Monday, May 30, 2005

We'll believe it when we see it

Statscan has had to delay, again, for the third time, its release of Canadian periodical publishing data. Date now is June 8.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Worth quoting

"People don't watch TV. They don't listen to radio. And they don't read magazines. What do they do? They make personal choices. I don't think you sit there and think, 'I have an hour to kill, I think I'll spend it with print.'" -- Dave DeSocio, media strategist, OMD.

LIFE takes a dive

Now I'm not one to pine for the good old days; a lot of today's magazines are leagues ahead of yesterday's titles. But I except LIFE magazine, which always set a standard for excellence that is really unmatched today. Until its demise a few years ago, it presented lavish, involving photographic spreads in a way that cannot be replicated by TV. But die it did. Only to be ripped from the ground and propped up as a weekend newspaper supplement. Quite a comeuppance for a grand old brand.

The new publisher is reduced to running a web game called "Dunk the Publisher" with a cartoon of himself promoting LIFE as an advertising vehicle. They shoulda left it in its grave; at least we'd have our memories. Now all we've got is this cheesy image and some copy about "owning the weekend".

Monday, May 16, 2005

The longer view

The recently published Top 50 list by revenue for 2004, compiled by Masthead magazine from various sources, indicates that the industry is doing well, with 4% overall growth. There are some standout performances such as Canadian Geographic, up 22% in revenue over last year, Inside Entertainment (19%), Today's Parent (18%), Outdoor Canada (16%) and Canadian House and Home (12%).

We looked at the same results over the longer haul, from 2001 and 2004 to see if there were any trends.
  • Canadian House & Home is up $8 million or 67.5% over four years. Wow.
  • While Flare did better in 2004, over the four years, Fashion grew proportionately more.
  • Look at Canadian Business; compare this paid book with two controlled books, ROB and National Post Business.
  • Chatelaine and Canadian Living both grew revenue by 15% over four years; but they did even better when you factor in their French language counterparts.
  • NOW magazine is down 15%; eye is only down 3.8%.

$ million





Canadian House & Home





Today’s Parent





Style at Home










Elle Canada





Canadian Business










Canadian Geographic





Chatelaine + Châtelaine





Canadian Living + Coup de Pouce










Canadian Living





Reader’s Digest + Selection





Toronto Life





Time Canada





Reader’s Digest





Elle Quebec




















National Post Business





eye magazine





ROB magazine





Maclean’s + L’actualité










Now magazine





TV Guide





It's an honour just to be nominated...

Looking forward to the forthcoming discussion the Masthead about why prize money has shrunk in the National Magazine Awards. Well, duh. It's because the NMAF has a devil of a time getting industry heavyweights to support the event.

On morning of June 8, a distinguished panel at Mags U will try to get a grip on what it takes to win a National Magazine Award. Not to prejudge the outcome, but we'd think excellent ideas, writing and art might have something to do with it...

Circle this date, we mean it

There is a trendy development in wedding invitations -- the pre-invitation postcard, asking the recipient to reserve the date with a formal invitation to follow. Pre-invitation invitations may be thought of as giving "insider" status; you are so important, and so busy, that the inviters wanted to make sure that you'll have room in your daybook.

The same trend has now apparently flopped over into the business world, and specifically Maclean's as it moves into centennial mode. A postcard has been distributed to invite people to the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto on September 30 to celebrate 100 years of Maclean's. RSVPs by May 20, formal invitation to follow.

Friday, May 06, 2005

First birthday for spunky left coast magazine

It started out with a funereal cover showing a drawer in a morgue (see above), but things must be looking up for the Vancouver Review after surviving a year in a tough market (regional, cultural publications) as evinced by its sunny current cover.

(Check out the the magazine's website by clicking on the heading on this item. )

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Little mags we like

Occasionally, we like to promote magazines and independent magazine publishers that, while well known locally, or regionally, don't travel well (or at least their reputation doesn't).

DvL Publishing of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, is a remarkable success story. Grown over 30 years, it now publishes five titles: Rural Delivery (the flagship); Atlantic Forestry; Horse & Pony; Atlantic Beef; and Pets Atlantic. All in all, a tidy little Mom and Pop operation; the Pop is Dirk van Loon (pronouced loan) who does most everything and is editor of every one and the Mom is his wife Anne, who handles advertising sales and administration.

Rural Delivery is published 10 times a year and has been for 28 years; it's so old-fashioned, it's hip, a reminder of the old Whole Earth Catalogue. It's full of homespun advice, celebrations of bygone arts such as scything, letters, useful advertising, occasional fulminations by the Editor about all sorts of topics. Regular features include farming, gardening, cooking, preserving, the natural world and country life in general. From the original magazine were spun off the other titles as needs became apparent. Dirk raises beef cattle, hence the beef magazine. He is interested in small scale forestry operations, hence the forestry magazine. And so on.

By all accounts, these little magazines are loved by their audiences, fill a real niche and make a living for the van Loons and their hard-working staff. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Trend watch

Five shopping magazines, five shelter magazines, four fashion magazines, 16 magazines targeting women, 12 aimed at males, eight targeting the affluent market; these were among the 75 new magazines launched in the last quarter in the United States, according to the Magazine Publishers of America. Many of the titles were line extensions of existing magazines. Here's what some of the larger companies were dishing up:
  • American Media: AFL Preview; Sly
  • Conde Nast: Allure Bride
  • Hachette Filipacchi: Chris Madden
  • Hearst: Quick and Simple
  • Fairchild: Cookie, Vitals Woman
  • Gemstar-TV Guide: Inside TV
  • Meredith: Siempre Mujer
  • Rodale (with John Brown Publishing): Lazy RV Living
  • Scientific American: Scientific American Mind
  • Time Inc.: Racing Fan, SI Latino
  • Vibe/Spin Ventures: Vibe Vixen

Strike two

The Teamsters's strike at ProLogix is beginning to bite. Overheard near a small grocery store newsstand in Cambridge: "The magazines haven't come in, we won't see them 'til Friday, if then. They're on strike, you know." Oh, dear.

Since most magazines can't change their publication schedules and since 75% of a magazine's sales come in the first two weeks after its issue's on-sale date, this is not a small problem. We expect reports of disastrous sell-through rates with magazines arriving late, huge returns or issues never reaching the stands at all. The ripple effect, on subscriptions, on readership, on ad sales is hard to estimate but distressing to contemplate.

(See the item below on the ProLogix strike)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

National Magazine Awards nominations

Click on the headline to go direct to the National Magazine Awards Foundation website and see the 2005 nominees. The winners will be announced June 10 in Toronto.

Nice to see that the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement will be given to Paul Jones, until recently the Publisher of Maclean's, Executive Vice-President of the News and Business Group at Rogers and one of the stalwarts of the industry.

Food and Dreck

Today's Globe and Mail Review section has finally caught up to a month-old story: the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association criticism of Food and Drink magazine. In this weblog (passim), we have talked about the issue. How the Liquor Control Board of Ontario uses the glossy controlled mag as a marketing device, paying roughly $5 million to publish a free magazine that brings in about $3 million in advertising and justifying it by saying that its promotional value is $10 million extra a year in liquor and wine sales.

Along the way, it shafts legitimate magazines who have to pay for such fripperies as circulation (the LCBO distributes the magazine in all its stores and shuts out other wine and drink magazines) and cannot compete with the leverage the magazine has with booze companies who rely wholly on the LCBO for sales.

What most people don't say about Food and Drink is that it is crap. Glossy, yes, colourful, yes, printed on high quality stock, yes, and beautifully photographed. But it has the style and the soul of a catalogue. Its contents are the worst sort of bland, so-called "lifestyle" dreck. Sure, lots of people pick it up, but that's because it's free. We'll wager nobody reads it (although I wouldn't go so far as to say that nobody is influenced by it; hence the claim of a $10 million sales bump) It's a brochure on steroids, with all the editorial integrity of a billboard.

We shouldn't begrudge the freelance contributors taking the LCBO's money; go for it, we say. But it's still crap, and it's predatory crap, having tilted the so-called level playing field so far to its advantage that it is shameful. Your tax dollars at work.

[P.S. the 2005 Print Measurement Bureau shows that F & D is female-skewed: 1.3 million female readers; 863,000 men. I have no idea what this means.]

Monday, May 02, 2005

Northern exposure

Utne magazine's May-June issue contains a glowing article by Associate Editor Leif Utne called Maple Leaf Rags, celebrating the boom in indie magazines in Toronto. It trumpeted successes such as The Walrus (repeating the overblown claim of 50,000 paid circulation) and misspelled Maclean's as McLean's. But it's nice to be noticed.