annual ranking of Canada's Best 50 Corporate Citizens. The rankings, sponsored by The Ethical Funds Company, will be published in the June 26th issue.

Companies are measured against 13 different indicators including tax generation, pension fund coverage, toxic releases, transparency around political lobbying, ratio of CEO compensation to company's relative earnings, and board diversity. All indicators came from publicly available sources.

Shoppers Drug Mart placed at the top because it paid 100 per cent of its statutory tax obligation, scored 100 per cent in CEO pay relative to company earnings, fully funded its pension plan, had board membership that included three female directors out of 11, and also had a high relative number of female key executives (39 per cent), while showing no subsidiaries in tax haven countries or shareholder conflicts.

The survey found two key areas where corporate Canada is lacking: pension fund coverage and diversity. The survey found that among 145 defined benefit pension plans, unfunded liabilities spiked by 34 per cent last year, growing to 25.6 billion dollars.

The survey also found that only 13 per cent of TSX composite company key executives are female and less than 10 per cent sit on boards. "At the board level, for a society as diverse as ours, Canadian companies have a stunningly low number of visible minorities," Corporate Knights editor Toby Heaps commented. Almost 90 per cent of TSX Composite boards have not a single visible minority among their ranks.

The Hon. David Peterson and the Hon. Jim Bradley were also presented with the Corporate Knights Award of Distinction for introducing the Countdown Acid Rain program in 1985 that initiated a series of actions across North American jurisdictions that culminated in significant reductions of acid rain.

Av***ance char**ters

Fun piece in Language Log about the cat-and-mouse game that ensued as Chinese censors tried, and sometimes failed, to insert "avoidance characters" in articles by the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof. He details it in an op-ed piece today (sub req'd). Apparently, there is so much net traffic that the 30,000 internet censors (!) can't keep up! You might want to browse through links of earlier posts on Language Log about the contortions through which publications put themselves to avoid printing certain words.

Sun chain dumps 170 jobs

Sun Media Corporation announced layoffs of 170 people today -- apparently most of the people involved in library and research across the country were included. The press release spun it as a $7 million investment in new technologies and to "streamline production of newsgathering" (whatever that means). The savings from the firings is about $4.6 million.

The daily Sun papers seem to be bearing the brunt and, if recent embarrassing hijinks at Sun TV are any indication, there is to be a further merging of news and information resources. (If you're wondering why this is posted on this site, it's because anything that affects the Sun's owners, Quebecor, affects everyone in the Canadian magazine industry.)

Down a ways in the release is the following statement:
The company also plans to expand Sun Media's network of free circulation newspapers, which currently includes 24 hours in Toronto and Vancouver and 24 heures in Montreal.
Could it be that the Toronto Sun (and perhaps the other Sun papers) will sooner or later be converted into freebies? Maybe even folding 24 hours and the Sun together?

June Callwood wins intellectual freedom award from Canadian Library Association

We'd like to acknowledge that longtime magazine writer and activist June Callwood has been named the 2006 recipient of the Award for the Advancement of Intellectual Freedom in Canada, presented by the Canadian Library Association (CLA). You can read the CLA's June 8 press release here.

“Long before they were safe or fashionable, June Callwood was a courageous and principled pioneer in many social justice causes, especially those involving children and women,” says CLA President Barbara Clubb. “Her efforts have paved the way for others to follow.”

Callwood made her name originally as a feature writer for Maclean's magazine and has written for many Canadian publications as well as being a frequent interviewee on radio and television. But her journalism career has in recent years been somewhat overshadowed by her passionate advocacy work. She is a founding member of many social justice organizations and associations such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, PEN Canada, Feminists Against Censorship and the Writers' Union of Canada.

She has helped found Digger House, a safe haven for homeless youngsters; Nellie's Hostel for Women, a nonprofit organization for women and children in crisis; Jessie’s Centre for Teenagers, a drop- in centre for teenage mothers; and Casey House, the first hospice in Canada to provide support and palliative care for people with HIV/AIDS.

[Thanks to the PWAC blog for reminding us of this honour.]

Monday, June 19, 2006

OK not quite so OK, it seems

In light of the recent abrupt closure of Weekly Scoop by Torstar and the impending launch of Hello! magazine by Rogers, it's worth paying attention to how such celebrity titles are doing south of the border. An article in Ad Age says that OK, published by U.K. press baron Richard "Dirty Dick" Desmond, is not doing as well as Desmond promised and that many in the media think the whole idea of an American OK will tank. There are rumours about that the magazine, which has been hugely successful elsewhere, is not even reaching its 400,000 rate base.

Desmond, meanwhile, blames anemic ad sales and swirling rumours on jealous backbiting from his rivals, referring to American Media CEO David Pecker as "shifty".
"In an interview with Advertising Age, his more specific accusations included a statement that Time Warner was trying to protect People magazine by "putting out a lot of shit" about OK. And, surprisingly, he claimed that OK will report average paid circulation of 534,000 for the first half of 2006 in its inaugural publisher's statement to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That would be an astounding success for a new title moving into a crowded market.

"What about reports on both sides of the Atlantic that OK sales were soft and uneven? 'You can tell all those wankers to f--k off,' he said cheerily, 'because these are the figures.' "
One of the speculations about Weekly Scoop's closure was that Torstar was frightened off by the whole celebrity area going soft, with a lot of price-cutting. OK was one of those that cut its price recently from US$3.29 a copy to US$1.99.

Shock pulled from major retailers' shelves

No word about Canadian retailers doing so, but according to Ad Age, major retailers in the U.S. have pulled the premier issue of Shock magazine after the photographer who took the picture disputed their right to publish it. Tower Records, Rite Aid drugstores and Brooks Eckerd have taken the magazine off their shelves. An earlier post gives details on this dispute.

Meanwhile, over at Media Life, another view of the story. "The copyright fiasco surrounding the launch of new Hachette Filipacchi magazine Shock has descended into a campaign of dueling smears. And it's getting personal."

Guilt and Pleasure

Not having heard about it, it was very interesting to read about an international magazine that talks about what it is to be Jewish today called Guilt and Pleasure. Cynthia Brouse posts an item on her blog The Clothesline Saga about working temporarily as a copy editor on G & P and her pleasure at working on a magazine of ideas again.

She met the editor-in-chief Mireille Silcoff (now based in Montreal) while working on Saturday Night. "The quarterly is great fun; it's a literary magazine of ideas, with lots of historical and archival stuff on Jewish traditions of the past," says Brouse, "but the tone is often edgy, comical, and hip/serious, never politically correct, much like Mireille herself. She's the epitome of cool while being painfully bright, and what I thought was simply cleverness has turned out, as seen in this magazine, to be a keen intelligence and concern about community."

Friday, June 16, 2006

The antithesis factor: Guardian plans launch of American magazine

Interesting piece in this week's New York magazine about the impending American edition of the Guardian from Great Britain. Many people in Canada regularly read the Guardian online or subscribe to the excellent weekly. But the New York article wonders what effect the new publication will have on the U.S. publishing zeitgeist.

Media columnist Michael Wolff wrote about getting a preview from the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger. "It struck me first that—even given the Guardian’s campus chic-ness—the U.S. has never been less receptive to the European point of view than it is now. By any measure, to be successful in the U.S. news business is to be staunch, patriotic, defensive. It’s Fox or bust. And it struck me even more forcefully that beyond the difficulties of liberalness, the prospects for literate media—the Guardian being a writer’s paper—were, as everybody knew, nil....
"Not only is it about politics (Rusbridger is looking to launch in the winter to cover the presidential-primary season), but the magazine—meant to be 60 percent derived from the Guardian itself, with the rest to come from American contributors—has a great deal of text unbroken by design elements. This is almost an extreme notion. Quite the antithesis of what virtually every publishing professional would tell you is the key to popular and profitable publishing—having less to read, not more. Even with the Guardian’s signature sans-serif face, it looks like an old-fashioned magazine. Polemical. Written. Excessive. Contentious. Even long-winded.

"This was either radically wrongheaded, or so forcefully and stylishly counterintuitive—and unexpected—that I found myself thinking, light-headedly, that it might define a turnaround in American publishing."

Wolff defined Rusbridger as a "packaging genius". "Unlike American packaging genius, which is about packaging down (resulting in the deterioration of taste as well as attention spans), Rusbridger packages up."

Wolff goes on: "Rather than a lot of readers at a small price, the idea is fewer readers at a greater price (whereas most U.S. magazines discount their subscription price as much as 80 percent). Rusbridger figures that the American Guardian, charging a hefty subscription price, will be in safe financial territory at a 100,000-level circulation. (Advertising, in this approach, is welcome but not the main driver.) In other words, against the trend of all other commercial media (wherein the price the consumer needs to pay or is willing to pay gets progressively lower), the job here is to make the magazine—the writing, the attitudes, the opinions, the content—worth more by being better, smarter, more exclusive.

"Being foreign helps. It’s not a mass-produced American product. It’s imported. Authentic. Hand-tooled. Tasteful. Indeed, in some fine irony in this jingoistic age, its non-American-ness (and, hence, its ability to be anti-American) makes it worth more."

Lies my media buyer tells me

Hey, I can live with the feeling of being an unworthy, obsequious reptile but please don't lie to me. I'm not a baby. I won't come crying because my magazine is not on the plan.
So says Reptile, in Rep Life. And who are we to gainsay it? An interesting post about lies, damned lies and media buyers.

How The Walrus works

The Walrus magazine is now using an unusual freelance contract that is interesting in two respects: its view of what's fair in terms of kill fees and payment terms; and in giving an insight into the hoops through which the magazine has jumped and is jumping in order to get, and keep, charitable status.

The contract varies in several ways from standard magazine practice and from the standard contract that, for many years, the Professional Writers Association of Canada has been trying to get the industry to accept.

If a manuscript is accepted, but the magazine decides not to use it, the writer will be paid a kill fee of 50%, the contract says. This is unprecedented. Once the writer has done his or her job and delivered a satisfactory article, most editors agree that payment should be in full.

The Walrus contract also says the magazine will pay a 20% kill fee for articles "where the editor considers a manuscript cannot be made acceptable through rewriting" or if "the Publisher concludes that the information available will not result in a satisfactory story". This, too, is a variant on the standard practice of paying a 50% kill fee. Even at this, most writers will do everything in their power not to receive a kill fee because they assume it means that they are less likely to get more work from the publication.

Payment is another area of possible contention, stating that an invoice is due upon completion of a final draft, with payment to follow "from 30 to 90 days of receiving the invoice". This could mean that three or four months of research, writing and revision would be followed by three months of waiting for payment. A freelancer would be dependent upon a final acceptance by the editor, a matter which is entirely within the editor's discretion, even if the work agreed had been completed.

The contract contains an appendix, headed: "Educational Content in The Walrus", which has clearly been written by or substantially vetted by, a lawyer. This is the part that gives some insight into The Walrus's receipt of charitable status, after a long struggle with the federal tax department to convince it that it was an "educational" enterprise.

"The Walrus magazine is owned and published by The Walrus Foundation, a registered charity, and as such, the magazine must reflect the educational objectives of the Foundation. The magazine must achieve an average of a 70:30 ratio of educational to non-educational content (including advertising) over the year," says a preamble. "The Walrus Foundation has appointed an Educational Review Committee (ERC) comprised of independent academics who report to the Foundation's board of directors on the educational content of the magazine."

The guidelines that follow for the educational reviewers say "Research, facts and arguments can be presented formally, but can also be embedded in narratives. Characters can be explored, but not as ends in themselves; rather, characters are entry points into larger issues and ideas. The content of each article, essay, review, etc. must be meaningful, relevant, and useful from a social, political, cultural and/or scientific perspective. All articles must also strive for excellence in terms of their writing."

For "non-artistic" pieces, for instance, "articles on "stuff" or straightforward profiles... do not qualify". Neither do...
  • "Generally 'light-hearted' or humour pieces".
  • "Articles that present only an author's opinion."
  • "Articles that present information and facts without additional argument."
  • "Articles that 'tell a story' -- e.g. an author recounting a personal experience or life event."
  • "Articles that are topical or entertaining."
For "artistic" pieces
  • "The content must either deal with a recognized form of high-end art...or present or exemplify a recognize form of art."
  • "Reviews of general arts and entertainment trends are not acceptable."
  • "The art presented must be of such a significantly high calibre as to be considered educational."

Better Chinese Homes & Gardens

Meredith Corporation announced Monday that it has launched a Chinese edition of Better Homes and Gardens, in partnership with SEEC Media Group Limited, one of China's biggest print media companies. The magazine became available in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore--which has a large ethnic Chinese population--in early June. The magazine will be a mix of American content from the parent magazine and China-specific features and articles.

60% favour same-sex marriage: Toronto Life

According to a Leger Marketing poll published in the current issue of Toronto Life, 60% of Ontarions support same-sex marriage, including 49% who support it outright and 11% who give tacit support by saying "it's none of my business".

44% of respondents said that a free vote on the definition of marriage should not be a priority of the federal government. Three in ten say it should be a "minor priority".

Among the 40% of Ontarians who are opposed to same-sex marriage, six-in-ten (60%) say that their religious beliefs are the primary reason for their opposition.

Among all Ontarians, 51% are proud of Canada for making it legal for same-sex couples to get married.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sounds like a laff riot

The new fall lineup for CBC has been announced and features, among other shows, Rumours, a comedy about modern life inside a Toronto women's magazine.

So that's what a billion is

Highlights , a 60-year-old U.S. kids magazine which has some subscribers in Canada, has reached the milestone of publishing one billion copies. According to editor Christine French Clark, the August issue will explain the concept of a billion this way: ``If Goofus stacked a billion children on his shoulders, they would reach the moon, wrap around the moon 11 times, stretch back to the earth, wrap around the earth five times, and there would be enough kids left over for 34,944 Little League teams."

Bonnie Fuller renewal in some doubt

[This post has been UPDATED] The bloom may be off Bonnie Fuller's rose, as there is some question whether the sweet deal she negotiated three years ago to be editorial director at American Media Inc. will be renewed, at least on the same generous terms. Fuller, as most people in the Canadian media know, got her start here, at the Toronto Star and Flare, then became something of a shooting star in New York at Women's Wear Daily and Glamour.

According to a story in Women's Wear Daily, CEO David Pecker is balking at the terms, particularly in light of the flagging newsstand sales of Star, the publication which Fuller was brought aboard to revitalize. The story says, in part:
"Fuller's contract provides her with $1.5 million per year in base salary, plus bonuses tied to the newsstand performance of Star magazine and other titles. Fuller was guaranteed a bonus of $500,000 in 2004 as an incentive for leaving her job at Us Weekly, but in 2005, she earned only $74,851 in bonus pay, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The trend in Star's single-copy sales suggests she won't be earning much in incentives for 2006, either. Almost all of Star's May and June issues have sold fewer than 700,000 copies on the newsstand, according to competitors' projections, compared with 863,508 in the second half of 2005."
[UPDATE] A story in Folio: says that American Media Inc. is considering selling five of its special interest properties, although keeping Star, National Enquirer, Shape and Men's Fitness.
The titles being put on the block together generate about $30 million in operating income: Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Muscle and Fitness Hers (combined U.S. readership of 8 million.), Country Weekly, a 10-year-old weekly with a total readership of 3.3 million) and Mira, the largest Hispanic magazine in the U.S., with a readership of more than 850,000.

[Further UPDATE] In MediaDaily News, the following: "The move comes on the heels of AMI's earlier closing of three titles, Celebrity Weekly, MPH, a car mag, and Shape en Espanol, in an attempt to straighten out AMI's finances. According to Deborah Solomon, senior partner and group research director for MindShare, the closing of some of these magazines spelled hard times ahead for other niche magazines, including men's titles: "What men are reading is car books and computer books, but we've just seen that AMI's car magazine, MPH, which generally targeted young men, is closing. That's not good." Pecker also moved AMI tabloid giant National Enquirer back from New York to Boca Raton, Florida."

Strong dollar chips away at Transcon revenue

The relative strength of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar and the peso had a significant effect on the second quarter results of Transcontinental Inc. It reported an 11 per cent drop in profit for the quarter, the result of an $11.4 million drop in revenue, largely driven by changes in the exchange rate. Although Transcontinental is the largest consumer magazine publishing company in Canada, three quarters of its business is elsewhere, in commercial printing, book publishing and direct marketing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pink Triangle buys The Guide

Pink Triangle Press of Toronto, the not-for-profit publishers of Xtra biweeklies in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, is purchasing The Guide, a Boston-based international travel and sexual politics monthly from Edward Hougen, the retiring owner, who is turning 65 come January.

The Guide is a newsprint magazine; its website states it has a print-run of 30,000. It's distributed in the U.S. and Canada, and also has a presence in Europe and Australia.

According to an article in Press Pass Q, an online newsletter for the gay and lesbian press professional, an advertisement has already appeared in The Guide advising readers of the imminent sale. "To The Guide's readers," noted the house ad, Pink Triangle Press is "probably best known as Squirt (, a worldwide - and news-making - online cruising community that boasts more than 250,000 active members in the U.S., and another 200,000 in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia."

Pink Triangle Press president Ken Popert told Press Pass Q that The Guide initiated discussions last fall.

Absolutely, maybe, sometimes

People who are adamant about the separation of church and state, advertising and editorial, in print, are less resolute about online and the more they talk about it, the more "nuanced" their views become. Consider two statements made during a conversation in New York in a panel discussion hosted by a media firm MediaVest. It was reported by MediaDaily News.

Conde Nast executive Sarah Chubb, president of CondeNet, was emphatic about defending the "editorial authority" developed over many years by the company: "In a relationship like that with the reader, the divide between church and state has got to be sacrosanct, I think--because they're coming to an authority. There can never be a question what your motives are when you're suggesting something--whether it's clothing or a hotel or a trip or whatever."

Later in the panel, referring to online, she had a different view: "
"Things are different on the Internet... when you're not in a top-down relationship with the consumer, we think there are some opportunities for advertising involvement that are actually quite interesting. As long as you're clear about what's going on... you're probably okay." Here Chubb cited social networks like Facebook with heavy user participation as suitable arenas for "advertorial" content."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Modest gains forecast for U.S. consumer magazines; slump for trades

Ad spending in the United States -- a pretty good bellwether of what's happening in Canada -- is expected to rise 4.9 percent to $150.3 billion for full-year 2006, a downward revision from original forecast of 5.4 percent growth in January. The figures were released by TNS Media Intelligence, one of the most respected sources of such data for Madison Avenue, according to a story in MediaDaily News. "Although our revised forecast is downward, total advertising spending is still on track to achieve respectable, moderate gains during 2006," stated TNS MI President-CEO Steven Fredericks.

TNS estimates the following results for 2006:
  • Internet -- 13%
  • Spot TV -- 8.9%
  • Outdoor -- 7.7%
  • Network television -- 6%
  • Cable network television -- 6%
  • Consumer magazines -- 3.6%
  • Newspapers -- 0.2%
  • Business-to-business magazines -- (0.3%)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ken Thomson dies

Canada's richest man, one of its greatest philanthropists Ken Thomson (Lord Thomson of Fleet) has died at the age of 82. Thomson's relationship to the magazine world was at several removes, since he took Thomson Corp. in a new direction in the last two decades, away from the newspaper and publishing empire his father, Roy, had built. Thomson Corp. became known for its strengths in data and electronic publishing in law, finance, medicine and science. Nevertheless, he held onto the Globe and Mail through the family holding company's 40% ownership of what is now Bell Globemedia, the company that also owns the CTV television network.

The Thomson family wealth was estimated by Forbes magazine to have been just shy of $20 billion. David Thomson, who took over running Thomson Corporation in 2002, will now assume the mantle of Lord Thomson of Fleet (one of the last British hereditary peerages created).

Read more at Also coverage from the New York Times.

Canada Magazine Fund review recommends cuts in aid to literary and arts magazines

Canadian Heritage will be ending Support for Arts & Literary Magazines (SALM) and making major changes to the Support for Editorial Content (SEC).

A review of the Canada Magazine Fund has been underway since last summer. The report has just been released and can be read here.
The report includes recommendations from the consultants, management discussion of the recommendations and deadlines for implementation.

The CMF was created in 1999. The review covers the years 2000 to 2005 and was mandated by the Treasury Board to ensure that the funding (now about $16 million annually) is spent in an efficient and accountable way.

  • The support for Canadian editorial content, originally intended to offset the impact of foreign split runs coming into Canada, has been ineffective and should be replaced by an incentive-based system. This may include "the use of a reward of PAP funding or a tax credit for the production of editorial content. Alternate forms of support should be explored, although attention should be paid to ensure that the types of support do not disadvantage smaller and/or less profitable publishers." A study is to be completed by December 2006. This may have a significant impact on large circulation magazines such as Maclean's and Chatelaine which now get a major injection of cash from the CMF.
  • If support for arts and literary magazines is to be continued (and that is a big if) then it should be done through the Canada Council, says the report. " The Department believes that funding for arts and literary magazines should be the sole responsibility of the Canada Council, and that the $1M for SALM should be redirected to other components of the CMF. The Department will have one final SALM funding run in 2006-2007 to ensure that there is sufficient time for client groups to be properly notified about the change." (In other words, CMF is putting the $1 million elsewhere in CMF, not giving it to the Canada Council.)
  • Mid-range and special interest publications seem to benefit more than other magazines from support for editorial content. A review will be made to rebalance this and direct the money to where it will do the most good.
  • An efficiency review will be held on CMF. Administrative spending, which at present runs at 11 cents for every contribution dollar is higher than other areas within Canadian Heritage.
  • It is recommended that better data be gathered and published about the industry, but it's not clear by whom. Some suggestion is made that a special run may be asked for from Statistics Canada, although Statscan has already said it will no longer gather raw material from the industry in a "census", but merely ask a limited number of questions from a representative sample of magazines.

Weekly Scoop closed

Weekly Scoop, Torstar's energetic run at finding a place for itself in the crowded celebrity publication field, is closing. Staff were told today. According to a terse press release on the Torstar website, if you bought the issue distributed last Friday, June 9 it's now a collector's item; there will be no more. What will happen to the 27 employees involved? Not yet announced.

"This was a difficult decision to make and it is in no way a reflection on the strength of the Weekly Scoop team or the quality of their work," Greg Loewen, vice-president for marketing and new ventures at the Toronto Star, Canada's largest-circulation newspaper, said Monday in a release.

"Our team produced a first-class publication and feedback from our readers has been very positive. However, the ramp-up in newsstand sales has been slower than we had projected."

To read earlier stories on the Scoop, click here and here.

[UPDATE: it was surprising, and a little sad, to hear from a posting in mastheadonline (sub req'd) that the average sell-through of Weekly Scoop was actually something like 35,000 a week, or about 30% of its draw. That's a long way from the target 60,000 Torstar was expecting when it launched.]

Mags Canada announces 2007 date for new conference in cooperation with CMC

The other shoe dropped with today's e-bulletin from Magazines Canada, officially announcing the Magazine Industry's BIG conference, to be held June 13-15, 2007 presented by Magazines Canada and the Circulation Management Association of Canada (CMC). Last week, CMC announced it was joining Magazines Canada in presenting the new conference.

As a post last week noted, Magazines Canada and CMC are leaving the partnership that until this year presented Magazines University at the Old Mill in Toronto. This leaves Masthead magazine (North Island Publishing), the Canadian Business Press and the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) to decide whether Mags U will carry on in a much amended format. It's not altogether clear what will happen to Magazines Week as presently constituted. It took many years to get all organizations coordinating their events into one week, concluding with the National Magazine Awards.

The announcement promises over 50 sessions for magazine professionals in circulation, editorial, advertising, technology, manufacturing and production. It also promises:

* The Magazines Canada International Speaker
* The Small Magazines Spotlight
* The CMC Newsstand NOW! Event

The location will be 89 Chestnut Street in Toronto. More details are promised in the months to come at Magazines Canada and CMC websites.

Canadian Tourism ads target U.S. gays

Though it doesn't benefit Canadian magazines, it is worth noting that there is a concerted, government-sponsored advertising campaign going into U.S. publications, aimed at luring gay and lesbian couples to come north to get married. The first such ad appeared in Passport in May. According to a story in Pink News, an online site from Britain, the Canadian Tourism Commission has launched an integrated marketing programme that will also include sponsorship of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT,) film festivals, the Human Rights Campaign and special events in select markets across the US.

"There are so many reasons to visit Canada. All travellers are welcome and any traveller can tailor a travel experience that is just right for them," said Susan Iris, vice president, US for the Canadian Tourism Commission. "We have great cities that offer everything from European charm to a modern fusion of culture, and all that is reflected in our food, shopping and atmosphere. We believe that is why so many people are choosing to come see Canada."

This week, brought to you by Deadwood

For those who were not very happy with the single-sponsor issue of the New Yorker a couple of years ago, there will be continued unhappiness with news that the June 16 issue of Felix Dennis's newsweekly The Week will be all "Deadwood", all the time. The British magazine (sold in Canada) will have 12 pages of advertising (it's always an edit-heavy, newsstand-driven book) from the producers of the HBO series.

The ads consist entirely of black and white portraits of the program's stars shot by famed photographer Albert Watson. The exclusive nature of the buy, are an effort to break through ad clutter and get noticed, Carolyn Kremins, publisher of The Week, told MediaDailyNews. "Every advertiser is trying to be heard, and there's so much clutter that it's so difficult to break through. So it's a great opportunity for an advertiser to own the audience for a week."

Time marches on, heroes at the ready

Time Canada names its Canada's Heroes in this week's issue, on newsstands today. You can read the list of heroes here. This is the third year for this particular editorial promotion by Time, throwing around its shoulders the mantle of national pride and scattering maple leaves (very pretty leaves, mind) everywhere to paper over the fact that the magazine is simply the splittest of split runs. This is particularly so since it fired its few staff writers this spring.

There is little pretense now of being a Canadian magazine, except for this occasional kind of somewhat cynical flag-waving. Apparently, Time believes we are suckers for such gestures.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

What a night at the magawards

Magazines Week, culminated splendidly on Friday night, as it does every year now, with the always splashy and enjoyable National Magazine Awards. (The list of all the winners can best be seen here.) The magawards has just completed its 29th year and did it in fine style again at the Carlu in Toronto.
  • There was some truly excellent work shown this year and some laudable wins, such as the gold to Spacing magazine for Best Editorial Package*. This is one night when you realise the breadth and depth of this industry, when you see work you haven't had an opportunity to see. There was a good mix of perennial talent and new, young and exciting writers, illustrators and photographers.
  • It was a pleasure to see the late Bill Cameron's article for The Walrus ("Chasing the Crab") on his journey into "Cancerland" win two gold prizes. If there was a dry eye in the house, they are made of sterner stuff than me. Cheryl Hawkes, his wife, made two brief, poised acceptance speeches that did her and Bill credit.
  • As usual, the audio-visual presentation of the year's best work was the show's highlight (kudos to Wolfson Bell) and it is something that, at the very least, should be made available on DVD for neophytes and students (and some experienced people) to learn what sort of cream rises to the top.
  • John Macfarlane made a gracious and impassioned acceptance of the Outstanding Achievement Award, counselling courage and faith in the power of this creative industry. Even he said his "highlight reel" of tributes from various (unidentified) people went on too long ( note to organizers: not everybody works in Toronto and not everybody knows Wendy Dennis or James Chatto on sight.)
  • The program this year was the best we've seen in many outings, clear, readable, funny, elegant. High praise to the editors, Cynthia Brouse and Hélène Valois and the writers and designers, Smith, Roberts & Co.
  • The attendees from Maclean's were nonplussed, and not to say a little cynical (bitter?), about receiving the President's Medal (what is usually thought of as Magazine of the Year). Perhaps this was so because the presentation seemed so diffident and offhanded. Unlike previous year, there was no buildup and no explanation of why the panel of judges decided that Maclean's deserved the honour. Perhaps this was a glitch in the script. Whatever, for the Maclonians the prize felt like being named "Miss Congeniality" after being shut out of any gold medals in the event.
  • There have been good and not so good celebrity hosts over the years; Scott Feschuk is certainly going to go high on the good side of the ledger -- edgy, funny and entertaining and not taking himself very seriously at all.
  • The jokes about silver winners being losers are getting very, very tired. And being nominated at all out of such a huge field really is an honour.
  • Some 15 of the 33 awards were without sponsorship, meaning the Foundation had to find the money from entries and tickets.
  • As usual, Antonio De Luca, the Art Director of The Walrus, surprised, including making a quixotic plea for magazines to spend money on illustration in order to keep good people from emigrating to New York.
  • Once again, the finalists for magazine cover were mostly titles that are either controlled or so obscure that they are rarely seen. None of them looked like they even paid lip service to selling at retail, with such fripperies as coverlines. Of course this is why the Newstand Awards sprang up, to take account of such things.
  • The food was generally good and plentiful.
  • There was much talk about the fact that The Walrus, which spent a fortune on entries and got 49 nominations and 14 awards (11 gold and 3 silver), bought four (4) tickets to the event and didn't pay for its nominees' tickets.
  • It was nice to see Saturday Night receive several awards, as a sort of swan song. Frequent gold medallist Sylvia Fraser spoke for many in the crowd when she said (paraphrasing): "Isn't it nice to hear Saturday Night mentioned so much tonight?"
  • And, finally, what's with this trend for a quarter of the audience to drift away to the bar and stiff the last half of the awards? Unless it is for a bathroom break, it should be a rule of good conduct that if you had your bum in the chair at the beginning, the least you can do is have it there when the finale is reached. There is lots of time to drink; they won't run out. And the event was run briskly and efficiently, just over two hours. So, don't be so rude, next time.
*(Disclosure: I was one of three, first-stage, English judges in this category)

A Canadian food mag? Fat chance

Supportive stories must be taken where they are found; one supporting the position of the Canadian magazine industry concerning the predatory practices of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission has appeared in the National Post. The paper is not usually noted for a positive attitude towards Canadian magazines.

Gina Mallet, however, makes again a point that Magazines Canada has made about Food and Drink, the LCBO controlled title that hoovers up a good deal of the marketing budget of beverage alcohol companies in this country (not to mention going after lifestyle advertising in other sectors). She also highlights the knock-down drag-em-out fight between the Nova Scotia commission and Saltscapes magazine, which accuses the government body of theft of an idea and virtually all its alcohol advertising.

She makes the point that tiny New Zealand has become a foodie paradise, exporting all sorts of products and celebrating its excellence, and publishes excellent food and wine magazines (such as Cuisine) that circulate worldwide. Ontarions can barely find their own wines in stores, let alone those from British Columbia. And there is still no national, consumer food magazine of any stature. (Australia's excellent Delicious is coming into North America in a digest format, as a partnership with Reader's Digest.)

Three out of four items of beverage alcohol sold in Ontario is an import and the LCBO seems to like it that way. And it scoops up so much revenue for its own magazine there is little left to support a private sector competitor.

Paul Jones, the former publisher of Maclean's, and now a magazine consultant, is quoted as saying: "If you look at the volume of beverage/alcohol advertising in Canadian magazines 20 years ago versus today, the decline is shocking.

"One of the biggest considerations is that the LCBO, the monopoly vendor in Ontario of most wine and spirits, has made a decision to chase the marketing budgets of the products it sells.

"If you were a distributor of alcoholic beverages in Ontario, would you allocate your marketing budgets anywhere else, knowing as you do the power that the LCBO has to make or break your business?"

(Mallet, by the way, says that Magazines Canada submitted a protest to the Ontario government, but hasn't heard back. That's not quite true. The sad story is that it has heard back and the answer is that the government intends to do nothing about the situation.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

When is a magazine an annual report?

There's no trademark on the word "magazine", of course, and a lot of people trade on the inherent trust and entertainment values of magazines. Think of some "custom publications" and magalogues. However, we had always thought that an "annual magazine" was something of an oxymoron; that a magazine needed to be a periodical. However, the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario has produced an annual publication, Rapport, which promotes the schools and the work done there.

Dean Carol Herbert says: "The stories in this magazine represent a small sample of the work done at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, but we feel it's time we started sharing more of our stories with you."

In the inaugural edition, feature stories include Margaret Chan talking about the onerous task of establishing vital connections across the globe to tackle the worldwide risk of a flu pandemic; dentistry students learning to improve communication skills with patients; role models in research and teaching; students making an impact in Africa; and an outreach program inspiring rural youth to pursue careers in health.

Rapport has been sent to over 7,000 medicine and dentistry alumni, partners and friends and the "magazine" can be read online here. You be the judge. Magazine? Brochure? Annual report? Or does it matter?

Low scores and sports snobbery

In honour of the start of the World Cup, here's a contrarian view from Martin O'Malley, a regular columnist over at O'Malley, some of you may know, is a writer with a lovely light touch who once was a frequent writer for the Globe magazine (not that one, the long-gone, excellent weekend supplement that was published by the Globe and Mail) and, for two and a half glorious years was the marquee columnist for The City magazine at the Sunday Star. He's also written several books, on doctors and baseball, among others.

In this particular column he explains why he's not particularly enamoured of the "beautiful game" (soccer) but is more peeved by people who belittle sports they don't understand.

(By the way, for those who don't know it, is also where Heather Mallick landed after being turfed by the Globe and Mail last year. Wonder why people of this calibre are not finding a platform in Canadian magazines?)

Taking the mickey out of Captain Copyright

The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, known popularly as Access Copyright was created in 1988 by Canadian writers and publishers to license public access to copyright works for use within Canada. In an effort to educate the public, it invented a comic book character, Captain Copyright and put up a website for teachers and kids.

Of course, such an effort was ripe for satire*, and using its own methods against it (see left or, for a more-easily-viewed version, click here).

*We were alerted to this particular send-up by a posting on the This Magazine blog by John Degen, a writer, poet and executive director of the Professional Writers of Canada (PWAC).

Variable pricing

Word that People magazine's issue this week has its price jacked up because it has "exclusive" pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby Shiloh. Can't think of an instance when, for one week only, a Canadian magazine raised its price because of some exclusive story. (There are instances of lowering the price for a week as a promotion, of course -- most recently the 25-cent offer of Weekly Scoop. There are also "special issues" or "extras"). But can anyone cite an instance when a Canadian magazine took advantage of its audience by hiking the price of a regular issue because of something it printed?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Toro stands firm on Haiti shooting story

Toro magazine has made some significant waves with this week's publication of a story about an ex-Mountie's shooting death in Haiti. The story accused Jordanian peacekeepers of failing to assist Mark Bourque after he was shot; as a result, he essentially bled to death. Toro said (and used phone pix to prove it) that the Jordianian members of the peacekeeping mission delayed summoning help during a critical first 20 minutes. According to a Canadian Press story, despite a denial by the UN agency responsible for peacekeepers, Toro is standing by its story and by its writer, Christopher Shulgan.

Bourque, 57, and a colleague were driving through the gang-controlled district called Cite Soleil in the Haitian capital when they came under fire from gunmen Dec. 20. Their vehicle came to a stop and a Jordanian armoured vehicle drove up in an apparent attempt to block the gunfire.

Bourque was shot in the leg and bleeding profusely. He died later from massive loss of blood, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti - known by its French acronym MINUSTAH - said Wednesday in a news release.

MINUSTAH also said the Jordanian peacekeepers provided first aid to Bourque at the scene and later used an armoured vehicle to move him to a hospital, adding the entire episode occurred within 40 minutes.

The Toro article "questions why the Jordanian soldiers at the scene when the kidnapping attempt occurred didn't do more to get Bourque to a hospital sooner," the magazine said in a statement. The medical help that the UN said was provided at the scene was "of secondary consequence, " Toro said.

CSME picks Today's Parent and Cottage Life best magazines

The Canadian Society of Magazine Editors has announced the winners of the 2006 Editors’ Choice Awards. The awards ceremony took place at a gala dinner at the Old Mill Inn in Toronto on Thursday night. (At left, Linda Lewis, Editor in Chief of Today's Parent, which won Best Magazine in the large-circ category and also Best Display)

Cottage Life magazine won Best Magazine in the medium-circulation category and the Editor of the Year Award for its editor Penny Caldwell. Judges feel Cottage Life has a strong visual package and that Caldwell has a special gift for staying true to her mission while frequently delivering delightful surprises.

Today’s Parent won Best Magazine in the large-circulation category and Best Display Writing.

Other winners are: Best Front of Book: Toro magazine; and Best Magazine, Small Circulation: Maisonneuve.

[Disclosure: I was one of the judges.]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Kenneth R. Wilson trade magazine awards

The top awards in the Canadian business press were made last night. The full list of gold, silver and runner-up winners by category is available here.

The following were first place (gold) winners:
  • Best editorial -- HazMat Management, Fuel for the Fire. Connie Vitello, Editor
  • Best industrial/manufacturing article -- Machinery & Equipment MRO, Curbing the Bad Actors. Carroll McCormick, Contributing Editor; Bill Roebuck, Editor.
  • Best professional article -- CAmagazine, Transfert d’appels. Yan Barcelo, Author; Christian Bellavance, Editor-in-Chief.
  • Best retail article -- Marketing, The Grown-Up Woman. Rebecca Harris, Staff Writer.
  • Best resource/infrastructure article -- Transport Routier, Simple évolution. Steve Bouchard, Rédacteur en Chef; Marco Beghetto, Rédacteur Principal.
  • Best agricultural article -- Le Coopérateur agricole, Producteurs de molécules: un métier d'avenir? Nicolas Mesly, Journaliste.
  • Best merchandising/marketing article -- Marketing, A Vote for Bleue. Danny Kucharsky, Montreal Correspondent.
  • Best profile of a person -- Canadian Lawyer, Redefining the Family. Patricia Chisholm, Editor; Ellen Vanstone, Freelance Writer.
  • Best profile of a company -- Far North Oil & Gas, A Nose for Trouble. Jake Kennedy, Author
  • Best regularly featured department or column -- Forum Magazine, Vox Clamans. Andrew Rickard, Writer; Kristin Doucet, Editor; Denyse Vezina, Associate Editor.
  • Best feature article -- Registered Nurse Journal, Ready or Not. Sine MacKinnon, Publisher; Lesley Frey, Managing Editor; Kimberley Kearsey, Writer.
  • Best news coverage -- Canadian Medical Association Journal, Privacy Issues Raised over Plan B: Women Asked for Names, Addresses, Sexual History. Laura Eggertson, Associate Editor, News; Barbara Sibbald, Associate Editor, News.
  • Best How-to or series of how-to articles -- Today’s Trucking, Spec by Numbers. Jim Park, Contributor.
  • Best art direction of an opening spread or a complete feature -- CAmagazine, Loath to Loan. Bernadette Gillen, Art Director; Jean- François Martin, Illustrator.
  • Best photograph -- Canadian Lawyer, Not for Lack of Trying. Einar Rice, Creative Director; Jim Stubbington, Art Director; Liam Sharp, Photographer.
  • Best illustration -- CAmagazine, Offshore Havens. Bernadette Gillen, Art Director; Gérard Dubois, Illustrator.
  • Best art direction of a complete issue -- Canadian Architect, September 2005. Ian Chodikoff, Editor; Leslie Jen, Assistant Editor; Sue Williamson, Graphic Designer.
  • Best website -- Today’s Trucking, Marco Beghetto, Editor; Rolf Lockwood, Editorial Director; Martin J. Smith, Webmaster.
  • Best cover -- Meetings & Incentive Travel Magazine, Open Concept. Dave Curcio, Creative & Design Director.
  • Best issue -- Profit, December 2005. Ian Portsmouth, Editor/Associate Publisher; Kim Shiffman, Senior Editor; Jim McElgunn, Senior Editor; Jennifer Myers, Senior Editor; Marcello Biagioni, Art Director; Sasa Stajic, Associate Art Director.