Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Parents, or childless, by choice

Children are a force of nature, but they are not inevitable in a marriage or a relationship, says child-free lifestyle advocate Jerry Steinberg in an interview with 2:The Magazine for Couples.

(The interview in the magazine's summer issue was accompanied by a not-altogether-tongue-in-cheek sidebar about the 10 reasons why young couples might rather buy a kitten than have a child.)

Steinberg runs No Kidding!, an international social club for childless (those who can’t have kids) and child-free (those who don’t want kids) couples and singles. It has grown to 80 chapters in six countries with about 10,000 members worldwide since starting up in 1984. He said:
Until the age of 23 or 24, I had every intention of getting married and having several kids. But after helping raise my brother and sister, babysitting, teaching and relationships with several single mothers, it became clear to me that, even though I truly like children, I wasn’t really parent material.
An interesting counterpoint is provided by The Dance Current, where one of the magazine's online discussion forums addresses the issue "Can dancers have families?" There are some heartfelt posts by dancers who have chosen to have children, or are thinking about it, discussing the balancing act between art and parenting. For instance, dancer Jamie Wright talking about a dancer baby boom in Montreal:
I am one of several (12-15 at last count) working dancers who has had a baby in the past year. She was born in August 2005 and in November I was teaching, in December I and my family travelled to Quebec city where I set a piece on graduating students and in February 2006 I started a full-time dance position with a company here in Montreal. It is a huge juggling act(as it is for any working mother), but I have had the constant support of my partner who has travelled to help with the baby, and who has been a stay at home father while I dance. Being a parent and a professional takes incredible split focus. When I am at work, I am there 110%. When I am home with Fiona, I am with her 110%. In my eyes, neither suffers. In fact, I find myself even more inspired to dance than before my pregnancy.

Canada Magazine Fund project support now available for medium-sized mags

The circulation ceiling for applications to the Canada Magazine Fund (CMF) for business development has been raised to allow more medium-sized titles to qualify for the project-based funding.

The program had been called Support for Business Development for Small Magazine Publishers and the word "small" has been dropped. (The same publishers will still have the choice to go instead with the support for editorial content option.)

According to a story in mastheadonline (sub req'd), the department changed the criteria this spring (the new guide is available here). CMF manager Nadia Laham, said the changes reflected research into the program's results and representations from the industry.
"You’re looking at flexibility and responding to the needs of the publisher. The old Support for Business Development for Small Magazine Publishers was very successful but there was a clear gap for medium-sized publishers who didn’t benefit from that.”
Eligible magazines can receive up to $40,000 (the average over the past couple of years was about $36,000) and must have 45,000 circulation or less (the old cutoff was 20,000).


Monday, July 30, 2007

The online view from Up Here

Up Here magazine, published out of Yellowknife, has launched a new website that the magazine's editors hope will make it the portal for all things northern. Jessa Sinclair, the associate editor, calls the new site "snazzy" and we're inclined to agree.

Along with a 20-year archive and other features, including contests and polls, the new site is carrying daily dispatches from staffer Michael Ganley aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent as it moves through the Northwest Passage:

On an earlier trip today the chopper flew 30 kilometres into Cambridge Bay to pick up supper for tomorrow night, the last night for most of the scientists onboard: 20 arctic char each in the 10-12 pound range, sixty muskox burgers and a box of char fillets.

“It was the strangest shopping trip I’ve ever been on,” says CP photographer Johnny Hayward, who wrangled his way aboard. “Drop into a little mud town by chopper, go directly to the fish plant, load up with $1,600 worth of fish and muskox, and fly directly back to the mother ship.”

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TVA Publications acquires pets magazine

A Quebec company that publishes French language pet magazine Animal and Animal Coast to Coast has been acquired by TVA Publications. The company, Animal Hebdo Inc.,was created by Johanne Rivetand France Philippon in 1998 and also publishes the website magazineanimal.com. Animal states that it has 72,000 readers and has a circulation of about 20,000, of which approximately 5,000 are paid subscribers, 3,000 circulated to the pet industry and the remainder distributed through controlled circulation.

TVA Publications (a subsidiary of TVA Group Inc.) is the leading publisher of Quebec magazines,with 74% of newsstand sales and 63% of Quebec's total monthly readership. TVA Publishing publishes 43 titles, including 10 weeklies and 25 annual titles.


Beaver contest names Pierre Trudeau as "worst Canadian"

Sometimes a promotion backfires, and it certainly seems to have done so for The Beaver: Canada's National History Magazine. Their lighthearted contest (unabashadley undertaken as an audience- building and attention-getting device) to find a list of the top 10 "Worst Canadians", was apparently hijacked.

How else to explain that a venture that expected to find utter scoundrels from throughout Canadian history resulted in readers voting former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau number one, well ahead of serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. And musician Chris Hannah managed in his publicity campaign to get his fans to write him in, coming just behind Trudeau. Anti-abortion campaigners clearly seized the opportunity to write in Dr. Henry Morgentaler high up on the list.

The sound of axes grinding is almost deafening.

Of the 15,000 write-in, online "people's choice" votes, the top 10 included four prime ministers (two Liberal and two Conservative). Here's the list:
  • Pierre Trudeau
  • Chris Hannah
  • Henry Morgentaler
  • Brian Mulroney
  • Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka
  • Stephen Harper
  • Céline Dion
  • Jean Chrétien
  • Clifford Olson
  • Conrad Black

The actual tally and profiles of the top 10 are available only in the print issue, on newsstands and delivered to subscribers today.

By stark contrast to the write-in votes, a panel of 10 eminent historians picked a much different list; although it, too, contained prime ministers:

Prime ministers John Diefenbaker and Sir John A. Macdonald; military leaders John Reiffenstein and Sam Hughes; notorious Japanese army torturer Inouye Kanao, a.k.a. “The Kamloops Kid”; Indian policy administrators Duncan Campbell Scott and Joseph Trutch; Nazi Party of Canada founder Adrien Arcand; Winnipeg Daily Times journalist Edward Farrer, cited for racist writings against the French and Catholics, and media magnate Lord Beaverbrook.

Mark Reid, editor of The Beaver noted “voters generally disliked Canadians who – in their view – turned their backs on Canada by rejecting their citizenship or moving elsewhere to seek fame and fortune. Voters also disliked Canadians who – they believed – sold out our sports teams, businesses, or cultural institutions to foreign interests, thereby diminishing our collective national identity.”

A story in yesterday's Toronto Star, said the whole idea of the contest did not go down well with everyone, particularly Rudyard Griffiths, the co-founder of the Dominion Institute, a foundation devoted to promoting and celebrating Canadian history.
"In typical Canadian fashion, given the opportunity to put on the proverbial hair shirt, we've seized it....I'm sure there's no shortage of incompetent and venal acts throughout Canadian history, but what does this really accomplish?"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dine magazine perceives a "foodie" gap
and aims to fill it

When is a magazine not? When it's a standalone annual restaurant guide. The Globe and Mail lobbed a quarter-page on Saturday to what it called a new "magazine" for Toronto from well-known "foodie", Sara Waxman.

Thing is, Dine will come out once a year (I think that stretches the definition of 'periodical' to its breaking point) and has what might be called an, um, imprecise distribution. Apparently not available for sale on newsstands. Perhaps distributed in a newspaper. Or in hotels. Otherwise controlled to a list of places not specified. Yet apparently supposed to fill a gap in the market with a paltry 10,000 to 12,000 free, oversized copies. (The idea may not be entirely original; there are various magazines called Dine throughout the United States.)

publisher Doug Bennet was quoted, correctly, as saying in this category there is a lot of competition; none of these competitors will give up their market share without a fight. Think Toronto Life, City Bites, Dining Out and so on.

Waxman, who has been a frequent contributor on food and dining to the Toronto Sun and other magazines, says that she couldn't find a consumer magazine solely dedicated to Toronto's dining pleasures. The Globe story reinforces this with a quote from the magazine's printer (!), also a partner in the venture, saying what a swell and much-needed vehicle this is to be. "There's no magazine out there that reflects the glamour of eating in Toronto," says Jay Mandarino, president of C. J. Graphics. Which is essentially nonsense.

As but one example, a pillar of Toronto Life's business case is its coverage of fine dining in Toronto and area, bolstered by annual, paid, dining and restaurant guide, its dedicated "little red books" and a dining website. Plus its Where tourist magazine which has sewed up most of the hotel rooms in town. We will leave it to St. Joseph Media to defend its own turf, but it's hard to see how Waxman's proposed magazine will do more than add another voice to an already fairly large crowd. (As reported here last week, a franchised "local food" magazine called Edible Toronto is also launching this fall in Toronto, also with controlled circulation.)

Mandarino is unabashed about what he thinks will be Dine's advertorial charms:
Ms. Waxman plans on targeting businesses from across the restaurant industry spectrum, including breweries and wineries, for ad sales. She says rates will be "very competitive." Having ads for restaurants that are accompanied by a review by Ms. Waxman will give the magazine an edge, Mr. Mandarino says. "With Sara's background writing for so many magazines and newspapers, that is going to be key," he says.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ryerson Review of Journalism wins five awards at international competition

The Ryerson Review of Journalism has won five awards at the 2007 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Student Magazine Contest. Faculty member Bill Reynolds was advisor on all the winning pieces.

Consumer Magazine Article: Investigation and Analysis
( out of 26 entries)

Second Place
: “A Wasteland No More,” by Amy Packwood

Judge Paul Trachtman, freelance writer and editor-at-large for Smithsonian magazine said:

This is a hard-hitting examination of the surge in environmental reporting on climate change in the Canadian press. Interviews with veteran environmental reporters who have seen such editorial interest wax and wane in the past, set the current greening of the press in perspective. The writer of this piece exhibits a keen sense of skepticism, and a skill for complex analysis. The pressures on reporters and editors are examined in the context of the demands of science writing, politics, reader-interest surveys, editorial budgets, and other factors influencing the climate in a newsroom. The sources quoted are diverse and well chosen, the quotes are illuminating and to the point, and the analysis is cogent. This is a valuable piece of reporting, giving the reader a clear perspective on press coverage of a criticalcontemporary issue.
Honorable Mention: “The Numbers Game,” by Angela Kozak

Consumer Magazine Article: Feature (out of 42 entries)

First Place: “Staring Down the Tigers,” by Meena Nallainathan

Judge Katherine Wheelock, features editor at Details, said:

The piece takes a very complicated subject—one even an informed reader might know little about—and makes it resonate almost immediately. The lede anecdote is very vivid; it’s elegantly relayed without being overdramatic. Throughout the piece, the writer’s presence is palpable, but not intrusive. The writer guides us through each journalist’s story skillfully and subtly and the pace of the story never slows. The reader comes away moved, informed, and thoughtful.

Third Place: “To You, I’m Fluff,” by Dana Lacey

This was an ingenious conceit—writing the history of Reader’s Digest Canada from the first-person perspective of the magazine itself—that could have fallen flat. But the writing here is so clever, humorous without being too cute or too hammy, and taut, that it works brilliantly. It’s a very smart, original way to deliver what could have a somewhat tedious recounting of a magazine’s history.

Single Issue of an Ongoing Print Magazine: Editorial (15 entries)

Second Place: Ryerson Review of Journalism, Julia Belluz, editor (see pic above)

Judge Ashley Deahl, acting editor in chief and managing editor of Phoenix Magazine, said:

This magazine was Newsweek meets The Economist meets New York Times magazine. Very sophisticated but still youthful and modern enough to engage a younger demographic. Great use of illustration, and while some pages seemed a bit gray, they were still executed well. Vanity Fair’s pages are gray sometimes, too, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of the work…the same is true here.

Transcontinental English magazines to get new boss; Tremblay retains French portfolio

Transcontinental Media is splitting responsibility for its magazine publishing operations roughly along language lines. In the process, Francine Tremblay, until now the Senior Vice-President of Consumer Magazines responsible for all English and French consumer titles, will focus on the Quebec Consumer Group effective November 1. Her responsibilities for the stable of English magazines will pass to a new position that is now being head-hunted: Senior Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Magazines. Tremblay will continue to report to Transcontinental President Natalie Larivière until the new job is filled, when she will report to the incumbent.

Tremblay will continue to have responsibility for one English title, the recently launched Canadian edition of More magazine, published in collaboration with Meredith Corporation.

The job description for the new position says:
The ideal candidate for this position will be a senior media executive, ideally from the magazine industry, who puts forth a strong marketing profile and who also possesses first hand experience in product launches and acquisitions. This individual will have led a P&L with success and show a track record of delivering on expectations and managing change. He/she will be sensitive to the organization’s culture and also possess deep knowledge of the Canadian media market, notably in Ontario.


Maclean's cheeses off lawyers by calling them rats

The Canadian Bar Association is spitting mad about a Maclean's story headlined "Lawyers are rats", an interview by Kate Fillion with ex-lawyer and legal scholar Phillip Slayton called Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada's Legal Profession. Slayton's book has the typical disclaimer saying that most lawyers are not vermin. But the CBA fired off a letter nonetheless, in which CBA president J. Parker MacCarthy says:
“By cherry-picking the worst cases of lawyer misconduct, the article has tarnished the reputation of thousands of professionals who are honest, hard-working, and community-minded people.”

Lawyers who break the law “are subject to the law and all its penalties," he adds.

[Thanks to Melissa Kluger and her law blog Precedent for alerting us to this story. In her blog item, she notes that Slayton's book states upfront that it is about some particularly bad apples, not representative of the profession generally.]

[UPDATE: The Law Society of Upper Canada has now weighed in with a release that compares Maclean's to supermarket tabloids. Gavin MacKenzie, the treasurer of the Law Society, says in part:
It does no credit to Maclean's' claim to be a newsmagazine when its editors are prepared to rely on the tactics of the tabloid press in the place of real journalism. It is not the legal profession that is diminished by this.

Too often lawyers are silent in the face of unfair, misinformed criticism of the profession. It's business as usual. We've become inured to it. Why dignify this derision with a response?

It should not be business as usual. It is time to stop ignoring these insults and accepting these sneers. Instead, we will invite honest scrutiny, confident that it will reveal the essential role lawyers play in securing the rule of law and the integrity of the Canadian justice system.


Magazine reading cuts across generations, regardless of other technologies, study says

Good news for those who believe in the power of magazines -- a study by Deloitte and Touche, reported in Advertising Age, says that both young and old enjoy reading magazines, despite the allure of new forms of media consumption.
The consulting and advisory firm found that every generation -- from young Millennials (ages 13 to 24) to Generation X (25 to 41) to Baby Boomers (42 to 60) and older Matures (61 to 75) -- enjoys reading magazines. Almost three-fourths of all consumers choose to read them even though they can find the same information online. There is also a greater receptivity overall to print ads compared with internet ads, the firm found.
The study of 2,200 people was done online, which might tend to bias it, but Deloitte said it intended to do it on an annual basis.It also found that user-generated content is becoming more important.
The "fascination" with user-generated content potentially "has big impact for a media company and media clients," said Ed Moran, director-product innovation, for Deloitte Services' Technology, Media & Telecommunications group.


Print magazine companies in U.S. taking to digital initiatives in a big way

Last year the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), representing most of the largest and many of the medium- and smaller-sized consumer magazine companies in the U.S., began to keep track of digital initiatives taken by magazines, hoping to demonstrate how adapatable magaiznes were to the use of new media.

In the 2nd quarter ended June 30, they found 62 such ventures, up 13% from the same quarter in 2006, according to a story in MediaDaily News. The whole list is available at the MPA website.
Among the big digital movers was Conde Nast, which introduced ad insertion in podcasts, video podcasts, social-networking features and integrated-marketing opportunities for advertisers. Hearst also bowed mobile sites and branded Webisodes, while Meredith offered original video content, desktop widgets and big portal redesigns. Forbes rolled out wiki features, a Facebook partnership and online databases. Hachette Filipacchi bought JumpStart, an online network for auto ads, and Bonnier debuted digital and social-networking features. Finally, McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek created an online video hub and a free online database.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weekly World News. Shock...horror...closing

The Weekly World News, one of the most outrageous of the supermarket tabloids -- known for headlines like: "Ka-Boob - Woman's Breast Implant Explodes"-- is being discontinued, and the name will carry on only as a website. It was published by American Media, which also publishes the National Enquirer. When the plug was pulled, WEN had only 80,000 sales a week (compared with the Enquirer's 800,000).

How much to charge? A calculator for freelancers

Here's a nifty little calculator to decide how much a freelancer should be charging. It would be equally useful for a designer or a writer. It was developed by Freelance Switch, a website for freelancers of all kinds.

Of course it is predicated on the belief that people will pay what you ask. But still...


A tidal wave of swag fattens up
U.S. beauty title Allure

After a tryout last summer, beauty magazine Allure has turned its August issue into virtually a smorgasbord of free products for readers.

According to a story in Advertising Age, it's now called the "Free Stuff Issue" and nearly every product mentioned editorially is available either as samples bound into the issue or from the magazine's website. In all, there are 91 products -- from blow dryers to eye shadow -- being given away in one way or another
The ploy has an advantage for the monthly as well, boosting ad pages in a month that is notorious for fashion magazines as being particularly anemic, coming right before fat September issues. Allure's ad pages this August are the highest ever for the month at 135.8, up 9% over last year, the magazine said.

Not every magazine can go down precisely this road. The Allure program plays on a strength particular to beauty titles -- their core advertisers rely on sampling. Readers seem to appreciate it too. Last year's issue produced a 150% spike in web traffic for Allure, the magazine said.

PWACers invited to take a break from
writing, to shop

The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) has gone into merchandising, using a U.S.-based online service called CafeExpress to create T-shirts, children's clothes and fridge magnets branded with the PWAC logo. The PWAC store is up and running and if you want a mug or a button, this would be the place. The only drawback is that the PWAC logo being used is somewhat lame and incredibly old-fashioned. But you can't blame an organization for doing what it can to raise funds for a good cause. The organization says it has plans to sell some of its professional development materials through the shop.

PWAC recently announced that it now represents 606 members across Canada.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Descant wants bloggers in residence

Descant, one of Canada's oldest and most respected literary quarterlies, is looking for freelance "writers in residence" to contribute to their blog.
As an accompaniment to our main site, the Descant blog is a thoughtful literary environment that keeps its readers in the know about national calls for submissions, launches, readings, and all things literary. Rather than limiting itself to an event announcer, Descant's lit-blog also offers stunning original content generated by resident writers, and allows for the creative expansion of our acclaimed quarterly print journal.
Writers are asked to commit to do 8 postings over 16 weeks, though the magazine will consider a "large singular work" that would be serialized into 8 posts. Further information on terms and conditions can be found by e-mail (managing.ed@descant.ca) or by phoning Managing Editor Mark Laliberte (who is also managing editor of the twice-annual Carousel magazine) at 416.593.2557.

Bell TV becomes Show come September
as Spafax takes over

Toronto-based custom publisher Spafax -- perhaps best known as the publishers of enRoute magazine for Air Canada -- are rebranding Bell TV Magazine to be Show Magazine in September. This according to a story in Media in Canada. The controlled listings guide is delivered to 800,000 Bell ExpressVu satellite dish customers (there will also be a French language version called Extra.)

Spafax is a division of the international ad and communications conglomerate WPP.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quote, unquote: magazine wholesalers are committing suicide

What type of logic is this that bites the hand that feeds you? It does not take a researcher or a Ph.D. (although I claim to be one and do have a Ph.D.) to see the flow in the wholesalers logic. They are digging their own grave and they are digging it deep. When you hear people say that the wholesalers are in trouble, check and see if the trouble is from their own making. Wholesalers are not dying in this country, they are committing suicide. They have buried their head so deep in the sand that they can’t differentiate between friend and foe.
-- Samir Husni (Mr. Magazine), commenting on the wholesalers' demand that low-cost magazines up their cover prices and cut their draws. (see earlier post)

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Local food movement spawns franchised newsletter in Golden Horseshoe

Edible Communities seems to be a combination of a movement and a franchise operation. Its members publish 22 city- or region-based quarterly publications (they refer to them as "newsletters") -- mostly in the U.S. -- celebrating local food and food sources.

Starting in September, a Toronto version is being launched and it seems likely that if it is successful, other Canadian cities will see similar launches.

The new magazine, Edible Toronto, will follow the seasons and celebrate the food resources of the Golden Horseshoe. The publication will have a controlled distribution (there is no circulation information published yet, though at least some of the distribution will be by advertisers). A full page ad in the magazine will be $2,600, which suggests that distribution will be in the area of 20,000 copies.

The Toronto project is being fronted by publisher and editor Gail Gordon Oliver, a native of Montreal and a graduate of McGill University who moved to Toronto with her family in 1996, graduated with a culinary management diploma from The George Brown Chef School in 1999 and joined the test kitchen staff at Canadian Living magazine, working for food editor Elizabeth Baird. In 2004, she started her own consulting company, Flavours of Home, specializing in the fields of culinary education, food writing and editing, recipe development and testing, and menu development. The following year, Gail teamed up with Maran Graphics to produce Maran Illustrated Cooking Basics, an instructional cooking book that was published in 2006.

Edible Communities Inc. is essentially a franchiser, providing a template for interested local publishers to use and charging an (undisclosed) fee. It also sets up a website for each edition and solicits advertising for the network. Prospective publishers are told that "the average Edible begins to see a profit in issue 3." EC requires interested parties to sign a non-disclosure agreement before entering into negotiations. Each edition carries a shared column called Edible Nation (perhaps problematic when it is now moving into Canada). Members of the Edible Communities staff work with local publisher/members to launch the first issue.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Wholesalers cutting draws for low-priced newsstand titles

Wholesalers in Canada and the U.S. are cutting back draws for the proliferating number of low-priced magazines, according to a story in MediaWeek. The goal is to increase sell-through and therefore profitability on the titles, which tend to be found at grocery store checkouts and are priced at less than US$2.50.
The News Group and Source Interlink Cos. have made significant cuts since May 1, following a similar move by Anderson News Corp., which sources said cut 140 million copies in a six-month test begun last fall (about 17.5 percent of the estimated 800 million Anderson distributes annually). Source Interlink cut 57 million copies (5.7 percent of the 1 billion copies a year it distributes) as part of an effort to get its sell-through rate to 48 percent from 34 percent. At The News Group, president John Seebach said unspecified cuts were aimed at increasing sell-through to more than 40 percent from 37 percent this year.

In particular, wholesalers are zoning in on proliferating low-priced magazines, like Meredith Corp.’s Family Circle ($1.99), Hearst Magazines’ Quick & Simple ($1.59) and all of Bauer Publishing’s titles, which include In Touch and Woman’s World.
Bauer wouldn't comment, but rumour has it that it scratched the launch of Cocktail Weekly, which was to sell for US$2.49, because of the cutbacks. The publisher -- which has built its business on cut-price titles -- had already been paying a premium to wholesalers to handle its magazines.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Canada Council gets permanent
$30 million increase

In a surprise announcement, Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda today announced that the one time funding made available to the Canada Council for the Arts in 2006 will now be made permanent. This means that the annual allocation to the Council will grow by $30 million to $181 million a year.

At the news conference in Toronto and a press release, Minister Oda spoke about the very strong outcomes of the arts community, and their contribution to communities across Canada. “For 50 years, the Canada Council for the Arts has supported talented artists in achieving their dreams. It has helped our arts organizations, our creators, our communities and our country,” said Minister Oda.

Canada Council Director Robert Sirman was delighted with Minister’s announcement. “This is wonderful news, not only for the Canada Council and the community, but for all Canadians whose lives are touched by the arts” he said.

In its 2006 budget, the government announced additional funding of $50 million over two years for the Canada Council - $20 million in 2006/07 and $30 million in 2007/08. In the spring, the Council made grants of $33 million to all the arts (about $620,000 to 36 magazines) out of this one-time grant. Now the funding has been made permanent.

Presumably a portion of this funding will find its way every year to the literary and cultural magazines that are the Canada Council's clients.

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Independent U.S. mags hit hard by postal changes

The Nation magazine, a venerable U.S. leftwing weekly, has raised the alarm with its readers about a postage increase of more than 18% that took effect this week. That represents a postal bill of US$500,000 for the magazine, which has a circulation of 18,600 186,500 (a few hundred of which are in Canada). The magazine has launched a fundraising drive to pay the added costs. So far, its readers have anted up about $270,000.

The Nation says that it is not alone; that a new deal struck between the US Postal Service (USPS) and the industry means that independent weeklies in particular are getting hammered, according to a story in Folio: online. (Indeed, a coalition of left- and right-wing independents including The American Conservative, The American Spectator, Ms., Mother Jones, The New Republic, Foreign Affairs and many others, has signed a joint letter protesting the rates. And The Nation and The National Review co-wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times denouncing the rate increase.)
According to The Nation president Teresa Stack, her magazine’s more dramatic rate increase is indicative of what smaller, independent magazines are experiencing.

The magazine’s weekly frequency has made it difficult for Stack to exploit distribution efficiencies such as co-mailing and co-palleting. “Our first experience was it was a disaster and no weeklies at our printer are co-mailing, the delivery compromises are too extreme,” she says. “If you’re a monthly or bi-monthly obviously you have more options. The weeklies are getting killed.”
The new scheme, which was pushed through last fall, largely by lobbyists for big publishers like Time Warner, essentially rewards efficiency in mailing, which is essentially of benefit only to the largest mailers. Time Warner and other big mailers argued that they had been subsidizing smaller, inefficient mailers. Folio: quoted Jim O’Brien, VP, distribution & postal affairs at Time, Inc., as saying in a BusinessWeek story that publishers that are mailing efficiently are subsidizing the publishers that aren’t “to the tune of 60 cents on the dollar.”

When the USPS deal was announced, it was said that smaller mailers who weren't going to be able to take advantage of these efficiencies might face an 11% increase. The reality has turned out to be much worse.
David Straus, postal counsel for American Business Media, argued against the Time Warner proposal earlier in the year noting that it would hurt small-to-mid sized publishers who couldn’t take advantage of distribution efficiencies that the larger titles could. “The new rate approach indeed hits very hard those medium-sized and small circulation publications that cannot go into a co-mail program,” says Straus.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't: Guardian Monthly folded

Guardian News & Media has told its subscribers that its venture into a monthly magazine is being discontinued. The magazine was launched in fall 2006 and was to have been complementary to the Guardian's stable of other publications -- the daily Guardian, weekly Observer, Guardian Weekly and its various websites. However, publisher Will Ricketts said in the letter to subscribers:
The company is taking a long-term strategic view of its activities and although Guardian Monthly has performed well in a busy and competitive international marketplace, we have decided that this is not the right time to continue with a global magazine offering.
This is not altogether a surprise, since the magazine seemed to be thrashing about looking for a focus. As it was, it was quirky and catholic in its choice of subjects, but it was a miscellany, mixing fashion, hard news and features, recipes, reader-written comment; a grab bag designed to somehow serve a very far flung audience. As the old saying goes when you try to be something for everybody, you wind up being nothing to nobody.


What have you done for us lately?
Portfolio editor under the gun

A column by Keith J. Kelly in the New York Post is making much of the fact that the second issue of Condé Nast's Portfolio business magazine has many fewer ads than its first; the story makes it clear (and illustrates it with the graphic above) that most magazines have a first flush of enthusiasm and then settle back to something more realistic. In Portfolio's case, the ads are still a pretty healthy 122 pages. The point seems to be that the ads are OK, but that things may be getting slippery for editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman because of dissatisfaction with the content.
As the second issue sets to close, pressure is mounting on Editor-in-Chief Joanne Lipman, a veteran of The Wall Street Journal, to deliver a blockbuster issue and live up to the pre-launch hype.

Condé Nast in its direct-mail materials promised to deliver "hard hitting investigative reporting, compelling profiles and a close-up view of breaking news written by top business journalists and captured by the best photographers."

However, observers say the magazine missed that target with its first issue.

"There was no pacing, no flow, no mix of stories," said an editor at a rival magazine. "It was, 'here's a Tom Wolfe piece about Greenwich,' and 'here's a story about new weapons.' It was like a deadline out of control, and it all seemed like it went in as a big mush."

One person said that insiders are also angry about the lack of editorial direction at the magazine. The atmosphere inside is described as tense, leading to the outbreak of rumors that Lipman could be in trouble.

One source said the second issue is "do or die time. They'll get rid of her within six months if the second issue comes out and flops."


Walrus magazine internships unpaid while Walrus Foundation seeks new sponsorship

Several people have asked whether it was true that internships at The Walrus magazine are no longer paid. The answer is yes, they are no longer paid...at least for now.

(At one time, the 10, six-month internships (8 editorial, 2 art) were among the most generous in the Canadian industry, paying about $2,000 a month, unlike many magazines which pay a pittance or nothing at all). The entire internship program was financed by a $300,000 annual grant from the Metcalfe Foundation, which has now ended.

Here is what The Walrus's publisher, Shelley Ambrose said, in part, in response to a question Canadian Magazines asked about the situation:
Revenue from The Walrus magazine has never paid for the internship program. As you know, The Walrus is published by the charitable, non-profit Walrus Foundation. Our charitable status means we are only allowed to sell 30% of our pages to advertising. The Walrus Foundation staff (me) and the Board of Directors fundraise - through events, corporations, foundations, individuals -- to support the magazine and the foundation's other programs....including the internship program. Without sponsorship and donors, these programs have no funding.

For two years, the internship program was supported by The Metcalfe Foundation. Although the internship program did not actually fit into the mandate of The Metcalfe Foundation, it was a discretionary grant to get the program going and had a two year shelf life, which is now over. Despite yeoman efforts, The Walrus Foundation (me) and Board of Directors have not YET found a replacement sponsor for the internship program and, so, the next round of interns will be unpaid. This is no way reflects our attachment to the program, its phenomenal success, or the quality of the interns and their stellar work - it is simply a financial reality.

Am glad to see readers of your blog are interested. The more we can get the word out that The Walrus is an unusual animal in Canadian publishing and is not a purely commercial magazine, the better. After just four years and many accolades, The Walrus Foundation still has to change public perception about our mandate, what our charitable status requires and means, and the sheer cost of creating long form literary non-fiction and investigative reporting (there's a reason few magazines do it).

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What we forget when we forget
about magazine awards

As the recent leaf storm of magazine awards fades completely but not quite from memory, I can still (barely) recall observing aloud the day before the so-called gala evening of the National Magazine Awards that cultural magazines can barely afford to participate in these events in a meaningful way—a meaningful way being to enter as many contenders in as many categories as possible—as Maclean’s and The Walrus have demonstrated (once again): if you spend a lot of money you can make the awards “meaningful.”

For the cultural magazines, which can be defined as small-circ magazines whose subsidy derives largely from non-advertising sources, nominations and instances of meaningfulness are few and far between. Every year at Geist we ponder again this question of the money and the enormous amount of time required to complete the application process, and in the end someone (often an idealistic intern who feels that we owe it to our contributors) bites the bullet and arbitrary choices are made and hefty, expensive packages go out to Toronto and Vancouver. And every year we regret having bitten the same cliche yet again. The person to whom I made this observation (at the Mags Canada lunch), I also recall, was a director of the National Magazine Awards and I did not wish to be entirely unfriendly to her cause. “What we need is a separate set of Awards for the cultural mags,” I said to her, in a tone that suggested that I had been pondering this idea for some time. “Call it the Arts and Letters Awards, or something like that. Lower the fees, cut back on the glitz and that ghastly dinner, and move it around from city to city. Let the cultural mags celebrate themselves and award themselves plenty of nominations.” (I quote from memory.)

Plenty of nominations would inject meaning into the event for the small mags, and perhaps even make news. The cultural publishers I know would be happy to participate, especially if they can remember how dreary and expensive and meaningless the last rounds of awards were—not easy to do as we see, because it is in the nature of awards to fade rapidly from memory, leaving behind only a faint trace of regret, to be rekindled once again, and always too late, in the weeks following next year’s awards.

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You may already be a winner...

A Quebec man has been awarded $100,000 in damages because he didn't understand the fine print on a direct mail subscription offer from the U.S. edition of Time magazine and thought he'd won $1.2 million. According to a story in the Globe and Mail, Madam Justice Carol Cohen of Quebec Superior Court said in a ruling Mondaythat the direct-mail campaign was misleading and may have violated the spirit of the Quebec French Language Charter.

"There can be no doubt here that the unsolicited publicity sent to Mr. Richard indeed had the capacity to mislead if viewed through the eyes of the average, inexperienced French-speaking consumer in Quebec," she said.

Jean-Marc Richard received the direct mail package with a big headline that said: "Our sweepstakes results are now final: Mr. Jean-Marc Richard has won a cash prize of $833,337.00!" (At that time, this amount in U.S. dollars was worth about C$1.2 million.)

Mr. Richard did not notice a sentence in small print that preceded the big headline: "If you have and return the Grand Prize winning entry in time and correctly answer a skill-testing question, we will officially announce that...."

Mr. Richard sent back the letter, signing up for a two-year subscription. When the money didnt' materialize,he called New York and was told he hadn't won and that the name on the letter (Elizabeth Matthews) was a fiction.

"It is patently obvious to any reader that the mailing from Time was not only false and incomplete, it was specifically designed to be misleading ... especially to a reader who is not reading in his or her mother tongue," Judge Cohen said.

She said reading the Time letter was "the literary equivalent of trying to drive safely on a winding road after having been blinded by the headlights of an oncoming truck."

Though he regularly speaks English at work, Mr. Richard, a francophone now in his late 40s, showed the document to an anglophone superior at his office, who congratulated him on winning.

Mr. Richard testified that he felt "embarrassed and stupid" when he had to explain to his girlfriend and relatives that he'd been wrong when he told them he had won a big prize.

Time Inc. says it will appeal the ruling.

Media Bistro, once a "mixer", now
sold for US$23 million

For those of you who use and enjoy Media Bistro, the news, jobs and training website from the U.S., it may be interesting to know that what started 10 years ago as a series of cocktail party "mixers" and became a media job board has today been sold to Jupitermedia Corporation for $23 million. Laurel Touby, the CEO, becomes senior vice-president of the new, merged entity.

Ms Touby told the New York Times: “This company is a true Internet success story. This started as an offline community, a cocktail party, that turned into this Web site that actually makes money.”

In 1993, Ms. Touby started arranging after-work mixers for editors, writers, television producers and graphic designers, inviting professionals as well as job seekers.

Ms. Touby compiled a list of job postings and, in 1996, opened Mediabistro.com. Four years later, Ms. Touby received investor financing, and the Web site was incorporated.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Time for a change? Breaking the gridlock in the design of the New Yorker

Many of you are New Yorker readers, regularly or casually, and may feel that it is an unmoving rock in a sea of constant graphical change. But it is not without its critics and, recently, a two-part article was published in the online journal Voice: the AIGA Journal of Design from the American Institute of Graphic Arts website (we read about it in the the blog Emdashes) in which critic and scholar K. T. Meaney, formerly of the New York design firm Pentagram, suggests a) that the New Yorker could do with a makeover and b) ways that could be done.

The second part is particularly interesting since critics rarely go to this extent to illustrate and make concrete suggestions, many of which seem very sensible. Meaney, who is currently an adjunct professor at the College of Design at NC State University, says:
I believe that the New Yorker layout is comprehensively flawed and a revision is overdue. Any redesign is up against a begrudging audience of grammatically correct but graphically unconscious * standpatters (and design giants as well). So how do you persuade such obstinate admirers? The answer is, respectfully.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Nipped and tucked and cover-worthy

Probably shouldn't do this, because it encourages them. But you may be amused at seeing what photo editors and Photshop can do to a celebrity who, at 39, looked pretty darned good in the first place. Redbook magazine has Faith Hill as their cover subject and did some, er, tweaking. Gawker, the Manhattan media blog, posted a "before and after" version (the pic at right is 'after') from Jezebel.com that made up (in its typically bitchy style) an imaginary annotated dialogue between the the photo editor and the poor schmo charged with manipulating the image to be cover-worthy.


Quote, unquote: the same, but different

In his house in Jamaica, Ian Fleming used to write 1,000 words in the morning, then go snorkeling, have a cocktail, lunch on the terrace, more diving, another 1,000 words in late afternoon, then more martinis and glamorous women. In my house in London, I followed this routine exactly, apart from the cocktails, the lunch and the snorkeling.
-- Sebastian Faulks, contracted by the Ian Fleming estate to carry on the 007 series of books. (Thanks to QuillBlog for this, via the New York Times)


First half data shows U.S. business titles generally down in pages & $

First half data from the Publishers Information Bureau in the U.S. shows that business magazines (consumer magazines, not trade) had a generally rough time of it, except for The Economist and Inc.






The Economist









Business 2.0









Business Week






Kiplinger’s Personal Finance



Black Enterprise



Harvard Business Review






Today's Parent produces single-sponsor kid's cookbook suppment

Today's Parent magazine is producing and polybagging a single-sponsor kids' recipe book with its current issue. It's called The Best of Cooking with Kids and it is paid for by Knorr Lipton's Sidekicks. According to a story in Media in Canada, the paid supplement is designed to coincide with the launch and national sampling program for a new instant rice product.

One might wonder what a pouched convenience food has to do with "cooking", or kids for that matter. But it's a canny hookup between the magazine and one of its major packaged goods advertisers.

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Should anonymous comments be allowed?

This blog moderates comments -- that is, every comment is read to decide whether to post it. Very rarely a comment is blocked because it is gratuitously offensive or wildly off topic. Mostly, we take the view that readers of this blog are grownups and can take it as well as dish it out.

We allow commenters to choose to remain anonymous; to keep from jeopardizing their jobs, for instance. That can't be taken as a license to slag someone else from under cover (hence the moderation), but it means people sometimes write things they wouldn't sign. A few people have questioned whether this is a good idea. For now, we think it is, but would be interested to hear from readers about whether they agree.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Doubtful data can do real damage
to trade publishers

There's an awful lot of self-serving spin going on about the internet's displacement of traditional media. The so-called facts that come from these efforts gain currency often based on a press release from someone or some company with a fairly large axe to grind. As a result, the data gains a life of its own without the reader being aware of (or being made aware of) its source. And the drumbeat of negativity about traditional media becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is not to say that, for instance, trade magazines are not finding their business tough going with the growth of online business and trade news sources. Printed directories are becoming harder to sustain because online sources are so easily used and searchable. But such self-serving "data" makes the public and advertiser views of the trade press much, much worse.

As an arbitrary, but classic, example, take the case of a press release that went out over Canada News Wire on July 12. It was headlined: Internet Usage Continues to Grow Within the Canadian Industrial Sector. Not much to quarrel with about that heading, because it's probably true.

The story itelf, however, is based on a "Canadian Industrial Engineering Trends Survey" conducted by GlobalSpec, self-described as "the leading specialized search engine, information services and e-publishing company for the engineering, industrial and technical communities".

The press release nowhere contains any information about the methodology, though a link is provided to a summary on the company's website. The summary tells you that 2,466 people responded, but it doesn't say out of how many people polled. It is also coy about who these people are, beyond saying they are drawn from GlobalSpec's "registered user base of engineers, technical buyers, scientific professionals and other members of the industrial community". In other words, GlobalSpec's own customers.

We are never told what proportion of the "community" the survey's database or response represents or how the people polled were chosen or even if the survey is based on a sample.

And what do they say the results are? Among other things, "37 percent stated their use of printed trade magazines has gone down in the past year".

What the press release doesn't say, however, is that 63% of the respondents said their use of printed trade magazines has stayed the same or actually gone up (5%). Nor do they say that the research shows printed material (trade magazines, supplier catalogues and printed buyers' guides) actually match or outstrip reliance on GlobalSpec.

Now, I'm wondering whether people writing various news stories that are spun out of this press release will drill down and question the methodology, response rate or scientific validity of such a study. Or whether the stories will focus on that 37% figure, without asking where it came from. I suspect the latter.

(What's sometimes not realized is that CNW feeds go directly into newsroom computers of newspapers and other media and are sometimes used unchanged, as though they weren't public relations rather than news. Many of the secondary stories in newspapers are largely based on or simply reprints, of these press releases.)

I'm not saying there's no trouble in trade magazine publishing. Or that online search isn't a useful and increasingly used tool of business. But readers need to be sceptical about where this stuff comes from and trade publishers need to be more vigorous in holding their competitors to account for this kind of self-serving baloney.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

New magazine hopes to provide "colour and dash" to Canadian politics

A new online magazine named after Canada's first prime minister has been launched. Sir John magazine, named after Sir John A. Macdonald says that it aims to bring "colour and dash to Canadian political coverage".

The new title blends fashion and photography with detailed commentary on national and international political developments.

"I hope to make the subject of politics more appealing to younger people," says Sir John founder Anthony Santelli. "I want to promote Canadiana."

Born to Italian immigrant parents, Santelli is a self-confessed political junkie, and had been working as an elementary school teacher in the Toronto area prior to launching Sir John.

"If all goes well, we plan to do a monthly print version of the magazine in late spring or summer 2008," states Santelli.

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Sara Angel out as editor at Chatelaine

Sara Angel is no longer the editor of Chatelaine magazine.

It took Chatelaine 9 months to find a new editor and Angel lasted barely 13 months at the helm of Rogers Media's largest and most successful consumer magazine. She had been named editor May 25 last year (2006).

A brief announcement today by publisher Kerry Mitchell, said that, effective immediately, Angel was "no longer working with us as editor at Chatelaine." Lise Ravary, the editorial director for women's publications, has stepped in to handle day-to-day management. Deputy Editor Maryam Sanati and Art Director Cameron Williamson remain.

U.S. mag ad pages down in first half,
but apparent dollars up

Some commentators are puzzling over the fact that the first half U.S. Publishers Information Bureau data about magazine ad pages and dollars shows pages down but dollars up. Total magazine advertising pages declined 0.5% through the first six months of 2007, but total advertising revenues climbed 6.1% for the same period.

Of course this dollar data is based on published rate card prices and is always an inflated amount. MediaDaily News says in a posting that the PIB's ad revenue estimates are probably in line line with consumer magazine ad tracking from other sources
In late June, the Universal McCann estimated that U.S. consumer magazine ad spending was up about 4.1% through the first quarter of 2007, and would like rise 4.0% for the year to $13.595 billion.

Also in June, TNS MI released data indicating that consumer magazines were the fastest-growing "non-digital" consumer ad medium. In an analysis of the TNS MI data by the Magazine Publishers of America indicated that magazines grew faster than any medium except for the Internet during the first quarter of the year, and picked up about a percentage point of total U.S. advertising spending.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Note to freelance writers: read the fine print, contracts are changing

Although she's not very specific about who is doing what to whom, Vancouver agent and coach Julie Ferguson is raising an alarm about demands by publishers that freelancers carry all the legal liabilities for a published article. In a blog item, she says:
The issue is not the usual rights grab, which is often in contracts, but the clause(s) that deals with indemnification (liability). Suddenly the publishers are expecting freelancers to carry full liability and financial responsibility if the publisher is sued over a freelancer's article. In the past, this burden was most often shared between publisher and freelancer. For a writer to insure for this eventuality can cost thousands of dollars per year, and many cannot afford to take this precaution.

Many writers who make their living freelancing have attempted to change these clauses before signing the contracts, but some publishers are refusing to allow negotiation of these clauses. In this event, most of the writers have chosen to turn down the opportunity to write for these publishers, which include major daily newspapers, top magazines, and a national broadcaster in Canada, as well as similar publishers in the US. (For example, CanWest and CBC.)

One change a freelancer can try to negotiate for these clauses is: "in no case will the writer's liability exceed the value of the contract." Sometimes this works.
She also points readers to interesting material at a site run by screenwriter and lawyer Tim Perrin, who makes available a very good primer for freelancers on how to negotiate contracts.


Comics publishers squeeze
Canadian newsstand buyers

Are Canadian comics buyers suckers? Apparently at least some comic book publishers think so, according to a story in The Comic Wire, a website for fans and collectors. Marvel Comics has hiked prices on some titles, says the site.
The price hike seems to be isolated to a few specific titles like “Ultimate Fantastic Four” and “New Avengers.” To find out if a Marvel title you are reading is in this group, check the indicia on the first page of the comic book. This indicia for “Ultimate Fantastic Four #43” states that the price is “$2.99 per copy in the U.S and $3.75 in Canada (GST #R127032852) in the direct market and $3.99 per copy in the U.S. and $5.75 in Canada (GST #R127032852) through the newsstands; Canadian Agreement #40668537.”

That one sentence in the indicia explains why this went virtually unnoticed. This price increase doesn't impact most readers of those titles. The only two groups that are going to feel this price hike are newsstand shoppers and Canadians. Now is not the best time to be a Canadian that buys comic books at newsstands.
It looks like comic book publishers may be trying to get a greater price offset on newsstands because unsold copies are returnable (as opposed to comic book stores).And it also looks as though they are ignoring the closing exchange rate gap between the US and Canadian dollars.
Where it gets confusion is when you ask why a different exchange rate is used for the newsstand channel. That rate is $1 USD equaling $1.43 Canadian. That is an 18 cent difference per US dollar. That copy of “Ultimate Fantastic #43” that can be bought for $2.99 in a direct market comic book store in the USA would cost $3.99 at a newsstand in the USA. In Canada, that same comic book would cost $3.75 Canadian at a direct market comic book store and $5.75 Canadian at a newsstand. That is an increase of $2 Canadian for copies sold through Canadian newsstands. This penalty for Canadians is highly ironic since most comic books are printed in Canada.
It also appears (see comment about CBC.ca story)that Canadian and U.S. comic stores will be selling all titles at the U.S. price.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quebecor withdraws bond issue it planned to use to buy Osprey

One of the ways that Quebecor was going to pay for its purchase of Osprey Media Income Fund was to sell a junk bond issue. But the company has cancelled plans to float a $750 million issue in the face of what's described as "a jittery junk bond market", according to a Reuters story. Quebecor's timing could hardly have been worse, having announced its plans only a day before there was a sharp selloff of so-called "junk" or high-yield bonds as U.S. investors worried about weakness in the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market.

Not only was the Osprey sale to be financed in this way, but so was its plan buy all of the common shares of Nurun it did not already own, and to make a payment to the Carlyle Group.

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The Summer Fiction Question

When the summer fiction issue of the New Yorker hit the newsstand a short time ago did you feel a familiar twinge when again you did not buy a copy precisely because it was the summer fiction issue, and then did you fail to suppress the querulous flood, the peevish trickle of nagging familiar questions that one never speaks aloud in bookstores or libraries, or in the halls of the CBC?

What is it with fiction and summer, anyway? Why is fiction supposed to be good for you and why do we have to read it in the summer? What's wrong with me that I don't want to read a bunch of fiction all at once in the New Yorker—is this a neurosis or a psychosis, is it a phobia? Is fiction supposed to have some kind of being-in-itself, is fiction some kind of Higher Art? Or is it because fiction isn't about anything? Isn't it perfectly all right to print fiction alongside other narrative forms every now and then, making no big deal and finding an illustration to go along without illustrating so much as accompanying--or is this mere fetishism, frippery, more bagatelles? Didn't the Puritans circa 1620 censure frivolous reading, thereby forcing readers to define fiction as High Art and therefore good for you and that's why it's good for you, because its good to be good? Is that why things seem to be different in Latin America, in Europe, in Japan or anywhere in the world where people tend to read books helter skelter like people rather than citizens engaging in civic behaviour? Why does the CBC want everyone in Canada to read the same novel? Is the CBC connected to the mind police? What do "five celebrity panelists" yawning on about novels they flipped through the night before know that I don't know about novels I ought read along with everyone else in the country? What exactly is a celebrity panelist on AM radio in the morning? What do celebrity panelists do to relax, off-panel? How many weeks have already passed since the new summer lists came out again, long lists of more novels to read on the beach, in the heat, as we slumber through the days slathered in ointments rated SPF15, improving ourselves with literature? Do we look forward eagerly to those long windy passages in door stopper novels inserted by considerate authors precisely to allow readers the luxury of paging on and on, heedlessly skipping over this bit and that bit, heading out into the sea of fiction in the summer?

from the summer letter to subscribers of Geist

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