Monday, February 12, 2007

Toro magazine folds

The trend information didn't apparently add up for Christopher Bratty, the scion of the condominium kingpin Rudy Bratty. Because he has decided to discontinue Toro magazine, effective immediately. The March issue, well into production, will not be printed or distributed in the usual way, through the Globe and Mail. (Shown is Toro's November 2006 issue.)

The announcement by Publisher Dinah Quattrin, attributed the decision to not enough ads and not enough prospects of them; although that is paraphrasing, Toro (as a controlled circulation, newspaper-delivered title) depended wholly on ad revenue with only negligible income from subscriptions.
"Despite steady annual growth, it's become clear that the advertising revenue available in Canada for a general-interest men's magazine is such that even a very high-quality book like Toro can, at best, manage to sustain itself," Quattrin said."Sadly, the limited advertising pool in the men's category, combined with rising operating costs and a lack of government funding, made it impossible to continue on."

Toro has tried all sorts of methods to gain sustained, long-term support from national advertisers, but, in the end, there weren't enough of them and Mr. Bratty pulled the plug, probably with much reluctance.

The magazine has a qualified circulation of 185,000 and 1,500 single copy sales, according to its latest audit statement. It had 1,200 paid subscriptions. 66.2% of its circulation was in Ontario, 14% in British Columbia and 8.8% in Quebec

Part of the magazine's problem may have been its method of distribution, which meant that, despite careful segmentation, some portion of the copies went to people who were either not interested or were not part of their target audience. With a large, controlled audience, it was also free to people who otherwise might have been paid subscribers.

The magazine, which launched in April, 2003, had been not only an award-winner, with a handsome and gutsy presentation, but will be missed because it was one of lamentably few well-paying markets for Canadian freelancers. Those whose work is now not to appear will apparently be compensated, which will be cold comfort.

Toro's approximately 25 staff were told of the closure Monday afternoon.


Blogger Joyce said...

Count me as one of the undesirable readers who thoroughly enjoyed Toro (when I could get my hands on it before it disappeared in the office) who is very sorry to see it fold. This is not a good year for Derek Finkel.

6:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" of lamentably few well-paying markets for Canadian freelancers..."

They paid $1 a word, but that rate was considered "well-paying" back in the 1970s. Why do we keep giving praise to pubs that pay the word rate from 30 years ago? Yes, they were in the upper echelon by paying that rate. But isn't that more sad than commendable?

That said, I'm not looking to hammer them. Toro was a great magazine put out by some very talented folks. It will be missed.

6:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't think Mr. Bratty would've kept funding it if it gained enough mainstream traction to feed his ego?

Not picking on him in particular--but what other motivation was there to back it in the first place?

Too much going on out there for a print publication to succeed as a rich guy's alternative to buying another yacht. And that's unfortunate, really.

8:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sad, but inevitable

when you are trying to be everything to everyone, (in this case, men - perhaps to general an audience for today) you wind up being nothing to nobody...

not that they didn't have great layout, great articles and lots of other fine things going for them...
it's just...ah, sad....I guess

8:53 pm  
Anonymous Melissa Kluger said...

It's true it wasn't the best distribution model, but I had really come to admire Toro for having an edgy-ness and style that I haven't seen elsewhere on the Canadian magazine landscape. This is a real loss.

9:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Melissa. Toro was beautifully art directed and the quality of the writing was excellent. They shouldn't have marketed it as a magazine for men. It could have been Canada's answer to Vanity Fair. Oh well.

4:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They also had a real good crew of very dedicated employees who are all now unemployed.

Since the only thing about Toro that couldn't be predictably budgeted in advance was ad revenues, it is obvious that this was the area that fell short (and their release confirms this). Yet, compared to most Canadian magazines it was full of ads so I wonder what kind of wild expectations the owners had when it launched.

The following is from a Globe & Mail article from 2003:

Toro started off with a lot of money behind it. But its survival will likely depend on Bratty's willingness to sustain losses in the first few years. Shields (ed: Bill of Masthead) estimates that the first year alone will cost about $2.3-million to produce.

"It's hard to imagine Toro would last for any length of time if it didn't have the life support of dad's money," says Cunningham. "Not that I wish them anything but the best. I guess it's akin to a rich man's hobby, an alternative to taking up downhill skiing," she laughs.

Frankly, it's too easy to launch a magazine nowadays. And too easy to close one down. Vanity publishing, a la Frank Stronach's Vista and Chris Bratty's Toro, is a recipe for failure and innocent people give it their all and get burned.

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the 2nd anonymous poster here, you posted the same thing about a rich guy's yacht on Torontoist. Now you do it on another blog. Man, you're jealous and angry...and wrong. You go try and start something, then complain about ego trophies.

10:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mind Toro, it did have some damn good stories, especially the crime features, which seemed to be the editor's area of expertise. But my colleagues and I have been talking about its editorial shortcomings for a while. To say the least, it seemed to lack a cohesive editorial vision. It was not, as is oft quote, a high-end lads mag. It had some fashion, but when you put pro wrestlers and the like on the cover, have a bimbo pin-up, written up as such, and just some ridiculously flawed editorial packages, it just makes you shake your head. I mean, even the worst of the men's magazine south of the border would put Toro to shame. Esquire, Vanity Fair, Details, GQ, those are lads magazines.
Hopefully an industrious type will fill the void with a quality Canadians men's magazine sold on newsstands.

11:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess Lynn Cunningham was also jealous, angry and wrong for calling it a dud right out of the gate?

2:08 pm  
Blogger Debbie said...

Vanity Fair is a Lad Mag? Have you actually read Vanity Fair?

2:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the powers at be would have given them a little more time...

It's possible that a re-design was in the works... the art department was in the middle of a shuffle (and in need of a software/hardware upgrade)... and I think the money was not there. TORO had a lot of potential.

Also, the editor is tied up in a lawsuit, so his focus was not 100% (at no fault of his own).

I'm really sad that things didn't work out for them.

2:54 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

I disagree with the anonymous poster who claims Toro was outclassed by U.S. men's magazines. Toro is, quite simply, one of the most interesting magazines I've ever read. I always thought of it as the Canadian Esquire, and of the same high quality. Look elsewhere for evidence of the Canada-can't-compete-with-the-States rant. I used to send samizdat copies to my friends in New York magazine publishing, and they all thought it was great too.

9:21 am  
Blogger Reptile said...

I'm surprised that Toro was shut down. Was there any attempt to find a buyer? Unless the ads were being given away for a mere fraction of the rate card, it sure had the appearance of a successful magazine. The final issue ran nearly 50 pages of ads with a rate-card page rate of $17,000. Even with the requisite discounts, bonus and contra, that issue should have produced at least $500,000 in ad revenue. That is much more than many successful Canadian magazines.

Not having much circulation revenue was not an issue since few Canadian magazines actually earn a profit on circulation after accounting for marketing, fulfillment and staff costs. And the up-front investment to get a critical mass is huge.

A long hard look at the expense side of this magazine might have found a cure short of closure. Or perhaps "suspending publication" is a euphemism for "for sale". After all, suspend means "to come to a stop, usually temporarily".

11:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Toro often paid it regular contributors more than $1/wd (DB Scott's sources are solid here). If the magazine had Chatelaine-like profits, it certainly would have paid even more. Why is that money-losing magazines like Toro, Saturday Night, Elm Street, and Walrus always seem to bear the brunt of so many word-rate rants? This compaint is better directed at profitable books such as Toronto Life, ROB, and, yes, Chatelaine.

2) Vanity Fair, GQ, Esquire, Details - and Toro, for that matter - are not lad magazines. This moniker usually applies to books such as Maxim, FHM, and Stuff. Lad magazines speak to a specific - and quite different - demographic.

3) The editor of Toro is not involved in a lawsuit; he's been subponead to turn over research material related to a murder trial.

1:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should stop subscribing to good Canadian Magazines. It seems to be the kiss of death. Remember Shift?

5:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only reason Toro failed - they spent far more than they brought in. Parties, expensive office space,and large staff. Ego issues. Canadian publishing can be profitable, and if it had been run like a business not as an ego trip, they would still be in business. They had great had nothing to do with distribution or lack of interest from advertisers.

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason nose Newstand

I have to say I never really considered it a men's mag. It was great publication, great articles, great look. Didn't the same art director who designed Shift also do Toro? Both have failed.. hmmm. I think Toro excluded a lot of readership. A little too New Yorker for a men's rag. Don't most of them have buxom babes in thongs on the covers and interior screaming this magazine is for your dick not your head. Maybe a little too upper eschelon condoraguish for the high va-loot'n brokers who tire of their FHM rub it down material. Sorry, but a men's magazine is generally a lot less cerebral, like FHM, T&A sells, the age old math tit and ass = flow. Sorry to see it go though, I was looking forward to it's pristine letter forms dressing my uber coffee table in my sky scrap'n condominillium down ont he waterfront. And, the whole available free thing! am I glad I did'nt get subscription what a blow! I did purchase a couple titles and was quite irritated to see it free after the fact. Hey didn't shift do that too?

hmm what next, home and garden with hulk hogun on the cover doing reno's in a yellow speedo with martha. It's a renovation nation - hey why not, with the right marketing you can sell anything, for while.

10:44 pm  

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