Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Did not, did too

This may reignite the conversation earlier this year about fact-checking. It may also ignite a conversation about how magazines deal with letters of complaint and/or clarification from readers.

It is an extraordinary exchange of e-mail messages between an aggrieved author and source and the New Yorker about an article it published on the life of the author of Mary Poppins. It was published recently on the website of the Columbia Journalism Review.

There wouldn't be many Canadian magazines that would undertake such a lengthy correspondence. Because of the serial nature of the e-mails back and forth, one gets a very interesting picture of the way in which the New Yorker manipulated the situation to protect its writer; of course, it could be because they were right and the letter writer was wrong. But what if it was the other way around?

Single sales to be pushed by PWC

The Periodical Wholesalers of Canada are to launch a government-supported pilot scheme to enhance the marketing of Canadian newsstand titles, according to an item in mastheadonline. The "Best of Canada" project will be in B.C., including Vancouver, Western Living, BC Business, Gardens West, Business in Vancouver, Okanagan Life, Porch, Geist and Pacific Golf.

Editor of This quits

Emily Schultz, appointed Editor of This Magazine only about 6 months ago, has resigned. No public announcement has been made, but the news was apparently swirling around a Magazines Canada party last night. Ms Schultz has one book out and another due out in the spring and it may be that the considerable demands of editing Canada's pre-eminent left-wing magazine couldn't be squared with her literary ambitions.

Health Council trumps consumer drug ads

Canadian magazines that have been lobbying to be able to sell direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs will be dismayed by the uncompromising paper released yesterday by the Health Council of Canada. It says that, for patient safety and public health reasons, the government should reinforce, not relax, its prohibitions on DTC advertising.

This essentially restates and reinforces a recommendation of a parliamentary standing committee. When the Health Council makes its annual report on February 7, backed up by the research, it will likely drive one of the the last nails into the coffin of a source of advertising revenue that U.S. magazines take for granted. It will be recommending implementation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health recommendations from its 2003 report, Opening the Medicine Cabinet, which called for better enforcement of current prohibitions on industry-sponsored prescription drug ads and the creation of independent, publicly financed drug information.

The paper, entitled Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in Canada: What Are the Public Health Implications?, was written by University of British Columbia researcher Barbara Mintzes and reviewed existing research to assess whether such advertising improves patient outcomes or patient safety. It is available from the Health Council's website.

"There is no reliable evidence that DTCA improves patient compliance in taking medication or leads to more appropriate early diagnosis of under-treated conditions, or prevents hospitalizations and serious disease consequences," said Mintzes, adding that higher exposure to DTCA results in increased requests for prescription medications.

Health Council Chair Michael Decter said: "Consumers are entitled to information, but the question is: will conveying that information by expanding direct ads really assist patients?"

Magazines Canada estimates that relaxed regulations could be worth up to US$50 million annually in advertising to Canadian publishers.

Canadian publishers have long lamented the fact that U.S. titles coming into Canada, while technically subject to the laws, never see them enforced, and that this inequity is exacerbated by the the dramatic increase of U.S.-based television broadcasting of drug advertisements.

Canada's Food and Drugs Act prohibits advertising prescription-only drugs to the public, but does allow two forms of drug advertising in Canada: "reminder ads" that include only brand names but no health claims; and "help-seeking ads" which discuss conditions without referencing a particular product. There is no requirement to provide any information on the health
risks, the cost of the product, or how it compares with similar drugs.

The Mintzes report recommends that cross-border broadcast ad policy should be reviewed to see if something similar to the "split-run" magazine legislation could be replicated for broadcast media, removing prescription drug ads.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Truck publisher snaps up truck shows

The publisher of Today's Trucking has purchased two of the largest trucking trade shows in Quebec. ExpoCam and CamExpo. Newcom Business Media, produces Today's Trucking, highwaySTAR, Transport Routier, Truck & Trailer, and Truck & Trailer West, as well as Canada's online trucking resource, TodaysTrucking.com.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Beer crust was the secret

A dessert pizza with the beer crust, caramelized honey apples and whipped cream was part of the winning meal in a contest sponsored by Canadian Pizza Magazine. which is produced by Annex Publishing, based in Simcoe, Ontario.

The title Pizza Chef of the Year was won by Diana Coutu, who, with her husband Pierre, owns Diana's Gourmet Pizza in Winnipeg. Her entry included a honey whole-wheat beer crust pizza topped with seasoned white chicken and roasted red peppers. She also prepared lasagna-stuffed red peppers and a pizza with romaine lettuce. None of the items in the entry is available on her restaurant's menu.

Ms. Coutu is to compete in an international invitational pizza-making contents in Las Vegas in March and hopes to be a member of a Canadian pizza team entered in the world pizza championship in Salsamaggoire, Italy, in April.

Canadian Pizza Magazine has a circulation of 9,500 and is a trade magazine serving the retail pizza industry.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Six packs and sacrifice

Now this is editorial commitment: An editor of Men's Health in Britain struck a blow against hypocrisy by undergoing a six-week transformation based on the kind of advice such magazines routinely give to readers. He came out the other end with a sculpted body and a cover story for which he was the subject. The story, carried in the UK Press Gazette, was as follows:

From fat hack to six-pack

Men's Health magazine has put one of its own writers on the cover after readers complained that its six-packed cover stars presented an unrealistic goal for ordinary blokes.

In an unprecedented journalistic move, commissioning editor Dan Rookwood decided to practice what his magazine preached — and after six weeks of diet and exercise, prescribed by in-house expert The Bodydoctor, achieved the body of a god.

He said: "I initially decided to get fit so that I didn't feel like a complete hypocrite working for Men's Health.

"I've gone from being in the worst shape of my life to the best, purely by practising what we preach in the magazine every month."

Editor Morgan Rees added: "To my knowledge, this is the first time a member of magazine has appeared on the front cover of the title they work for.

"Dan undertook our greatest editorial test to date and has produced some outstanding results.

"It's a real testament to both himself and Men's Health, and what better endorsement of our brand and values could we ask for?"

Is tea party a euphemism?

Utter garbage written by bitter former employee and published by fired former editor who has taken his high priced tea party to another employer who will eventually also get tired of the act and the losses.
-- David Asper, referring to a column about the National Post in this week's Maclean's, written by Business Editor Steve Maich. The column was headed "Bleeding newspapers dry".

(All credit to Antonia Zerbisias, who e-mailed Asper and asked what he thought. She posted his response in her blog at the Toronto Star.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Grow your own

The next session of the two-day seminar So You Want to Start a Magazine is to be held at Ryerson University on Friday, February 11 and Saturday, February 12. To find out more click on So You Want to Start a Magazine at the right, or go here. Pass this on to anyone you know who would benefit from this program, taught by magazine consultant D. B. Scott.

Just asking

Is it true that Maclean's is averaging about 4,900 sold copies a week on the newsstand, even with the provocative new covers it has been running? This is by no means the worst that the magazine has done, but it's a long way from the best, too.

Hitchcock quits Chatelaine

Is it true that Acting Editor Beth Hitchcock has quit Chatelaine, leaving the magazine now without an editor or an art director? Hitchcock pinch-hit after Editor Kim Pittaway quit over fundamental disagreements with Publisher Kerry Mitchell.

UPDATE: It is true. Mastheadonline got her on the phone and she said: “The last few months have been really hard,” Hitchcock says, “We’ve been understaffed, so it’s been hard shouldering that. I’ve done the best I can but…I think it’s time for me to try something new.” Her plans? “I’m now taking calls,” she joked. “I’m terrified slash excited.”

Of course, we read it for the articles

Penthouse, the bad boy of skin books, recently relaunched, now offers a digital edition through Zinio.

Shocked and appalled

The February issue of University Affairs keeps alive the controversy over an ad in the Maclean's University Issue. The article, by Daniel Drolet, reports Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Ken Whyte not backing down an inch. Well, maybe an inch. He says that if he had to do it over again, he'd run the ad (for AXE body spray, which takes the form of a mock survey about sexual and partying behaviour) but ask that real universities' names not be used.

Ann Dowsett Johnston, the doyenne of the universities issue, recently bailed from a long career at Maclean's to become Vice-principal, development, alumni and university relations at McGill University, and, although this may be only one of her reasons, she made it clear that she was not a happy person:
"I thought it was deeply regrettable, especially given its sexism and its use of the names of the universities who bargain in good faith with us. I think it sends a terrible message to the reader. We have worked very hard to demonstrate our commitment to higher education. This was a very provocative sexual insert."

All business, all the time

If you haven't been to the Canadian Business website recently, you're in for a surprise. Major renovations have been made in an effort to make CB the go-to portal for business readers. Not only are three Rogers titles interlinked (MoneySense and Profit with CB) but the opening page is something like an all-news channel, with a stock ticker, news, features from the magazines, various archival sources and the kinds of tools that investors and business readers take for granted. Previously, they would get these in a variety of sites (Globefund, Stockhouse etc.) but CB is trying to make this the kind of page that not only promotes the readership of the magazines but becomes the home page of choice for people interested in business in Canada.

Its the kind of one-stop shopping that many magazines would like to offer but few achieve. We don't imagine that the site pays for itself yet, at least directly, but there is a fair amount of banner and other ads. It is certainly a powerful aid in building traditional subscribers, because it makes subscribing fairly easy and may lead readers to dip into more than one title.

The site design, while a bit overwhelming with boxes trying to corral all the offerings, is quite handsome. Worth a look. And perhaps worth imitating (although if we all have portals, none of us have portals, if you see what I mean.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I wish he'd say what he means

"...this decaying corpse of a magazine."
-- Larry Dobrow, columnist of Media Post, writing about the revamped U.S. edition of TV Guide.

Star to launch fashion extension

Whenever a newspaper wants to pump up business, it seems to play the magazine card. The Toronto Star will publish a skinny, new glossy, 6-times-a-year fashion section called Fashion Plus in March designed to cream off the lucrative cosmetics budgets of the fashion and women's service magazines. This was reported today in Media in Canada.

According to group advertising director Cathy Wilson, it will emphasize photography, layout and design. (What the heck did the Thursday fashion section emphasize?) "This is an opportunity for the fashion team to 'pump up' what they do in the Thursday fashion section," says Wilson. "Some cosmetic advertisers won't introduce new products on newsprint, so this will be of interest to them."

But, wait, why do I call it a "section" and skinny? Because it will have a "minimum" of 8 pages. More of a brochure or a free-standing insert than a publication at all.

It will be selectively distributed in the Sunday paper, to 180,000 Toronto Star subscribers with a minimum 75k household income. Ad rates range between $15-36k (presumably the latter is the full page rate), giving it a CPM based on circ of $200.

Get a second opinion

Perhaps this explains why other countries don't understand Canadians very well -- it's the source of their information. Mark Steyn, late of the National Post, now inexplicably writing his rants thinly disguised as reviews on the books page of Maclean's, syndicates his views far and wide. Here's what he was telling the readers of The Australian about the Harper election. Good grief.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Women's titles hot in MPA tally

Media Daily News today reported a Magazine Publishers of America tally that there were 257 new magazines launched in the U.S. last year. No surprise, the largest number were women's service titles.

Big shakeup at Transcon: Prefontaine out

It was announced, suddenly, today that André Préfontaine is out as President of Transcontinental Media. Also leaving is Daniel Denault, the Chief Financial officer. Prefontaine had been with the company 10 years; Denault 8.

The partial text of the company release is as follows:
Change in Transcontinental management
MONTREAL, Jan. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Transcontinental Inc. today announced the departure of André Préfontaine, president of Transcontinental Media, its publishing and distribution subsidiary. The transition will be handled by Luc Desjardins, president and chief executive officer, who will take over in the interim. The Corporation also announced the resignation of Daniel Denault, chief financial officer, who has chosen to take up new challenges with a different company. Mr. Denault will remain with the company until February 17, when Benoît Huard, corporate treasurer since 2002, will be appointed interim CFO. Mr. Huard has held a number of top positions in the financial management of major public corporations over the course of his career.
"André Préfontaine and Daniel Denault have contributed to the company's success for ten and eight years respectively," said Luc Desjardins. "I've worked with both of them a great deal and have appreciated their personal and professional qualities. They have both established solid teams with whom we can pursue our growth. On behalf of senior management, I thank them for their contribution and wish them every success in their future projects."
UPDATE: It's anyone's guess what the Canadian Club will do: Préfontaine, who is also the Chair, Canadian Press, was scheduled to speak at noon on Tuesday, February 7, 2006, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Imperial Room on the topic From Gutenberg to Google: How new media are changing the message.

Afterthought: You don't suppose Préfontaine's departure had anything to do with missing out on the Hollinger package? (see post)

Further UPDATE: Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., the closely held former unit of Bombardier Inc. said on Monday that Denault had been appointed its chief financial officer, effective February 20. There was no word on where Préfontaine was going.

Further, further UPDATE: Mastheadonline reports that matters came to a head at a meeting on the weekend at which CEO Luc Desjardins and Préfontaine agreed to disagree. Somebody had to go and it wasn't Desjardins. The seismic effects (Préfontaine having to resign from the Magazines Canada board and its task force on the newsstand and the chairmanship of Canadian Press) were probably not factored in, but will have a significant impact.

We believe you, many wouldn't

This is not a cost-cutting exercise. It's a way of redistributing our resources so that we can reinvest in the title.
This, from a story in the Guardian concerning the decision by Radio Times to cut half its listings staff and outsource its core television listings work to the Press Association (the British equivalent of Canadian Press). Owners of TV listing books are scrambling everywhere to reinvent themselves as online and onscreen directories make them, at best, less important and, at worst, redundant.

No fair? Or was it a package deal?

A curious story in Saturday's Globe and Mail, Report on Business (sub requ'd), suggested that several of Canada's largest publishers were upset that an auction wasn't held so that they could have bid on the sale of Hollinger International's remaining Canadian newspapers and magazines.

The Globe being what it is, its story concentrated on the newspapers, although a fairly large component of the sale to Glacier Ventures International Corp. involved the attractive stable of trade magazines in the Business Information Group (BIG). Those, for Rogers Publishing, at least, were probably the prizes worth having. Rogers is not in the newspaper publishing business. And, while Transcontinental Media does own newspapers, the trade magazines were very attractive possible additions to its panoply of consumer and trade titles.

Given that the BIG magazines had been in play for more than two years (ever since Conrad Black said publicly that they were for sale for the right price) and fitfully for almost a decade, and that Glacier had been negotiating on this successful deal for almost a year, it seems strange that Rogers was surprised. Certainly David Black, owner of the Black Press Group in British Columbia, says he had actively known of the sale process and had bid, albeit unsuccessfully, on part of the package (presumably the lower mainland newspapers).

In fact, it would be very surprising if Rogers and Transcon had not been among several suitors who had informal discussions over that time. Hollinger shareholders would surely have insisted that the optimum price be pursued and that won't happen if they shut out some key players.

Hollinger spokesman Jeremy Fielding was quoted in the Globe story as saying: "Following discussions with numerous parties over the past two years, Hollinger International reached an agreement. The deal was based on a full price, certainty of closing and transaction structure. (emphasis added)"

Its possible to interpret this last phrase to mean that Rogers and Transcon did not want to buy the whole package (newspapers plus magazines), but hoped that the properties would eventually be auctioned in lots and that they could pick off the trade magazines (in Rogers case, direct competitors for some of its premier titles). Glacier, however,was apparently willing to purchase the full meal deal. And thereby may hang the tale.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A rare type of designer

Step magazine carries an interesting feature about type designer Rod McDonald, who is revered in the design world, but not as well known in the wider magazine community. Among other things, McDonald designed a new typeface for Maclean's, called Laurentian, which is now being used by the redesigned Quill & Quire, with very readable results.

(Thanks to Media Bistro for leading me to this article.)

CanWest Global buys into The New Republic

In what, on first glance, looks like an odd segue, CanWest Global Communications has bought a piece of the venerable (92 years old) U.S. liberal magazine The New Republic. Could this be a beachhead for an assault on the American market? If so, it's an unlikely one. TNR (as it likes to call itself) has been flagging lately in circulation**. However it does have a large archive and a fairly robust web presence* that may be attractive. Ideologically, the left-liberal (more the latter than the former) magazine would be a fairly comfortable fit with the Aspers.

CanWest Global Communications Corp. will now be the fourth partner in the private ownership of the magazine. The other owners are: Editor-in-Chief Martin Peretz, who has run the magazine since 1974 and co-founder of The Street.com; Roger Hertog, vice chairman of Alliance Capital; and Michael Steinhardt, philanthropist and president of Steinhardt Management Corporation, a private investment venture. Laurence Grafstein, managing director at Lazard, is an advisor to the partnership. No price was announced; the magazine is not publicly traded.

"We are particularly delighted," said Peretz, "to welcome CanWest to our ranks. Of course, there are many synergies that we envision between CanWest and TNR, especially in our web business and other areas in which our new partner commands tremendous expertise and authority. We are excited to have attracted associates that can help us extend our reach internationally."

The magazine was founded in 1914 by, among others, Justice Felix Frankfurter, columnist Walter Lippman, educator John Dewey and critic Edmund Wilson.

*Speaking for CanWest, CEO Leonard Asper observed that his company "anticipates that CanWest can help this distinguished weekly navigate the increasingly intricate new world of publishing. Of special interest is The New Republic's vast library of content and ambitious and increasingly successful web site, TNR.com, which already commands a large audience from quality readers."

Perhaps it will lead to increasing syndication of TNR material in the National Post and other CanWest papers.

**UPDATE -- We looked at the circulation figures and TNR lost about 2.5% of total paid circ between 2003 and 2004, standing now at about 61,675.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hip moms and what drives Dad nuts

Today's Parent, the powerful franchise owned by Rogers, had better watch its back. St. Joseph Media has put serious resources behind the relaunch of Canadian Family -- a new staff, a new look and new, more aggressive, marketing. For instance, it has partnered with Sears Canada, offering a free, one-year sub to members of the Sears Family First affinity card program and will be putting on a big newsstand push.

The pub will also launch canadianfamily.ca, an interactive site (where features may be sponsored by advertisers) that will offer parenting tips, volunteer as product and recipe testers and provide a downloadable seven-day recipe booklet.

"The all-new Canadian Family is the magazine I wanted but couldn't find before," says Lisa Murphy, editor-in-chief, in a company news release (which notes that she's a mom of two). "We're talking about both the joys and challenges of family life, but with wit and style."Examples of which that are to come in the March issue:
- What dads really want - we went undercover to find out what drives dads nuts - from backseat parenting to bossy strangers. Plus, we've got the inside scoop on what celeb-dads - from Barenaked Ladies' front man Steven Page to hottie Johnny Depp - have to say about modern parenting
- How to detox your house and boost your child's health... in seconds!

- Hip-mom style essentials

- The best breakfast cereals to put in your family's grocery cart

- Last-minute March break ideas - we've got 16 never-thought-of-that ideas!

- 10 secrets to raising happier kids

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rogers gets cozier with Canada Post

A lot of people felt uncomfortable about the request for proposal last fall from Canada Post, which wanted to use its database to publish a magazine for people who move (i.e. relocate). In other words, to compete with the very people who pay them to deliver their own magazines. But apparently Rogers Publishing didn't have a problem with it. It has won the contract to produce
Smart Moves/Demenageur delivered weekly as a standard-sized magazine to the estimated 1.2 million Canadians who register changes of address with Canada Post each year. First issue will be April 3.

Plus an as yet unnamed home decor magazine (one edition in French, one in English), focussed on shopping for the home. It will be delivered six times a year to 250,000 selected homes from the Canada Post database and will be sold on newsstands. First issue is in September. The decor magazines will be oversized and perfect bound.
"We are delighted that Canada Post selected Rogers as the publisher to work with on these magazines," said Rogers Publishing President and CEO Brian Segal. "They recognize the power of magazines to deliver information and ideas to consumers, and to be superb advertising vehicles for the marketers who want to reach them.

"Research shows that someone who moves spends more in the three months after their move than in a four-year period. These magazines will reach people in their mailbox at that critical time when they are looking for inspiration and guidance -- and making a broad range of major purchase decisions."

Marc Blondeau, Senior Vice-President of Consumer Publishing for Rogers, says: "Following our successful 2004 launch of LouLou as shopping magazines in English and French, we understand the keen interest for a shopping magazine for the home. Our new magazines in September follow the success in the U.S. and other markets of magazines in this exciting new shopping magazine category."

Whether Canadian House and Home or Style at Home or even Cottage Life will be very happy about having the guy who delivers their books competing with them for advertising? That's anybody's guess.

Black and Newman settle

"Mr. Newman acknowledges that Lord Black is entitled to the presumption that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and apologizes for and retracts any contrary impression his words may have conveyed."

With that apology, former Maclean's editor and the author of Here Be Dragons (2004) has settled with Conrad Black, who in turn is dropping his suit for more than $2 million in damages and an injunction against further distribution of the book. Black objected to suggestions in the book that he had behaved criminally. (Black had Newman served with the writ at Maclean's 100th anniversary gala, causing much talk.)

Up and down

Although a crude measure, tracking the listing of the types and number of magazine titles in North America is an interesting indicator of trends in periodical publishing. The Standard Periodical Directory, published by Oxbridge Communications, contains more than 15,000 magazine listings in Canada and the United States. And the company from time to time notes what types of magazines are increasing, and which in decline. In a recent news release, they highlighted the explosion of Hispanic titles (not surprising in a country where the Hispanic population is growing so quickly) and the decline of college titles and business and trade titles, most of which they attribute to replacement by the internet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Armchair adventurer

I'm not a travel/adventure guy, as it's hard to summit Everest wearing slippers and sweatpants, but Adventure tantalizes with the promise of personal glories that don't involve a remote control. As such, it's one of the few titles that can chuck around the word "aspirational" and have it actually mean something.
Larry Dobrow of Media Post writes regular critiques about magazines (all U.S. titles, alas) that are always entertaining and insightful. This time, it was about National Geographic Adventure.

Ah, those were the days...

If you don't read The Shoestring, the occasional small magazine newsletter from Magazines Canada, you miss out on Coordinator Claire Pfeiffer's nice, snappy style (and her penchant for doggerel verse). The most recent issue has a very interesting item that is a recollection by illustrator Bernie Lyon of one of Canada's better-known titles, Vancouver magazine, when it was struggling. Such fragments of memory are often lost over time and it's good when they are captured.

To augment: when Mac Parry was Editor at Vancouver, he was famous for talent spotting. One of his finds was Douglas Coupland, then as unfamous as could be. Mac loved the incongruous -- such things as Coupland's stunt of bottling Vancouver tap water (in his mother's laundry tub) and marketing the result with an elaborate label on the bottle saying "Bottled at the Source".

Vancouver was sold by Ron Stern to Comac Communications Limited, then sold on a few years later to Telemedia, which was absorbed by Transcon, which now owns it. (See previous item). But it's not surprising that most everybody is nostalgic about the wilder, woolier days. Hard to find anything funky about $4 billion companies.


Our spell-check is smokin' and we still make lotsa mistakes. But some clangers are, to use Jon Stewart's catchphrase "Awk-ward". One was the all-staff email from the human relations department accompanying a notice about changes at Quill and Quire that welcomed Attila Berki as Associate Publisher. The accompanying e-mail referred to him as "her". Another was a recent issue of Canada's SOHO Business, a quasi-magazine (or should that be meta-logue?) distributed through Staples stores contained a story by Peter Urs Bender; the byline gave his personal website for comments, failing to note that he had died last March.

Major changes at Transcon West

Like that theory about a Peruvian tidal wave being provoked by a butterfly flapping its wings in Borneo, every once in a while, someone seems to blow a whistle in this business and figuratively shouts "all change". This is apparently true with how management changes at St. Joseph Media led to the departure of Kim Peacock to the Publisher job at Transcontinental in Vancouver. This in turn has led to a change in management structure and style.

Where, before Jim Sutherland was Editorial Director, overseeing both Western Living (of which he was editor) and Vancouver. Matthew Mallon, the editor of Vancouver reported to him and Sutherland had a seat at the management table. Peacock fired Mallon, hired former Saturday Night editor Gary Ross to replace him and Sutherland has given up his Editorial Director role.

So, in a way, the major changes at the top of St. Joseph (Donna Clark as President and Sharon McAuley as Vice-President) indirectly has resulted in Gary Ross (idled since St. Joe's put SN on hiatus) getting a job that's a 20-minute drive from his home in Vancouver.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bigger is apparently better

In its first 11 issues as a full-size magazine, the U.S. edition of TV Guide has seen a 38% bump in its circulation. You can read more here. There is no breakout on Canadian circulation, but talk around the industry about the "grown up" magazine being more appealing to a younger demographic.

The BIG shoe finally drops

The trade magazines of the Business Information Group and the online publishing business EcoLog, both owned by Hollinger International Inc., have been sold to Glacier Ventures International Corporation of Vancouver in a deal (including a slew of community newspapers in B.C.) worth about $135 million. Of that, the value of the 37 trade and online magazines and Ecolog probably account for about $40 million. The deal, which involves consolidating a number of share holdings, will close February 3, 2006. In what must have been the longest dance ever, Canada's second largest group of trade titles had been rumoured up for sale off and on for almost 10 years. Clearly Glacier had the horsepower -- and Hollinger the problems -- that made it possible to close a deal this time around.

The deal involves
  • the Business Information Group ("BIG"), which publishes a variety of trade magazines, directories, newsletters, electronic databases and specialty websites
  • a group of daily and weekly newspaper and related printing operations in British Columbia
  • Eco Log, an electronic information and report service provider for the environmental sector
With the acquisition of BIG, Glacier's trade publication group will consist of the largest agricultural publication group in Western Canada, the Business In Vancouver Media Group, and the 73 BIG titles. Glacier's business & professional information group will include Specialty Technical Publishers which publishes regulatory & compliance information, CD Pharma Interactive Medical Productions which develops electronic interactive continuing medical education programs for doctors, and a variety of directories, specialty websites and electronic information published by the Business Information Group.

There's no indication yet that Glacier intends to sell off any individual magazine titles. Many of BIG's titles are direct competitors with Rogers titles, particularly in the plastics and machinery sectors. In Mastheadonline today, BIG CEO Bruce Creighton was quoted as saying he is staying on the board of the company, although he declined to say whether he holds any equity.

A profile of Glacier and its chief executive officer Jonathan Kennedy is carried in the about-to-be distributed January-February issue of Masthead magazine.

The titles in the Business Information Group include the following (which may in turn include various annuals and directories):
Cabling Networking Systems
Canadian Architect
Canadian Consulting Engineer
Canadian Industrial Equipment News
Canadian Mining Journal
Canadian Plastics
Canadian Transportation & Logistics
Canadian Underwriter
Hardware & Home Centre Magazine
Dental Practice Management
Gifts and Tablewares
HazMat Management Magazine
Jobber News
l'automobile, Carrosserie et mecanique
Laboratory Product News
Les Papetières du Québec
Machinery & Equipment MRO
OHS Canada Magazine
Oral Health Journal
Pulp & Paper Canada
Service Station & Garage Management
Solid Waste & Recycling
The Northern Miner
Truck News
Truck West

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New rules for digital editions

For magazines that are launching digital editions, or people contemplating brand new digital magazines, the audit firm BPA has issued extensive new rules concerning what's acceptable. The detailed rules are discussed at BPA's website. They relate to how subscribers names are sourced, for instance and how much a digital edition must reflect the print publication.

Let the backlash begin

Simon Dumenco, who writes the entertaining Media Guy column for Ad Age, has gone off on a toot about the various madnesses of converging and "innovative" media choice. It's worth a read. Go here.

Generally good year for U.S. magazines

Leading U.S. magazines enjoyed a good 2005, with both ad pages and ad revenue up, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. You can read about the details at the website of the Magazine Publishers of America. (It should be noted that PIB does not track all U.S. titles, and its dollar data is based on the rate card price for pages, not allowing for discounts.) The closest equivalent such information for Canada comes from Masthead magazine, but has not yet been published.

Publisher of Quill & Quire catalogue let go

Times are tough at Quill and Quire, the book industry and library trade publication. So St. Joseph Media has fired Barbara Scott, the Publisher of Books for Everybody, the Q & Q division's consistently profitable catalogue operation. Go figure.

Changes at Heritage

Responsibility for magazine policy at Canadian Heritage now lies with William Fizet, who has a reputation for "understanding the file", which is considered high praise among those in the know in Canadian magazine funding and policy circles. Gordon Platt, who was Acting Director General, has now shifted over to be responsible for the book side of publishing policy.

Caught in a tangle of thorny issues

The American Society of Business Magazine Editors, has come out with a study that says their members are bedevilled by ethical issues and their publishers don't always back them up. (ASBPE is a trade association for editors and writers who work on business, trade, association, and professional print magazines and newsletters and their associated Internet publications. It has more than 700 members and chapters in 14 cities nationwide.)

A new survey released Tuesday shows that more than 90 percent of their members believe B-to-B publications are in need of guidelines that address ethical issues. Another B-to-B publishing group, American Business Media, recently released a revised Editorial Code of Ethics principally concerned with "church and state" separation. But other issues are quite important, including plagiarism, fabrications and accepting payments for placement of articles.

The survey was sent to 360 business-to-business magazines with ASBPE members on staff. Responses came from 157 members, a 43.6 percent response rate to a 39-question online survey.

The association already publishes a Code of Preferred Editorial Practices that can be downloaded from the website.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dealer's choice

Reptile over at Rep Life talks today about the anguish and the imperatives of sometimes going off the card. Whether he will hate himself in the morning? Dunno.

Take One R.I.P.

The national film magazine Take One has ceased publication, blaming a wholesale switchover by people in its industry to getting information off the internet, according to a report in today's Globe and Mail.

A magazine connection

The billowing storm over the activities of U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff has swept up the U.S. magazine industry's own lobby group, the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA).

An article in the New York Times by Katherine Q. Seelye says Mr. Abramoff revealed as part of his guilty plea to mail fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials, that he and an unidentified Congressional aide worked to stave off an increase in postal rates on behalf of the MPA. Some of the association's money may have been funneled to Mr. Abramoff's political allies. The magazine association paid at least $1.4 million from 2000 to 2003 to Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the lobbying firm where Mr. Abramoff was the chief lobbyist. It was part of more than $10 million the organization spent fighting the postal increase.

The corruption scandal could involve dozens of members of Congress, political operatives and lobbyists suspected of arranging bribes in exchange for favorable legislation and other benefits.

Smart publishing down east

One of the reasons why Saltscapes magazine in Halifax is so successful is that it leaves no source unexplored in building its audience. We've meant for some time to highlight the magazine's Community Spirit Partnerships.

Organizations can raise money for worthwhile, community-based causes by keeping $10 of every new Saltscapes subscription they sell. The organization has to be not-for-profit, in Atlantic Canada and the outcome of the cause has to be of direct benefit to Atlantic Canada. It's almost perfect symbiosis and a heckuva way to build awareness and reader loyalty. The magazine profiles one of the partners in every issue and runs a list of all their more than forty partners on its website. That's smart publishing.

Friday, January 06, 2006

300 posts

As hard as it is to believe this is the 301st post in Canadian Magazines. This blog began whimsically and without a plan (except to write about Canadian magazines) and that's pretty much how we intend to continue.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Copy these

Below decks at most magazines are the vital but often unacknowledged heroes and heroines of journalism, the copy editors. For those of you who are, or might wish to be, or wish to understand these specialists, there are a couple of American sites worth visiting (we'd be glad of indications of any similar Canadian sites). One is called The Slot, run by Bill Walsh, the chief of the copy desk of the Washington Post. It's done for his own amusement and at his own expense (similar to Canadian Magazines!). He's not slavishly newspapery and runs a parallel blog where he captures the foibles and amusements of the trade.

Aptly named, the site Testy Copy Editor is also worth a visit. Its slogan is: "One of the great things about being a copy editor is freedom from vulgar desire for public recognition."

Flare Volunteer Award celebrates a decade

The 10th anniversary of its Volunteer Awards has been announced by Flare magazine, and its corporate sponsor CIBC. The awards, to be made this spring, will honour six Canadian women aged 18 and up who have made significant contributions to their communities.The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 3, 2006.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Maclean's's new Postings

Lest I be accused of being one of the "usual suspects", I will let Paul Wells' latest blog entry enumerate the many and various hires just announced at Maclean's. If any spin is detected by linking to Wells' blog, take it up with him. Here is where to go.

If you'd like a less reverential take, you can always go to this item on The Dirt.

TV Guide-less

"No wonder listings magazines are going the way of the horse and buggy. Technology has made it far easier for viewers to set their own TV schedules. Today, viewers can pretty much watch what they want when they want (as well as where they want -- in their cars, on their computer screens, even on their phones). Digital set-top boxes allow viewers to store programs and watch them at their leisure. Higher-end cable packages allow viewers to timeshift to the East or West coast if they want to catch a second window on a show they've just missed." -- Bill Brioux of the Sun, in his look ahead at what he says will be a revolutionary year for television.
To read the rest of the article on canoe.ca, go here.

Degen resigns from This

John Degen, the executive director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC -- formerly the Periodical Writers etc.) has resigned from the board of This Magazine and its companion Red Maple Foundation Inc. Degen says his reason is simply too much to do, not least of which is his focus these days on trying to elect a New Democrat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the riding into which the Liberals have parachuted uber-commentator, historian and leadership wannabe Michael Ignatieff. Degen will continue to raise interest and hackles on the The Magazine blog, just not preside over the sometimes fractious board, of which he was lately chair.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Peering into the year ahead (U.S. division)

“We’re in an environment of just-in-time buying, planning and decision making."
-- Jack Griffin, Meredith Corp. publishing group president.
If you'd like to see what some of the other big brains in the business think about what's going to happen in magazines in 2006 (at least in the U.S.), as reported in Mediaweek, you may do so here.

Tarnished Star

[Update: The item mentioned was in the Life section of the Star, not on the editorial page. Thanks to Antonia Zerbisias.]

If there were ever a strong argument for fact-checking, this is it. The Toronto Star has apparently been caught red-handed (and, we hope, red-faced) lifting an item, failing to attribute it, on the editorial page no less, only to find out after the fact that, far from being news, it is 10 years old. You can read more about it here, from the excellent blog Regret the Error.

(As an aside, one of the things that mark good blogs is giving credit where it's due by providing links to sources. We were alerted to this story by an item in The Dirt.)

What? No singalong?

Magazines on the left coast are getting together for Camp BCAMP, under the auspices of the British Columbia Magazine Publishers Association. It's a weekend-long event January 27 to 29, at Dunsmuir Lodge in Sidney, B.C. There's a keynote speech by Deb Rosser, the President of Magazines Canada on Friday night and seminars both Saturday and Sunday. Most of the presenters are BC-based and the themes are practical applications for such topics as getting and keeping writers, managing interns and volunteers, understanding financial statements and the like. A full-day pass for a BCAMP member is $150; the whole weekend is $250 or you can buy seminars, dinners etc. a la carte. To find out more go to their website.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Quote, unquote

"I do find it rather ironical that I came to India to explore spirituality and yoga and ended up working on a tits-and-ass magazine."
-- Iona Ferguson, only woman on staff of the just-launched Indian edition of Maxim magazine

Johnston quits Maclean's

The departure of Ann Dowsett Johnston as editor-at-large of Maclean's is not a surprise. She is one of the last of the holdovers from the old regime (Executive Editor Peeter Kopvillem, mind your back).

We assume that reasons for her departure after 28 years were complex. However, Martin Knelman in the Toronto Star says that one of those reasons was a provocative advertising decision in her beloved University Issue by Publisher and Editor in Chief Ken Whyte:
For Ken Whyte, editor of Maclean's magazine, the trouble may not be temporary. Almost everyone agrees a shakeup was needed to save Canada's national magazine from slow suicide, but a number of editors and writers -- not to mention defecting subscribers -- are less than enchanted with the ways Whyte has chosen to be provocative.Take the ad for Axe -- a company that specializes in marketing scents as sex potions for guys. A controversial three-page colour ad ran in the middle of the text in the magazine's annual university rankings issue in mid-November. Moreover, the ad mocked the notion of university rankings, claiming that Axe U was "number one across the board." Sample smirky line from the ad: "Whether you're looking to upgrade your skills in chemistry or anatomy, Axe U maintains a faculty capable of broadening your knowledge of the `student body.'" Among those decidedly not amused was editor-at-large Ann Dowsett Johnston, who created the prestigious university-ranking franchise for Maclean's magazine and has carefully orchestrated it for years. She was not informed in advance of publication that the ad was running.The upshot: last week McGill University announced Johnston's appointment as its new vice-principal focusing on alumni relations and communications. She leaves Maclean's early in the new year after 28 years on staff. And because her old job calls for someone with credibility in both journalism and the academic world, she won't be easy to replace.