Tomorrow (Tuesday 4th) starts Magazines Week in Toronto, the biggest concentration of events and learning opportunities of the year, anchored around MagNet, the annual magazine industry superconference.
From Tuesday's marquee presentation by Rebecca Wesson Darwin, the president and CEO of Garden & Gun, to the finale with the National Magazine Awards* on Friday 7th, There will be a lot of talk about the change and opportunities facing the Canadian industry. Panels, presentations, speeches and hallway natters will abound and they all could be summed up under the heading "Where are we going?" There are a few questions that occur to me:
- How much does good, basic storytelling contribute to the health and prosperity of the business? Are we forgetting -- in our pursuit of technical innovation -- that this is basically journalism, aimed at building audience?
- When, if ever, will we have alternatives to delivering printed magazines to household letterboxes via Canada Post? Do we want to?
- What are the alternatives to selling single copies in the ever-shrinking cohort of magazine stores? How do we nurture the independents we still have across the country?
- Are we investing enough in training the next generation of ad sales, production and circulation people?
- What proportion of readership will be delivered and measured in digital form in the next five years? And what difference will that make to the way writers, art directors, editors, publishers, circulators and ad sales people do their jobs?
- Will we finally sort out whether internships are intended to be training or free labour? Or both?
- Are we gaining readers or losing perspective with social media?
- Where are the biggest opportunities for startups?
Among the interesting daily keynotes at MagNet (all "imports" to use a Canadian football analogy) are David Carey, the president of Hearst Magazines, Bo Sacks, the president of the Precision Media Group, and T. J. Tucker, the creative director of Texas Monthly.
It's heartening to see a diversity of talks and panels ranging from recycling, small magazine finances and cultural publishing to social media and digital technology as well as some big picture discussions about the future of publishing and federal magazine policy. This is what comes of true partnership between the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME), Circulation Management Association of Canada (CMC), Magazines Canada (MC) and the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). It's proof that the "big tent" approach works.
Above all, it's nice to see magazine people getting a chance to gather, collaborate and learn from each other. If you're in the Toronto area, there's still room at some of the sessions to join the conversation and even if you can't be there in person, follow the tweets at @magnetcanada, hashtag #MagNet13.*Scan the Magawards nominees