Chocolat magazine to melt away; Rogers announces closure
Rogers Publishing is killing Chocolat magazine, the end of a controversial cooperative venture with Canada Post, launched just last year. The staff of the English, French and online components of the magazine have been informed. Significant layoffs are expected, though some staffers will be absorbed in other titles. The last issue, October, will be distributed September 17.
Marc Blondeau, Senior Vice-President, Consumer Publishing, Rogers Publishing Limited explained in a memo to staff that "the path to profitability was longer than we expected".
Decisions like this are never easy to make. Leading companies in any industry must take calculated risks and then learn from their experiences in the marketplace. Despite strong reader support as shown by internal research and the fact that we broke ground with a number of new advertisers, overall advertising support has not reached the levels needed to sustain publication.As revealed in earlier posts Chocolat was presented to the marketplace as a new take on the home decor category. Its principle circulation gimmick was that it was sent to about a quarter of a million people who paid a fee for change of address notices with Canada Post and who were, therefore, presumed to be interested in home improvements, decor and renovations.
It was intended that Chocolat would build on the success of Rogers' other shopping-related title LouLou , its bilingual publishing expertise and the company's considerable marketing and sales clout. Apparently the advertising community wasn't as quick as Rogers had hoped in taking up the opportunity. A full page in the magazine was $13,905 according to the online media kit.
[UPDATE] Media in Canada quotes Brenda Bookbinder, portfolio director at Toronto-based PHD Canada, saying that Chocolat's demise is "very, very surprising. I thought the concept of a shopping book in the shelter category really made sense when they launched. "Also, its publisher was Rogers, which has a lot of resources, so you don't expect that they're going to fold a book," she adds. "Their official line is that this is happening because of unenthusiastic ad support, but if they were having troubles, I didn't notice. We certainly put a lot of clients into it. And there's a lot of growth at (comparable) Canadian magazines."
[FURTHER UPDATE] Masthead magazine's website (sub req'd) reports that conversion of freely distributed copies and newsstand sell-through of Chocolat was low.
The free distribution would end after a year. The idea was to get readers to switch to the $14.95 paid subscription. The conversion rate was low: Chocolat had 3,802 English subscribers and 942 French subscribers as of Feb. 13, 2007, according to a sworn statement published in CARD.
Rogers circulated 30,000 copies of each issue on newsstands, selling it for $4.95. According to CARD, the average single copy sales of the English version were 12,500, while the French version averaged 8,000.