Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What have we been saying?
What we need is one, big organization

More than two years ago, right here, we posted an item in which we made what we thought was a pretty persuasive case for one, big magazine organization. In light of the fact that the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) is cautiously, and internally, discussing an alliance of some kind with Magazines Canada (see the mastheadonline story -- sub req'd), we thought we'd reprint the item here. It still makes sense to us.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

One magazine organization

The division of the Canadian magazine industry into several different associations -- consumer magazines, for trade, for editors, for the magazine awards, for circulators, for newsstand marketers -- has always been easy to understand, but difficult to justify. It is quite possible for disparate groups to gather in one place -- witness the Creating Canada conference in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. But maintaining that collegiality and focus seems to be the issue.

With the likely change of name of the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association to Magazines Canada come this June, comes also a first rate opportunity for the creation of a more realistic alignment of the various organizations. Magazines Canada has the potential to be the umbrella organization for all kinds of magazines and magazine organizations. The inclusive name could be inclusive in fact.

The merger of Magazines Canada with the CMPA appeared to be achieved relatively painlessly, at least from an outside perspective. With this, the organization that used to promote the larger consumer magazines continued its promotional role but now on behalf of all consumer magazines, including the predominantly smaller members of the CMPA.

There is no obvious reason why such an umbrella can't cut similar and appropriate deals with almost any existing organization, as it has with the National Magazine Awards Foundation. The NMAF has retained its own board and its own autonomy while moving into the CMPA's offices in Toronto and enjoying the benefits of shared facilities and services. Such an arrangement would probably suit the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME). And, for instance, why couldn't there also be a self-governing division or caucus for contract and custom publishers? And for association magazines? And literary magazines? And religious magazines? Each could have as much togetherness as it could handle, perhaps with its own advisory board or committee, but enjoy the undoubted benefits of having a robust, national office with a professional secretariat.

Trade magazines naturally value their autonomy and point to their very different needs and takes on some issues like relations with Canada Post and government support programs. But there is nothing to say that the Canadian Business Press (CBP) couldn't fashion its own relationship with Magazines Canada. Maintaining autonomy in governance and programming doesn't preclude sharing offices, support staff and clout.

This last aspect -- having the various parts of the Canadian magazine industry speak with one voice -- will never be easy, but it will be made more likely and possible by cooperation on the prosaic issues of serving memberships by becoming a "big tent". For one thing, Canadian Heritage and Canada Post would have a harder time playing one part of the industry off against another.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the idea of merging CSME with Magazines Canada no doubt has merit in theroy, I wonder if the interests of editors are the same as the interests of publishers? For example just look at the recent clash at Chatelaine, when Kim Pittaway refused to be "a hand puppet" of the publisher.

Mags Can usually celebrates niche titles and niche voices in Canada. So why not niche organizations, with distinct voices?

Smaller Canadian magazines already complain about Rogers and Transcon getting too much PAP or too much Mag Fund money under the current model. Will smaller magazines be smaller in a bigger tent? Will the voice they currently have be drowned out with others seeking their say?

One Industry, One voice. Hummm, it reminds me of Star Trek:

"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated into the Borg."

2:55 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I think the whole point of the post and of the current discussions is not towards a merger, in which CSME would disappear into Magazines Canada. Rather it would be the kind of arrangement already enjoyed by the National Magazine Awards Foundation, which shares office space and facilities and doubtless receives many benefits from the collaboration, yet retains its own identity. That is the MPA model and I am surprised at the Borg analogy -- what is not looked for her is some kind of "hive mind" with one, shared thought, but a mutual benefit society in which everybody wins.

3:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MPA model? You mean the way the Americans do it? Gee, and I thought we had a better, Made-In- Canada solution all these years.

7:05 pm  

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