Friday, February 19, 2010

Two examples of how playing well with others seems to be an endangered concept

I've never made any secret of my belief in collaboration in the magazine industry; or in my belief that cooperation makes good sense, financially and in terms of the greatest good for the greatest number. Now, in one day, we have two object lessons in short-sighted thinking in other media to remind us (if a reminder is necessary) of the virtues of togetherness: the announcement that Sun Media Corp. is pulling out of Canadian Press; and the announcement that the Canadian Association of Broadcasters is going to shut down.
The Sun decision, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, was driven by the penny-pinching ways of its parent Quebecor Media Inc., and was not unexpected. But regardless of whether the decision will save "millions" (as the parent claims) by creating its own news-sharing system, it can only be another blow to quality news delivery. We already have the example of CanWest, which did the same, and CanWest News Services has never lived up to the expectation of its masters in terms of delivering top quality information to readers. Quebecor apparently believes that cooperation is a mug's game.
The CAB decision is the outcome of apparently irreconcilable differences between the broadcasting and cable television portions of their membership. It is the latest fallout from the push by big broadcasters like CTV and CanWest to obtain "fee for carriage", a charge to cable companies to carry their over-the-air television signals. What had been for many years a forum for developing a unified voice and message on behalf of all broadcasters  has now simply fallen apart. Again, short-term thinking in which, having allowed the industry to blow apart, the various parts will now have to find ways to create some new structures within which they can ally to defend their own interests. An unnecessary waste of time and energy that could have been avoided.
Both decisions give a new dimension to the definition of a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Not to be too self-congratulatory, but the magazine business has been steadily moving in the opposite direction, towards a more collaborative approach. The merger a few years ago of Magazines Canada and the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association into a reconstituted Magazines Canada is but one example, as well as the closer cooperation between various industry groups -- including the Canadian Business Press and Magazines Canada -- in a large, annual conference. And the close collaboration between the two large industry awards programs -- the consumer-oriented National Magazine Awards and the trade pubs' annual Kenneth R. Wilson Awards. It seems that the magazine industry not only accepts the "big tent" approach, but is working actively to nurture and grow it. Which is something worth celebrating on a day when other media industries seem to have forgotten how to play nice together.

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Anonymous Jess Ross said...

Hear hear, D.B. I think one of the major things I love about our industry is everyone's generosity with time and experience. (This blog is key connective tissue.) We're definitely stronger together than we are divided.

12:42 am  

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