Saturday, February 28, 2009

Former T.O. magazine founder, turned lawyer, writes murder mystery

So that's what happened to Bobby Rotenberg.

The Globe and Mail published a story on Saturday by Kate Hammer concerning the about-to-be-published mystery novel by Toronto lawyer (now Robert) Rotenberg.

But, as the story noted, he once founded T.O. magazine, which is sometimes fondly remembered for having been a feisty (if, ultimately, unsuccessful) attempt to give Toronto a different kind of city magazine. He managed to keep it going for seven years (1984 -91).
At the age of 37, after spending most of his adult life trying to avoid becoming a lawyer, he finally began practising criminal law. But he made time for writing. That meant waking up at 5 a.m. for an hour of writing. Or, as his children grew older, stealing a couple of hours to write while they attended a birthday party, or an hour during hockey practice.
Rotenberg, went on to have an unusual criminal law career in Toronto, defending what the writer called "some of the city's most unusual clients".

Now, Rotenberg is publishing Old City Hall (Simon and Schuster), which is being launched in hardcover on Tuesday. It takes Toronto as its canvas and takes advantage of Rotenberg's legal experiences with murder and mayhem of various sorts.
"I wasn't trying to write about Toronto as the world's most multicultural city or the greatest city. Just Toronto, warts and all," Mr. Rotenberg said. "And the warts are much more interesting than the other stuff."
Rotenberg told the British website CrimeTime that when he started out (after T.O. folded), writing was a way of paying his bills:

Back in 1991, I was thirty-seven years old, my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was broke. I'd been called to the bar ten years earlier and spent a decade doing everything I could to escape the work-a-day fate of practicing law.

Magazine editor, radio show producer, film executive. I lived in London, Paris and New York. But now here I was, walking into Scarborough Provincial Court in suburban Toronto, briefcase and Criminal Code of Canada in hand.

Nothing like a mortgage to concentrate the mind. I built my law practice and secretly started writing. I finished my first book in 2001. It was a thriller and I made damn sure it had no lawyers, no courtroom scenes. Then I got an agent in New York.

The day she told me she there were no buyers, I started Old City Hall, named after the central criminal court in downtown Toronto. Stuck a dead body in chapter one. It had taken me a decade to own up to the cliché "write what you know." Perhaps, a la T. S. Eliot, I'd arrived at the place I started and knew it for the first time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Where's the magazine tax credit in Ontario?

Am I alone in wondering how it can be justified for the Ontario government to make enhanced tax credits permanent for the film industry when the magazine industry in the province is the only cultural industry without a tax credit at all?

Quote, unquote: Goodbye to all that

“The thing has nothing to do with me any more.”
-- Former editor of The Walrus, Ken Alexander, quoted in a Globe and Mail profile by James Adams about life after Alexander left the magazine last June.

Facebook group protests discontinuation of small arts and literary mag funding

[This post has been updated]A Facebook group called the Coalition to Keep Canadian Heritage Support for Literary and Arts Magazines has been created to try and reverse a decision to discontinue funding for magazines under 5,000 annual circulation.The Facebook group was started by John Barton, the editor of The Malahat Review, Jon Fiorentino, editor of Matrix, Anita Lahey, editor of ARC Poetry magazine and Andris Taskans, editor of Prairie Fire. It has already had 773 1,100 members signed up.

The new funding floor, to come into effect in about a year was announced February 17 by Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore. The Facebook group site says, in part:
With a few exceptions, the circulation of virtually every Canadian literary and arts magazine, large and small, is below 5000.

We have to make sure this possibility does not become an actuality, for if it does, as April 1, 2010, these important and praiseworthy magazines will no longer qualify for funding that they have been receiving for years from the CMF and PAP despite the excellent work that they undertake for the readers and writers across Canada (and around the world)! The Coalition to Keep Canadian Heritage Support for Literary and Arts Magazine feels strongly that to render these magazines ineligible for this support would be unjust.

To quote Andris Taskans, editor of Prairie Fire, to do so would be "a slap in the face"---not only to the magazines themselves but to the many writers that they publish, many of whom began illustrious, international careers in these seminal if modest publcations. To do so would also be a "slap in the face" to the ordinary (and extraordinary) Canadians who read them.
One comment on the site suggest that the Heritage doesn't realize the importance of these little magazines or the impact the floor will have on them:
By definition little magazines are have little audiences but they do mighty deeds. Their small circulation is not a sign of failure, it is a proud tradition started by some of the most influential and yet most exclusive magazines in history--Athenaeum, Blast, Poetry, McGill Fortnightly Review, Contemporary Verse, Contact, blewointment, Tish, Brick--magazines that started the publishing careers of most of the giants of English and Canadian literature. I don't think [Heritage Minister]James Moore set out to extinguish this glorious tradition. He just doesn't know what he has done because he did NOT do his homework. Now we must do it for him.
[Hat tip to the blog Word Things]]

JPG photo mag pulled back from the brink by new investors

Interesting that JPG magazine, at death's door not too long ago, has been bought by a group of investors ande will carry on. According to a post on Techcrunch, the innovative photography magazine has been revived.
JPG launched in late 2006 with the novel idea of cutting back on publishing costs by accepting user-submitted photos and relying partially on the community to edit the magazine. But despite reaching near-profitability, the periodical announced that it was shutting down on January 2nd when its parent company 8020 Media ran out of money.

CSME discounts its memberships

The Canadian Society of Magazine Editors', as a recognition of recession-tight budgets, is discounting its membership fees, at least in part to keep up entries in its Editors' Choice Awards. (Entries are free, but at least one person from the magazine must be a member of CSME.)
Recognizing the tight budgets faced by many of our partners, friends and colleagues in the industry this year, [it says in an e-letter] CSME is reducing our membership rates for 2009 only. Patron memberships, which cover everyone on your masthead, are now $400 (a $100 discount), and individual memberships are now $75 (a $50 discount). (Those who have already paid the regular rate will be credited or refunded.)


Western Magazine Awards deadline extended

The deadline for entry the Western Magazine Awards has been extended to Friday, March 6 at 9 p.m.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flare celebrates 30 years of fashion

Flare, one of Canada's most important fashion and beauty magazines, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. First published as Miss Chatelaine in 1964, the Rogers Media title became Flare in 1979. It now has about 1.5 million readers, according to the most recent PMB research.
"As Canada's leading fashion magazine for the past 30 years, Flare has launched the careers of the country's most sought-after designers, photographers, models and editors," says Lisa Tant, editor-in-chief, in a release. "At home and abroad, Flare is recognized not only as Canada's style authority but a world-class destination for the best the fashion industry has to offer."
The anniversary celebrations will include a special edition and soon-to-be-announced gala.

"Circ Without Shame" blog debuts

Congratulations to Stacey May Fowles for her new blog called Circ Without Shame on Masthead. Fowles is now wearing more than four hats including: publisher of Shameless; circulation and marketing director at The Walrus; novelist; now circ blogger. Her first post is about the fact that small magazines have nothing to apologize for about their parsimonious and creative ways of getting readers:
Truth is the web has been an easy, cheap, DIY fix for small maggers for years; we’ve been pulling in subscribers via MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Twitter, BCC’d emails, and busy high traffic blogs because that’s all we could afford to do. As a result we’ve gotten very good at it. It’s hard for us not to chuckle when all of a sudden the bigger side of the business is embracing it in the face of hard times. (The web is not the only thing we’ve managed to master. We’re also damn good at relationships. We love our giveaways, contests, contra, sponsorship and strategic partnerships.)


Me again. Michelle Obama gets cover story treatment in People

The issue of People that reaches 3.6 million Canadian readers tomorrow carries a cover photo of Michelle Obama, highlighting a story inside about "Our Life in the White House". Since she's barely had time to unpack one might wonder what insights she will have into the matter, but apparently people can't get enough of her, or discussion of her dresses. (The pink lace dress by New York designer Tracy Reese costs $395 .)

Magazine world view

Quote, unquote: a junky vacant lot

When a newspaper dies, you don't get a comprehensive periodical to fill the void. You get an informational vacant lot into which passers-by can throw their junk.
-- columnist Debra J. Saunders writing in the
San Francisco Chronicle


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Controlled circ arts magazines no longer eligible for Canada Council support

[This post has been updated]The Canada Council for the Arts has apparently quietly dropped the so-called "Lola clause" from its guidelines that has for several years allowed controlled circulation arts and literary magazines to qualify for funding based, in part, on their advertising support.

Previously, and apparently from this year on, the Council will follow its longstanding requirement that a publication needs to have 50% paid circulation to qualify. The so-called "Lola" provisions, which were instituted in 2002, named after a now defunct Toronto art magazine, allowed eligibility if a magazine "maintain(s) at least a 25 per cent ratio of revenues from paid circulation or advertising"; the principle being that advertisers would not support a magazine that was not read. It's not known how many publications are affected by the change in the guidelines, which applies to 2010 applications that are due on March 1.

The change has been reported in a posting on the website of a magazine affected, La Scena Musicale in Montreal. Publisher and editor Wah Keung Chan said that the reversion to the previous 50% paid rule was a step backward, particularly as the Ontario Arts Council had revised its eligibility criteria last year to allow -- for the first time -- controlled circulation arts magazines and journals to qualify. The OAC criteria put a cap on circulation (30,000 copies) and the publication may carry no more than 40% advertising.
For La Scena Musicale, the issue is a matter of principle and transparency. Although controlled-circulation arts magazines represent a minority, they have been innovators in outreach for the arts and should be eligible for funding. The fact that the change was made without consultation and that concerned parties were not notified indicates a lack of transparency in the process. La Scena Musicale is planning a campaign to reverse this policy change, including an online petition and a Facebook group.
[Update: The Canada Council says that the changes to the eligibility rules were published on the website in December, a paper package went to all CC clients in January and in an electronic version 2 weeks later. It is not the practice to send out notifications to previously unsuccesful applicants or to people not considered clients. (Another rule change made program guides were excluded.)

The change was recommended by peer juries who did not feel the provision was a good fit and felt that they did not want to frustrate applicants who had little chance of being successful.

The new rule affects, at most, 1 to 3 existing clients and, in those cases the peer juries have the ability to recommend an exception be made.

The so-called Lola clause was brought in internally, without public consultation, and didn't even result in a grant being given (see comment below)since the publication that sparked it felt four times as much was what was needed. (Note: the average beginning grant for most CC clients is about $7,000.) Ultimately the magazine went out of business.]


Rogers Communications puts its advertising in play

Rogers Communications had put its media planning and buying requirements up for review, according to a story in Marketing magazine. The review puts in play an account worth some $176 million, making it the second largest amount spent, just behind Procter & Gamble. The account has been held by MediaCom (MBS).

A "baby seal" moment: National Geographic's coverage of oilsands a public relations nightmare

The current issue of National Geographic magazine may do more than all the thundering protests from environmentalists to put a stake through the heart of the Alberta oilsands. According to a column by National Post columnist Don Martin in the Vancouver Sun, the lavishly illustrated article is a public relations disaster.

This photo shoot for the magazine's influential global audience is described as the "baby-seal moment" for Alberta's oilsands, a public relations hell equal to a seal pup's skull-clubbing death that no amount of damage control can overcome, no matter how reasoned the argument.

Alberta's man in Washington, D.C., received an advance copy of the article earlier this month. He rushed it to Premier Ed Stelmach's office. The government spin doctors in Edmonton searched the 24-page spread, entitled "Scraping Bottom," for a glimmer of positive coverage, but the only rainbows they found were caused by oil slicks.

Hallmark Cards magazine closed

[This post has been updated] Hallmark Cards is shutting down its 3-year-old Hallmark Magazine and associated website, according to a posting on MediaDaily News. The magazines launched in the fall of 2006 and by the current February/March issue (which will be its last) had grown circulation to 800,000. It had seen advertising increase by 30% in 2008 over 2007.

However, despite this, Donald J. Hall, the Hallmark CEO said the company "cannot justify continued investment in the magazine at a time when we must focus our efforts and resources only on those projects that will lead to long-term profitable revenue growth."

[Update: There is an interesting post from Samir "Mr Magazine" Husni about this closure of what is apparently a successful magazine. It adds weight to his argument that the ad-driven model of magazine publishing is dead.]


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quote, unquote: sniping from the sidelines

Valleywag published a nasty little haiku about The Daily Beast as part of a review of five print-to-online crossover sites:

Tina Brown glamour
Fancy online articles
No advertising


Does geography matter. You bet.
Iowa? We're outta here...

There have been many examples of big companies buying smaller, funky titles and then promptly tamping them into a corporate mould, thereby losing the very things that made them work. There have been some Canadian examples (does anyone remember Harrowsmith being acquired by Telemedia?)

But there has rarely been a case like ReadyMade magazine, a San Franciso independent much beloved of its audience, acquired in mid-2006 by giant Meredith Corp. (Better Homes & Gardens etc.).

As part of its plan to cut and consolidate staffs, Meredith (which suffered a 50% profit decline in the first six months of its fiscal year) ordered ReadyMade -- a title with a decidedly west coast sensibility -- to move to the high corn of Des Moines, Iowa, Meredith's headquarters. According to a story in SF Gate, a site operated by the San Francisco Chronicle, all the half-dozen staff member, including the founders, Shoshana Berger and Grace Hawthorne (shown), quit rather than move.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Signs a magazine is in trouble

"The top 13 warning signs that a magazine is in trouble", published by blogger Michelle Rafter (Word Count -- freelancing in the digital age) are pretty close to the bone. I'll bet the list, which is richocheting around the blogosphere, makes a lot of freelancers pay attention to little signs they might otherwise have overlooked. Or, for that matter, some staffers might look out for these signs, too.

I would add #14: The magazine has had two publishers in 7 months.

The full spectrum -- This Magazine
(finally) goes 4-colour

After thinking about it for more than 40 years, This Magazine is taking the plunge into full colour in its March/April issue, with a "reboot" party on Tuesday, March 10 at 8 p.m. The party has all the usual attributes, plus a decorate-your-own-cupcake bar with CMYK icing to mark the occasion. It's at the Supermarket, 268 Augusta Avenue.

Nancy Fleming to be honoured by Freedom to Read Award

The Writers' Union of Canada has marked Freedom to Read Week by honouring the woman who was largely responsible for the annual week's success. The Freedom to Read Award goes to the late Nancy Fleming, former executive director of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada.
“Nancy Fleming was a tireless foe of anyone who tried to limit the rights of Canadians to read or to write what they wished,” said Wayne Grady, chair of the Union. “Her years of fighting censorship have earned her this award. Although she has sadly passed on, her energy continues to drive Freedom to Read Week. We are honoured to be a part of it.”
She helped launch Freedom to Read Week in 1984. Since then, a yearly catalogue has been published of challenges to free expression in Canada, including the fatwa issued by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini against author Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. More recently, the Writers' Union said in a release, book challenges have included the multiple charges brought against Stephen Williams and his wife Marsha Boulton, following the publication Williams’ book on Karla Homolka (all but one of the charges were later dropped), and the efforts by the Canadian Jewish Congress to remove a child’s book, Three Wishes, from an Ontario school book award reading list.
“Nancy Fleming’s dedication to fighting censorship continues to inspire us all,” said Deborah Windsor, executive director of the Writers’ Union. “The Writers’ Union of Canada has long been involved with the Freedom of Expression Committee, and we are determined to help continue the fight against censorship. It’s what Nancy Fleming would have wanted.”
The award is to be presented at a special Freedom to Read Week event on February 25 at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. The evening will feature interviews with previous award winners, journalist Derek Finkle, and Janine Fuller, owner of Vancouver’s Little Sister’s bookstore, noted for its long-standing dispute with Canada Customs over that agency’s frequent seizures of books destined for gay bookstores.
The Writers' Union of Canada is our country's national organization representing professional authors of books. Founded in 1973, the Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well being of all writers.

Magazines are not an endangered species, says Hearst president

A "self-immolating print media has taken to reporting on itself in doomsday terms", says Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines. But the American magazine is not an endangered species, she writes in an AdAge article.

Magazine readership was up 14% last year, she points out (while TV and newspaper lost viewers and readers). The number of magazines that suspended in 2008 was a "minuscule" 32 out of 19,500 titles published in the U.S. Single copy sales are down, but largely due to people not going to the store so often, where magazines are impulse purchases.

As someone who's been in this business through several of these cycles, I vividly recall how each downturn was the worst ever and how recovery invariably required a miracle. In fact, the next downturn is always the worst, and some of the recoveries have been spectacular.

Everything has a life cycle. In creative endeavors, however, it's not wise to link success or failure to larger events. No sane publisher would have launched a magazine in 1933, the low point of the Depression, when unemployment was a stunning 25%. But that's when Esquire was born. People made its debut in 1974, with the Dow falling and inflation and unemployment rising. Those two magazines have survived and prospered regardless of competition or economic flux...

In 1933, a year when every dollar mattered, The New Yorker's founders, Harold Ross and Raoul Fleischmann, published a Code of Ideals for their magazine. Ignoring the economy, they boldly announced, "Great advertising mediums are operated for the reader first, for profits second." They got their priorities right: When you truly serve the reader, the advertisers will come....

Let's just hope the failure-obsessed media coverage occasionally devotes a paragraph to the magazines that are smartly changing their business without violating their first commitment to readers who, month after month, can't seem to do without them.

A useful list of business models to sustain news

A media blogger in New Delhi, India has compiled an interesting list of 14 possible business models to apply to the news business.

Given the recent stories about the problems being faced by newspapers and newsmagazines, it's fascinating to see how many alternatives there may be. (And it's necessary, since it has been calculated it would cost an impossible $114 billion to perpetuate all American newspapers as not-for-profit entities.)

Some ideas on the list, such as a consortia of newspapers collaborating with Google, seem non-starters to me. But others are intriguing and already work well (for instance the Guardian's trust model).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Do not adjust your buying habits...

A friend sends us this sign of the times from just over the border in the U.S., reflecting the chaotic conditions in single copy distribution there (see earlier posts).

MPA cancels annual conference

The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), reeling from membership defections by some of its key members, is reported by Folio: (via Mediaweek) to be cancelling its annual conference. The American Magazine Conference is usually a big event at a glitzy resort; this year it was to be in Boca Raton, Florida. MPA president Nina Link (herself the focus of some controversy over her large salary) says in a statement:
“The cancellation of this year’s AMC is in response to the difficult economic climate facing all businesses, including the magazine industry,” MPA president Nina Link said in a statement. “We recognize that this year our members are looking at a variety of ways to achieve savings, which would include curtailing certain discretionary travel and hotel expenses. We hope to resume the AMC next year in the city of Chicago.”
The separate MPA-associated U.S. National Magazine Awards are expected to go ahead as planned.


Friday, February 20, 2009

What makes a good recession cover for
a magazine?

Hard times are a challenge for art directors -- a design challenge. Freakonomics blogger Annika Mengizen at the New York Times ponders what makes a good, or bad, recession cover. Clichés abound, of course.

As one of the commenters said, however:

And what clichés are you especially sick of by now? Articles, news headlines, and commercials that start with…“With the economy in free fall…”

Dispatches from a far southern ocean

This Magazine has been running an extraordinary series of dispatches on its blog, transmitted from the Sea Shepherd, the anti-whaling vessel confronting the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters. Emily Hunter, who will be writing an article for the May-June issue of This, has vividly described the drama of the chase, including a collision with a whaler and being hunted by a Japanese ship intent on boarding the environmentalists' boat and destroying the photographic evidence they'd collected.
The battle this year is over, but the war continues [writes Hunter]. Its a war for the whales, but its also for a larger ecology. This is a war because the political conflict over whaling has spurred dangerous confrontations this year, the most dangerous in the history of this conflict.
Read the entire "Polarized" series .

Suburban Life magazine lasts only 10 months

Suburban Life, a lifestyle title launched less than a year ago (April 2008) aimed at readers in the sprawl that surrounds the Golden Horseshoe, has been shut down by the Metroland Media Group, according to a report in Masthead. It went to 210,000 homes, tucked inside or polybagged as an outsert with Metroland's stable of community papers.


MPA head's salary is too rich for some magazines blood

In the wake of reports that Hachette Filippachi (Elle, Car & Driver etc.), American Media (National Enquirer, Star, Shape, Men's Fitness etc.) and New York magazine have quit the Magazine Publishers of America, the leading magazine association in the U.S., comes word via Gawker, the Manhattan media blog, that Nina Link, the president of the MPA makes $740,000 a year. A story in the New York Observer said that membership in the MPA cost Hachette and American Media between $300,000 and $400,000 each a year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Western Living looking for designers of the year

Western Living magazine has put out a call for nominations for the 2nd annual western Canadian designers of the year award. The awards program covers interiors, fashion, architecture, green, furniture, industrial and landscape. Deadline for entries is April 13.

Celebrity judges include Karim Rashid, Kelly Deck, Robert Ledingham, John Fluevog, Patricia Patkau and Bing Thom. Winners will be published in the September 2009 issue of Western Living.

Ship, don't ship, ship, don't ship:
make up your minds

Quebecor World, burned by the recent uproar in single copy distribution in the U.S., is requiring a week's notice of any changes to delivery of single copies. A Folio: article reports on just some of the effects of the dispute were on this large magazine printer:
  • Anderson's shutdown meant that as trucks arrived at 11 Anderson-owned Prologix East locations between February 6 and February 9, they found them closed. Trucks had to be re-routed back to QW plants. The News Group, which co-owns Prologix with Anderson, re-opened the Prologix East facilities on February 11.
  • After Anderson shut down and national distributors had reassigned almost all of the Anderson News and Source Interlink copies to new wholesalers, a court order prohibited publishers and national distributors from denying shipments to Source Interlink's wholesale magazine distribution business. Copies had to be re-consigned—again—resulting in a deluge of shipping requests and changes that created havoc.
Related posts:

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Time Inc. and Source Interlink settle
distribution fight

Time Inc. announced today that it had settled a lawsuit with Source Interlink which will resume distributing its titles. According to a breaking story in Folio: :
The publisher was one of the first companies to publicly state that it would stop using Source to distribute its titles as a result of the wholesaler's decision to increase per-copy distribution fees by 7 cents. (Anderson News also threatened publishers with a 7-cent surcharge.)

Under the new, multi-year agreement, Time Inc. will not have to pay the per-copy fees.

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Calgary's UPPERCASE Gallery to launch quarterly magazine

A new, quarterly magazine is being launched this spring in Calgary that will celebrate graphic design, typography and, among other things, "great ideas and strange inventions".

It's called UPPERCASE, a magazine for the creative and curious and it's published by UPPERCASE gallery owner Janine Vangool, collaborating with writer, curator and teacher Deidre Martin.

UPPERCASE Gallery opened in February 2005, specializing in "making, curating and publishing visual culture" and has branched out into publishing the magazine and specialty books, marketing them through its online store and on-site shop.
This magazine is a labour of love, and our hope is to make it a sustainable endeavor. The magazine will not be available on newsstands, but via UPPERCASE and a small network of like-minded shops and booksellers. Your subscription is a vote of confidence, a pat on the back and a high-five rolled into one. Our goal is to gather a few hundred loyal subscribers over the next couple months and to continue to grow our readership slowly and steadily over the next year.
The first issue, which will be released the first Thursday in April, is to be 68 pages in full colour, standard 8.75" x 11" and perfect bound. It undertakes to carry no more than 6 pages of advertising. A local subscription will be $60, mailed to Canadian addresses $72, U.S. subs $80. (The cover illustration is by Madrid artist Blanca Gómez.)

They have a decidedly non-traditional circulation model:
UPPERCASE is thinking small in order to think big. We don't need to be in newsstands everywhere, we just need to be accessible to the people who want us. Traditional magazine distribution encourages overproduction, resulting in wasted resources and pulped magazines.


Canadian Lawyer discontinues spinoff magazine for young lawyers

CLB Media is discontinuing the publication of Associates, a spinoff from flagship title Canadian Lawyer. The law and lifestyle title was designed for young lawyers and started publishing in February 2008. A preview issue had been rushed out in November 2007 as as a competitive response to the launch of Precedent: the new rules of law and style, an independent quarterly magazine aimed at...young lawyers.

A letter to current and recent advertisers says the spring 2009 issue will be Associates' last, citing a lack of sufficient advertising support. The most recent issue on its website is the dated Fall 2008.

Meanwhile, Precedent, which is edited and published by lawyer Melissa Kluger, continues to publish.

[Disclosure: I sit on an advisory board for Precedent]

Related posts:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NABS kicks off charitable ad auction

The National Advertising Benevolent Society (NABS) is holding its 18th annual ad auction in support of its programs. NABS provides free support, financial, career and counselling assistance to all individuals who have spent the majority of their career working with communications organizations, and who are involved in the creation, production and placement of advertising; this includes many people working in magazines.

There are more than 250 donated national, regional and local media packages, with face value of more than $3 million up for bids, often at discounts of 50 - 60% off the net rate card value. Prices range from $500 to as much as $80,000. Registration is free, and anyone can bid for media online, including not-for-profit and charitable organizations. Packages are available for up to 12 months (May 2009 to April 2010) and buyers don't have to pay until they use their packages. The two-months auction is online until April 17.


Local papers merged, local focus lost

One of the valuable things lost in the headlong corporate consolidation that characterizes Quebecor Media is the hometown and local character of its newspapers. This is no better illustrated than by the decision to merge three, venerable local papers in eastern Ontario, formerly part of the Osprey Media chain, into one.

According to a post on a Sun-expat website, the Cobourg Daily Star, founded as a weekly in 1831; Port Hope Evening Guide, founded in 1878 and Colborne Chronicle, founded in 1959 from the ashes of the Colborne Express, 1866, and the Colborne Enterprise, 1886 have now been replaced by Northumberland Today. To add insult to injury, the 16-page daily now costs $1.25, up from the $1 Cobourg and Port Hope readers were paying.

Circulation floor on new CPF would could exclude smaller arts and literary titles

[This post has been updated] Larger titles may take a hit if ultimately the new Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) announced Tuesday holds to a $1.5 million cap on funding. That would halve the money available to some larger magazines. Missed in the early discussion (including on this blog), however, was the possible impact on smaller titles of a circulation minimum.

In addition to a ceiling, there is a suggested annual floor of 5,000 total circulation (subs and single copies). If that were to prevail, it would make ineligible a good many some of Canada's smaller arts, cultural and literary titles. Many such have annual press runs that are much less than 5,000, let alone paid circulated copies.

[UPDATE] With the 5,000 annual floor, a quarterly with 1,250 per-issue paid circulation (copies reaching the end user) would qualify. But a quarterly with a paid circulation per-issue of 1,000 would not.

[UPDATE] The floor only applies to the main editorial granting program; the smaller project grant portion has no such restriction.

Sources at Magazines Canada however say that the details have yet to be worked out and that they will be lobbying hard to get smaller arts and literary magazines looked after in the detailed regulations of the program.

Canadian Home & Country closed;
Transcon cuts back

Transcontinental is closing Canadian Home & Country magazine as part of a company-wide "rationalization" that will mean that 1,500 jobs are being eliminated across North America, saving the company some $50 million this year. According to a posting in Mastheadonline, 28 magazine jobs are being eliminated in Toronto.

A company press release says that a company-wide hiring freeze has been instituted and that further unpaid leaves, reduced work weeks and other measures are being implemented.
For their part, the Corporation’s senior managers have decided to take two weeks of unpaid leave but to work throughout that period. In total, these measures will cut costs by about $75 million on an annualized basis, including $50 million in 2009....“It’s a difficult situation for everyone affected, but we are acting in the interests of all of our employees and our shareholders,” said François Olivier, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transcontinental. “In the short term, this rationalization comes at a cost, but in the medium term it will protect the Corporation’s financial health.”
Canadian Home & Country was at one time considered one of the most successful turnarounds in Canadian publishing. Bought by Avid Media as Century Home and brought along when Avid was purchased by Transcon, it was a mom-and-pop book with a circulation of less than 20,000 later completely rebranded and redesigned into a glossy, and apparently successful, shelter magazine with more than 125,000 circulation. The February/March issue just unveiled a bold new design. (The magazine's online rate card and media kit has already been pulled from its website.)

Transcon is Canada's largest consumer magazine publisher and one of North America's largest printers and publishers of community newspapers. In 2008, the company had sales of $2.4 billion.

According to a report on, the cutbacks were largely driven when customers canceled or delayed direct-mail projects and magazine advertising. The story noted that immediately after the cutback announcement was made, Transcontinental fell 30 cents, or 3.3 percent, to C$8.69 at 11:51 a.m. in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange; shares have dropped 43 percent this year through yesterday.


Supreme Court reserved judgement in important libel appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada has reserved judgement, as it was expected to do, in an important appeal that has broad implications for investigative and hard-hitting journalism in Canada. The appeal involves a $125,000 libel judgement against the Ottawa Citizen.

The appeal hinges on whether journalists can defeat libel claims even if some of their facts turn out to be unproven, as long as they acted fairly and in the public interest. This is a standard that is upheld elsewhere in the world and media lawyers for many of Canada's largest newspaper publishers argued it should be Canada's standard, too.

Here is some mainstream media coverage:

Media world view

Forestry magazine felled by economy

The Edge Forest Business Magazine is folding, after 17 years covering Western Canada’s forest products industry. According to a story in the Edmonton Journal, the reason is the same economic woes that closed mills. Forest-industry suppliers were its main advertisers and they had cut back.

Publisher David Holehouse of Media Match West Communications Inc. said: “The cost of printing and mailing a magazine is quite substantial and it takes a lot of money to cover that and then you have to cover staff and all of the overhead.The cash flow just wasn’t there to cover all of that.”

Published nine times a year, the Edmonton-based magazine (June issue shown) had three staff, who have been laid off. Holehouse held out some hope for the magazine to come back in some online form.


Ads flat at Rogers pubs; Viner expects no improvement before end of year

Advertising revenue in Rogers Publishing magazines and newspapers were flat during the last quarter, according to a Rogers executive, according to a Financial Post story.

Rogers Media president Tony Viner [told an analysts' conference call today] the picture for media advertising spending that "so far things aren't getting better in 2009," and are unlikely to improve before the end of the year.
He said about 50% of revenues in the company's media business come from advertising, which is lower than other Canadian media companies.

Rogers Communications Inc. reported a loss of $138 million or 22 cents a share in the last quarter ending December 31, compared with the same quarter a year earlier. A good deal of this was due to $294 million in writedowns in its television holdings. However the company is to buy back $300 million in shares and raised its annual dividend to $1.16 or about 29 cents a quater.

Overall revenue from both business units climbed 9.4% to $2.94-billion ($1.65 billion of which was in the company's mobile phone business, which saw a modest increase in the average per-user revenue to almost $75.) Operating revenue at the company's television and cable internet business also rose 6.7% to $985-million.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quote, unquote: how trust can pay
for journalism

Why all the fuss about brands and user-creator relationships and, ultimately, trust? Simply put, trust is an economic good. It’s worth something. It makes markets work more efficiently. As a trader might say, trust is positively accretive to value. This is not just about peace, love, and harmony. Trust creates value. Value gets monetized. Money pays journalists. Journalists save the world.
-- Josh Young of Network(ed) News writing about the relationship between users and creators.


Readers? What do they know?

The New York Post reports that, a month after Condé Nast announced it was foldingDomino magazine, more than seven fan sites of the chic home-design magazine have sprung up, including a Facebook bereavement page.
Many fans wonder why Si Newhouse shuttered Domino, which despite seeing ad sales decline had rising newsstand and subscription numbers. We doubt that if Newhouse pulled the plug on one of his other foundering books - like, say, Portfolio - such an outpouring of grief would occur.

New Canada Periodical Fund holds steady
at $75.5 million

The new Canada Periodical Fund is expected to deliver about $75.5 million in funding support for the magazine industry. The CPF -- which will merge the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund starting in 2010 -- has essentially preserved the level of funding previously received. The announcement was made this morning in Montreal.

This can be considered a major accomplishment for James Moore, the minister of Canadian Heritage as he contends with straitened budget circumstances in Ottawa. It's also a lobbying coup for Magazines Canada.

The new program -- whose details will be worked out in industry consultations over the next year -- will probably cap grants to any one title at a level of $1.5 million, although it won't necessarily limit what can be given to a multi-title publishing company. The program won't necessarily start in April 2010, either; its implementation depends very much on having a smooth transition, according to industry sources. In the interim, current programs (PAP and CMF) remain in place.

Eligibility will require fundable magazines to have some combination of verified paid or request or newsstand circulation, as well as containing a minimum of 80% Canadian content.
“The periodical industry is a key cultural sector in Canada. Magazines and community newspapers generate revenues of about $3 billion annually and employ tens of thousands of Canadians in every region,” said Minister Moore in a release. “This industry needs stability in the levels of financial support it receives from the Government to weather the current economic slowdown, and that support should be flexible, targeted, and relevant. Our goal is clear: to offer Canadian publishers a simple and effective program so that they can continue to provide readers with a broad range of quality Canadian periodicals.”
There was no announced separate fund for community newspapers and the farm press, who had been pressing for it, so they will continue to be competing with consumer and b2b magazines in the main fund. While there is a lot of talk about online and digital publishing initiatives, this will depend on definitions derived from a consultation that hasn't yet been done.

The bulk of the money ($72 million) goes to publishers to spend as they wish on any aspect of building their businesses. In addition, there is about $2 million for "collective initiatives"; this replaces the association infrastructure program which was formerly about $2.5 million. And there is a $1.5 million for business innovation -- project support for small enterprises.

Small literary and cultural magazines come under the main funding umbrella; the current SALM (support for literary and arts magazines) program will be discontinued and it remains to be seen what proportion of the main fund will be informally allocated to small cultural titles.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates a strong commitment to a vibrant Canadian magazine sector,” said Mark Jamison, CEO of Magazines Canada. “This is good news for readers of Canadian publications, for the creative community and for the publishing sector. The new program will provide greater flexibility to publishers, providing more options in making magazines accessible to Canadian readers. It addresses the changes taking place in the publishing sector and will be more relevant in today’s environment.”
Professional association magazines such as those for accountants, engineers and so on will no longer be eligible.

Government release and backgrounder

Related stories:


Monday, February 16, 2009

Facebook changes the rules

[This post has been updated]Facebook pages continue to be very popular ways for writers and photographers and magazines to promote themselves, but they may now have second thoughts. An article from the internet advertising and media site Adotas says that the terms of service have been subtly changed so that your old content, including pictures, may not only become Facebook's property, but that it can repurpose the material and resell it. Previously, the contract language said -- and users believed -- that, if you closed your account, your content was removed.

[UPDATE: Facebook CEO says "Oh, never mind about that content thing"]

The Atlantic puts one over on its readers

Who's The Atlantic trying to kid? Its March issue has a cover story by Richard Florida on How The Crash Will Reshape America. But there is a secondary coverline and cover pic that says "Toronto wins". However only in Canada and only if you don't know that elsewhere it says "New York wins". (And similar coverlines and local photos are used in copies sold in Chicago and San Francisco.)

Since the story barely mentions Toronto, this is sharp practice of a high order. The Globe's James Adams calls it "chicanery". If I were someone who'd paid $6.95 for the magazine and found this bait-and-switch, I'd be seriously annoyed. [Thanks to Torontoist for side-by-side cover photos.]

Does House & Home ad track across
the ad:edit line?

[This post has been updated] The March issue of Canadian House and Home contains an example of uncomfortably close alignment between editorial content and advertising.

A regular makeover features a spread about a kitchen, one in which muddy footprints are tracked across the floor. The next spread shows virtually the same right hand page with the footprints cleaned up, a Swiffer mop leaning against the counter and a copy line "Swiffer gives cleaning a whole new meaning".

This treatment would seem to contravene several provisions of the Canadian magazine advertising-editorial guidelines.
  • An advertiser's name or logo may not be used to suggest advertising sponsorship of any regularly appearing editorial.
  • No advertiser may purchase product placement or mention in editorial pages, photographs or illustrations.
  • Any advertisement that contains text or design elements that have an editorial appearance must be conspicuously identified with the word "advertising'’ or "advertisement."
Ironically, one member of the task force that drew up those guidelines was Kirby Miller, vice-president of sales and operations at House & Home Media, publishers of Canadian House & Home. [Disclosure: I was also a member of that task force.]

[UPDATE: In an e-mail exchange with Mastheadonline, Miller said:
We are proud of the creativity and partnership we have with Starcom and Procter & Gamble's Swiffer and Febreze in our March Issue. In large part it is our key advertisers to thank in this market for our continuing ability to affordably deliver great decorating content to our Canadian subscribers and newsstand purchasers.

House & Home along with the rest of the magazine industry is working hard to remain economically viable in this market. As for the question of our editorial integrity, I humbly reply that I sleep very well at night knowing that our continuing commercial success allows our company to fund Magazines Canada and MagNet which both provide services to smaller publishers across Canada. Also House & Home Media has recently launched a new French title, Maison & Demeure, hired nearly 11 new people and hasn't had a single staff layoff. From the ads are appearing on Mr. Scott's blog it appears that both publishing employment (recruitment ad) and MagNet are important for him as well. It is good to know that we share some common ground on these fronts.]
Marketing magazine reported that the ad was a collaboration between the magazine and the advertising agency.

“What we love about it is that it’s a surprise for the clever reader,” said Christine Saunders, senior vice-president, group media director for P&G agency Starcom MediaVest Group. “You literally do a double take.”

The ad is the result of extensive collaboration between House & Home Media, parent company of Canadian House & Home, and Starcom. Both the advertising and editorial components were photographed by Canadian House & Home’s editorial team.

Canadian House & Home was the perfect partner for this because it’s the most prestigious home decor magazine in Canada,” said Saunders. “[House & Home Media president] Lynda Reeves is the one to look for style trends. We thought if we could pull this off in Canadian House & Home, we could make an impact.”

In November, Transcontinental's Style at Home ( a House & Home competitor) made a similar arrangement with the same advertising agency in which a stitched in acetate overlay allowed a coffee machine to be placed on the counter of one of its kitchen editorial pages.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

New Canada Periodical Fund to be
unveiled Tuesday

The much-anticipated merger of the Publications Assistance Program (PAP) and the Canadian Magazine Fund (CMF) will be unveiled on Tuesday by Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore. Word is that invitations have gone out to key players in the industry so they can be in Ottawa Montreal for the announcement. The new program is expected to be launched starting April 1, 2010.

The anticipation of the new CPF hasn't been eager, mind you, since many publishers fear that the merged program may be somewhat less than the sum of its parts.) There has been vigorous lobbying by industry associations to ensure that the PAP in particular will be preserved. That seems to be assured, at least in the short term.

There is concern in some quarters that the program will be diluted by granting the same amount of money to a wider pool of applicants (it already goes to magazines and community newspapers). And Heritage has already put out a request for proposal for consulting on giving support to digital magazines and newspapers. The recent budget replaced $15 million that was being withdrawn from PAP by Canada Post, but there was no suggestion of increased funding over all.

Related posts:

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Wheat sheet wins accolades for Markets Initiative and Dollco Printing

Coming up with and using a "wheat sheet" made of leftovers from grain harvesting won Markets Initiative and Dollco Printing the Most Progressive Environmental Printing project award yesterday at the annual Print Action Environmental Printing Awards. Nicole Rycroft, executive director Markets Initiative, was also recognized, for the second time, as an "environmental innovator".

The ‘wheat sheet’ was used in Canadian Geographic’s June 2008 issue, the first time wheat straw waste was used in North American publishing.
“There’s no reason paper has to be made from forests,’ said Rycroft, who spearheaded the development of Canada’s first wheat sheet several years ago and brought multiple partners together including Canadian Geographic, Alberta Research Council, New Page and Dollco Printers to ensure success. “I believe wheat straw waste and other agricultural residues are the future of paper in much of Canada and a key way to keep our forests standing and our climate stable.”
Also honoured at the awards were
  • St. Joseph Printing for environmental community involvement with its Partners in Growth program; and
  • Town Media, as most environmentally progressive print consumer in Canada for its paper supply policy

The greening of an editor...

Ann Dowsett Johnston was largely credited with building the university ratings franchise for Maclean's magazine before leaving for a high profile, non-journalistic job at McGill University. This week, Patricia Best at the Globe and Mail published a short item about Johnston's departure from McGill, which said, in part:
Last week, public documents showed that Ann Dowsett Johnston, a former editor at Maclean’s magazine who took the post of vice-principal, development, alumni and university relations, in February, 2006, and departed 19 months later, was paid $439,788 in wages and benefits while there and $321,471.95 when she left.

She had been hired to lead the university’s major fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising $750-million by 2012, but left two months before its launch. A McGill spokesman declined to tell us why Ms. Dowsett Johnston left, citing confidentiality. But the corporate-style compensation package has surprised those in academic circles and been the talk of Montreal dinner parties.

Magazine world view

Taking a shot at the liquor business

KMI Publishing and Events, a Toronto-based branch of an Australasian company, has launched a new bi-monthly business-to-business magazine called Liquor Canada, serving Canada's more than 20,000 liquor-serving licensees.

The magazine is sold by subscription and by single copy; cover price is $6.99 and a 12-issue sub is $39. A full page ad, 1x costs $4,500. A leaderborad web ad is $2,500 a month.

Circulation is 39% in Ontario, 23% in British Columbia and 18% in Alberta.

The company also publishes Canadian Real Estate and Canadian Mortgage Professional magazines. KMI is part of Key Media,a publishing and events company, which has offices in Sydney, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. a publisher of specialist industry news magazines, including Asian Legal Business China, Asian Legal Business Hong Kong, Asian Legal Business Singapore, Asian Legal Business China, Asian Legal Business, Australian Broker, Australasian Legal Business, HRM Singapore, Human Capital Australia, Mortgage Professional Australia, MPA Lender, Your Investment Property and Your Mortgage.


Publishers in U.S. seen weighing benefits of their association

Just when you'd think that magazine publishers would ramp up their cooperation and pull together in the face of hard times, the decision by Hachette Filippachi (publishers of Elle and Car & Driver among others) to pull out of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) has caused talk. Tony Silber at Folio: predicted that Hachette would not be the last big publisher to become a dropout.

The reason, according to AdAge, may have been to save the dues money, with Hachette deciding the annual cost wasn't commensurate with the annual benefits, though there may be more to it.

Jeff Bercovici of Portfolio reported that Hachette was saving $1 million a year. He also published a back-of-the-envelope calculation that Time Inc. pays nearly $3.25 million, Condé Nast (which publishes Portfolio) $2.75 million and Hearst $2 million. The MPA responded that dues are based on circulation and ad revenues and that the numbers cited were "highly overstated".
[Bercovici published a correction:
Since I published the initial version of this item, it has become clear to me that the $1 million figure cited by my source as Hachette's annual MPA dues was substantially exaggerated. The other figures were all extrapolated, via back-of-the-envelope calculation, from my source's figure; thus, they all represent inflated estimates as well.]

There is no indication that similar defections are being seen in Canada at the MPA's counterpart, Magazines Canada. Large publishers tend to see having a national lobbying organization to speak with one voice on postal and funding issues as a vital cost of doing business; smaller members agree, but tend to find that the services such as MagsCan's distribution business, make membership worth the price.

[Disclosure: I sometimes do contract work for Magazines Canada and it is an advertiser on this blog.]

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

CalgaryInc. magazine to close

RedPoint Media Group is closing its title CalgaryInc. Its final issue will be published in March. Five employees and one intern have been laid off. Executive vice-president Gary Davies told CBC News on Thursday that some elements of the magazine, such as "Top 40 under 40" will be rolled into Avenue, another Redpoint magazine. Davies blamed the layoffs on falling advertising sales since Sept. 1.

What's behind the abrupt departure of Bob White at ABC Canada?

The abrupt departure of Bob White, senior vice president of Canada after 15 years at the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) in Toronto raises a good many questions. Anyone know what's going on there?

Temporary restraining order prevents publishers bailing from Source

A judge in New York has issued a temporary restraining order, forbidding magazine publishers from diverting their titles from Source Interlink's distribution stream. The order, as reported in Folio:, is related to Source's dubious contention that big publishers are colluding to put it out of the single copy distribution business. When, in fact, what may put it out of the distribution business is a) the badly broken single copy business model and b) Source's own decision to high-handedly try to impose a surcharge on publishers without discussion.

Named in the suit are Time Inc. and Hachette, American Media Inc., Bauer Publishing, Curtis Circulation, Distribution Services Inc., Kable Distribution Services, and Time Warner Retail.

Related posts:

Those were the days...weren't they?

Gawker, the Manhattan media blog, posts a photo from 1935, showing a New York newsstand and a wall of magazines during the height of the Great Depression. (photo is uncredited)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Michelle Obama sets her own style
for Vogue cover shoot

It was probably inevitable that Michelle Obama would wind up on the cover of Vogue, given that people are as interested in her wardrobe as her intellect. What is unusual, apparently, is that she is considered to have enough taste that the editors allowed her to choose her own outfits, according to a Canadian Press story. Her cover shot in the March issue was done by megastar photographer Annie Liebowitz.

For Obama, Vogue editors broke with tradition and allowed her to choose her own outfits for the March issue, including the magenta gown she wears on the cover that's the creation of one-time Vancouver resident Jason Wu.

"She doesn't need any help. She loves fashion and knows what works for her," said Andre Leon Talley, Vogue's editor-at-large. "She's never had a conversation with me about, 'What do you think?' or 'How did this look?' And I'm glad for that."

Quebec pulp-and-paper trade mag closed

A trade magazine serving the beleagured Quebec paper industry has been shut down. According to a post in Mastheadonline, the Business Information Group, Canada’s largest b-to-b publisher, has closed Les Papetières du Québec, which was founded in 1990, and had a circulation around 4,400.

CP style and spelling guides being sold online, at a premium

Canadian Press has made an online version of its venerable and highly respected Style Guide and Caps and Spelling, for a fee.

Annual online subscriptions:
Stylebook = $48.95
Caps and Spelling = $28.95
Buy both = $75.00

Hard copies:
Stylebook = $34.95
Caps and Spelling = $20.05
Total cost: $55.00

So, apparently, the premium for searchability is $20 the first year and thereafter $75. Or am I missing something?

[hat tip to J-source]