Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chris Buck to speak at MagNet conference

The photographer has no obligation to the subject, except not to lie.
That's Chris Buck speaking, the bi-coastal (New York, Los Angeles) photographer who is to be this year's international speaker at MagNet, the magazine conference to be held June 13 to 15 in Toronto.

Buck, a Canadian expatriate who made good shooting celebrities, grew up in Etobicoke and took photography at Ryerson. (His online bio says, drily, that he took up photography when he found pushing a button easier than pencil drawing.) He moved to New York in 1991 "for practical career reasons".

He has shot the famous and the infamous for publications ranging from the New York Times Magazine and Wired to Premiere and Life and GQ. You can see a portfolio of his pictures on his website and read some of the articles that have been written about him and his work.

Here's a recent interview he did with Metro Morning.

For more information about MagNet, go to the Magazines Canada website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ad-edit guidelines now have
magazine industry seal of approval

The Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) a number of years ago drew up a set of guidelines for the relationship between advertising and editorial pages in Canadian magazines. It was a wonderful initiative by a relatively small organization.

In an effort to have an even broader industry consensus, a panel of people from the editorial, advertising and publishing sides have spent the past year overhauling and updating the guidelines. Here is the text of the new guidelines.

Demands from advertisers have evolved substantially and it was felt that the industry needed something it could point-- and subscribe -- to in questionable cases. (Disclosure: I sat on the panel that drew up the awards and I voted to accept them.)

The draft guidelines have now been endorsed by Magazines Canada's board of directors, and have already been agreed to by the CSME board and the board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Mark Jamison, the CEO of Magazines Canada said:
These guidelines are meant to be used as a tool to help our magazines gauge that difficult balance and to help our ad sales professionals and their clients work in a medium where that proverbial separation of church and state can — and does — work to the advantage of readers and advertisers.
Unlike the American Society of Magazine Editors guidelines, there is no sanction for magazines that ignore the Canadian guidelines (ASME can -- but almost never does -- ban an offending magazine from entering their awards program). But we can hope that moral suasion will do the trick. I have never met a publisher who said he wanted to cashier the editorial integrity of his magazine; with this document, he/she can now refer an advertiser to an industry consensus about what we will and won't do.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Prose, and everything else, is purple
as Open magazine debuts

It gives a whole new meaning to purple prose; the very recent launch of a new magazine called Open which has printed the entire magazine in shades of purple and apparently intends to publish each issue of the quarterly magazine in a theme colour. (Winter's colour is to be white, apparently; would it be quibbling to point out that white is not a colour?)

The tagline is [Open] " all possibilities" and a secondary tagline is "an integrated health and living publication", which allows the editors to write about varicose veins and solar street lights in the same magazine. The premier issue (Winter 2006-07) features a large, purple uncut amethyst crystal and even the various other stories have purple themes, including growing lavender and a group of eggplant recipes. This last is illustrated by the magazine's logo, carved (incongruously) into an eggplant by the well-known woodcut engraver Wesley Bates (he of The Graver's Edge etc.). Every segment of the magazine follows the colour scheme and the "open" theme -- Open Window (features), Open Up (food), Open Life, Open Health and so on.

Open is published by WiseMoove Communications of RR1 Monkton, Ontario (north of Stratford). It's available free across Ontario in retailers, health and business service providers. A four-issue subscription costs $15. The company also has plans to publish a magazine for veterinarians called On Call.

The president of the company is Cindy Moyer and James A. Moyer is chief technical officer. The editor-in-chief is Lee Anne Andriessen.

Here's how the magazine describes itself:
Open Magazine has been created for…
Women who love themselves and know that love is the key,
Women who aren’t perfect and those that want to be.
Women who work hard and wish for more hours in a day.
Women who strive for better and those who’ve found a better way.
And…every man who knows the power of a woman.
An advertising rate card is not provided on the magazine's website, nor is there any information about circulation.

But you have to give it credit for a colourful start.

Douglas Knight named president
of St. Joseph

Douglas Knight, the former publisher of the Financial Post (1992-97) and the Financial Post magazine (1990-92), has been appointed to replace Donna Clark as president of St. Joseph Media. Knight was also publisher and CEO of the Toronto Sun (1997-2000).

The announcement comes within days of the departure of Ms Clark, who had been president for just 14 months.

A release from St. Joseph says that Knight recently returned to Toronto from New York where he served as chairman and CEO of the first U.S.-based Spanish language newspaper chain with papers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Tony Gagliano, executive chairman and CEO of St. Joseph Communications said Knight “is a creative media strategist who brings an extraordinary track record of success to St. Joseph Media."

[UPDATE: James Adams in the Globe and Mail, reporting on Knight's appointment, also reports that he is the main squeeze of Shelley Ambrose, recently appointed publisher of The Walrus.]

Toronto Star media critic Zerbisias
has stopped blogging

Antonia Zerbisias, the Toronto Star media critic, set a pace in blogging that apparently couldn't be sustained and has now given it up. Since August Zerbisias (to use her words) "left the building" and hasn't blogged since, except to post one item on the death of her former colleague Sid Adilman. She was among the most prolific and wide-ranging of Star bloggers, often writing more on a subject online than she was able to in the paper.

For a time, she left comments open, and a couple of hundred came in, many of them asking when she'd be back. But now she's said "I don't have time or energy for this anymore" and suspended the comments, too. Starting a couple of weeks ago, Zerbisias, who hadn't written for the paper since August, has been writing her column in the paper. But it appears that a popular (if controversial) voice in the Canadian blogosphere has chosen to be silent.

Shameless magazine wants to pass the torch

The forthcoming Fall/Winter issue of Shameless, the spunky Toronto-based magazine for teens and young women, will contain a letter from the editors saying that they want to find someone else to take charge of the magazine.

Like with many small, specialty magazines in Canada, while publishing it can be a joy, it can also be very hard work, given that so much of your unpaid effort has to go into fundraising to keep the publication afloat. Essentially, Melinda Mattos and Nicole Cohen, who planned and founded the magazine, are worn out after three years of doing it, but they are hoping to find someone to take over after the spring issue.

Here's what they say:
We always laugh when people ask us where Shameless HQ is located. Though we get a kick out of mentioning our headquarters in the magazine, the truth is, Shameless HQ doesn't exist.

As a grassroots independent magazine funded entirely by subscriptions, newsstand sales and limited advertising, we've simply never had the budget for an office. Over the past few years, we've worked out of dozens of bedrooms, kitchens, post offices and coffee shops — and been chased out of several restaurants for loitering. To us, Shameless HQ is wherever we happen to be sitting at any given moment.

The world of small magazine publishing is not as glamorous as you might think. Sure, we get to air our opinions in the media, spend time with smart, creative folks and throw ourselves parties to celebrate new issues. But we also lug heavy boxes of magazines across town on subways, streetcars and bikes, and come home from our stressful day jobs to be greeted with more work (this time unpaid) that keeps us up too late and sometimes makes us cranky.

Still, seeing Shameless evolve from an idea we conceived in journalism school to the success it is now has been amazing. Running the magazine has taught us a lot about publishing, media activism, grassroots marketing and event planning, and introduced us to some of the smartest, sassiest young women (and men!) in the country, from our writers and artists to the members of our teen editorial collective.

But we're tired. After almost three years of running Shameless (and a couple of years of planning before that), we both need a break. And so, if all goes according to plan, the Spring 2007 issue will be our last as co-editors and co-publishers.

On that note, we're starting our search for energetic, talented folks to take over the magazine while we shift to an advisory role and focus on other projects. We have a fantastic community of writers, artists, readers and supporters who’ve made Shameless a part of their lives (thank you!) and we want to see this community and the magazine grow.

We're seeking people who are passionate about our mandate, have a strong vision for the magazine, get along well with others and can work from home in their spare time, on a volunteer basis (and if you’re someone who can figure out how to make this magazine pay its staff and contributors, then we need you, too!). If you'd like to discuss the application process, contact us at

[Thanks to David Hayes for tipping us to this.]

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Stage left -- Camp BCAMP to take
place January 19 to 21

Camp BCAMP, the annual conference for British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers, will be headlined by Sara Angel, the editor-in-chief of Chatelaine. The keynote address, sponsored by Indas Limited, takes place on Friday January 19, with various panels and sessions taking place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21st.

The whole event takes place at Dunsmuir Lodge in Sidney. For further information and pre-registration (mandatory; deadline January 12) call 604-688-1175 or e-mail You can go the BCAMP website for further information. A weekend pass is $250 for members, $400 for non-members, or you can graze through various individual sessions. These include:
  • Patty Osborne from Geist and Lisa Sweanor from BCAMP talking about how format and binding affect newsstand results.
  • Karen Foss, of Canada Wide, publisher of GardenWise and BC Home magazines, Nick Noorani, Publisher, The Canadian Immigrant and Sara-Ann Pereira, Circulation Manager of NUVO magazine, talking about strategies for success in controlled circulation publishing
  • John Barton, editor of The Malahat Review, Catherine Montgomery of the Canada Council and Mary Schendlinger an editor and consultant and senior editor at Geist, discussing different perspectives on applying for and getting grants.
  • Lisa Whittington-Hill, the publisher of This Magazine, talking about how to keep government relations sweet.

Blackflash makes a hard choice,
but was it the right choice?

The difficult balance between discretion and censorship, between editorial freedom and board responsibility, between the law and common sense -- these are all apparently in play at Blackflash, the Saskatoon-based photography,electronic and digital art magazine that has published a story with holes in it.

The story is about child pornography and according to an excellent summary in the Globe and Mail by James Adams, the magazine has apparently yanked seven images that were intended to illustrate the thesis. These included everything from a Robert Mapplethorpe image of a young girl to a photograph by Lewis Carroll and a "chocolate box" image of a young girl painted by Sir John Everett Millais (shown at right -- The Bridgeman Art Gallery/Getty). The latter was included to illustrate the apparent pedophilic sub-texts in Victorian art.

Hence, the holes.

The reasons given for the self-censorship are several, and include opposition by board members (some of whom resigned over the issue) and inability to find a printer who would print the issue in the face of the ambiguities of the Child Pornography Act of 2005. Where, before, a magazine could defend its editorial choices by citing "artistic merit", that defence (or protection) is now gone. Blackflash apparently asked for legal advice and was told that there was enough of a danger that some of the directors shied away from publishing the images.

Blackflash is published by Buffalo Berry Press; its managing editor is Lissa Robinson. It has been around for 23 years and has won numerous awards, including Magazine of the Year for Saskatchewan in the Western Magazine Awards. The magazine has a 9-person advisory panel, which includes former managing editor Michael Maranda.

Building a buzz in more ways than one, Blackfly takes a bite out of Ontario

Many people talk about starting magazines, but only a few manage it; it's daunting in its details, expensive in its execution and often the talking about it is much more fun than the doing of it. That having been said, it is encouraging to see the emergence of Blackfly magazine, a political quarterly magazine about Ontario.

As the centre of the Canadian universe -- at least in terms of population and being home to the principal financial capital -- politics as they are done in Ontario should matter to everyone inside and outside of the province. We are somewhat better at doing left- and right-wing magazines about national affairs, though there are some good examples of regional and local magazines. Blackfly, if it can stay aloft, looks likely to add something to the discussion.

It launched in September and is due to put its second issue on the newstand in a week or so. It's published out of Toronto and has a tiny press run: like all such boutique startups, it gives new meaning to operating on a shoestring. A total of about 3,000 copies are distributed; beyond that, how the magazine is being received can only be speculation. They probably have no more than couple of hundred paid charter subscribers so far and can hope to sell maybe sell 500 single copies on selected newsstands. (That's net of the promotional and controlled copies that need to be laid about in order to make the magazine's existence known.)

Blackfly was started by six current and former students from the University of Guelph, some of whom are now at other institutions -- Ryerson University, Centennial College and Osgood Hall Law School. "I was looking for a magazine to read covering Ontario issues and I realized that there wasn't one," says Jenn Watt, Blackfly's editor, "So I figured we'd just have to start one ourselves."

The first issue was 64 pages. It has some fairly sophisticated design touches (as much as its means allow), but is mostly fairly industrial strength and typical desktop publishing -- text heavy, black-and-white, fairly dour in its display copy. But it gives off the vibes of commitment that may find a ready audience. That depends, of course, on whether the potential readers see "taking a bite out of Ontario politics" as important. The magazine's statement about itself reads, in part:
We are a progressive magazine; we believe that current media coverage of our province severely misrepresents and ignores the issues of different groups of Ontarians. Blackfly Magazine will strive to cover those issues -- without ideological dogma or political partisanship. We believe that people are smart enough to make up their own minds. We are simply trying to provide the information needed to fully understand the issues and the contexts in which the issues exist.
The magazine offers a page of advertising (1x rate) for $750, reflective of their small and unproven circulation and probably realistic expectations. But that's not unusual for such fledglings. The subscription rate is startlingly small: $14.25 for four issues, or roughly $3.50 an issue. The cover price is $5.75.

Its contents are fairly eclectic, from a feature on Caledonia and the aboriginal blockade to how-to file a freedom of information request to an "art" story about knitting. There are reviews and interviews, and a good mix of long and short items. The magazine also runs a tidy and interesting website and publishes a blog which, so far, is mostly about promoting the magazine but has promise to be a clearing house for information about Ontario politics.

Whether Blackfly is preaching to the choir? It's too soon to say. It's encouraging that, instead of just bitching over beers about the parlous state of things, these people actually put their money and their energy where their beliefs are. The left side of the arts and cultural publishing spectrum is relatively crowded. The second issue is always harder to put out than the first (carried forward, as it is, on a wave of enthusiasm) and clearing the hurdle of the first year, beyond which you can hope for some small public support, is a real challenge. But Blackfly has made a good start and should be encouraged to buzz and bite for many issues to come.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Mau Mauing of The Walrus?

If you have seen the current cover of The Walrus, you may noted it was created by uber-designer Bruce Mau, who also wrote a story inside (Imagining the Future: Why the cynics are wrong) and is married to Bisi Williams, one of the new directors of the Walrus Foundation. And if you'd been able to score one of the $125 tickets to the Walrus fundraising party last night in Toronto, you were apparently treated to a discussion (about optimism) between Walrus publisher Ken Alexander and..Bruce Mau.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Donna Clark has resigned from St. Joseph Media

Donna Clark, the president of St Joseph Media, has resigned effective December 1. She was hired in August last year and started at St Joseph in September. Now, with a week's notice and barely 14 months after she started, she is leaving.

[UPDATE: Mastheadonline (sub req'd) has published a brief interview with Clark, who says her departure was her choice, for a number of reasons.
“I’m at that life stage: my husband is semi-retired; I have two kids, both in university now, so there’s sort of an empty nest. So, I really took stock after working here a year. It’s great; I love the people and I love the brands but, as I said to my husband, it’s just [sometimes] I start to feel like I’m going to run out of gas a little bit, and it’s time to ask, ‘Ok, what’s in this for me in terms of life.’ …It’s not 24 -7 but sometimes it feels like that. You’re always on, you’re always thinking about it. You’re always trying to figure out what’s next. When I look at that wheel of balance and I see that three quarters of my waking life is about St. Joseph Media and a quarter is about driving to and from and trying to maintain relationships and stuff, it’s just not enough. So, I’m fortunate that I can [step back] and, why not? ”

New Malahat Review prize to honour
Victoria poet P. K. Page

A $1,000 annual award for poetry will be made by the Malahat Review in the name of well-known and award-winning poet P. K. Page. Ms. Page celebrates her 90th birthday this month and the award will be made to the author of the best poem or sequence of poems published in the previous year in the magazine, which is published at the University of Victoria.

The winner of the first award will be selected by Sooke writer Marilyn Bowering and will be announced in the spring 2007 issue of the magazine.

Malahat editor John Barton said:

"It is a great honour for the magazine to have the opportunity to give out an award in P.K.'s name," he said. "She is one of Canada's most respected and iconic poets whose accomplishments have been an inspiration to several generations of writers."

Page was born in England in 1916 and came to Canada three years later. She was educated in Calgary and Winnipeg and studied art in New York and Brazil.Her first major publication, an anthology titled Unit of Five, was published by Ryerson Press in 1944.

In 1954, Page won the Governor General's Award for poetry with her work The Metal and the Flower. Since then she has continued to write prolifically with her most recent offering, the short fiction piece Up on the Roof, scheduled for release in 2007.

Stick to your guns, live long and prosper

There are those who will say it is just whistling past the graveyard, but a fairly upbeat and hopeful prognosis for magazines was sounded this week by the Guardian media section. The article by Will Hodgkinson acknowledged that there is a bit of a bloodbath in some categories in Great Britain, notably the men's category , for instance, where monthlies spawned weeklies that simply cannibalized them. "But the magazines that have stuck to their guns - and the editors that have maintained a sense of integrity - are weathering the storm."
There seems to be a feeling across the consumer magazine board that the monthlies that are going back to their roots are winning out. Nicholas Coleridge [Conde Nast managing director] claims it is a serious mistake to underestimate the intelligence of your readership. "We are seeing no lessening of appetite for long, well-written, well-researched articles," he says. "Although we live in an increasingly bite-sized society, there is still a strong educated middle class who value intelligence and depth."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Parachute, one of Canada's oldest arts journals, suspends publication

Parachute, one of Canada's most long-lived magazines about contemporary art, and one distinguished by being published in both English and French, has suspended publication. Founded in 1974, the magazine made its decision because funding levels no longer allowed it to maintain the quality it wanted with the stability it needed. (At right is the first issue of the magazine.)

In a release today, the magazine's board said:
Despite its determination and efforts to maintain the journal’s presence on the contemporary art scene and to continue operations, Parachute’s board of directors was obliged to take this last-resort decision after examining all the economic and social factors which would have enabled the journal to extract itself from the impasse facing it.
Although the journal had recently succeeded in increasing its sales by more than 200% whilecutting expenses and trimming budgets, fundraising has fallen short of need and there has been a steady erosion of government support.
Despite Parachute’s exceptional longevity in a highly competitive milieu — a longevity owing to the enthusiasm of its contributors and readers and to the unflagging determination of its director — its suspension of activities at this time highlights the precariousness of cultural organizations in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
In a letter to the journal’s readers that will appear in the final issue, PARACHUTE 125 in January 2007, art director, curator and magazine director Chantal Pontbriand (below, right), who founded and has run the magazine for more than 30 years, reluctantly writes:
When the bell tolls, the adventure should come to a stop, at least in the way it has been led until now. The economic structure needed to pursue this passionate venture linking actors from around the world is gravely lacking at this point. The situation was never comfortable, but the continuing withdrawal of government funding for innovation in the arts and the need to cultivate ever-more private funding in a country where sponsorship of contemporary art is underdeveloped and where few private art galleries in the field exist, does not help our effort to raise funds and be self-sustaining. After huge efforts to cut costs and increase fundraising in the private sector in the hope of counteracting a too-fragile economic situation, our endeavour must come to a halt while we reconsider the situation and find other ways of doing what we do. Personally, I do not wish to stop myself, being convinced of the need for the magazine.”
From its very first issue, Parachute’s mission has been to investigate new transdisciplinary and multimedia artistic practices and explore new directions in art. Numerous exhibitions were mounted, including curating the Canadian pavilion at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 and multidisciplinary international festivals. Eleven symposia and several discussion laboratories were held in Montreal and elsewhere under the title PARAZONES.

With a print run of 4,000 – 5,000 copies, and a Canadian subscription price of $57 for four issues, Parachute circulates in more than forty countries.

In 2004, La Lettre volée in Brussels published Essais choisis 1975-2000, a collection of some of the most important articles appearing in the journal since its founding. An English anthology will be co-published by Pennsylvania State University Press and Tate Publishing and a Spanish edition is being prepared by CENDEAC in Spain.

Parachute has been chosen by the Documenta 12 Magazine Project as one of the eighty journals around the world which works to link artistic practices, theoretical discourse and the public. These journals are collaborating on the creation of a web site on the theoretical and artistic issues being raised by the next edition of Documenta in Kassel in the summer of 2007.

The final issue is devoted to Havana and will be on sale in January 2007.

UPDATE: Not everybody is cut up about the suspension. The owner of Zeke's, a contemporary art gallery in Montreal, had this to say in his blog about the report of Parachute's demise.
If Parachute is closing because of lack of government funding, how does it mean that there is no money in Montreal for contemporary art? It might mean that certain people are not willing to pay a CPM of more than $100 for an academic journal that is read by 1,200 people. If I remember correctly, the Musee d'art contemporain got more than 62,000 people to see their Brian Jungen exhibit, and more than 50,000 for Anselm Kiefer, and this is after they raised their prices by 33%. If you do good work, people will pay for it. Do not so good work, and you can't give it away for free.

Again, I am very sad that Parachute is closing, but to use the occasion to further some mistruths about contemporary art in Montreal is just plain bad reporting.

Sutherland to step down at Western Living

It takes a great deal of gumption to make a major career shift; Jim Sutherland, the editor of Western Living, should be congratulated and wished well on his decision to step down and go back to writing. The announcement was made last week and was reported in mastheadonline yesterday (sub req'd). Sutherland was previously editor of sister magazine Vancouver before joining Western Living in 1999. No word on who will replace him, though this is one of the most highly prized gigs on the left coast.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Canadian Winter magazine
offers cold comfort

"Mon pays..." oops, I was going to break into song, prompted by the impending launch of a cozy new travel/lifestyle magazine called Canadian Winter.

It is owned and produced by Griffintown Media, a Montreal-based communications firm that also publishes Canadascope magazine, Canada’s international magazine for the tourism industry, since 2001. Like Canadascope, Canadian Winter has a strong, tourism-focussed promotional streak. It calls itself "Canada's coolest magazine" and the first issue is due out November 24. The happy tone is set by the message from editor Jim Hynes:
Canadian Winter offers a pretty unique experience. The climate, geography and opportunities for outdoor adventure of the winter kind just can’t be had in 90 per cent of the rest of the world. Yes, a beach in Cancun in January can be a good thing too. But you haven’t lived until you’ve made a snow angel in Canadian powder either. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
The content includes how to make an outdoor rink, a feature on the joys of wintertime Montreal and a piece on polar bear watching in Churchill, Manitoba. Readers can find out about snow conditions and download winter scene screensavers. And there's a tab that takes you to information and sites about the forthcoming winter Olympics in Vancouver.

In addition to being on Canadian newsstands, Griffintown says the magazine will be distributed via a targeted mailing list, and also will be on display at Montreal’s winter consumer show, le Salon J’aime l’Hiver, November 24-26 at Place Bonaventure.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Jill Foran new editor of Kayak; Ian McKelvie to market Kayak and The Beaver

Major changes at the children's history magazine Kayak, the digest-sized, colourful little sister of The Beaver. Both are published by Canada's National History Society out of Winnipeg. The original editor, Aron Slipacoff and the Art Director, Glenn Toddum, have left after having launched and got Kayak on an even keel (ed: enough of that).

The new editor is Calgary author and freelancer Jill Foran, who is already working on the January issue. Foran is best known for books for the children's and young adult market. A new art director will be announced soon.

Another major announcement is that well-known and award-winning circulator Ian McKelvie, who was laid off by Canadian Geographic earlier this year, has been named marketing director of the history society, responsible for overseeing all aspects of marketing for both The Beaver and Kayak, including circulation and fulfillment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reader's Digest sold for $2.4 billion

In what is one of the biggest magazine sales in the past decade, Reader's Digest has agreed to be sold to a private equity firm for $1.6 billion, according to a story from Folio: magazine. The buyer is Ripplewood Holdings Inc., founded in 1995 by Tim Collins, the former managing director of Canadian buyout firm Onex Corporation. Ripplewood currently manages five institutional private equity funds with approximately US$10 billion in total capital.

It is not immediately known what the impact will be on the Canadian edition of Reader's Digest, published by Readers Digest Magazine Canada Ltd. which has always presented itself as operating with a great deal of autonomy and which enjoys a special status in the Canadian market. It also publishes Our Canada.

In a joint announcement, Ripplewood and the board of Reader's Digest Association said that, with the assumption of RD's $776.3 million debt load, the total price tag of the deal will stand at $2.4 billion. The price of the Pleasantville, New York-based company's stock shot up $1.16 to $16.67 a share in late afternoon trading.

Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment bankers DeSilva & Phillips, said the deal caught many by surprise. “They weren’t for sale,” he said. “I think this is one of those situations where someone approached them and it worked out.”

The deal will move Reader’s Digest, publisher of Reader’s Digest magazine and Everyday with Rachel Ray, from a publicly traded to privately held company, which Phillips called a good move.

“It’s a good thing for a company like the Digest because we’re going through this transformation with the Internet and you can go through it better as a privately owned company,” he said. “When you’re publicly owned, you have to have stable earnings from one quarter to the next. That can be hard when you’re trying to transform a business, which is what we’re seeing now with a company like Time Inc.”

Collins told the New York Times that Ripplewood thinks it can renovate the magazine, removing its prevailing old-fashioned image: “People think of Reader’s Digest as something for their grandmother, but the company has a dynamic base,” said Ripplewood’schief executive, Timothy C. Collins. “We’re not the smartest guys in private equity, but we know how to take content and customer relationship and make them work in new venues.”

Phillips also predicted that the takeover of the publishing industry by private equity firms has only just begun. “What’s going with private equity firms is that they have more money than ever and they’re looking to do bigger deals, putting that money to work,” he said. “Some of these funds are three to four times the size of what they were a few years ago, so they’re looking to do deals that are three to four times the size of what they were doing a few years ago.”
Reader's Digest had revenues of $2.4 billion in 2005 and EBITDA of $185.8 million. The company, which runs on a July to June fiscal year, has suffered two consecutive years of losses. Earlier this month, it announced first quarter revenues of $517.1 million, up from $516.4 in the first quarter of last year. It's operating loss widened to $30 million to the first quarter compared to $7 million a year earlier.

Ad revenue for Reader's Digest fell in the first 10 months of the year 1.5 percent to $242.9 million from $246.7 million in the same period last year. Its ad pages dropped 3.7 percent to 827.37 from 859.57 in the first 10 months of 2005, according to PIB figures. The company's total paid and verified circulation is more than 10 million. The company says its Web site has 5,244,000 hits and 995,000 unique visitors per month.

New York-based Ripplewood owns Direct Holdings Worldwide, a music distribution service under the Time Life brand, and WRC Media, the publisher of Weekly Reader and World Almanac.
[UPDATE] Here is the story of the sale in the Globe and Mail; and here in the New York Times.

Brand names aren't worth squat
without the right attitude

Guess what? Readers don't give a hoot about magazine brands; they want content relevant to their lives presented in a way that's visually appealing. I'm not reading Rolling Stone again because I have fond memories of checking it out while stoned and listening to "Fables of the Reconstruction" during high school; I'm reading it again because it has abandoned its we-are-cultural-trendsetters-and-you-shall-respect-us-as-such 'tude in favor of provocative writer/subject pairings, like sic'ing Maureen Dowd on Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Brand names are all well and good, but they don't mean a whole heck of a lot without the brand attributes that lured readers in the first place.
--Larry Dobrow, in his Magazine Rack review column for MediaPost. He was writing about the sad-sack version of the venerable brand Life, now reduced to a 16-page weekend supplement which he describes as "weightless piffle".

How things change

A friend sent us a 2003 clipping from the Thunderbird, the student newspaper of the University of British Columbia.

Who said this, an excerpt from a review of the first issue of The Walrus?
It's a solid enough magazine, but far from fresh. The one truly cool idea in the entire magazine is the illustrated review, humourously executed by Richard Hahn. If they're pushing the big names, then how about Mike Myers' take on a literary essay? We already know how Douglas Coupland does it.

So little for the West (not to mention the Atlantic). Total substantive mentions of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island: 0. Vancouver and the Prairies make lovely cameos in the feature on Germany, but overall it's enough to make you misty-eyed for the Alberta Report.

It should improve.

The verdict: Not subscription worthy… yet.
The answer? Jeremy Keehn, the current Managing Editor of...The Walrus.

Seeing Canada the Geist way

Geist magazine, which is known and valued for many things, is perhaps most valued by many people for its thought-provoking, often wacky maps that are quirkily revealing about Canada and 50 of these maps have now been gathered together in an atlas published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Many of the maps were created by Melissa Edwards.

In its unique way, Geist is offering a subscription to the magazine as a premium for paying $24.95 to buy the atlas.

Ian Darbyshire in the Vancouver Province said of the atlas:
“My day got even better when I opened the next envelope to find The Geist Atlas of Canada, which is a collection of some of the best Geist maps. There are the all-Canadian maps, such as The Hockey Map of Canada and The Beer Map of Canada. There are the anti-Canadian maps, such as The Impolite Map of Canada and The Canadian Map of the United States. But wait, there's more! The atlas also has a number of fun appendices, including Demonyms. I had no idea residents of Moose Jaw were called Moose Javians or residents of Ucluelet were called Ucluelilies. So what do you call someone who lives in Surrey? A Surrealist.”
You can find out more about ordering the atlas by phone, online or by mail by going here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Enroute magazine names top new restaurants

Enroute magazine has named the top new Canadian restaurants, according to Canadian Press. They are:
  1. Nu (Vancouver)"Nu's menu is a puzzle that fits no matter how you put it together," said contributing editor Chris Johns. "It has stylistic whims and nods to culinary trendiness. The kitchen, while ambitious, isn't afraid of a bit of fun."
  2. Capo (Calgary) - "Elegant, luxurious and sophisticated."
  3. Dayboat(Hunter River, P.E.I.) - "Outside Hunter River (pop. 354), where farmland meets water, an unassuming grey building serves some of Canada's most exciting food."
  4. Cava (Toronto) - "Idiosyncratic tapas restaurant."
  5. Rare (Vancouver) - "Lives up to its hype."
  6. Pintxo (Montreal) - A menu featuring "tiny, decadent inventions."
  7. Harvest (Picton, Ont.) - "Defining the culinary style and standards of what could be this country's next great food and wine region."
  8. Treadwell (Port Dalhousie, Ont.) - "Farm to table cuisine."
  9. Joe Beef (Montreal) - "Relaxed and casual."
  10. Saint Germain (Calgary) - "This restaurant's transformation is a feat worthy of its patron saint."

The digital side of magazines gets a tax break

Although it has apparently been available to them for some time, magazine publishers in Ontario were today briefed for the first time on the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (OIDMTC). It is administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation and, in a session co-sponsored by Magazines Canada, the rules and regs of the program were outlined.
  • It is available to for-profit magazine companies to develop web-based and digital extensions of their traditional print business (the credit is also designed to serve game developers and the like);
  • It is only available to companies that pay or are eligible to pay corporate income tax in Ontario;
  • The tax credit will pay down any tax owing and the balance will be paid by cheque to the magazine.
  • It is restricted to titles with gross revenues of less than $20 million and total assets less than $10 million. (In other words, most Canadian magazine publishers);
  • It allows companies to write off 20% of their eligible labour expenditures
  • Marketing and distribution expenditures are also eligible to write off 20%* to a maximum of $100,000 on the qualifying digital media products;
  • Such writeoffs are available for expenditures going back 24 months, but can only be applied for every two years;
  • *Depending on passage of legislation that is now in second reading in the Ontario legislature, some magazines will likely be able to claim an addition 10% (for a total of 30%) because they fall within a small business provision proposed in the latest Ontario budget;
  • Eligible labour expenditures can be 100% of staff salaries and wages and 50% of freelance payments to create and market the digital media products;
  • The magazine must be incorporated and submit an application in order to receive a Certificate of Eligibility.
If you'd like to know more, you can call OMDC at 1-800-560-0695 or (416) 314-6868 or go to the website . The acting team leader for the OMDC tax credits department is Monica Szenteszky.

As has been noted before in this space, the magazine industry is the only cultural industry in Ontario that does not have a tax credit applied to it. This nod to digitized spinoffs such as magazine websites is a good, but half measure, and the industry will undoubtedly be pushing for equal status with such industries as film and books.

Digital permissions and reprint system to be fronted by Winnipeg firm

Tirage Reprints, a company out of Winnipeg, has cut a deal with online content licensing service iCopyright to manage copyright permissions, sell reprints, and offer other content services to magazine readers. iCopyright, a company founded in 1998 and based in Seattle, Washington, markets a system designed to make it easy for readers to comply with copyright requirements and easy for magazines to collect fees for their compyrighted material. It has seven patents pending in the field of automatic licensing and permissions.

"The nature of digital content demands a world-wide copyright preservation, monitoring and licensing solution," said Mike O'Donnell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iCopyright. "Content on the Internet can not be controlled by borders or legislated by national laws. What is needed is a copyright system that works for all content, in all countries and all languages, for both publishers and users." iCopyright also made a similar deal in Great Britain with Media Revenue Services.

"We are very excited to be partnering with iCopyright to bring their services to the publishing industry in Canada," said Justin Schiele, Vice President of Tirage Reprints. "iCopyright is a perfect fit with our reprint business. We recently met with a number of leading newspaper and magazine publishers in Canada and received an enthusiastic response. We will be announcing shortly contracts with publishers who have agreed to use iCopyright and our reprint services."

Tirage Reprints says it is Canada's largest full-service reprint marketing firm and provides reprint and eprint marketing, print production and copyright permission services to magazine and other periodical publishers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quote, unquote

"I believe the boundaries of freedom of expression seem to be closing in a bit on newspapers and magazines in a way which may not be healthy."
-- Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of Britain's Press Complaints Commission, quoted in The Guardian. (Sir Christopher is best known for telling tales out of school about his time as ambassador to Washington. His warning was in context with some comments about the greater difficulties government is throwing up to block journalists from reporting on those in power.)

New job source for those gazing south

Competition in the magazine job board category has heated up a bit, as Folio: and CM (Circulation Management) magazines, from Red7Media of Norwalk, Connecticut, have created a new site called It's not clear whether Canadian publishers/employers will find this a good way to troll for people who want to head north.

Job seekers can register to receive e-alerts for particular kinds of jobs. Employers can register for the privilege of paying US$150 for one job posting for 30 days ($135 each for up to 3 jobs; $110 each for up to 5 jobs).

(Judging from the header on the job board, one of the qualifications for working in magazines is perfect teeth.)

Getting paid what you're worth
(freelance division)

Interesting item on the Professional Writers Association of Canada blog about advise to freelancers being given by the Canadian Media Guild (CMG). The guild's freelance unit automatically represents and negotiates for all freelancers who do work for the CBC and SRC.

Among the tips given in the pamphlet Taking the Free out of Freelance, are:
As an experienced freelancer, avoid working for the minimum rates wherever possible. Your fee should reflect your experience and expertise. Remember: a staff reporter with five years of experience would never work for the salary of a rookie. You shouldn't either.

As a Freelance Contributor, you own the copyright to your work. It is your intellectual property -- guard it with your life! If you choose to assign or sell your copyright, ensure you receive significant compensation.

National Magazine Awards entries due soon

It's not too soon for magazine editors and contributors to be leafing through their past year's issues and deciding what entries they'll be making to the 30th annual National Magazine Awards. Applications are accepted starting December 1 and must be in no later than January 10. Finalists will be posted on the magawards website by May 1, 2007. If you're particularly feckless, it's helpful to have the magawards remind you of the dealines by e-mail, which you can arrange here. The event itself is June 15th (the culmination of a week that contains the new MagNet conference, hosted by Magazines Canada and the Canadian Circulation Marketing Association (CMC)

OMDC grant recipients

[NOTE This post has been corrected.] The Ontario Media Development Corporation's Magazine Fund has given out 27 grants to magazines, according to its newsletter issued Friday. Masthead magazine (which is a sister publication to one of the grant recipients) has also reported this (sub req'd). No amounts are reported, but recipients are allowed to apply for project support up to $25,000.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shameless weighs in on
slurs against Stronach

Although it seems to be somewhat late in the day, the Shameless magazine blog has posted about the sexist crap that was (and probably is) being dished out to Belinda Stronach, MP. Thea Lim, a frequent contributor to the blog, detailed comments from Peter MacKay, Norman Spector and Ralph Klein and explained the context for the non-Canadian readers of Shameless before saying that she posted not because of what they said, but because of what other women said:
I’m not a Stronach supporter, but I was totally distressed by the comments made about her. It sends a clear message to any young woman bold enough to go into politics in Canada that, if you want to get anywhere, you better date like a nun, keep your mouth shut, and act with more decorum than any man in the house does.

But in the end, what made me want to post about Belinda, was that I heard multiple women complain that, when Belinda responded that MacKay’s comment was “offensive to all women,” she was making the issue about women, when it was only about Belinda. I feel vehemently that that is untrue. As one of the most prominent women in Canada (even if her power is constantly attacked and denigrated), when she’s slurred in public by powerful men in our community, it IS about us.

Subscribers win with e-alerts
and downloadable content

It is a truism that online tools can enhance the experience of readers who don't want to give up the many benefits and pleasures of a traditional print publication. What the internet and e-notifications do extremely well is provide enhancements of the experience of being a subscriber. Many magazines offer e-letters (on narrow, vertical topics excerpted from or expanding on the main editorial of the publication) or e-alerts (that, for instance, let the subscriber know a new issue is ready -- and possibly downloadable). More magazines, particularly speciality or niche titles, should probably do this, particularly when they've got far-flung subscribers.

A good example of a plain vanilla service is Canadian Mennonite, a bi-weekly magazine with a circulation of 16,000 (mostly in Canada). It offers all its current print subscribers the option of having an e-mailed version sent to them when it comes off the press and somewhat in advance of receiving their print issue. They have the option of receiving either a full pdf file as an attachment or simply an alert with a link that they can click on if they wish to access an HTML version (with the option of dowloading a pdf). (The dowload is available to subscribers only. The e-lert is available to anyone.)

The advantage is storing the complete copy in the subscriber's e-mail inbox to be read at leisure, even when not connected to the Internet. The disadvantage is these e-mail messages are large (3 to 5 mb) and can take some time to download.

(This is similar to a service offered by the Guardian Weekly newspaper, which lets subscribers order any article or any group of articles or sections from a menu the moment the paper comes off the press and days ahead of delivery. Subscribers can also put in a standing order for automatic e-mail inbox delivery of preferred stuff like the rugby report or a particular columnist, or specific job ads. There doesn't seem to be any downside to this, from a reader's perspective.)

The obvious question for print publishers is whether, for a certain proportion of the subscribers, doesn't this make the print magazine redundant? Our response is: so what if it does? If, say 20 per cent of your subscribers come to accept and prefer a downloadable version, they remain part of your audience and you save a significant amount of your printing and mailing cost. For specialized, niche publications, this is probably the way of the future and makes them no less valuable as magazines serving their readership.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Optimistic Ambrose brings her enthusiasm -- and her Rolodex -- to The Walrus

There is no question that a certain amount of PR was called for* at The Walrus and opening up to the Toronto Star is not a bad way to get some. In the Sunday Star, writer Leslie Scrivener examines the implications and impact of the arrival of Shelley Ambrose as publisher of the magazine and executive director of the Walrus Foundation.

While acknowledging that she has no direct magazine experience, Ambrose makes a persuasive case for herself as a producer and the owner of a formidable Rolodex, reflective of her ability to get her phone calls returned.

The article is not particularly illuminating on the details of the challenges Ambrose faces -- such as how large a nut she has to to crack in getting the magazine to be self-sustaining. But it gives hints about how she and editor and benefactor Ken Alexander may get along: both of them like to drink and smoke. It notes she has experience dealing with difficult and creative people, like Peter Gzowski, Peter Mansbridge, Pam Wallin...and, now, Ken Alexander. "I've never had a problem. It's always about work. You argue about it and then go and have a beer ... Everybody else is pessimistic. Why not be optimistic?" she said.

*see earlier posts here and here and here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rue Morgue Radio spreads its dark tentacles...

Rue Morgue, Canada's magazine of horror in culture and entertainment, has now partnered with Iceberg Radio to distribute a weekly, dowloadable radio program that is, horrible. Which is what they are driving at. It's a specialty music show that started in 2002 on Rue Morgue's own website and is now to be carried on, and dowloaded from Horror and music fans can tune in for a new show every Friday, and there are plans to upgrade the program in January.
The program is hosted by Rue Morgue’s Tomb Dragomir and featuring columnists Stuart “Feedback” Andrews and Chris Alexander, Rue Morgue Radio showcases the latest macabre music from around the globe: from dark rock, horror punk, psychobilly and goth, to movie soundtracks, creepy classical funeral music and more. The new year will see the show extended to an hour long format along with new segments, new personalities and, of course, more music.
Listeners can tune in this Friday to or the show’s original site at for an interview with Scott Glosserman, director of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and a dissection of the 1971 Eurotic lesbian vampire classic Daughters of Darkness, along with a specialized selection of tunes from the tomb.

Bonnie Fuller gets meaner to push up sales

Funny, how when newsstand and sub sales soar, Bonnie Fuller credits her own genius with having accomplished it; yet when single copy sales slump, as they have with the tabloid Star, she says the redesign she is launching has nothing to do with it. According to a story in Women's Wear Daily (WWWD):
The new elements will be rolled out over the next three to four weeks and will help Star stand out in an already-crowded field, according to Fuller. But as any savvy media observer will note, the redesign comes as newsstand sales have taken a downturn throughout the fall. The Oct. 30 issue sold 630,000 newsstand copies, and issues throughout September and October fluctuated between 680,000 and 800,000, down from a strong summer season — Star's Aug. 28 issue sold 943,000 single copies. Fuller denied the redesign has anything to do with newsstand performance. Moreover, Fuller chalks up the soft sales since August to normal seasonality across the entire celebrity weekly category as summer vacation season winds down.
New features are colorful callouts with editors' pictures and opinions sprinkled about Star article stories to infuse Star's "strong personality" into the pages. "Our editors will be more involved with the magazine," said Fuller.... We're going to be sympathetic hand-holders in a situation when our celebs need us," said Fuller.
Not always, though. Unsympathetic spreads of celebrity fashion miscues and plastic surgery stories, such as "Knifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "Just Asking," which points out ridiculous appearances or actions of stars, will be expanded.

Such features also include snarkier captions and editors' quips, including associate managing editor Brooke Alovis' assessment of Ivanka Trump's breasts: "Her new boobs are set so far apart, you could drive a truck between them," and a caption on a picture of Lindsay Lohan in leggings said, "You're asking for more crotch jokes!"

Slightly harsh, Ms. Fuller? "I don't think it's mean," she responded. "We also have someone on the page that supports the choice," referring to an editor in support of the leggings trend.

This guy says advertising is a public good

Maclean's columnist Andrew Potter moonlights with a guest column published in the Ottawa Citizen (and, presumably, other CanWest papers), making the case for advertising.
Just as pollution typically involves the dumping of the byproducts of industrial manufacture into our physical environment, many critics talk of advertising as polluting our "mental environment." In both cases, we are involuntarily exposed to something that is at best worthless, but perhaps even toxic and harmful to our physical or mental health. Advertising is routinely blamed for all manner of social ills, from obesity and anorexia to envy and unhappiness.
Potter (the co-author of The Rebel Sell and a former member of the board of This Magazine) points out that the true cost of a magazine or newspaper would be considered prohibitive if it weren't offset by advertising revenue. To illustrate what user-pay would mean, he points out that a typical issue of the Times of London would cost over $50 if it were ad-free.
If we set aside the implausible notion that we have all been brainwashed, it is hard to avoid concluding that many of us actually enjoy consuming the halo of symbolism associated with our favourite branded goods. Indeed, the only way to explain the fact that hundreds of thousands of (mostly) women are willing to spend seven or eight bucks on a magazine like Vogue, which consists almost entirely of ads for branded fashion goods, is that they get significant vicarious enjoyment from the lifestyles portrayed.
He says essentially that the unpleasant fact is that a free press is paid for by advertising.
The unfortunate lesson in all of this is the same one we learned as we became environmentally conscious in the '60s and '70s: Pollution may have a private cause, but it is a public problem. If we are really serious about cleaning up our mental environment, it is going to get pretty expensive. Either taxes and prices are going to go up, or the quality and range of socially beneficial goods and services is going to go down.Given these alternatives, we may find that putting up with advertising is a relative bargain.

NOW turns 25

Frankly, we were a bit embarrassed to tell some of our friends that we were starting a business. Marrying a loud, opinionated social consciousness with entrepreneurialism was like going to the dark side in those days. It was funny, but it was uncomfortable back then, too. Right from the start, we got a dose of how it felt to be ahead of our time. And it really hasn’t changed that much.
-- Michael Hollett and Alice Klein, co-founders of NOW magazine, celebrating its 25th anniversay issue this week. To read the whole of their reflection on the growth of the weekly alternative magazine which started out selling for 50 cents a copy but has long been free, and now makes about $13 million a year from advertising, go here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two art directors, two books, one launch

A launch next Tuesday in Montreal will unveil books by two people who art direct Canadian magazines. Both books are from Insomniac Press.

This Will All End in Tears is a graphic novel, five, long-form, illustrated short stories that is said to be "part Charles Schulz, part Edward Gorey" and written by the art director of Ascent magazine, Joe Ollmann. Ascent Canada's leading yoga magazine. (Shown at right is one of the panels from the book.)

The Mole Chronicles by Andy Brown is a novel that "traces the complexities of family relationships through a paranoid landscape of skin disease, secret societies, eco-terrorism and post-global culture," according to a release. Brown is art director of Matrix magazine, published out of Concordia University in Montreal and a founder of connundrum press.

Originally from Vancouver, Brown is the author of the short story collection I can see you being invisible (D.C. Books, 2003). His writing has appeared extensively in publications throughout North America.

Originally from Hamilton, Joe Ollmann lives in Montreal and is the author of two other books, Chewing on Tinfoil (2001) and The Big Book of Wag! (2006). You can see more of his work at

The launch takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday November 14 at Boa Bar, 5301 St. Laurent in Montreal. (Thanks to the blog Sequential: Canadian comix and culture for this.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guardian editor predicts sunset for classified ads

The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, predicted to an audience of his peers that classified advertising could disappear from newspapers by 2020.

Taking part in a panel at the Society of Editors meeting in Glasgow, he said classified adverts from the Guardian print edition were declining by about 9% a year while internet advertising on Guardian Unlimited was growing by about 50% each year - but from a much lower base.

The Guardian was attempting to overcome the problem by launching Guardian Recruitment Services, a full recruitment organisation rather than just a classified advertising service.

He also commented on the paradoxical relationship between traditional media and new media like Google.

"Nobody in newspapers can decide if Google is the friend or their enemy. The friendly bit is that they drive lots of traffic back to us and we might be able to monetise that. What's happening at the moment is that Google is hovering up stupendous amounts of money on the back of our content."

Robin Esser, executive managing editor of the Daily Mail, agreed. He said that the internet was not zero sum, but added to the mix, rather than automatically taking away from other media. He said that Google News would have to pay content providers if it used their work.

"If showing the full body of copyright work we would have to licence that."

Rusbridger said the future for newspapers was one beyond text. Last week the Guardian was on eight platforms ranging from a video report on Newsnight to podcasts on iTunes.
"I don't spend time losing sleep over whether there will be a paper or not because there is nothing I can do about it."
He predicted that reporters will work in at least five media and networked journalism would see professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, but he left open the question of who would edit it.

"I think you have to prepared to be surprised and you have to experiment like mad."
Other speeches and comment from the Society of Editors conference can be read at its website.

This Magazine celebrates
40 years of feisty independence

This Magazine is celebrating 40 years of publication -- no mean feat -- with a splashy event on Wednesday night at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. (Attention is being paid in places like Torontoist.)

Here's what This says about itself:
It is one of Canada's longest-publishing alternative journals. Founded by a gang of school activists in 1966, and originally called This Magazine is About Schools, the modern-day This Magazine focuses on Canadian politics, pop culture and the arts, but in keeping with its radical roots never pulls punches. Subversive, edgy and smart, This Magazine is the real alternative to that.

Praised for integrating commentary and investigative reporting with in-depth arts coverage, This Magazine has been instrumental in trumpeting the new works of young Canadian writers and artists. In fact, over the past 40 years, This Magazine has introduced the early work of Canada's most notable writers, critics and artists, including Margaret Atwood, Dionne Brand, Tomson Highway, Naomi Klein, Evelyn Lau, Dennis Lee, Michael Ondaatje, Rick Salutin, Stan Persky, Robert Priest, Al Purdy, Drew Hayden Taylor and Clive Thompson.

How rich publishers get richer; Hearst saves $1 million on prepress

Hearst, one of the U.S.'s biggest magazine publishers, saved about $1 million by streamlining its prepress operations, according to a story in Folio: magazine. (Hearst publishes, among other titles, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, House Beautiful, Marie Claire, O: The Oprah Magazine, Redbook and Seventeen.)

It looked at the way things were done down under by Austrialian Consolidated Publishing and implemented many of the ideas back in New York. The Hearst operations was very decentralized, said Cathy Merolle, director of operations, manufacturing and distribution for Hearst.
“We had 18 magazines each with their own ad production and layout staff. There were very few common practices. There were 18 different types of printing instructions, layout maps, split instructions. It wasn’t very efficient.”
  • Each magazine was given its own digital imaging specialist;
  • A "colour-managed" environment was created, providing basic color-theory training for all of its art and production departments;
  • Each department’s workflow was analyzed;
  • FPO scanning was eliminated in favour of a high-resolution workflow;
  • A response team of imaging specialists was created to handle overflow; and
  • A premedia department was created to postflight pages before sending them to the printer
“We had a shared data system, in which you only had to enter things once,” Merolle said. The company also...
  • Deployed a K4 content management system;
  • Switched to an Adobe InDesign and PDF workflow;
  • Purchased Creo Eversmart IQ Scanners, Epson 7800 proofers, and began using virtual ticket to traffic its images and mass transit to send files.

  • “As a result, our savings have exceeded our expectations,” said Ellen Payne, director of editorial operations for Hearst. “Our magazines are more efficient. We shaved three days off our cycle time and we’ve been able to launch new magazines more cost effectively by embracing technology to help us reengineer how we make magazines. And our editors and art directors say they’d never go back to the old way.”

Tooting our own small horn

We were having such a busy time posting that we failed to notice as we passed one of those arbitrary mileposts sometime last week with our 1,000th post since the blog began in spring 2005. Currently, each month Canadian Magazines is averaging about 8,500 visitors and about 13,000 page views a month.

Kathy Bergen feted by many friends

An event took place on Sunday that demonstrates the kinds of special bonds that can sometimes be forged in magazines. It was a "tea" held at the Toronto home of Bev Topping for Kathy Bergen the Editorial Director of today', stricken by cancer and honoured by her many friends and associates. Bergen has become well-known for her expertise in online publishing and, before that, as a skilled production manager in print.

About 100 people attended, including Today's Parent Group (TPG) colleagues old and new and members of Bergen's family, including husband Scott and 17-year-old daughter Franny. Guests had been asked to bring cookies, and they did, to be consumed along with sandwiches and hot hors d'oeuvres.

There was a brief and emotional presentation of a memory book signed by the guests and of a gift to which everyone contributed with contributions at the door: a Florida holiday, including two days at Walt Disney World. The memory book had pages for photographs and room for Kathy's 8-year-old son Timmy to get autographs from the various Disney characters.

According to someone at the party, Kathy -- and virtually everyone else -- teared up when she accepted the gift and reminded everyone that someone had once said it was wrong to think of TPG as a family when it is in fact a business -- but if this isn't family, she said, she didn't know what was.

Shelley Ambrose named Walrus publisher

The Walrus has a new publisher -- Shelley Ambrose. This, according to a story on Canadian Press and on Ambrose, who spent the last three years working in public affairs at the Canadian Consulate in New York, was named publisher of the magazine on Monday.
[Keep on pitching -- Ambrose is seen at left, pitching for the Canadian team in a baseball league playing in New York's Central Park.]
Ambrose is perhaps better known as the longtime assistant to the late Peter Gzowski when he ruled on CBC national radio; and later as a the producer of Pam Wallin & Company on television. (Not coincidentally, Pam Wallin was the Canadian consul in New York and Ambrose went with her.)It is not known that she has had any experience in publishing or in magazines. She would certainly be well known to The Walrus's editor, Ken Alexander, who was himself a producer of Counterpoint on CBC television.

Ambrose replaces Bernard Schiff, who (along with several members of the board) resigned from the magazine two months ago. Schiff had been, with Alexander and David Berlin, one of the key founders of the magazine, which has had a great deal of staff turnover in its brief life. See previous posts here and here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You guys still don't measure up, say universities

Universities continue to complain about the effrontery of magazines and newspapers passing judgement on their excellence, offerings and courses. Maclean's, of course, is in the bad books of half the universities in the country who are refusing to fill out the detailed questionnaire sent to their administrations. The Globe and Mail is trying to horn in on the territory by developing its own annual report based on an online questionnaire filled in by students about their experience. Not much better, say the universities. It's still a methodology problem and neither measure up.

Sheldon Levy, the president of Ryerson University in Toronto, went so far as to write a note to every student and faculty member and to post online a critical comparison of both the Maclean's and the Globe methodologies.


Spacing gets a growing rep for relevance

[Toronto Star photo by Rene Johnston] Left to right, Shawn Micallef, Anna Bowness wih 2-month-old daughter River, writer Dale Duncan, Matt Blackett (in centre holding a button) Holland Gidney, and Dylan Reid.
Getting attention paid is a real struggle for small magazines; they cannot afford to advertise and press promotion often seems to elude them. But sometimes, excellence and persistence pays off. A great example is that on the front page of today's Toronto Star is a glowing story about the growth, influence and respect that Spacing magazine has achieved in the city. Inside, it's illlustrated by a picture showing some of the dedicated crew who put out the magazine as a labour of love.
"When I first saw their work, I kind of ended up scratching my head and wondering what it was about," says Ted Tyndorf, Toronto's chief city planner. "But I don't think anyone feels that way anymore. They've got a lot of credibility here."
Spacing talks about urban issues as though they matter, everything from bike lanes, public art, public spaces and street trees to wider issues of civic engagement. It started a blog for the current municipal election called Spacing Votes and which has eclipsed most similar efforts by so-called "main stream media". It has become a must-read for those who care about Toronto and urban affairs generally. It has been a very good year for the magazine, which won a gold medal at the National Magazine Awards for best editorial package.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The return of Tyler Brule. Now, it's serious

Tyler Brule, the Winnipeg-born founder of Wallpaper*, which he launched when he was 27 and soon sold to Time Inc., is to launch a magazine called Monocle in February.

Where Wallpaper*'s unique selling proposition for readers was the illusion of hanging out in a lavish pad talking about design and stuff with self-involved international jet-setters, the new magazine is being modelled more after fat, German magazines like Stern. It is said to be aimed at the same sort of people as its predecessor, but they seem to now have an interest in cultural affairs and business content; it has archly already been dubbed a "trendy Economist".

Cynics might say that Brule puts out a heckuva bow wake, but has no staying power. Wallpaper* lost bags of money before being bought by Time. For Monocle, he is reported to have raised about£5 million from investors to pay for the launch. The magazine will have 150,000 circulation worldwide (so have some cachet for magazine mavens) and a £5 cover price (C$12).

POP! goes the promotion

POP! magazine, which is for kids, is being given away free as a premium to anyone who buys child-related literature from Chapters Indigo during a six-week promotion, according to an item in Media in Canada. POP! is published by Paton Publishing of Missssauga, a division of Torstar. Normally, the colourful title distributes about 250,000 copies three times annually to elementary schools.

Travel issues broaden the
mind at Briarpatch

Timed for the start of the winter holiday season, Briarpatch magazine has taken on tourism and there are some thought-provoking, possibly guilt-inducing and consciousness-raising articles in its November issue. Among the contents:
  • They managed to land a high profile lead story by George Monbiot, a very well respected columnist for the Guardian, about the moral implications of travel.
  • There's a disturbingly thorough piece detailing the impact of ocean cruising called "The Attack of the Oversized Playpen" by Ross Klein, a professor from Memorial University in Newfoundland.
  • And a heart-breaking article by Nichole Huck of Regina (a director of Briarpatch) about the dilemmas of being on the receiving end of begging children while travelling.
It strikes me that this relatively small, obstreperously leftist, magazine, based in Regina, is doing a lot of good, investigative stories that we don't read many other places, wearing its heart on its sleeve but delivering quite the combination punch of fact and opinion.

(A few years ago, Briarpatch lost its provincial funding and its charitable status under dubious circumstances after some fierce criticisms of the Saskatchewan government. Now, it carries its outlaw status as a badge of honour and says it may be one of the few magazines in Canada that receives more revenue from its loyal donor base than it does in subscriptions.)

Its website and archive are well worth a visit. A sub is $24.61 a year for 8 issues.

New crop whines from universities
that boycotted Maclean's

Now that's rich! The president of Carleton University, one of the original 11 which refused to provide up-to-date data to Maclean's magazines' university issue, now criticizes the magazine for using year-old data. About half of Canada's universities effectively boycotted the rankings and used various strategems to thwart Maclean's's freedom-of-information requests for current data.

David Atkinson, whose university has always placed fairly low in the Maclean's rankings, found his institution 32nd in the best overall, highest quality and most innovative category, using last year's data.
"I think if the Macleans survey had any kind of academic integrity to begin with, it has lost it. To use out-of-date data is quite inexcusable and quite frankly demonstrates to me that their only interest is in selling magazines and they have absolutely no interest in any kind of appropriate measurement of higher education in Canada," he told the Ottawa Sun.
Across town, the University of Ottawa, another boycotter, said much the same thing: no fair for not using data we wouldn't give you.
"It's very difficult to take the Maclean's rankings seriously this year, especially because almost half of the universities surveyed did not participate," said David Mitchell, vice-president of university relations.

Tony Keller, Maclean's managing editor of special projects, defended the rankings saying in the Sun story that the issue (the 16th annual) contains the best publicly available information that exists for each of 24 indicators. In this, he was being somewhat ingenuous since half the data had to be cobbled together as the previously well-oiled machinery of the universities issue was derailed and attempts to force the universities' hands, failed.