Monday, April 14, 2008

Mags Canada board recommends allowing trade magazines as members

The board of Magazines Canada is recommending to its members that trade magazines be welcomed as members. The proposed bylaw change will be considered at the Magazines Canada annual general meeting in June and would remove the restriction on trades from its bylaws which have, until now, allowed membership only for consumer magazines.

If approved, as seems reasonably likely, this bylaw change could result in a tectonic shift in the business, clearing the way for developing some sort of "trade" caucus within an expanded Magazines Canada. And it is not good news for Canadian Business Press (CBP) which, until now, has said that it speaks for the business-to-business sector.

Frequent readers will know already that one of the biggest publishers of trade magazines, Rogers Publishing, has pulled its members and their membership fees out of CBP and started talks with Magazines Canada. CBP says that Rogers represented 20% of its members and 9% of its revenue.

However, it doesn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

Should other major trade publishing companies follow Rogers's lead, CBP might be unsustainable. While there have been suggestions in the past that the two associations merge, and that the industry speak with one voice, there has been significant resistance from the CBP side. In fact, that option is probably now off the table since CBP President Phil Boyd -- a paid employee of the association -- has said he believes that the two kinds of magazines are "fundamentally different" and he is firmly in favour of maintaining an independent trade publishing association.

There are implications beyond the membership budget for CBP. For instance, the Kenneth R. Wilson (KRW) Awards for trades might have expected 175 entries from Rogers books in previous years; this year it got 10. CBP is also a senior partner (with Masthead magazine) in the annual conference Magazines University. (At one time, Magazines Canada and the Circulation Marketing Association of Canada (CMC) were also partners in Mags U, but pulled out ago and are now in the second year of running an event of their own, called MagNet in partnership with the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME). The two conferences run simultaneously this year.

CBP has 43 member companies with 153 titles, including: Business Information Group (32); CLB Media (23); Annex Printing and Publishing (17);Baum Publications Ltd. (7); June Warren Publishing Ltd. (4); Kenilworth Media Inc. (4)

Magazines Canada has more than 300 member consumer magazines (not yet including Rogers' trade titles).

One of the first postings on this blog three years ago was about the need for discussion about an umbrella organization for magazines in Canada. Most of what was said then remains necessary and plausible.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a past Chair of the Canadian Business Press and a current member of Magazines Canada, I advocate one industry association representing, and uniting, both consumer and trade magazines in Canada. Time for the CBP and MagsCanada to sit down together and make that happen.

11:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The notion that there should be one organization speaking for both consumer and business magazines is obviously appealing at first glance, but a bit simplistic. There are real differences in our business models, and to date, there has been no evidence that the specific needs of business magazines and the issues we face will be given equal time and treatment within Magazines Canada. Quite the contrary.

The most contentious issue - whether or not request circulation magazines should be as entitled to government funding as paid circulation magazines – remains. However, there is more to it than just that. I suggest that it would be worth having this blog go below the surface and delve into some of those differences. The industry as a whole would be better served by a real examination of the issues.

While the outer packaging of the “one voice” model may be appealing, the inside is not so neat and tidy. One voice is not necessarily better than two.

5:11 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I agree that there has been no evidence that the specific needs of business magazines could be met under a "big tent" but, equally, there has been no evidence to the contrary. We aren't likely to resolve the matter or get that evidence if there is no willingness to sit down and talk about it.

Most b-to-b and consumer magazines are in the same business -- renting readers to advertisers, so the business models are not that different. The major difference is that most consumer magazines have a stream of circulation revenue which represents roughly 30% of the total, while b-to-b depends completely on advertising.

Government support represents less than 2% of total revenues (Statistics Canada 2003-04) so I think it is somewhat (to use your word) simplistic to cite this as an "unbridgeable" impediment. Surely sensible people could negotiate a way round this. What other untidy bones of contention do you see beneath the surface?

9:11 pm  

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