Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Transcon switches to more robust
search capabilities

Transcontinental's aggressive push into multi-media, particularly under the new presidency of Natalie Lariviere, has taken another step as the company adopts a new software environment to get content online. According to an article in ITBusiness,Transcontinental Media Inc. has signed a contract with a Montreal-based developer called Nstein Technologies to start using its Ntelligent Concent Management (NCM) Suite at Canadian Living, starting in January. It would be rolled out for about 20 other Transcon titles such as Canadian Living, Elle, Homemakers and Style at Home thereafter.

It would gradually replace the current
content management system developed by Varennes, Que.-based Marcotte Systems Ltd. The bottom line is to generate more revenues with online advertising, said Jean-Paul Chauvet, vice-president of e-publishing at Nstein. “For Canadian Living we’re going to add our semantic capabilities to post links to more content that reaches (the readers’) interests,” said Chauvet.

(For those of you, like me, who don't know what a 'semantic capability' is, it apparently makes it easier for readers to search articles and spend more time with the sites, thereby being exposed to more buttons, banners and the like.)

The old system required staff, editors mostly, to manually input key words for searching. The new system will create automatic lists of key words in articles that will allow for better indexing within the search engines, said Yves Auger, director of operations and Web technologies at Transcontinental Inc., which also publishes ITBusiness.ca.

“Right now how it works is somebody writes an article and there is a section or field that needs to be filled with keywords,” he said. “Nstein will provide automatic keywords for each article. It will also provide automatic related articles.”

The other main reason for switching systems is to optimize the process of production. Editors currently have to copy and paste content from their print publications into the content management system.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Look and Fashion 18 are closed

St. Joseph Media has suspended publication of Fashion 18 and The Look after the distribution of their quarterly issues in mid-November.

Fashion 18
was a very popular ("The Canadian teen's best girl friend"), but apparently underperforming teen fashion title and it is not altogether clear whether it will carry on as a web-only brand in the way that Elle Girl and other teen titles in the U.S. have.

The Look
was a remnant of Multi Vision Publishing which merged with Key Media properties to become the consumer publishing division of St. Joseph. It was always a bit of an orphan in a company that was putting its emphasis on its mainstream Fashion title.

"Despite excellent editorial product, advertisers’ support – although favourable – has not reached the levels needed to sustain them. “At this time, we do not see a path to profitability for these titles,” explained St. Joseph Media President Donna Clark. “Given St. Joseph Communications’ numerous growth opportunities and business priorities, we are suspending FASHION18 and The Look.”

Jaw-droppingly awful covers...

As good as magazine covers can be, sometimes you have to ask "What were they thinking?". That's certainly the case with a reader-selected batch of cover crimes recently compiled by the Gawker blog. It is certainly a counterpoint to the American Society of Magazine Editors selection of the best.

Pinning down history stories

Here's an example of a creative way of engaging and helping readers at the same time. Canada's National History Society has hired an Education Program Coordinator, Joel Ralph, to develop online newsletters to highlight articles from The Beaver and Kayak and get them into the hands of teachers. Even cooler, however, he is hoping to expand a pilot project he worked on last summer in which, using Google Maps, readers are able to locate Beaver stories geographically, following 'pins', colour-coded by subject, in a map of Canada. To find out more, go to the new blog that Ralph is offering.

Quote, unquote

One of the endearing traits that separate journalists from businessmen is the belief that editorial quality will bring commercial success. Sadly, quality is rarely sufficient. To judge by some profitable publications, it is not even necessary.
-- Kim Fletcher, in The Guardian, writing about the UK Press Gazette being put up for sale. (The Press Gazette is like Masthead, but covering newspapers, advertising and public relations.)

Playboy cartoon editor,
Winnipeg-born Michelle Urry, dies

Michelle Urry, the Canadian-born cartoon editor of Playboy magazine, has died at the age of 66. Ironically, it was of cancer of the eye.
“My feeling about cartoons is that they are truth-tellers,” Urry said in a 2004 interview with the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. “The better the cartoon, the more truth is in it.”

She became Playboy’s cartoon editor in 1972, working with famous and fledgling talents. She was She is credited with helping launch the career of the late B. Kliban, best known for his cartoons of vivacious cats. Besides working for Playboy, she consulted on cartoons with other magazines, such as Good Housekeeping and Modern Maturity.

(The notebook sketch by cartoonist Ron Hill was done a in 2004 when Urry made a presentation to a cartoonists' convention. At the time, Ms Urry said she bought approximately $1 million worth of cartoons a year.)

Hachette reorganization may have long-range impacts on Canadian market

Tectonic shifts are likely, with the reorganization of Hachette Filipacchi, one of the world's largest consumer magazine publishing companies. According to a story in MediaDaily News, Hachette and its companion company,Lagardère Active (which specializes in digital and mobile media) have been put under the control of a single executive. It's early days, but it's likely that an increased push into multi-platform digital comment is driving this change.
Didier Quillot, formerly chief of telecom giant Orange France, last week was named chairman of both Hachette Filipacchi and Lagardère Active, and Quillot is expected to consolidate and coordinate their print and digital media strategies.

Hachette's magazine properties are well known in the U.S. Founded in 2004, Lagardère Active North America has already worked with Hachette properties to create mobile content, including Car & Driver Mobile, Elle Mobile and American Photo Mobile.

In addition to planning big media acquisitions in the United States, rumor has it Quillot may sell some Hachette properties, and has already begun firing executives from businesses slated for the auction block. To make room for Quillot, in September one of the grand old men of French media, Gerald de Roquemaurel, chairman and CEO of Hachette for 35 years, was kicked up to a supervisory board.

Hachette is not only a major publisher of many U.S. based magazines that are in the front rank on Canadian newsstands, but the company is also a partner with Transcontinental Media in Elle Quebec and Elle Canada and a major player in Canadian wholesaling and distribution.
Although some of these [U.S. consumer] titles are category leaders,said the story, overall Hachette has seen total advertising pages and profits fall 6.2% to 10,490, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Meanwhile, total ad dollars fell slightly--1.7%--to almost $1.085 billion.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Seeking a young, moderate Muslim audience

A new quarterly magazine aimed at "middle of the road" Muslim youth in Canada has just been launched. Aver was profiled Saturday in a Globe and Mail article by Deirdre Kelly. Aver bills itself as the first "cross-Canada Muslim youth magazine." The first issue has a young woman in hijab and an article inside with one guy's views of hijab. It also has a piece reflecting on "what if" the Dawson College shooter had been Arab or Muslim. As the Globe article says:
The premiere issue features a cover shot of a woman in a hijab in a pose of earnest contemplation. Inside are such articles that question conservative views on music and lip gloss and examine human rights and Islam. In between are practical tips on saving the planet and a miscellany of opinions delving into the thorny issue of Muslim style -- to veil or not to veil?

The leader of the magazine's editorial team is Tahmina Reza, 23, and she says the magazine steers clear of heavy-duty theological issues in favour of language and content "open to all". She is a first-generation Canadian (her parents herald from Bangladesh) who is at univeristy at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus.

"We want our magazine to be accessible to everyone and so articles that are heavily representative of theological issues we just won't do. We want the language and the content to be open to all. Aver is making the statement that Muslims are willing contributors to Canadian society."

Aver subs are $20 (4 issues).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oh, yeah? You suck, too...

“I notice roadkill too. I wouldn’t call getting run over by a truck a ‘gopher marketing strategy’”.
-- blogger GuyZero commenting on Maclean's writer Steve Maich's article saying the internet sucks; the contention that it was merely a clever, and cynical, ploy to court controversy.

(If you want to see how the article managed to stir things up in the blogosphere, you could start with Globe columnist Matthew Ingram's blog.)

From the responses, you'd think Maich was stomping puppies.

And as but one example, here is Kitchener-based techie blogger Don Spencer (who gives further links to further scorn from other sources):
If you're looking for balanced journalism in Canada's major news magazine, Maclean's, you won't find it in this piece of tripe. Sure, there are many reasons why the Internet currently can be a dangerous place. But to reduce all the benefits of world-wide connectivity to "The Internet sucks" is to be guilty of the same hyperbole that Maich so detests about those who promote the potential of the World Wide Web.

The Celine Dion of Recipes?

Starting a week Monday, English Canada will find a version of the very popular food lifestyle magazine Ricardo on their newsstands. (The French version is shown here.) According to a story in the Montreal Gazette, Ricardo Larrivee is very optimistic about wedging himself into the crowded gourmet food market and sees himself as becoming "the Celine Dion of recipes"

A single-name celebrity in Quebec like Emeril in the U.S and Nigella in Britain, Larrivee, 39, is expanding his culinary empire beyond La Belle Province and is poised to tackle English Canada with the release this past spring of his latest cookbook, Weekend Cooking (Editions La Presse, 2005), the translated version of his book Ma cuisine week-end, which sold an impressive 50,000 copies in Quebec.

Next up was the launch this month of the Food TV program Ricardo and Friends, followed by the English version of his magazine Ricardo, which is set to hit magazines stands from coast to coast Nov. 6.

While all this is going on, Larrivee still manages to film his weekday-morning, Radio-Canada show, called - you guessed it - Ricardo, which has been Rad-Can's top-rated daytime program for the past three years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Show us the yummy; trend developing in foodish line extensions

Last May, we reported that Saltscapes magazine of Halifax was going into the restaurant business with a motel chain by opening eponymous eateries around the Atlantic provinces. While that idea hasn't matured, yet, making food and dining a line extension of magazine titles is looking like a trend. According to a story in Marketing Daily:
  • Dennis Publishing's Maxim magazine is to open a chain of steak houses;
  • Hearst's Country Living is pairing with a Heritage Family Specialty Foods to launch the Country Living Specialty Food collection; and
  • Rachel Ray, the namesake of the magazine Everyday with Rachel Ray (a one woman media brand) is to open a burger joint in Manhattan;
The Country Living line has had a so-called 'soft launch' with various products for Christmas available at the Heritage website since early this month after the Country Living Fair in Chicago. The complete line of products, including dessert toppings, preserves and something called "pie in a jar" (illustrated is 'pecan pie in a jar') will be introduced in January at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Magazines -- are we cool, or what?

Best-selling marketing guru Rex Briggs says that magazines are the most consistent of all media in delivering both brand awareness and purchase intent. You don't get much better news than that.

According to a story in Ad Age, Briggs, the CEO of Marketing Evolution and co-author of the controversial new book What Sticks, told the American Magazine Conference that he set out to determine just which parts of their media mix were working for his clients (Ford Motor Co., Kraft Foods, Philips, Astra Zeneca and Procter & Gamble), and how each of the media worked together to deliver a marketer's goals.

His conclusion, after looking at 19 different studies his firm had conducted for various industries?
TV was dominant in as a way to increase brand awareness. But magazines proved to be more effective at both brand awareness and purchase intent. Magazines were superior to both TV and online in driving purchase intent.

New lawyer job site being cross-examined

Canadian Lawyer and Law Times magazines from CLB Media of Aurora have launched a new job site for lawyers called Jobsinlaw.ca and, already, it is being panned. Precedent: The New Rules of Law and Style, a hip new site for young lawyers, says that the new site only has 20 jobs worldwide, and only seven of them are for lawyers. "It’s not bad if you want to work in sales or shipping at Dye & Durham for $10 an hour, but if you don’t want to start your legal career in the mailroom, you’re still better off with the O.R.s or ZSA’s job listings."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Saving 36,000 trees

Nineteen Canadian magazines have now moved production over to ancient forest-friendly paper or eco-paper and soon there promises to be 20 and more.

Big guys remain cautious because they are in the fashion and shelter categories and feel that it may require compromise on reproduction and image. But bit by bit, publishers are being won over and paper-makers and printers are getting onside. A couple of years ago, remember, nobody had made the switch; the brave first step was taken by explore (which, this week, won a major U.S. award for its courage).

And there seems to be some significant momentum. Look at this list:
There is also word that Cottage Life is considering making the switch in 2007.

Conservatively speaking, says Neva Murtha, the coordinator of Markets Initiative, almost 50 million magazine copies have been printed on Ancient Forest Friendly or eco paper (some portion recycled) in Canada this year. And had they all used virgin instead of recycled paper, 36,000 more trees would have been used.

David Hamilton steps down at Flare; associate publisher Orietta Minatel steps up

One of the worst kept secrets in the business, that David Hamilton, longtime publisher of magazine, would be retiring from Flare magazine has been confirmed. Today, it was announced that, effective in November 1, associate publisher Orietta Minatel steps up. In effect there will be a co-publisher arrangement during the transition, with Hamilton moving over to be a consultant to Rogers Consumer Publishing effective January 2007.

Minatel has been associate publisher since 1999 and has worked on many committees in the fashion, cosmetics and publishing industry. She has sat on the Magazines Canada Marketing Committee, the Look Good Feel Better Ball Committee, and has led the Flare Communication Award at Ryerson University for the last 10 years. She also currently sits on the Ryerson University School of Fashion Advisory Council.

Hamilton said: "It has been an honour to work with one of the most talented Canadian magazine publishing teams at Flare and Rogers Publishing over the past several years. Orietta is a very talented individual and I am happy to see her taking on this new challenge as I move away from full time employment and pursue new opportunities at Rogers and elsewhere."

Barry Blitt wins best cover award from
American Society of Magazine Editors

A New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt, a well-known Canadian cartoonist and illustrator who got his start in Toronto and moved to New York in 1989, has won the "cover of the year (best overall)" award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. The cover was a devastating illustration of the denial and paralysis of the Bush administration in the face of Hurricane Katrina. Bush and his cabinet are seen seated around a table as muddy water laps around them.

A story about the finalists and winners can be found at the ASME website. High resolution images of the finalists and winners in each category can be found here.

Among the other cover winners, announced at the American Magazine Conference, were (thanks to MediaPost for the summaries) :
  • News: a New Yorker cover, by Mark Ulriksen, showing Dick Cheney and George Bush in a parody of Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," with Cheney holding a smoking shotgun (a reference to his shooting accident the week before).
  • Best concept: for another Bush-bashing cover--the July 17, 2006 issue of Time, which combined a headline reading "the end of cowboy diplomacy" with a picture of two small cowboy boots peeking out from under a giant cowboy hat emblazoned with the presidential seal.
  • Best celebrity cover: a two-way tie between a Harper's Bazaar cover with Julianne Moore and a cover from Vibe showing Busta Rhymes grimacing indignantly with a piece of duct tape covering his mouth--a reference to the rapper's alleged refusal to provide information to police about the murder of his bodyguard.
  • Best fashion cover: Departures, which published a style issue in September 2005 showing a female spa-goer covered in immaculate white makeup and swaddled in white towels. Her eyes are closed and the only dab of color in the entire shot comes from her bright red lips, recalling the stylized makeup of actors in Japanese kabuki theater.
  • Best service cover: TimeOut New York for its Jan. 5, 2006 issue, showing a dinner table covered with the messy remains of a large, extravagant meal. The headline reads: "Need a Gym?"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Laughter is the best recipe

Every once in a while, it is good fun to see someone on a full-toot, stemwinding rant; for your delectation, I present Larry Dobrow, who occasionally reviews magazines over at MediaPost. Here, he eviscerates a magazine called EAT (from the Meredith Better Homes and Gardens special interest publications group.) Enjoy.

"Canada Post may no longer be an affordable option" -- Gourlay

HALIFAX -- Jim Gourlay, Chair of the Atlantic Magazine Association and a Halifax-based publisher of several magazines including Saltscapes took the lead in speaking to the Commons Standing Committee on Finance, convened in Halifax on Monday, primarily to discuss Canada Post's intention to withdraw its $15 million financial contribution to the PAP within the next several months.

The consumer magazine industry is now bracing for major change which will have a dramatic impact on magazine distribution and on the access that Canadians have to Canadian-content magazines. -- Magazines Canada is asking that the Finance Committee to recommend that Canada Post's financial contribution to the Publications Assistance Program (PAP) be maintained until there has been a proper review and evaluation of Canada's magazine policy.

In his presentation, Gourlay (who was accompanied by Magazines Canada CEO Mark Jamison), said:

"The price tag of this decision is a $15 million gap that will cause an immediate 31 per cent increase in postage costs for the average magazine. This, on the heels of staggering year over year postage rate hikes, means that distribution costs will soar even higher and the situation will simply not be viable for many publishers.

"The effects of Canada Post's decision are many: It could mean cutting back on the amount of editorial and Canadian-content pages that can be produced. It could mean fewer jobs and assignments for Canada's writers, creators, illustrators and photographers.

"The fact that some magazines won't survive could mean there will be fewer Canadian magazines in the marketplace and less choice for readers. It will also drastically alter the way that magazines are delivered to Canadians because Canada Post may no longer be an affordable option. If the industry is forced into alterative delivery methods, it could mean prohibitive distribution costs, especially in rural areas of the country. This will mean that Canadians living outside of major urban centres will not have the same access as others to affordable Canadian magazines."

Jamison added:
"Indiscriminate cuts do not take into consideration how best to serve Canadian readers. Canada's magazine policy needs to consider how to best ensure that rural Canadians and others are able to access Canadian information, perspectives and stories at affordable rates. It needs to consider the importance of Canada's 'smart jobs' -- our writers and designers, editors and illustrators. It needs to take into account the health of Canadian culture and all of the small-to-medium sized businesses that publish more than two-thirds of our diverse and rich collection of magazines."
(Read the Magazines Canada press release here.)

Canzine 06 in Toronto this Sunday

Canzine '06 is taking place this weekend in Toronto (last weekend, the East and West versions took place in Halifax and Vancouver). It's at the The Gladstone Hotel,1214 Queen St. West (Queen just East of Dufferin) from 1 to 7 p.m. A $5 admission includes a copy of the latest issue of the magazine about zines, Broken Pencil.

There will be readings, workshops, installations and more than 150 zines on display and for sale.

Broken Pencil
launched the zine and book fair to promote small, independent and alternative publishing in Canada, and it seems to have worked a charm. Zines are sometimes, though not always, the seedbed for the development of full-fledged magazines. You can find out more about the participants and the event itself at this page.

ShareOwner magazine celebrates 20 years with a money-making tournament

ShareOwner magazine has been around for 20 years, with a loyal following among people who love to follow stocks with a particular avidity. It is a combination of a publication and a buying club and now, it is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new contest or "tournament", that allows even more of a competitive flutter for readers.

The grand prize in the "Double Scoop" tournament is $10,000 for the participant whose portfolio gains the most in the year starting January 1, 2007. There are 20 other prizes ranging from $5,000 down to $100. (The name "Double Scoop" reflects the possibility that a participant could get a capital gain and win a prize.)

"The opportunity to invest a modest amount of your own money in a diversified portfolio makes for an educational tournament that pretend money just can't duplicate," said John Bart, publisher of ShareOwner magazine, the tournament sponsor.

Partcipants invest $1,000 in their tournament portfolio, choosing from a list of 150 prominent Canadian and U.S. securities selected by ShareOwner. They can divide their $1,000 any way they wish. There's no charge to enter or to buy or sell or to cash out at the end. And because of the way the portfolios are set up, they are covered under the Canadian Investory Protection Fund.

To find out more, go to the magazine's website. You can also download a free trial issue.

Elite global magazines doing well across Europe and The Economist is #1

It bodes well for the forthcoming Guardian Monthly magazine (due out next month) that a recent survey of the top-earning 4% of Europeans indicates that there is a considerable appetite for "international" magazines, according to a story in the UK Press Gazette.

The Economist is leading the charge, says the Ipsos-Mori survey of media consumption among Europe's most affluent readers -- it has attracted 50 per cent more readers over the last two years, and 21 per cent since the last survey was carried out in 2005.

When asked to rate the publications they read, The Economist was considered the most important international title for "keeping you informed of world news and events". Of the international publications, it is the most important read "overall", favoured by 23 per cent of the survey. The Financial Times came second with 21 per cent and Time was third with 12 per cent.

Alan Dunachie, director of operations at The Economist, said of the title's success: "One of the reason for its success is that The Economist does, uniquely in the magazines world, help people understand really complex issues. The way it is written makes you think in a different way than, say, a daily newspaper does.

"It's like having a discussion with a really clever, intelligent friend."

Dunachie said a number of influences had coincided to create a buoyant market for international titles.

  • A new generation of English speakers across Europe, particularly in their 20s, can now access international media.
  • Globalisation has meant that successful businesses tend to work internationally, which Dunachie claimed meant "a need for international media to provide insight and understanding of these markets".
  • The current wave of global political issues also fuelled the appetite for media offering a worldwide analysis.

He added: "We strongly believe that the market for international media has a long way to go. We have just passed the 600,000 mark for the first time in the US.

"What people sometimes don't realise is that our circulation in the UK is only 16 per cent of our total circulation. The real key to growth is that we have a great title in tune with its time."

The Economist's circulation is 1,138,118 worldwide (ABC Jan-June 2006).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quebecor's TVA loses battle with La Semaine, closes Sensass

Quebecor Media's TVA Publications has shuttered its weekly celebrity glossy Sensass, bested in a "bruising, profit-sapping battle" with rival magzine La Semaine, published by Claude J. Charron. This, according to a story in mastheadonline (sub req'd). TVA launched Sensass in January 2005.

Almost immediately after closing Sensass, TVA launched Moi et cie ("Me and my friends"), a fortnightly magazine that will apparently eschew gossip.

Explore wins green award at Folio: show

Explore magazine won the Aveda Environmental Award at the Folio: show in New York on Sunday night. Entrants are judged on how well they incorporate environmental sustainability into their production processes (paper and use, inks, etc.) and/or how well they have improved over the previous year. Explore was a finalist in the under-250,000 circulation category, along with Mother Jones and Watershed Sentinel. Explore was one of the first major consumer magazines in Canada to move to ancient-forest-friendly paper last February.

Bank and Profit go together on podcast

A snug relationship between Profit magazine and the BMO Bank of Montreal has resulted in a podcast called Business Coach, written for small business owners by Profit staffers and with commentary by BMO financial analysts and specialists. It will be hosted by Ian Portsmouth (left), Editor and Associate Publisher of Profit, a Rogers business group title.

Michael Edmonds, senior manager, media and public affairs advisor for BMO Financial Group, told Media in Canada that they were looking for additional ways to provide useful and practical information to our time-pressed business customers. "The true appeal of podcasting is its portability factor. A small business owner can download our podcast and play it back when and where they want."

The podcast will be available for download on both the BMO.com and the profitguide.com websites as well as on iTunes, and will feature interviews with a wide range of small business consultants, human resources specialists, business-planning experts and senior economic forecasters on such topics as: succession planning for business owners, developing a business plan, effective cash management techniques, choosing a franchise, inventory and cash flow management strategies, and small business marketing techniques.

Readers in food and travel categories prefer inspirational content of print magazines

Both food and travel magazines are showing staying power because they each offer vicarious and inspirational content that the internet can't or doesn't deliver, according to two stories in MediaDaily News out of the American Magazine Conference.

"Readers who want to enjoy gourmet meals or get tips on presentation might find more value in the professional photography and high production values of a glossy mag, rather than a utilitarian Web site for searching recipes," said one story.

"...readers who use the [travel] mags aspirationally, for vicarious getaways, may simply get more pleasure from luxuriant photo essays about the jet-setting good life than online directories of travel agencies or Web booking services--which still tend to have a utilitarian, stripped-down feel," said the other story.

Both categories are doing well in both circ and ad dollars, despite the online frenzy that is moiling the magazine world in the U.S. and elsewhere.

U.S. independents tell how they build circ in their own, creative ways

Lots of inspiring stories from MediaDaily News, out of the American Magazine Conference in sunny Phoenix, Arizona:
  • Three independent magazine companies on a panel talked about how they successfully pursued valuable, but elusive, demographics and their stories were remarkably similar for their creative approach, according to a story by Erik Sass. Fabio Freyre, CEO of Latina Media Ventures, David Lusterman, publisher of String Letter Publishing, and Sue Webb, vice president of publisher development for the Synapse Group Inc. each said their methods wouldn't necessarily work for the big guys, but did for them.
    • Latina publisher Fabio Freyre told how his magazine's three person circulation department visits nightclubs (like the Copacabana) selling subscriptions directly to women who can be found there dancing.
    • Strings publisher David Lusterman told how they reached young, up-and-coming string players by starting a spinoff called Teen Strings and offering it to music teachers at a discount; it was so successful that Teen Strings has outstripped its parent in paid circulation.
    • Synapse vice-president Sue Webb (whose magazine marketing company hardly qualifies as an either small or independent, since it is wholly owned by Time Inc., but anyway...) said the company partnered with a number of retailers so that, at the checkouts when people used a debit or credit card, they were asked if they'd like up to three magazines with the first three months free. "According to Webb," said the story, "the program works especially well with niche titles, and 'we believe this is going to be a huge, several millions sub source.' "

It's fair to say we're concerned, says Oda

Small comforts must be taken wherever they can be found. For instance, this positive, but somewhat vague response from Heritage minister Bev Oda in response to a question in the Commons last week (Oct. 18) about Canada Post's intention to pull $15 million our of the Publications Assistance Program. She had been asked by Charlie Angus, the New Democrat culture critic, whether Heritage would "step into the breach" to make up the "serious shortfall" that magazines would be facing:

Hon. Bev Oda: We are very concerned with the actions and the decisions of Canada Post. As you know, Canada Post is a crown corporation that has its own board, etc., and we have been in discussions with them.

I would express to you the fact that we are committed to the importance of supporting our Canadian publications. Not only will this minister and this department be working on it but this is something that we take seriously as a government.

Esprit de Corps tallies up the true cost of casualties in Afghanistan

Esprit de Corps magazine*, the unofficial, unauthorized magazine of the Canadian armed forces, features a tally in this week's issue of the Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.

The article counts 274 casualties -- 43 killed, 231 wounded. They say the bland reports from official sources about "non-life-threatening injuries" of those not killed outright don't tell the whole story.

"We hear that phrase and we go back to sleep," said magazine editor Scott Taylor, a former soldier. He is quoted in a report in the Ottawa Sun. "We don't realize in some cases it's a bullet to the throat and the guy is paralyzed from the chest down, or he's lost an arm. They realize when they stabilize these guys they're not going to die, but 'non-life-threatening injury' doesn't reflect the actual severity."

Taylor said the government has a vested interest in keeping the spotlight away from soldiers who lose limbs or mobility as it works to sell the Afghanistan mission to the public and to recruit new troops to the military ranks.

"The worst aspect for recruiting is seeing people who have been dismembered," he said. "It's easier to glorify a flag-draped coffin than a guy with no legs."

But better protective gear like helmets and flak jackets means more soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are surviving blasts and gunshot wounds, but suffering more damage to outer extremities, says the Sun story. That means more spinal damage and amputations -- and Taylor believes Canadians should know about those sacrifices.

"Whatever the government and the military are selling to us as the right thing for Canada, it has to be balanced off against what it's actually costing us in dollars, in lives and in the sacrifices these guys are making."
[*Esprit de Corps seems to be gradually rebranding itself from the rather arcane name to something self-explanatory -- Canadian Military. We'd be interested to hear more.]

Rae uses Maclean's excerpt to extricate himself from his New Democrat past

The Maclean's issue that is on the newsstands today (Monday) and lands in letterboxes across the country over the next couple of days features an exclusive excerpt from Bob Rae's carefully timed book on himself and his views, Canada in the Balance.

It is just in time to influence the Liberal leadership race.

A few weeks ago, John Geddes of Maclean's wrote of Rae:
Choosing a leader isn't about ideas, [Rae] declares, as much as finding "a person you're comfortable with." His hope for a second political life rests on selling himself as a moderate guy who has seen it all and knows better than to make dumb mistakes.
Rae now uses the book (and this week's excerpt) to strategically address what many think may be his Achilles heel, his New Democrat past.
“I bear, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, the scars of having fought in the arena. But the arena is where one learns how to fight for what one believes in — and how to win,” Rae says.
He also writes that switched to the Liberals because he came to the conclusion, after 20 years in the NDP (including a term as Premier of Ontario), the party was “wedded to a culture of opposition and protest.”
“The federal NDP’s recent opposition to any tax changes for large and even small business is a sure sign that `private sector is bad, public sector is good’ is a flawed mantra it simply can’t avoid,” he said.
In response to the book and the statements in the excerpt, federal NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis told Joan Bryden of Canadian Press :
“Mr. Rae is absolutely wrong and appears to be willing to say anything to impress his new friends.

"The NDP believes that prosperity and social justice are two-sides of the same coin. The private sector plays a vital role in our economy and under Jack Layton’s leadership the NDP have run on platforms that recognize that. The difference between the Liberals and the NDP is that we believe in balance.”

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Beaver blows
its own horn in offbeat TV ad

Not so long ago, The Beaver magazine was fairly dowdy and unadventurous, worthy but not very exciting. Now, having redesigned the magazine thoroughly last year, it is also venturing to tell people about it with a TV ad. The ad is going out to the public this week and with a sense of humour makes the point that the venerable history magazine has something to offer that nobody else has.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Geez to Graham: Bless our enemies

"We don't need the religious leaders backing the bravado of political leaders and military commanders. Maybe religion's role could be more of a unifying force in the world instead of making the divisions even deeper."

-- Will Braun, editor of Winnipeg-based Geez Magazine. (He is part of an ad hoc group of Christians distributing leaflets about a "Bless Our Enemies" campaign, in response to the bellicose rhetoric of U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham, whose crusade is visiting Winnipeg.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Caught between two poles

Reaching mass audiences with branding messages will remain important -- that's the good news, according to Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine, quoted in the Real Media Riffs column from MediaPost.

The not so good news is that the advertising business is polarizing between the mass market and micro-targeted digital media and traditional print magazines (and newspapers) are being caught (stranded?) in the middle.

It's a thought-provoking column, and well worth reading.

[Fine knows her stuff and speaks with some authority; she has been Merrill Lynch's newspaper and media analyst for 18 years and she sits on the national advisory board of the Poynter Institute.]

Fine points to the comparison between the percentage of time readers/viewers spend with media and the per cent of ad dollars each medium attracts. For instance, magazines in the U.S. get 13% of ad dollars, but squeeze it out of only 5.6% of audience time.

Magazines have always argued (and relatively successfully) that what counts is not the amount, but the quality, of the time readers spend, which they sometimes characterize as "engagement".

(Essentially, the column's thesis is that magazines (and newspapers) have enjoyed a comparative advantage; but as readers shift from an analog to a digital world, there is a reckoning coming. The conclusion? This will create "the greatest disruption of advertising and media economies we have ever seen--at least until the marketplace readjusts itself."

If traditional media companies need to scramble to avoid becoming collateral damage from this accelerating change, does anybody have potential to come out a winner? The column suggest it will be advertising agencies!!

After their own shakeout and investment in interactive and digital capacity, it argues that agencies are poised to profit no matter how much pain the magazine industry (and other traditional media) may be facing. Go figure.

Toronto Life bash befits 40 years

Toronto Life and St. Joseph Corporation, its parent, know how to throw a bash. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the magazine took over the Carlu in Toronto Thursday night and plied its invitation-only crowd with spectacular food, drink and music. The speeches were short and to the point (including a moving and unusual tribute by John Macfarlane to Clay Felker, the founder of New York and the man who essentially invented the idea of city magazines like Toronto Life).

By the way, the Toronto Life website contains a compilation of 40 years of covers that's worth a look.

Lotsa comment about TV Guide closure

The closure of the print edition of TV Guide is important because of the amount of comment it has engendered, comment which can't help but raise questions about the future of traditional print magazines. Because of TV Guide's profile, there has been a lot of chatter about the decision. Here are some snippets from various places:

The Toronto Sun:

Barrie Zwicker, a media analyst and publisher of Sources media guide, said TV Guide's jump to online is a risky move that foretells the long-term trend of print media putting more of its resources online.

"At first everybody thought, 'Oh well, everything is going to go online, and print is completely dead,' and that was not true," Zwicker said, alluding to alarmist sentiment heralding print's death during the Internet boom several years ago. "But very slowly, it is becoming more and more true."

Zwicker called the trend "pretty well unstoppable."

"All the readings I'm taking are that newspapers, and to some extent periodicals, are having to more and more go online," he said. "I wouldn't want to call it the canary in the coalmine because there's been a lot of canaries.

"This is the latest canary in a coalmine."

The Globe and Mail:

The shift to on-line-only distribution is an industry trend that is gathering momentum, observed a financial analyst who asked not to be named.

“Smaller-run sort of niche publications would be the ones I would expect to go first, and maybe some of the more crowded genres such as celebrity and teen-oriented magazines,” he said.

He noted that paper is the biggest expense at a magazine, typically 30 per cent of total operating costs, followed by 20 per cent for editorial content, 15 per cent for printing and 10 per cent for postage.

Going on-line will thus eliminate more than half of TV Guide's costs, but “the question is going to be: can you get advertisers on it?” the analyst said.

And although advertisers are turning increasingly to the Internet, TV Guide faces competition from other on-line listing services such as zap2it.com.

“It isn't a space that they're going to occupy by themselves.”

The Ottawa Citizen:

TV Guide's total circulation in Canada is just 243,000 copies today, down from more than 430,000 in 2002.

"It seems to me Transcontinental more than gave it the college try," said Nicholas Hirst, who was editor of TV Guide from 1994 to 1996. "Its circulation has gone down, and down, and down. It's difficult to compete with free (digital listings)."

He said making the publication profitable in the face of declining circulation would have required subscription or cover price increases.

Chris Waddell, a journalism professor at Carleton University, said TV Guide was being "squeezed out on every level." While its listings faced competition from digital and satellite services, it had to compete on the newsstands with flashy American tabloids and entertainment magazines.

"To some degree, TV Guide, whether it's the publication or a guide in your newspaper, has been dying for a while -- using the magazine to find out what's on television has become less and less important."

The Toronto Star:
The disappearance of TV Guide from the traditional magazine market reflects a struggling industry; consumers just don't read them as much as they used to, said Leslie Chan, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and a specialist in electronic publishing.

"I am surprised it's taken them that long to cancel the print publication," Chan says.

TV Guide was facing stiff competition as traditional TV programming is evolving, Chan said. Nowadays, most viewers can get on-demand services and get shows when they want them. "They don't rely on print guide anymore."

Or, they get show times from alerts on other shows, Chan said.

Also hitting TV Guide hard is a younger generation that consumes information much differently, Chan said.

As an example, Chan cites his children: "I don't think they know what a TV Guide is. That is not how they consume information."
[UPDATE]And a later report in the New York Times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Transcon kills print version of TV Guide magazine and moves it to the web.

Transcontinental Media has given up the struggle and, after 30 years of publishing TV Guide in Canada, the print edition is ending effective with its November 25 issue.

TV Guide will "transition to a web publication", according to a memorandum to staff from Francine Tremblay, Senior Vice President of Consumer Publishing. The new site will be tvguide.ca.

The irony is that, three years ago, Transcon killed a web version of TV Guide and laid off its staff. Now it will essentially be recreating it.

TV Guide in the U.S. has also gone through enormous changes, including a format change and a cut in its rate base. The Canadian TV Guide is a licensed version, originally owned by Telemedia, which in turn was bought by Transcontinental. Paid TV listings have had a hard time both because of the proliferation of newspaper supplement TV magazines and latterly because so much information was available online. What had been almost a weekly habit for many food shoppers became dispensable.

"After thorough research into brand development for TV Guide," said Tremblay," we have determined that the long-term market potential for the print magazine is limited. Ubiquitous on-screen program guides through digital or satellite services and the Internet have changed the way people choose what to watch on TV."

Several employees will move into jobs supporting the new web site: Jaimie Hubbard will become Web Editor in chief, Stephanie Earp is the new Content Specialist and Greg David and Melissa Hank will be Web Editors. Pamela Master, will continue on as Publisher,TV Guide, managing the web site, client services and the development of

Pamela MacKinnon, National Sales Manager accepted the position of National Sales Manager for Elle Canada, and will be joined by Account Manager, Marc Pascoe. No changes are planned to the TV Guide listings staff,although several other people will probably be terminated, if other opportunities in the company do not open up in the next few weeks.

Putting the best face on it, Tremblay said: "This important move marks the evolution of the brand and we recognize this change is difficult for many of our staff and readers. However, we are excited about the potential to deliver new and exciting content to our readers on the web."

TV Guide subscribers are being asked to wait for a letter from Transcon managment -- "no phone calls or e-mails, please" -- that will tell them what will happen next. Presumably Transcon will not give the money back, but will give credit towards subscriptions for others of its many consumer titles.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

U.S. enthusiast titles are hard hit

It's sometimes a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't...magazine publishers have gravitated in recent years to specialized niches because they thought it gave them an edge, but now the very specialized nature of their subject matter and the dimensions of their niche could be working against them, according to a story in MediaDaily News.

Enthusiast magazines, particularly those with large male audiences, are seeing a significant drop in single copy sales, ad pages and ad dollars.

In a survey of 25 smaller publications covering a range of topics, including titles like Bassmaster, Cycle World, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Outside, Salt Water Sportsman, Skiing, and Transworld Skateboarding, newsstand sales and ad revenue were all down--often with double-digit losses.

Tellingly, total ad pages for the group actually rose 7 percent as ad revenue dropped 14.5 percent, indicating an overall devaluation of ad space. Meanwhile, publications for which PIB [Publishers Information Bureau] data wasn't available--including Bike, Canoe & Kayak, Dirt Rider, Flex, Game & Fish Magazine, Hot Bike, and Four Wheeler Magazine--all posted big declines in both newsstand sales and subscriptions.

Special interest titles like Motorboating saw a 27.9 percent drop at the newsstand, 20.5 percent in ad pages, and 16.2 percent in revenue. A study from Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) found in spring 2006 that boating titles lost 1 million readers--or about 18 percent of their audience--since spring 2005.
"It's very simple," says Samir Husni, the chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, and an expert on magazines. "The more specialized your titles and the more specialized your area of interest, the more of that information you can find on an Internet site or a specialized cable channel." Husni said magazines must either have "really mass readership" or "a very small circulation--say, 5,000 people who want to read about a very obscure topic." "You can't survive in the middle ground," he says, "because you're getting to an area where people can just Google it."
On a happier note, 47 new magazines were launched in the U.S. in the third quarter, an increase of 34.3% over last year for the same time period: 17 lifestyle titles; 14 magazines for the affluent sector; 13 magazines for men; 12 magazines for women, and nine new titles targeting African-Americans.

Ya gotta look good for fashion week

Designer duds were required at one of the events of Toronto Fashion Week (this one, a cocktail party hosted by Holt's). Here, courtesy of Canada.com's Jen cam, are (from left to right) Tammy Eckenswiller Fashion Magazine's fashion ed (in Balenciaga), Flare fashion editor Elizabeth Cabral (in Prada) and Tammy Palmer Flare's markets editor (in Zara).

Family Care Solutions debuts,
serving the "sandwich generation"

The latest joint venture between Transcontinental Media and the Yellow Pages Group is about to be launched. Some Some 460,000 copies of Family Care Solutions (Savoir Aider) will be distributed on a controlled basis to selected households and piggybacked on the circulation of Canadian Living, Good Times and Bel Age in the Greater Toronto and Greater Montreal area. (It will be available elsewhere for $6.95 )

Along with a companion website www.familycaresolutions.ca, it will tap into the growing family-care market as boomers and other members of the "sandwich generation" cope with aging and ailing parents.

The publication is a combination of a magazine and a directory and it is branded by both Transcontinental's flagship magazine, Canadian Living and by the Yellow Pages logo. Here's how Transcon and YP describe it in a recent release:
Divided into two complementary parts, the magazine offers an editorial section that contains a host of articles on relevant topics such as moving or making changes to the layout of a home, nutrition, medication, care, etc., as well as a Yellow PagesTM directory advertising section that lists hundreds of businesses offering family-care-related products and services. In addition, the magazine presents a list of telephone numbers and web sites including those of hospitals, local community service centres, various associations, professional corporations and self-help groups.
Francine Tremblay, Senior Vice President, Consumer Publications of Transcontinental Media said: "Each of us will one day be called upon to care for a close relative or friend who can't manage on their own, and Family Care Solutions will help us to prepare for this eventuality."

This is the second such hybrid launched in partnership between Transcontinental Media and Yellow Pages Group with Transcon handling the editorial and Yellow Pages Group the sales. The first magazine, Home Improvement, was released in April 2006 in the Greater Toronto and Greater Montreal markets.

For more information about the Yellow Pages Group go to www.ypg.com. For more about Transcontinental, go to www.transcontinental.com

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A long time past?

An article about an apparently endangered artifact -- the long-form magazine story -- is published today in The Tyee online magazine. It is the article that originally won Leigh Doyle her National Magazine Award for Best Student Writer.
Long-form magazine articles have become scarce in Canadian magazines. Eight thousand words used to be a common length for a feature. Ten thousand words or more was once considered long; now anything over 5,000 is a rare find. All the players -- publishers, editors, writers and readers -- say they want longer articles, but, hampered by financial limitations and a lack of ambition, long form is shrinking away. The few titles struggling to produce long form are either ground down by limited financial means or hoping the federal government will rescue them by changing the charitable donation status of magazines.
(Fair disclosure: I'm quoted in the article.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mag industry tries to head off Canada Post 's abandonment of the postal subsidy

In what may be a last-ditch attempt to drive home to Ottawa and the Harper government the importance of postal assistance to the Canadian magazine industry, Magazines Canada is embarking on a ramped-up lobbying campaign over the next few weeks, including press briefings, an appearance before the Commons finance committee in Halifax on October 24, an e-mail blitz to MPs and an ad in the Hill Times.

The catalyst for this activity is the imminent end of Canada Post's longstanding support and involvement in the Publications Assistance Program (PAP). Starting April 1, the ending of this "distribution partnership", as Magazines Canada characterizes it, will have a major impact on getting Canadian magazines into Canadian hands, particularly in rural areas. Canada Post intends to withdraw its last $15 million of support for PAP, effectively ending its involvement in a program that has been around for a century, created to promote literacy and the equalization of delivery costs.
"The $15 million gap will mean that postage costs for the average magazine will jump by 31 percent and will drastically alter the way that magazines are delivered to Canadians." Magazines Canada says in a release issued today. "The steep and sudden increase in distribution costs is not viable for many publishers, putting at risk the choice and amount of Canadian magazines available to readers.
What the industry wants is for Canada Post's partnership to be maintained (and for the Harper government to apply pressure to that effect) until there has been a review of Canada's magazine policy, particularly the impact on small- and medium-sized titles, which produce more than two-thirds of Canada's consumer magazines.
"In our view, allowing cuts to a highly successful magazine program without first considering the consequences for the health of Canadian culture, is short-sighted," said Mark Jamison, chief executive officer, Magazines Canada.

“The magazine industry is already looking at alternative delivery solutions in response to the Canada Post decision, however we can’t change 100 years of magazine distribution infrastructure overnight,” adds Jamison.
(A working group of consumer magazine company executives have been studying the matter and conducting a test of to-the-door magazine delivery using contractors who now deliver national newspapers.)
“Before allowing drastic cuts, we collectively ought to be looking at how we can do things differently and how we can best ensure that rural Canadians and others are able to access Canadian information, stories and ideas," he said. "This is especially true in rural areas where postal costs for magazine delivery could be prohibitive without Canada Post delivery.”

Geoff Dawe takes an extended holiday

Geoff Dawe is taking a 3-month sabbatical from his duties as group publisher of the Kontent Group (FQ, Sir and Inside Entertainment). He told mastheadonline (sub req'd) that it is to travel with his wife Wendy Muller, who recently resigned as head of ad and sales for Google Canada. He is to retain his 50% share in Kontent. The sabbatical is to start Jan. 1.

Gambling on the future: The New Quarterly rounds the 100 issue mark

The award-winning literary, The New Quarterly, based at the University of Waterloo is celebrating 25 years of publication and its 100th issue. They haven't gone crazy, but they have splashed out on a full-colour cover. There's a long and admiring article in the Record newspaper.

(Shown are Editor Kim Jernigan, and managing editor Rosalynn Tyo -- photo by Peter Lee, the Record)

TNQ was launched with $3,000 of seed money from three writers: Farley Mowat, Edna Staebler and Harold Horwood. And it has kept going with some incredible volunteer dedication. It's a magazine that publishes no reviews (""We celebrate writers we like as opposed to denigrating writers we don't like," says Jernigan, who has been with the magazine almost from the beginning. "We have a sense of humour. We don't think literature is high seriousness.") But it has published some of Canada's better known writers like Jane Urquhart and Leon Rooke, often before much notice had been paid to them.

The magazine operates out of a tiny office that is provided free by St. Jerome's University (affiliated with U of W) but it is resolutely independent.

Editors are like gamblers, Jernigan told the Record; they bet on the future literary careers of their authors.

"You're trying to choose the work that engages you and moves you . . . one that has a long shelf life. You also hope writers you publish early on will go on to a career of interest."

Writers praise Jernigan and the magazine's editorial collective for their choices, and their willingness to nurture new writers.

"Kim's eye is keen," [Guelph author Sandra] Sabatini said. "She's got some kind of radar."

But Jernigan is quick to credit the magazine's 10 to 12 volunteer editors, some of them writers themselves, who pore over almost 200 story manuscripts and countless poems for each issue.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Quote, unquote

Culture has an altogether different meaning in Paris -- for a start, one is allowed to mention it.

Late last month, at Festival America in the Parisian suburb of Vincennes, about 50 writers from across the New World were invited by French publisher Francis Geffard to celebrate "the novel." It was at this convivial first stop on my inaugural book tour that a Canadian diplomat told me of a recent order from the Prime Minister's Office. Apparently, the word "culture" is not to be used in government-speak any more -- embassy workers are to refer instead to acts of "public diplomacy."
-- from a column by Noah Richler in the Globe and Mail on Saturday.

Good grief!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Kicking a lady when she's down?

Maclean's columnist Barbara Amiel (Lady Black) continues to exert a fascination in some quarters, apparently. A longish piece in the Daily Mail of Britain, is titled The Fall of the Empress of Excess. In what is mostly a rehash from the clipping files, Amiel Black is described as "a woman whose climb up the social ladder was vertiginous, but who today spends much of her time sequestered in partial exile at the couple's Toronto home, reliant on the kindness of a diminishing number of close friends in a country that she once professed to despise."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More open, less dense, with broader appeal

Trust The Onion to take the mickey out of magazines, with this short, slick parody of the rationale many of us have used for one redesign or another.
NEW YORK—Melissa Williams, editor-in-chief of Urbis magazine, launched a long-anticipated redesign of herself Friday. "I made a conscious decision to look more open and less dense without losing that smart edge that people have come to expect," said Williams, who claimed the new design's smaller size, bolder colors, and smoother lines will give her a broader appeal across upper demographics. "The old look worked well for a long time, but even I had to admit that it was starting to get a little tired." Early feedback has been generally positive, but critics of Williams' new style and format have called her "distracting for all the wrong reasons," "far too busy," and "as hard to read as ever."

Learning by doing the Natural Life way

I'm not sure how interesting it is to the readers of Natural Life magazine, but I found it fascinating to read the interview that Rolf Priesnitz, the publisher, put up on the Natural Life website. His wife Wendy is the editor, and presumably asked the questions.

The interview's candour and its down-to-earth common sense would be terrifically useful to anyone who publishes or wants to publish a magazine since, over 30 years, the former plumber and steamfitter (nice to have a trade to fall back on) has learned a thing or two. Here are a couple of excerpts:

First, about how he paid for the launch:

I financed the first issue – the list rental and postage for mailing out 50,000 magazines, not the printing, which we were billed for later – by a $5,000 advance on my VISA card. Subscriptions and book orders financed the rest. Book orders outnumbered subscriptions at first, because in our inexperience we didn’t make it very easy for people to subscribe or even to find the subscription information! We ran it as a home-based business, which meant we didn’t have to make an investment in office space or a long-term lease. It literally took over our townhouse in Jarvis, Ontario.

I tend to do things by doing them rather than having the financing and other things in place. I just bulled my way through. But there was lots of support from acquaintances and friends. I remember four-year-old Heidi helping sort magazines that were stacked in the bathtub. After all, 50,000 magazines are a lot for one small townhouse without a garage! And there were some great publishing industry people helping along the way too, like circulation software expert Rolf Brauch and what is now Magazines Canada but was then known as the Canadian Periodical Publishers Association (CPPA), which started up around the same time.

Second, what he has learned and what he would have done differently, if he'd known better:
The financial aspect is always the hardest. The huge early acceptance of the magazine, with tens of thousands of subscribers and good newsstand sales in both Canada and the U.S. within the first two years, was a surprise. The speed of growth was so phenomenal that I didn’t have the model to understand what was going to happen, with how to deal with that many subscribers. We quickly went from Cheshire cards to nine-track tape on a big IBM computer just to keep track of people. Starting the magazine was actually quite easy; sustaining it was what turned out to be more difficult.

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently, perhaps with hindsight?

I wouldn’t have let it grow to 96 pages in the first couple of years. That was a mistake. We should have published more often instead, but there was so much need and so much material to cover in so many areas. We also undervalued the cover price at $1…and didn’t really look for advertising. I wanted to address the needs of the readers; servicing them was more important and we did that partly by offering products – from books to juice strainers and hand plows – directly through the Natural Life General Store. It also would have been better if I’d worked for another magazine publishing company for six months before starting Natural Life, just to understand how the industry works. However, I probably wouldn’t have started the magazine if I had!

And why he published an interview with himself.
I’m not a big reader at all. In fact, if I didn’t proofread Natural Life, I probably wouldn’t read it! English is not my first language and I still have trouble with number and letter sequences. In German, number words are spoken in a different order – for instance, you’d say nine and 50, instead of 59. So as anyone who’s got me on the phone to take their credit card number for a subscription will know, I often mix things up.

I do like to read about what makes people tick…how they think, what they did and why. That is, I think, best accomplished through the interview format. So I hope that this will be the first of an ongoing series of interviews in Natural Life, interviews that bring out the personality of ordinary people doing ordinary things, showing the way to the future. I want to continue to reinforce the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are making the changes we see around us. I like knowing there are people out there who think critically. Only a small percentage of people do, but those are the people who make a difference. I’m interested in reading and thinking about concepts, not whether Pluto is classified today as a planet.

Robertson wins groundbreaking freelance suit after more than a decade of struggle

The central issue on this appeal is whether newspaper publishers are entitled as a matter of law to republish in electronic databases freelance articles they have acquired for publication in their newspapers — without compensation to the authors and without their consent. In our view, they are not."
With those words, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled (go here for the complete judgement) that publishers cannot do whatever they want with freelance-written articles. It is the culmination of a court struggle of more than a decade in the class action suit Heather Robertson et al v Thomson Corporation et al. It focussed around the posting on three Globe and Mail electronic databases of articles written by freelancer Robertson, without payment or permission. The Globe maintained it had a right to do this; Robertson said they did not. And the Supreme Court agrees with the freelancer.

The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) commented on the ruling:
Today’s ruling in favour of freelance writer and longtime PWAC member Heather Robertson has upheld freelance writers’ ownership control of the work they produce (a fundamental tenet of copyright law), and helped to clarify the legal position of independent media workers in their contractual relationships with clients...

“It is never pleasant to take a respected business partner to court,” commented PWAC President Suzanne Boles, “and Heather Robertson put her career on the line for this class action. She has done heroic service to the business of writing in Canada.”

“In the last decade, Canadian media have increased their reliance on freelancers to produce the content they use,” added PWAC Executive Director John Degen. “The Supreme Court has now clarified the position of creators under copyright law, and the position of an important and growing media sector – the independent contractor.”
CBC.ca coverage
Toronto Star coverage

MagNet officially launched and
hopes to attract the whole industry

[NOTE: A comment has been posted from the President of the National Magazine Awards Foundation saying it is not a partner in MagNet. Click on comments, below.]

MagNet has been launched, a joint venture of Magazines Canada, the Circulation Management Association of Canada, the Professional Writers Association of Canada [and the National Magazine Awards Foundation].

The new industry conference, to be held June 13 to 15 2007 as the direct outcome of the decision by Magazines Canada and CMC to pull out of Magazines University, which is apparently to carry on without them, offering its own conference and trade show at the Old Mill on June 4, 5 and 6, under the auspices of Masthead magazine and the Canadian Business Press.

What it means, of course, is that people in the industry will have a number of alternatives, including choosing one or the other or attending both events. In a sense, people in the industry may benefit from the competition as each conference tries to offer the most value. There will likely be some vigorous promotion in the months to come (although, long term, it remains to be seen if there is sufficient appetite for professional development so that both events can survive).

MagNet will be offering
  • a central location (89 Chestnut Street, north of Toronto City Hall),
  • a flexible pricing regime, with discounts for taking more than one session
  • affordable onsite accommodation
  • seminars on editorial, digital media, art direction, circulation, advertising, management and production
  • dedicated rooms for networking and catching up on work while attending the conference
  • free tea, coffee and light refreshments throughout the day
  • an international speaker
  • the CMC Excellence Awards luncheon
  • the Volunteer of the Year awards
  • the CMC annual Connoisseurs Club party
  • A newsstand show and
  • the 30th anniversary National Magazine Awards gala on Friday, June 15.
More information will be available at CMC or at Magazines Canada.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Walrus tops up its board

The Walrus Foundation has filled the board seats vacated by a slew of resignations recently, according to a story in Mastheadonline (sub req'd). The new board members are:
  • Mark Kingwell, University of Toronto philosophy professor and writer;
  • Allan Gregg, pollster (and frequent Walrus contributor) ;
  • Helga Stephenson, former executive director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and now co-chair of Human Rights Watch;
  • Toronto businessman Paul Cohen; and
  • Bisi Williams, fundraiser and event planner (also designer Bruce Mau’s wife)
  • Jack Shapiro, the founding chair of the board, is acting chair
Ken Alexander is editor and acting publisher until a replacement can be found for Bernard Schiff.

Oh yeah? Says who?

The antagonism between Maclean's and the universities it says it wants onside for its Universities Issue doesn't seem to cooling off; in fact, Tony Keller, the Managing Editor, Special Projects, seems in a fairly combative mood. The tone of his "Uniblog" seems somewhat surprising coming from Maclean's. His choice of language is sometimes a bit over the top, too, at least if they truly want to smooth things over. A friend points out the use of the vulgar term "money shot" in one of the posts on October 9. (See the wikipedia definition) Not a word you'd use around the common room.

C magazine new look

The new look of C magazine is now available, designed by Antonio De Luca in collaboration with Brian Morgan. It will be launched officially tonight at a party at Bar Italia in Toronto and on a newsstand near you soon.

Monkey business from publishers of Maxim

If you're a Canadian publisher aiming at the young male market (16 - 30), it's enough to ruin your day. Dennis Publishing, the creators of Maxim, are launching a free, weekly online magazine called Monkey starting November 1. That's online, and free, as in available to anyone.

Dennis has already demonstrated that it understands and knows how to serve the limited attention spans of young males with Maxim, Stuff and Blender. And now they have come up with something that's perfect for portables and laptops.

Monkey will be delivered in a weekly email to on-line subscribers and says its format "bridges the gap between familiar print products, online sites and newsletters, with the advantages of all three". It's a conventional magazine layout with approximately 50 turning pages, and it can be seen onscreen or as a pdf. It has the traditional buxom front page image but also contains video clips of girls, jokes and film trailers. It is being developed with the help of Applecart Solutions.

James Carter, Director of Dennis NPD said: "Monkey will be a cheeky, sexy mix of girls, sport, cars and humour with around 50 pages of content making it ideal for consumption at home or in the workplace.

"We'll have the best viral videos, the latest music videos and movie trailers, games which you can actually play, sexy girl shoots – all the things which you get flat and static in traditional magazine brought to life on a platform men are using more and more as their primary source of entertainment and information."