Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy New Magazine Year

Happy New Year. Like me, most of you know, or feel, that the year actually starts in September, after Labour Day, a situation that is the residue of all those years in school. But you know the magazine business seems to work the same way.

After September 4, you'll still get voice mail on your calls to people, but you'll at least know they're in their offices screening you, rather than on a dock somewhere. Most consumer magazines with a 10- or 12-time frequency actually start their fall in June or July, preparing for the big issues of September through December. It is the money that's made in those fall issues (and March, April, May) that pays for the overheads in the lean times post-Christmas and in the summertime. I know, you work hard all year round, but the focus is on those good months, at least in terms of advertising sales. (Editors, on the other hand, worry year-round about whether they have too much or too little content in the pipeline. If those ad guys don't sell some pages soon, this story will never run...)

I think a case can be made that the magazine year, when all the work is done, is actually a matter of about 35 weeks -- 120 days or so, August to the end of November plus another 120 days from about January 15 to May 15. Ever tried to set up a meeting after December 1 or in July?

So enjoy the Labour Day weekend and on Tuesday, wish your colleagues Happy New Year and get back to work.

If 500 are good, can 5,000 be better?
Inc. ups the list ante

Lists are so popular and lucrative for magazines, we suppose it had to happen. You know, of course, of the ROB 1000, the "Rich List" at Canadian Business and the top 20 this, 50 that which can be found in many consumer magazines. Now the business magazine Inc. has upped the ante, so to speak, by coming out with the Inc. 5000, according to MediaNews Daily. The secret is that the web has almost limitless capacity, so Inc. is able to expand its traditional list of 500 based on performance with companies that are interesting and noteworthy, but wouldn't have made the cut for the print edition.

Inc. is also launching a social networking site of sorts for business called, in October.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

U.S. fulfillment merger makes
publishers nervous

There is concern among publishers about the impact of the merger of two of the big three fulfillment companies in the U.S., according to Folio: magazine. Kable Media Services Inc. bought Palm Coast Data for $93 million and the two companies are consolidating. About 75 employees were laid off, most of them at Kable, leading Folio: to note
Palm Coast management will run the merged company, which means that even though it was Kable’s parent company that bought Palm Coast, on the management level the effect is that Palm Coast is taking over Kable.
Kable is a wholly owned subsidiary of AMREP Corporation, (as an aside, AMREP is also a major land developer in New Mexico and founded Rio Rancho, the fourth largest city in New Mexico, and the focus of its current activity "is on the entitlement, development and the sale of land for residential, commercial and industrial uses".)

The nervousness of publishers centres mostly on uncertainties about the software and systems they'll wind up using with Kable/Palm. Kable had converted about 30% of its clients from its NeoData system to something called K-data. That process will probably continue, but some clients may be moved over to Palm's systems.

The other U.S. fulfillment company is Communications Data Services (CDS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hearst Corporation, which also owns Canada's largest fulfillment company, Indas Limited of Markham.


Our Green Home to go to
1.9 million Ontario doorsteps

The green bandwagon is beginning to groan a little as commercial interests clamber aboard. Metroland Media Group in cooperation with a consortium of public relations, advertising and polling companies intends to carpet-bomb Ontario with a new quarterly magazine-style newspaper advertising supplement called Our Green Home.

It will be delivered to 1.86 million Ontario homes the week of September 24. About 300,000 will be in Toronto, says a story in Media in Canada, and estimated readership is 3 million.

The magazine is ostensibly published by the Green Group but the senior partner is pretty clearly Metroland, the daily and community newspaper publishing arm of Torstar, publishers of the Toronto Star. A full page ad in the tabloid-sized supplement is $28,000.

Information about the content is sketchy, though a sample posted online suggests that it will be advertorial.

The partners in Green Group are ECO (a public relations firm specializing in environmental issues), UP Marketing (and advertising agency), Oracle Poll (a market research firm) and Petryna Adverting Inc. (an advertising services company).

Of greatest concern is the impact that the clout of the Torstar empire may have on smaller environmental magazines when it comes to selling advertising.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Guide to magazine fact checking published

If you want something done, you've gotta do it yourself, sometimes. So it is with Cynthia Brouse, the reigning doyenne of fact-checking in Canada, who has now published a dandy little textbook on the subject called After the Fact: A Guide to Fact Checking for Magazines and Other Media. The book is available online through this link. Price is $16.95 for a paperback, $13.95 for a download of the book in pdf format.
[It] explains why magazines use fact-checkers when other media don't; how to put a fact-checking system in place; and how to go about checking the facts in an article. Fact-checking is a key entry-level or freelance position in the magazine business, a way for aspiring writers or editors to learn how a magazine works and how professional writers put together a story, and to develop relationships with editors that can lead to assignments or jobs. And the more writers know about what happens to their articles when they are fact-checked, the more prepared they’ll be to provide what editors want — and to protect their copy. These skills can be adapted to any medium.
Brouse will be using the book as the required text in her fact-checking course at Ryerson, but it has usefulness way beyond that. One of the things that distinguishes magazines from other media is this arcane, but incredibly useful process which -- a colleague said just yesterday -- "saved our bacon time and time again".

The award winning writer (gold for feature writing at the National Magazine Awards) and editor is the former managing editor of Saturday Night magazine in Toronto and was chief of copy editing and research for Toronto Life, as well as working for Maclean's and Canadian Business.

For five years she was on the English faculty at George Brown College in Toronto, and since 1987 has taught part-time in Ryerson University's School of Journalism and in its Magazine Publishing Certificate Program in the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

Fair disclosure: I freely gave Brouse a blurb for her book. After a sneak preview, I called it a "gem", and I still think it is.

[Regular readers of this blog will recall the back and forth comments some time ago in response to a couple of postings on fact checking. The links are here and here.]


Rona Maynard launches herself and her book
into the web world

Rona Maynard, who was editor of Chatelaine for 10 years (until 2004), has launched a spiffy new website that looks to be intended not only to promote a forthcoming book but to become a site of choice for women interested in their own stories.

The book, My Mother's Daughter, which is to be published September 8 by McClelland and Stewart, is a memoir of growing up as the daughter of the late Fredelle Maynard, a strong and...unusual woman who became well known in Canada as a freelance writer and commentator.
I’m lucky enough to have spent my career exchanging stories with women. At Chatelaine, where I spent a decade as Editor, I shared my defining moments in a monthly column. Thousands of readers identified. They taught me how much we have in common—and how much we have to learn from one another.
In addition to inviting comments from women, Maynard is writing a frequent "Letter from Rona" which, so far, ranges widely from the cats in her life to life transitions.

Maynard has been an editor and writer for more than 30 years, holding staff positions at Flare and Maclean's and she has written hundreds of articles for national publications, including Report on Business, Canadian Business and MORE.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quote, unquote: Playboy editorial director on why it doesn't suck

Today, magazines exist in a universe of expanded entertainment choices for men. Even in the magazine universe alone, the competition is intense — there are a lot of magazines out there! And now we’re competing with free and pirated material online. It’s a transitional period, and we’re certainly one company with the resources and product to ride it out.
In response to a long list of questions from readers of the Freakonomics blog on the New York Times, Chris Napolitano, the editorial director of Playboy, waded right in with long responses to every question about the threats and the opportunities that this venerable and still very successful men's magazine is facing.


The value of judgement and the human editor

Algorithms and search engines can roam far and wide with a speed that leaves ordinary people in their dust, but the one thing that technology doesn't have is human judgement. And there is an interesting item by Scott Karp* on the blog Publish 2.0 on current thinking about the role of trusted human editors in the dissemination of reliable stories and information.

( Why am I reporting this on the Canadian Magazines blog? Magazine people have always understood that the mediation of information is one of the great strengths of the medium; as more and more magazine publishers augment their traditional publishing with new tools and techniques, it is important to understand how this is to be accomplished.)

The value of judgement and human filters may seem self-evident, but consider social networking sites where, as more and more people contribute, there is a dilution of quality and trust because a lot of people who aren't very smart or savvy contribute to the dumbing down of the content.

Paul Graham of Hacker News, for instance, weights contributors' ability to influence future stories (using human judgement), based on whether they pick good stories now and did so in the past.
Of course, it’s easy to have a good site when you start out with a core group of smart users. How do you keep it good as more people find out about it? We think we have an answer to that. We’re going to have a group of human editors who train the system in what counts as a good story. Each user’s voting power will then be scaled based on whether they vote for good stories or bad ones. This should protect us against the arrival of users who vote up dumb stories. The worse stuff a user upvotes, the less effect their future votes will have. And vice versa: someone who consistently recommends interesting stories will be rewarded with a louder voice.
In a sense, this is what magazines and newspapers have always done, as editors select good stories by good writers and readers vote on the result with their attention, their subscriptions and the single copies they buy. The speedup of the process, however, means that the old and stately ways are becoming harder to maintain. (Note, I said harder, not impossible.) So it is in the interest of every editor and publisher today to burn up some mental energy thinking about how his or her mission can be adapted to these modern circumstances. For instance, by insisting on human judgement as an integral part of the process and on the right to mediate.

*Scott Karp and his colleagues at Publish 2.0 are self-interested in this; they are soon to launch a social networking site specifically for journalists and bloggers called Publish2. But that doesn't make what they're saying any less useful or interesting, but more so.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Editor out at Calgary Inc.

Christina Reynolds, the editor of the business magazine Calgary Inc. is no longer with the company. No reason was given for her departure.

The magazine has a claimed readership of 120,000 and total distribution of 32,000, including 4,000 distributed through the Globe and Mail. Most of the circulation (87%) is controlled, with about 2,500 paid subscribers.

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What the heck is going on at The New Republic? Bet the Aspers want to know

Despite its venerable history as a voice of American liberalism, times have not been good recently for Canadian-owned The New Republic. The Asper family must be asking itself what kind of a gimcrack, out-of-control mess they bought.

Not only is TNR famous for having harboured plagiarists and fabulists like Stephen Glass and Ruth Shallit in the past, now it is is coping with the fallout from its "anonymous" diarist/ soldier from Iraq. Turns out that Scott Thomas IS a soldier and married to a staff writer at the magazine, but many of the items he reported were questionable at best or exaggerated at the least and the right-wing bloggers took off after TNR. Rumours are now circulating that high-level heads are going to roll (including, possibly, the editor Franklin Foer, who was only appointed in February). TNR's circulation continues to fall as its traditional base simply loses faith in its veracity.

For but one example of recent reporting and commentary that can only be giving the Aspers a royal pain, see the story by Richard Miniter in Pajamas Media. Its headline is "How The New Republic Got Suckered", which is self-explanatory.

Michael Geist slams Heritage, says its funding priorities are all wrong

An opinion piece in the Toronto Star by Michael Geist says that Canadian Heritage should shift its priorities. More funding should go into new media and emerging creator groups, he says, presumably at the expense of established programs. Geist is a well-known critic and commentator on copyright, digital and online issues. He is Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

(In his roundhouse swing, Geist never once mentions the predominance of small, specialty magazine publishers who make up the vast bulk of the publishing activity in this country. Once again, magazines get sideswiped in a controversy that is predominantly about other media.)

He said that the advent of a new heritage minister,Josée Verner, replacing Bev Oda, is an opportunity for major change.
A change in minister may not be enough, however. While Oda had her shortcomings, the reality may be that the problem lies less with the identity of the minister of Canadian Heritage and more with the department itself.

Few doubt the importance of the cultural sector from both an economic and social-policy perspective, yet that status is not reflected in the department of Canadian Heritage, which has gradually morphed primarily into a granting agency for various cultural initiatives (see "Culture").

Increased funding for festivals, films, museums and other culture industry programs may be worthwhile, however, the problem with the grant approach is that it has locked Canadian Heritage into the status quo at a time of dramatic change.
He notes that broadcasting got almost a quarter of a billion dillars, book publishing $35 million, the Canada Music Fund $19 million and the Canadian magazine industry $15 million. Most of this money, says Geist, goes to cultural industries rather than individual creators.
The beneficiaries of these funding programs are loath to see them change (other than to increase available funds), yet the modes of cultural production have changed dramatically in recent years. Digital technologies and the Internet have enabled thousands of individual creators to adopt alternative business models while producing quality content for distribution to a global audience. If Verner is to emerge as a strong advocate for Canadian culture, her starting point should be to face up to this new reality. Funding programs should be reviewed to ensure that they reflect the current environment and maximize the potential of Canadian creators, leading to a trade-off that matches stable long-term culture funding with programs that put creators ahead of distributors and marketers.

Moreover, Verner should beef up support for new media (which garners a tiny fraction of cultural funding) and grant equal airtime to emerging creator groups such as the Canadian Music Creators Coalition and Appropriation Arts, two coalitions that represent hundreds of Canadian musicians and visual artists.

He also slams the feds for not developing a digital strategy or taking a strong position on key issues like net neutrality.
For example, Canadian Heritage has been surprisingly silent on the Net neutrality issue, despite calls to preserve equal access to Canadian content from the Canadian Media Guild.

The same is true for policies on high-speed networks and competitive wireless pricing, the two key distribution systems of Canadian digital content that will have an enormous impact on the actual marketplace success of Canadian cultural funding.

Further, while European countries have launched major digitization initiatives geared at preserving and promoting their cultural heritage, Canada has failed to implement a national digitization strategy.

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Deziel returns to

Shanda Deziel has been wooed back to Maclean's to be managing editor of its website Deziel started at Maclean's as an intern and was a senior editor before leaving to work for America Online (AOL).


Now THAT'S added value! Consumer Reports posts vehicle crash test results

Consumer Reports has posted videos of crash tests for more than 200 makes of cars, minivans, truck and SUVs, according to a story in MediaDaily News. CR teamed up with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and posted the results at

The tests include both front and side-impact collisions and the videos are searchable by make and model. As other vehicles are tested, the magazine intends to add other videos.

"These videos bring the crash test data to life, showing the real safety differences between a Good car and a Poor one," according to Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor of automobiles for the CR website --referring to the high and low rankings of automobiles on the Consumer Reports scale. In a nerve-racking aside, Bartlett added: "Rest assured, you will demand side air bags on your next car after watching these videos."

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Architectural Digest invades Toronto in September

Architectural Digest, the grandmummy of shelter, interior design and architecture magazines, is bringing its road show to Toronto September 24-30. Architecture Days had previously been held in only New York and San Francisco (and continues to be).

The week of events are available only by advance ticket purchase, and include visits to various sites, including the CN Tower, behind the scenes in the kitchens of the Fairmont Royal York, architects' own designer homes, various walking tours (U of T campus, downtown and Rosedale), and entry to the IIDEX/NeoCon Canada trade show at the Ex.

Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume will be leading a panel discussion about Toronto's evolving skyline at the IIDEX show on Thursday, September 27. Individual events range from $15 to $60. [shown is one of the stops on the tour, the Will Allsop-designed Sharp Centre at the Ontario College of Art & Design]

New online magazine Lyte.Arts is
for art lovers and art makers

A small group of students from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) has launched a bi-monthly online magazine called Lyte.Arts, for "people who live for, love and make art." It's feature-rich and handsome and worth a visit to see what young artists think about what's important.

Half the magazine is devoted to interviews and features about established illustrators and fine artists; the other half is devoted to student work and interviews, art news, an illustration blog, a job board and information about upcoming exhibitions, websites. Readers are invited to make submissions. It contains no advertising, nor does it look like that is in the cards.

The first issue has a number of typos (which indicates that as copy editors, the team are good artists) and, being put together in Flash, has some navigation problems. But these are mere quibbles for what is a very ambitious and intriguing idea.

The publishing team is Jesse Graham, a freelance illustrator, Ngqubutho Zondo, a freelance graphic and web designer, and Wai Yuan, a freelance graphic designer. All live in Toronto.

Feature interview subjects include photographer Sheryl Dudley, illustrator Patricia Storms (both from Toronto), painter Gareth Bate and NewYork-based illustrator Marcos Chin, who graduated from OCAD in 1999. (The illustration above is by Chin and from the first issue.)

[Thanks to Patricia Storm's blog BookLust for alerting me to this new publication.]

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cottage Life columnist McGregor to deliver
2007 Bell Lecture

Roy McGregor, a regular columnist for Cottage Life magazine and the Globe and Mail, is to be the 2007 Bell Lecture at the Faculty of Public Affairs on October 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kailash Mital Theatre, Southam Hall, Carleton University. It will be entitled "As Canadian as possible … under the circumstances". The lecture will riff off his latest book, Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People.

McGregor's previous book,The Weekender, was a collection of his columns from the magazine.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Xtra magazine hosts new Toronto gay and lesbian literary festival, launched on Sunday

Xtra magazine is this Sunday hosting a new literary festival in Toronto focussing on gay and lesbian literature. It kicks off this Sunday, according to an item in Quillblog. Church Street between Alexander and Gloucester will be closed for the festival.
Writing Outside the Margins features a day-long lineup of readings by various authors, including Nalo Hopkinson, Jim Bartley, and Q&Q contributor Michael Rowe. There’s some preview coverage in the Toronto Star, where publishing reporter Vit Wagner wonders whether the event is “a celebration of queer writing or gay authorship.” (That is, whether the focus is on books with gay themes or books that happen to be by gay writers.) Organizer John Pressick tells Wagner, “For our purposes, we chose not to make that distinction.”


Alberta's Venture Publishing brings unlimited launch to market

Albertans, and the rest of the country, will see the brand new business and lifestyle magazine aimed at the "millenials" (def: the children of baby boomers) when Venture Publishing of Edmonton launches unlimited.

Content will be about work and life from the perspective of the 20 - 35 year old demographic, the kinds of young people who have flocked and are flocking to Alberta as the land of opportunity. The emphasis is on profiles and substantive articles illustrated by fine portrait photography.

The magazine will have a slightly oversized format (9" x 10.75) and will publish 6 times a year, with a circulation of 20,000 copies through a combination of paid subscriptions, newsstand sales and controlled distribution. Issue 1 (see above) is due on newsstands across Canada on September 17. Circulation is being handled by Coast to Coast. The magazine will be in cash line special displays in Chapters Indigo nationally (heavier in Alberta, BC and Ontario) and in several western chains, including grocery and drug retailers Overwaitea/Saveon Foods and London Drugs. Cover price is $5.95 and a 6-issue sub is $19.97.

Design is by Malcolm Brown and the editor is Dan Rubinstein. Joyce Byrne, associate publisher has headed up the launch team. Byrne was the publisher of This Magazine before moving west to work at Venture. Rubinstein was features editor at Alberta Venture magazine and had been at Alberta Views and the alternative paper Vue Weekly. Brown has worked at many well-known titles, including Saturday Night, Outpost, enRoute and shift.

In his first letter from the editor, Rubinstein says
In our September 2007 debut issue and the first of two issues this year, we’ll bring you stories about an industrial designer who’s doing it his way in Edmonton and a banker/lawyer couple who turned their backs on Calgary’s oil and gas sector to buy a drive-in burger joint. We’ll tell you how to land that dream job abroad (hint: it is who you know), how interdisciplinary teamwork has created a solar car that’s firing on all cylinders, and how to get “Rich by Thirty” (the title of our financial advice columnist’s new book). You’ll learn how to swim with neo-con sharks, how shark-like companies market their image at you, how young working parents are redefining success, and why you need to move out of your parents’ basement.
A one-time 4-colour ad in the new magazine is $3,700.

The new magazine will be kicked off by launch parties September 11 in Edmonton and September 18 in Calgary.

Venture Publishing produces business magazine Alberta Venture, The Money Book, Fore! The Ultimate Guide to Golf in Alberta and B.C., Alberta Market Facts Directory, Meeting and Convention Planner, Open Mind, Tracks & Treads, BioZine, Your Health and Food for Thought.

President and Editor-in-chief Ruth Kelly said earlier this summer:
"With Alberta’s economy as red-hot as it is, and the youngest population in Canada, it’s time our next generation of business leaders had a publication that reflected their issues in the workplace and beyond."
From an item in DesignEdge Canada about Malcolm Brown's design:

“It’s a business lifestyle magazine so they still wanted it to be kind of creative," said Brown. They didn’t want it to be stuffy like a lot of business magazines are.”

Brown commissioned several photographers to shoot for the inaugural issue including Christopher Wahl, Bryce Duffy, Mark Gilbert, Andrej Kopac and local photogs Boot Strucker and Philip Dykes, as well as some Sheridan College student illustrators in Toronto.

Hmmm, Chocolat? Where have I
seen this before?

Here's some comment from an American who, having happened across a copy of Chocolat,the magazine launched by Rogers Media last year, notes its remarkable similarity to Condé Nast's Domino.

U.S. publishers group promoting
magazine recycling

The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) is sponsoring a couple of public service ads that ask magazine readers to recycle. "Be a Hero. Recycle Your Magazines," says one and "Turn Over a New Leaf. Recycle Your Magazines!" The ads were created by Jennifer Kraemer-Smith, art director for Time for Kids.

Nina Link, president of the MPA, said the ads are a "friendly reminder that every one of us is a citizen of this world, and we each have a responsibility to do what we can to conserve and recycle our resources."

One of the difficulties with recycling magazines is the variation in how glossy magazine paper is handled in different jurisdictions across North America. The MPA says that, while two-thirds of U.S. household recycling accepts magazines, only about 20% are put in the blue box (or local equivalent). As an indication of the curious and particular difficulties of magazine recycling, MPA had to come up with two logos: one, the traditional three chasing arrows symbol for recycling and the words Please Recycle This Magazine; the second adds a second message – Please Remove Samples or Inserts Before Recycling, acknowleging the proliferation of non-paper inserts in magazines (e.g., CD disks, product samples, plastics).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Disney to shutter Disney Adventures
kids' magazine

The tricky and rather anemic kids' periodical sector is to lose one of its titles -- Disney Adventures is being discontinued, effective with its November issue, according to a story in MediaWeek. The digest-sized magazine for 6 to 14 year olds, had 1.2 million paid circulation. Most of its circulation was by subscription, but it was also a perennial on the checkout racks since its founding in 1990. Disney says it is going to focus on new magazine and book efforts.

This is the second high-profile kids' title to fold. MTV Networks closed Nick Jr. Family magazine in April.

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British free papers agree to recycle themselves

A British municipal government has forced distributors of two free newspapers to pay for and service recycling bins for their products.

The deal comes after [Westminster] council threatened earlier this year to ban the two London free newspapers, Associated's London Lite and News International rival thelondonpaper, if they did not contribute to the cost of clearing up discarded papers each night, said a story in the UK Press Gazette.

The council - which oversees a large part of Central London, including Victoria and Charing Cross mainline rail stations - said in April that the two free papers, since they launched last August, had created an extra 1,000 tonnes of waste.

Under today's agreement, Associated will pay for 32 London Lite-branded bins around Victoria station and Leicester Square and thelondonpaper will fund another 32 bins around Charing Cross and Oxford Circus.

Interestingly, Metro, another free paper familiar to Canadian cities and whose remnants drift around the ankles of Toronto commuters, refused to make a similar deal. There is no word on whether a ban is forthcoming.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shameless plug V

With full disclosure (I teach both courses) here is a shameless plug for two Ryerson University magazine-related courses which are quickly coming up:
  • The Business of Magazine Publishing -- a 14-week course (2½ hours every Monday night, starting September 10th) that is a mile wide and an inch deep, covering all the aspects of Canadian magazine publishing from editorial to production, contract publishing and trades, circulation and advertising. It is intended to be an overview, insight into how the various parts of the business fit and work together for success.
  • So You Want to Start a Magazine? -- an intensive, two-day weekend course (14 hours) designed for those who think they'd like to start a magazine soon and want to find out what's involved. It focusses on very practical matters and provides templates, tools, financial models and checklists that beginning publishers can use to their advantage. The September course is Friday 21st and Saturday 22 (deadline to register is September 15); the November course is Friday 9th and Saturday 10th (deadline to register is November 3)
Both courses are offered at the downtown Toronto campus. Ryerson offers a range of courses in Magazine Publishing as night school or on weekends and offers a certificate, in which a number of complementary courses are taken over a few years. To find out more about the 15 courses that are made offered, go to the Magazine Certificate program pages in the Ryerson course calendar. There is also an information night for prospective students on Thursday, August 23rd at 4:30 p.m.

Tyler Brûlé goes his contrarian way

[this story has been updated]
“We’re not in the business of trying to build a galaxy of bloggers and churn out copy all day.” -- Monocle editor (and Wallpaper founder) Tyler Brûlé, quoted in the New York Observer.
Brûlé, the Winnipeg-born wunderkind, says he thinks the big guys are getting it all wrong. While they're cutting back, trimming pages and replacing original journalism with user-generated content, he's pushing ahead by opening new bureaus (Sydney is the latest for Monocle)and publishing a stylish, traditional, glossy, large format, high end and expensive magazine. He does so by taking some backhanded shots at other publishers.
Mr. Brûlé said that he expects the magazine, published 10 times a year, to grow “organically,” rather than taking “the Hollywood, blockbuster approach to publishing [with] all the expectations that come with it.” To wit, he said, “Look what happened to Portfolio.”

Instead, Mr. is hoping that educated, affluent readers—the kind advertisers drool over—will discover the magazine (and be willing to drop $10 an issue, with no subscription discount).
[UPDATE]You may want to read a story from the Vancouver Sun, in which Brûlé talks about the virtues of magazines over other media and explains why Canada is misunderstood in the world.

Spacing blog to rise again, covering the
Ontario vote

Having had major success in generating interest in the last municipal election in Toronto, Spacing magazine is debuting its special election blog Spacing Votes to cover the forthcoming Ontario provincial election.

The blog goes live again on August 30. The emphasis will be, as it should be, on such urban issues as public space, funding and transit, and it's got a formidable lineup of contributors, including once again lead columnist John Lorinc, transit advocate Steve Munro, Spacing Editor and Eye Weekly columnist Dale Duncan and Spacing’s publisher and creative director Matthew Blackett. A new contributor is Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler. The blog is a natural extension of the magazine, the kind of initiative (who knows how the volunteer staff finds the time) wins it new and loyal subscribers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Transcon buys 4th largest printer
for $130 million

[This post has been updated.]

Transcontinental Inc., Canada's largest printer, has fattened up its printing business with the $130 million acquisition of the PLM Group, Canada's fourth largest. With the purchase, Transcon also beefs up its sales force and its position in the direct marketing industry.

With the purchase, it picks up 470 employees in four facilities with reported revenues of $126 million. The all-cash offer of $3.50 a share (a 19% premium over the closing price before PLM revealed it was negotiating a sale) buys out the 51.2% controlling interest of Barry N. Pike, the founder, chairman and CEO of PLM; the directors have recommended that all shareholders tender their shares.

PLM was founded in 1987 and grew into a major niche player in the area of direct marketing products and services, premedia and digital printing.
"PLM is regarded highly by businesses, marketing firms and advertising agencies in Canada," said Luc Desjardins, President and CEO of Transcontinental, in a release. "With PLM, we will become a leader in Canada's direct marketing industry, a fast-growing segment where Transcontinental is already a major player in the United States; PLM will also complement our product and service offering in the Greater Toronto Area. PLM brings Transcontinental a dynamic sales force, which will augment cross-selling opportunities."
A story in the Globe and Mail notes the likely connection between a resurgence of direct marketing (or printed "junk mail") and the advent of "do not call" restrictions on telemarketing, noting that printers in the U.S. bought up direct marketing capacity in the U.S. following similar legislation.

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Mega-Vogue's growth linked to
shopping site

The September issue of Vogue has always seemed as though it should come with its own set of wheels; this September's issue is its biggest ever, with 727 advertising pages, proclaiming itself "extra, extra large".

The growth in pages, according to a story in the New York Times, seems to have been achieved by closely linking print advertising with ShopVogue.TV, a potent form of "added value" which offers links so viewers can purchase products featured in the print ads, and shows videos of runway shows, fashion ad campaigns. Each advertiser who bought a national page qualified for inclusion on the site.
For Vogue, which is owned by the Condé Nast Publications unit of Advance Publications, the channel is a major push into the world of fashion-related video entertainment; the channel will start with more than 240 minutes of original online video content.
“America seems to be very interested in entertainment about fashion,” said Thomas A. Florio, publishing director of Vogue.

ShopVogue.TV is not technically a retail site; the “shop” function allows visitors to click through to the Web sites of the advertisers or their online merchant partners. Vogue does not take a cut of any of the sales made through its site. (Condé Nast, which is privately held, does not disclose its finances and declined to say how much was spent on this campaign.)

Vogue expects to draw about half a million visitors to the channel in the first few months, or first “season.” The channel will be advertised on fashion Web sites, on the sides of 270 Manhattan buses, and, of course, in the print pages of September Vogue.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

MediaScout & Maisonneuve: a mystery

Today in the email, another edition of MediaScout, the news digest prepared daily by Maisonneuve magazine in Montreal, containing another brilliant precis (by Daniel Casey) of the so-called news of the day. The topic is the Montebello Summit as covered (or not covered, or covered up) in what MediaScout calls the Big Seven (Globe & Mail, National Post, La Presse, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star, CBC TV News and CTV News). As is often the case, the report today in MediaScout is much better written and more to the point than any of the accounts that it summarizes. The question is: how does Maisonneuve, a literary quarterly with the limited resources of a “cultural” magazine, continue to produce such a high quality news publication? And who are these people, the writers of MediaScout: Daniel Casey, Daniel Tencer, Jordan Himelfarb, Valeries Howes, Claire Ward? We imagine them locked in an attic somewhere in Montreal, speed-reading the news and then writing about it in well-formed sentences, all before dawn—how much black coffee does it take? Since signing on for MediaScout a couple of years ago, I haven’t paid for a single newspaper. (Out west of course we supplement MediaScout with the excellent online coverage at The Tyee.)

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Geist steps out in a new outfit

Geist magazine, which has until now had a fairly simple, comely homespun garment for its website, has invested in a spiffy and sophisticated new look and turbocharged functionality. It has been accomplished without losing the eclectic charm of its contents.
After a year of brainstorming, debating, tweaking and tinkering, the all-new has leapt into the cyberworld. Hats off to Dave Egan for direction and programming, Bay Dodd for design and redesign, and to Sarah Maitland, C. E. Coughlan, Patty Osborne, Carra Simpson and Laura Potter for content-wrangling. The Geist Foundation, noted for putting the North back into North America since 1990, welcomes you to a site where you can always expect a salubrious mix of ideas and culture, 100% made in Canada.

Writer, editor, teacher and profilic freelancer
Bob Collins has died

It's a very sad day when you hear that one of Canada's great editors, writing teachers, freelance writers and authors, Bob Collins, has died. But it was a great privilege to have known him and been the object of his gentle and pleasant ways.

[UPDATE: See funeral details at the end of this post*.]

When I first met Bob he had one of the best magazine writing jobs in Canada, to my mind, as "at large" editor for Reader's Digest. It meant he was self-assigning and could go virtually anywhere in the country to write about anything, and often did, with an uncanny ear for ordinary people's extraordinary dialogue. He wrote simply and clearly and made that look easier than it was.

Bob was at one time editor of the Imperial Oil Review and Toronto Life, and a staff writer for Maclean's. He was also a prolific freelancer In recent years, however, he became a full-time book author and wrote, at last count, 16 , such as Who He? Reflections on a Writing Life, Out Standing in Their Field, Dance with the One That Brung Ya*, Butter Down the Well, You Had to Be There and Prairie People. Bob never forgot his Saskatchewan roots and many of his books spoke to that history and the lore that illuminated it. He was a longtime member of the Writer's Union of Canada and a great supporter of the National Magazine Awards both as an entrant and a judge and from which he won the President's Medal from the National Magazine Awards in 1978 for best article of the year.

He inspired his daughter Catherine to go into magazines, too; she is now managing editor of Cottage Life.

[*UPDATE: Visitation Friday, August 24 2-4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Humphrey Funeral Home -- A.W. Miles Chapel, 1403 Bayview Avenue (south of Eglinton Ave. East). Memorial service and reception on Tuesday, August 28 at 2 p.m. at St. Cuthbert's Church, 1399 Bayview Avenue.]

[CORRECTION: Two of the books cited are by Bob Collins, a writer, but not the Bob Collins written about in this post. Apologies for the error. See "comments" below.]

(photo: Evelyn DeMille, 2004)


Azure asks an important question

Azure, the magazine about art, architecture, design and interiors, tackles a touchy subject that should set the chattering classes abuzz: a cover story in its September issue by John Bentley Mays, asks pointedly about the Daniel Liebskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition to the venerable Royal Ontario Museum.
Easy to hate, impossible to simply like, does the Crystal show the future or simply mirror our showbizzy present?

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Flare unveils new look with September issue

Fashion magazine Flare is unveiling a redesign when its September issue arrives on newsstands across Canada on Monday. With the redesign, which has been planned for two years, there is a new logo, new fonts and coverline treatment.

There are several new departments and the print magazine has a "web" feel to many of the inside pages, integrating it with its popular website, which was itself relaunched in March. The cover of the new issue features Oscar nominated actress Keira Knightley.

The launch of the redesign is being supported by an advertising campaign that will be carried in many other Rogers Media titles throughout the fall, urging readers to "Catch Flare's New Look".

"Change is definitely in the air at Flare, and September was the perfect time to showcase our brand new look," commented Lisa Tant, editor-in-chief.

(The magazine has indeed gone through some significant changes, including the new look for the magazine, the relaunch of the website, hiring Tim Blanks former columnist with archrival Fashion magazine but probably most significantly, a changing of guard in management, when longtime Flare publisher David Hamilton was succeeded by associate publisher Orietta Minatel.)
(Above, how it looked in September 06)


Friday, August 17, 2007

Traditional British newsstand leaders slumping

Doubtless a sunny summer Friday is not the time to print gloomy news about magazines, but perhaps there is light at the end of the Canadian tunnel in this story from the Independent in Britain. It points out that most categories of magazines took a significant hit with the publication this week of the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures. In Britain, some 90% of magazines sell on newsstands or through news agents, whereas in Canada most consumer magazines are sold by subscription.

In Britain, Ian Reeves points out, the 100 best-selling, paid-for magazines sold 31 million copies 12 months ago and now sell 24 million, a decline of 22.5%.

Does that mean it's all over for the magazine industry? Are we all too busy poking each other on Facebook to have time to nip to the newsagents?

Well, not quite. The Periodical Publishers Association reckons that expenditure on magazines is actually on the rise. It estimates a figure of £1.58bn for annual cover price revenue, based on this set of circulation figures -a number very slightly up on last year. So even though we're buying fewer magazines, we're spending slightly more on them because of price increases.

There may be many contributing factors, such as the growth of free magazines -- for instance the forthcoming launch of launch of AlphaOne, backed by some big industry names including former IPC editorial director Mike Soutar, aiming to give away 500,000 copies on the streets of large cities -- data or analysis errors, the impact of digital publications and so on. It may be a momentary glitch. Or it may be a trend that will see paid newsstand sales continue to slide.


Cosmo TV coming to Canada

Cosmopolitan TV is coming to Canada as Corus Entertainment cuts a deal with Hearst Corporation to mount a 24-hour television version of the world's top-selling magazine for young women starting in 2008. This according to a story in Media in Canada.

The joint venture is not the first: there are already Cosmo TV shows in 20 other countries, including Spain, Mexico and Argentina. The Canadian channel will be targetted to women 18 - 34 and will run as a national, English-language, category 2 digital specialty service.

In Canada, the 24-hour channel will be targeted to women 18-34 and be a national, English-language, category 2 digital specialty service.
"Corus is delighted to have the opportunity to work with Hearst on this globally-recognized brand," says Corus president/CEO John Cassaday in a release. "With our past experience in creating successful niche-targeted television services, and our expertise in marketing to women, Cosmopolitan TV is a perfect fit for Corus."

Redwood appears to have lost major
Kraft custom publishing account

[This item has been updated]

It appears that Redwood Custom Communications of Toronto, the largest custom publisher in the country, has lost one of its biggest clients. All or perhaps part of the account to produce custom magazines for Kraft Foods (What's Cooking in Canada, Food & Family in the U.S.) has been scooped by the giant U.S. publisher Meredith Corporation (Better Homes & Gardens etc.).

Rumours seem to be confirmed by a job posting at Meredith, looking for an Account Director, which says in part: "The Account Director will manage a team of Account Supervisors and an Account Executive who are based in Chicago, New York and perhaps Toronto to run the Kraft Food & Family business." An editorial and production team (13 specific jobs) is also being advertised on

[UPDATE: Apparently Redwood is now shutting down its Chicago office. In addition to Kraft, the company had at one time produced a custom publication for the state of Illiniois.]

Word on the street is that there is soon to be a major announcement at a staff meeting at Redwood's Front Street headquarters in Toronto. Meanwhile the What's Cooking image and information about Food & Family continues to be available on the Redwood web site.

The 5-times a year Food & Family magazines have a combined circulation of 12 million across North America, including What's Cooking in English Canada (which has 3.5 million readers according to PMB), its Quebec counterpart Qu’est-ce qui mijote, Food and Family and the Hispanic edition Comida y Familia in the U.S.

The irony is that the word leaked out because of the announcement this week that Transcontinental Media has struck a deal with a British custom publisher to go after custom publishing business aggressively in Canada and the United States. (Coincidentally, Transcon is in partnership with Meredith Corporation in publishing a Canadian edition of More magazine, which was launched this spring.)

Meredith is one of the largest publishers of magazines in the U.S. with 15 paid consumer publications and 200 special interest publications, many with the Better Homes & Gardens brand. It also owns 14 television stations. Its integrated marketing division is one of the largest custom publishing operations around, with many of the best known U.S. companies and brands and clients including Carnival Cruises, Century 21, DirecTV, Nestle, Daimler/Chrysler, Jeep, MetLife, and The Principal Financial Group, among others.

The Kraft move may also be yet another outcome of a consolidation that was announced in 2005. Kraft said it was restructuring its North American operations and having the Canadian business report directly through its Illinois headquarters.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

U.S. colleges find magazine rankings
too useful to give up easily

You may recall the kerfuffle a while ago when a number of Canadian universities decided to boycott the Maclean's university rankings as being unfair and misleading.

The Maclean's rankings were modelled on similar U.S. News and World Report university rankings. Some U.S. colleges wanted to boycott those, too. But, according to a story in Folio:, it's uphill work. More than 60 universities signed a protest letter, agreeing not to use the rankings in their marketing materials. Some of those went ahead and used the data anyway on their web sites.
According to the AP, at least four [of the] colleges... use some form of the ranking on their Web sites. Wesleyan brags it is “consistently ranked as one of country’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report.” Birmingham-Southern notes that it “has been ranked among the top National Liberal Arts Colleges in the country by U.S. News.”

The marketability of a top spot on U.S. News’ list appears to be too tempting for schools to ignore.

None of the top 30 liberal arts colleges included in last year’s issue have signed the letter, nor have any of the top 100 universities.
“To end a corrupt and misleading game, the winners, not the losers, have to call it quits,” Bard College president Leon Botstein wrote in a letter to the magazine.

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Beaver and Kayak team up with software company to launch history game

A new Canadian history video game has been launched by Bitcasters, a Toronto company, in strategic partnership with Canada's National History Society (pubishers of The Beaver magazine and Kayak, the history magazine for kids) and the Historica Foundation.

The History Canada Game, according to a story in the Georgia Straight, grew out of a conversation 10 years ago between Nathon Gunn, CEO of Bitcasters and Thomas Axworthy. The Queen's University history professor who was then a director of Charles Bronfman's CRB Foundation, responsible for creating the historical Heritage Minutes on CBC Television.

In the game, players take on the role of one of nine civilizations in 1525, in the era of New France, when Europeans began populating what is now Eastern Canada. Gamers can play as one of seven Native cultures–Abenaki, Algonquin, Huron, Mi'kmaq, Mohawk, Montagnais, or Ojibwe–or as English or French settlers.

"I think that universally people enjoy playing as one of the original Canadian civilizations," Gunn said, "because it's exciting to try and turn the tables on the major European powers. In fact, the game is designed to be fairly realistic, so it's not easy to do, but it's within the realm of possibility to ally with the other original civilizations and resist the arrival of the explorers."

For now, the plan is to give away 100,000 copies of the game; it is available free to PC gamers who already have the strategy title Civilization III, developed by Firaxis and published by 2K Games. Gunn has discussed distribution with major financial institutions and media companies.

The first lawyer shall be last
and the last lawyer first?

The counter-attack against Maclean's and its recent "Lawyers are rats" cover proceeds apace. Erstwhile Liberal political operative and National Post blogger and columnist Warren Kinsella wades in with a column called "The rats fight back".
As pretty much every lawyer will recall, at the end of July, Maclean's magazine made a bad decision to promote a bad book by a certain Philip Slayton about a few bad ex-lawyers.
He even manages to make a Biblical reference.
As it is said in the Gospel of Matthew: when the end times arrive, and God is separating the good ones from the bad ones, hypocrites will always "receive a greater damnation." So when Slayton condemns bill-padding -- then clearly implies that he engaged in the practice--it is eminently fair to draw attention to his suggested rank hypocrisy.


Magazines Canada asks feds to support PAP and rein in Canada Post

Magazines Canada has asked the federal government to make Canada Post Corporation meeting its cultural responsibilities before authorizing substantial changes to its mandate and role or in its pricing structure. In its annual pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, the national magazine association said that the publications assistance program (PAP -- postal subsidy) is critical.
Canada Post has indicated it will not continue to support the PAP financially. Yet the company receives approximately $275 million in revenue from the Publications Mail category of its business (including PAP-subsidized mail), and continues to secure higher revenue levels each year. If CPC does withdraw its support while the Government of Canada concludes that contributions to the PAP will continue or increase to meet growing demand, the budget shortfall would have to be sourced from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Given that the Government of Canada is the sole shareholder of Canada Post, there appears to be little rationale in shifting this investment from one federal government budget to another–especially considering the ongoing role of CPC in magazine delivery.
It wants the government either to instruct Canada Post to continue contributing its current $15 million to the PAP or else ensure that the Department of Canadian Heritage replaces it. (The government forced the CP contribution to continue through to April 2009; the current request is, in essence, asking that this be made permanent.)

MC also wants to head off the possible loss of a "national delivery model" in favour of price based on distance:
"...a pricing framework which moves away from a ‘national delivery model’where distribution to each region is at a relatively equal cost, to a more distance-related pricing scheme could significantly undermine the capacity of the industry to provideCanadian-content to all regions of the country. Undoubtedly, more distance dependent pricing will favour certain regions and more populated areas at the expense of other Canadians."
Postal costs are without doubt the fastest growing cost in the industry, said the organization.
"Concurrently, Canada Post has increased its revenue from each piece of Publications Mail by about 43% over the last 6 years. These increases not only add to publisher costs, they also undermine the value of the PAP program. The Government of Canada, through the Department of Canadian Heritage’s PAP program, helps defray the costs of magazine postage for eligible magazines by paying a percentage of postal costs. As postal costs rise, the value of each dollar invested declines."
The magazine programs of Heritage are under review right now and Magazines Canada's appearance before the committee is intended, at least in part, to convince the government to adopt programs and policies that assist the industry (currently at 41% of sales of magazines in this country) to achieve 50% of all magazine sales.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Transcon joint venture goes after
blue chip custom publications

Transcontinental Media, Canada's largest consumer publisher and the largest printer in Canada, has gone into partnership with a British firm to launch a custom publishing agency called Transcontinental Custom Communications, operating in Canada and the U.S.

This means that Transcon is going head-to-head with Redwood Custom Communications, the Toronto-based offshoot of Redwood in the U.K., the largest custom publisher in the world. Redwood publishes magazines for Kraft (What's Cooking/Food & Family) and for RBC Royal Bank, General Motors and Sears Canada. [UPDATE: See comments; Redwood may have lost the Kraft account recently.]

The joint venture is with Seven Squared, a U.K.-based player that publishes Sainsbury's, the U.K.'s largest paid-for custom magazine done on behalf of one of the country's leading grocers. (Six of the top 10 sellers among newsstand titles in the U.K. are said to be custom publications).

Seven Squared produces approximately 30 other publications for clients including Fortnum & Mason, Marks & Spencer, the Metropolitan Police Service, Unichem and Waterstone's Booksellers as well as several U.K. government departments. The new agency will offer fully integrated relationship marketing services that include database marketing, research, variable printing, photo studio and premedia tools. Nino Di Cara from Seven Squared's operation in London, England, will manage the Toronto-based operation as Director, Custom Publishing.

"Branded content offers marketers the ability to connect in an engaging and non-intrusive way with their target audience, while providing high value returns," said Natalie Larivière, President, Transcontinental Media, in a press release. "Combining the experience of Seven Squared with Transcontinental Canadian media expertise will provide best-in-class branded content services to our clients' increasingly global integrated marketing strategies."

Simon Chappell,Director, Seven Squared, said: "Building on Transcontinental's established array of media and marketing services to create Transcontinental Custom Communications is a great step forward in our group's evolution," said . "We are looking forward to working with North American clients and showing them how custom publishing and relationship marketing has the potential to unlock great value from a customer base."

Seven Squared is itself a combined entity, formed in April 2007 when Seven Publishing Group combined its custom publishing division with Square One Group. With total revenues of C$63 million (£30 million), Seven Squared has been named "fastest growing custom publishing agency" according to Marketing magazine (U.K.).

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Ziff Davis teetering on the brink of breakup

It's a sad spectacle, the potential dismantling of a magazine publishing company. So it is with Ziff-Davis Media, the company that was founded in 1927 but is best known today for being a major player in the field of computer and internet related publishing. It is publisher of PC Magazine and eWeek as well as being big in broadcasting.

Today, it announced that it wouldn't make a scheduled debt payment and had consulted a well-known firm of bankruptcy advisers but is hoping to restructure its business outside the courts.

According to a story by Matt Kinsman in Folio:, ZD has been carrying US$390 million in long-term debt. Today's announcement leads some industry observers to say it's all over but the shouting:
'This is the first step in the public, ugly dismantling of one of the most storied companies in our business,' says one source, who described Alvarez & Marsal as the 'absolute last ditch in bankruptcy advisors.'

Two weeks ago Ziff Davis closed on its $150 million sale of its Enterprise Group, and named Jason Young as CEO, replacing Robert Callahan, who remained as chairman. Ziff’s Enterprise Group had been characterized as the easier sell among the three Ziff divisions on the block. The $62.3 million Consumer/Small Business Group and the $39.1 million Games Group generate less revenue than the $79.6 million Enterprise Group.

'The debt had actually been holding up during the sales process but now they have to admit they couldn’t sell the business to cover the debt,' says the source. 'They’re now going to enter a process of long negotiation. The distress fund guys are going to come in and buy it at 50 cents on the dollar and try to sell it for 75 cents. [CEO] Jason [Young]is a good guy and he’s done a terrific job operating the business but this is totally outside his realm of expertise.'

Big media companies:
"We buy online properties. Now what?"

Big media companies, particularly in the U.S., are good at snapping up new media opportunities; unfortunately, they don't know what to do with them when they get them, says a story in CNet. It cites a number of examples:
"More than a few of the recent acquisitions have so far been letdowns, "said the story, citing the Conde Nast purchase of Reddit last year, only to see the social news site increasingly eclipsed by competitor Digg, which remains independent.

And the users of the formerly independent sites often aren't happy, either.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always go over so well with the user base--just think of all the fake Rupert Murdoch profiles that turned up on MySpace after the social-networking site was acquired. TreeHugger's left-leaning visitors who posted comments, for example, were split about the prospect of big-media ownership. "The risk is that even if Discovery is a great partner now, it will be bought out by Rupert Murdoch or some other ultra-conservative," one said, adding that "you just never know what will happen when you transfer control to a large corporate entity." Another said, "I do understand that Discovery will help the message grow, but does it have a heart?"


British city to be research laboratory
as "Magazine Town"

Researchers in Britain, working with the Periodical Publishing Association(PPA), have selected a mid-sized city in England as a "Magazine Town". Guildford, Surrey (the high street show below at right) will be a ‘magazine laboratory’ and the project will be launched as part of Britain's Magazine Week, 17-23 September. The purpose is to investigate, in depth, the consumer buying and reading habits of the population of this charming county town, just southwest of London. The Magazine Town project is being carried out by PPA in association with Wessenden Marketing.

A consumer panel will be chosen for its demographic profile, covering a broad range of magazine readers. The panelists will answer several questionnaires and keep an online diary of their purchasing and reading habits during September. They will also be invited to attend a ‘Magazine Night’ in a key retail outlet to raise awareness of the event and to celebrate Magazines Week.
Guildford will also be home to ‘Magazine School’ in which students will complete questionnaires, take part in focus groups and will be visited by magazine editors to speak about magazines as a medium as well as a career choice. The initiative will generate both local and national media interest and will form part of the overall PR campaign underpinning Magazine Week.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Josée Verner named Minister of
Canadian Heritage

The new Minister of Canadian Heritage is Josée Verner, formerly Minister of International Co-operation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet today. Verner replaces Bev Oda in the portfolio. Heritage is important to the magazine industry since under it contains crucial magazine support programs such as the publications assistance program (postal subsidy) and the Canada Magazine Fund as well as funding for the Canada Council.

She's got some good things going for her -- a comfortably bilingual francophone and a woman with lots of staff and policy experience. But her focus will probably be on the run up to the election, whenever it might be, particularly in Québec as it celebrates its 400th anniversary and hosts the Francophonie meeting in Quebec later next year. It makes one wonder if she'll pay as much attention to those important departmental files as they require. Whether she will be a strong minister is an open question. Those who were critical of Bev Oda may find that they should have been careful what they wished for. Verner's rise in the cabinet is doubtless in part because she was one of the prime minister's early supporters.

Verner was first elected as a Member of Parliament in January 2006, from the riding of Louis-St-Laurent after a number of years in Québec politics, working forformer Premier Robert Bourassa and for the deputy speaker of Québec’s National Assembly. She had been in the federal cabinet since February 2006, when she was appointed as the Minister of International Co-operation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages; later, her duties were expanded to include being spokesperson for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Québec responsibility for the Official Languages portfolio. She served as the chair of the Québec caucus for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Excerpt from Toronto Star report of the shuffle:
Heritage Minister Bev Oda takes over International Cooperation. Josee Verner moves to Heritage after an undistinguished stint as minister of international cooperation, where she drew fire for not doing a better job of telling the story of Canada’s development efforts in Afghanistan.
Here is a letter of welcome that Magazines Canada sent to the new minister.

Two after-the-appointment analyses from the Globe and Mail:
Verner inherits tough tasks
A low profile despite years of experience


Half of time online spent reading
content, study says

A study over four years by Neilsen/NetRatings found that most of people's time online is spent on reading news and entertainment content, according to a Reuters story. This is both good news for traditional magazines of this ilk, given that most of them have, or are now developing, robust online offerings. The study found that
  • viewing content accounts for 47 percent of time spent online in 2007, up from 34 percent in 2003.
  • web search accounted for 5 percent of time spent online in 2007 from 3 percent in 2003.
  • time spent on commerce sites such as fell 5 percent and accounted for 15 percent of time spent in 2007.
  • time spent on communications such as e-mail fell 28 percent to 33 percent of time spent online in 2007, down from 46 percent in 2003. (part of this is probably accounted for by traffic being diverted into instant messaging)


When pretty good is good enough

Further to the crumbling of pay walls at various key news sites, and particularly the decision of the New York Times to discontinue Times Select (see our earlier post). Scott Karp on his Publishing 2.0 website makes a very good point about economics of information being the main driver.
The new economics of media make charging for content nearly impossible because there is always someone else producing similar content for free — even if the free content isn’t “as good as” the paid content by some meaningful metric, it doesn’t matter because there’s so much content of at least proximate quality that the paid content provider has virtually no pricing power. As smart, talented, and insightful as the New York Times columnists behind the paid wall are, the are too many other smart, talented, insightful commentators publishing their thoughts on the web for free.
The monopoly of excellence, he says, where high quality content is competing with a proliferation of "pretty good" and "good enough" content, is coming rapidly to an end.

[Thanks to Michael Brooke for pointing me to this.]


BCAMP up in the air

For the last six months, the BC Association of Magazine Publishers has been stumbling along under veils of secrecy thrown over a putative “labour dispute” that has been boiling away since February, an odd state of affairs for a staff consisting of two people working in one room. No mention of the dispute was made at the BCAMP Annual General Meeting in June, and the only committee that made no report to the AGM was the so-called Human Resources Committee, whose members were not identified.

In the aftermath of the AGM, a few rank-and-filers learned to their dismay that at least some of the Directors on the board knew nothing about the “dispute,” which had become so inflamed that the two employees engaged or embroiled in it were permitted to work in the same room only in the presence of a third party. This policy (unreported to the membership and at least some of the Board) must have posed no difficulty as the BCAMP office is (in my memory) a tiny room in the spire of the historic Sun Tower on Pender Street, where third parties have merely to open the door to separate first and second parties in the act of lunging for each other’s throats.

Attempts by BCAMP members to find out what’s going on with either the “dispute,” which is still unresolved, or with the anonymous Human Resources Committee, have been spurned in emails from the president who, having consulted a “solicitor” and a “litigator,” has concluded that no discussion of the putative dispute can include rank-and-file members, who unlike board members are unprotected against “potential liability” and therefore would be putting themselves at risk. (The same rank-and-filers observe however unfairly that BCAMP has operated for years as a coterie of board members determined to protect the membership from damaging itself with too much information.)

Publishing spectacles are not unknown to the historic Sun Tower, originally the World Tower, when it was the tallest building in the British Empire (103 metres), and owned by the World newspaper. In 1918 Harry Gardiner, aka the Human Fly, scaled its heights equipped only with bare fingers and sneakers, while thousands watched from the street. Five years later, after the Vancouver Sun moved into the tower, another huge crowd gathered in the street to watch Harry Houdini escape from a straitjacket while dangling from a rope above the sidewalk. They just don’t make publishing spectacles like they used to anymore.

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