Masthead News Archives
March 2005
March 31, 2005
Industry mourns passing of Fitz-James, Robinson
TORONTO—The magazine industry lost a couple pioneers this past weekend. Both men will be remembered for many years to come. John Herbert Robinson, 79, died in hospital last Saturday. A memorial service was held this past Tuesday. During a career spanning four decades, Robinson was a top salesman with the old Maclean Hunter magazine group before he and colleagues formed Formula Publications, now Formula Media Group, of Oakville, Ont., which founded Track & Traffic and Carguide magazines. In 1975 Robinson bought out his Formula partners and went on to launch a variety of titles catering to recreational power sports. Formula and a related printing operation was purchased by Torstar Corp. in late 2003 for roughly $6 million. John Herbert’s son, J. Scott, remains president of Formula.
Michael Fitz-James last June at Magazines University
On Sunday, peacefully at home, former Canadian Lawyer editor Michael Fitz-James, 54, died. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2003 and told me later that year that he suspected his time would be short. Fitz-James was a prolific freelance writer and mentor to many aspiring legal affairs journalists. He was known to friends, colleagues and acquaintances as a brilliant, loveably gruff, editorially scrupulous and eminently colourful character. Harold Fiske, his famous pseudonym, is familiar to many fans of CBC Radio's cult classic, Basic Black. Last June, he was presented with the Harvey Southam Editorial Career Award, administered by the Canadian Business Press. Friends will gather tomorrow at the Turner & Porter Chapel at 2357 Bloor St. W at 3:30 p.m. with a memorial service starting at 4:30 p.m. Donations in Fitz-James' memory may be made to charities supporting stem cell research. —William Shields

March 29, 2005
PMB to reveal first-ever readership data
TORONTO—When the Print Measurement Bureau releases its topline magazine readership figures tomorrow, the media buying community will finally get a peek at readership data for such popular mass-market magazines as Toro, Cottage Life and Sports Illustrated. Never before have these magazines had their readerships measured by PMB, considered the industry gold standard. PMB is funded by publishers, advertisers and advertising agencies. Other anticipated first-timers include: Canadian Home & Country, Inside Entertainment, Fashion 18, Where Canada, Ottawa City, Coté Jardins, En Primeur and Styles de Vie. The annual PMB report is the largest survey of consumer attitudes in Canada with roughly 25,000 respondents and is the yardstick in determining the number of readers a magazine commands—a key piece of data used by media buyers to determine cost-per-thousand info on ad buys. PMB data can be so precise as to tell you which magazine has the highest number of whisky drinkers, for example, although in order to get that information you must be a PMB member, which costs thousands of dollars.

March 24, 2005
Ousted president mulling shotgun clause
CALGARY—After being escorted from the building last Thursday, former RedPoint Media Group president and publisher Dan Bowman says he still has some cards to play and is “seriously reviewing all options available to me at this point” regarding the sudden buyout offer mounted by former oilpatch executive and RedPoint chairman Don Graves. Graves offered to buy Bowman’s shares of the company they founded together in 2003 when Graves’ Calgary Publishing merged with Bowman’s Avenue Publications. Bowman has 22 days to either accept the price or buyout Graves at the same price. “I’m very, very passionate about Avenue. I ran it profitably for eight years and have grown it exponentially these last few years,” says Bowman, adding that he was very “surprised and disappointed” about this turn of events. “I love magazines, l love publishing, I love the message it conveys. I love the way Avenue is a great communication tool for Calgary, Alberta and Western Canada. I think we accomplished an awful lot there. I think we had a lot more to do. Our game plan was I’d carry on here for another five years.”

March 22, 2005
Top execs leave posts
CALGARY, TORONTO—Last Thursday, RedPoint Media Group employees were shocked to learn, in an announcement by chairman Don Graves, that the services of president and publisher Dan Bowman “were no longer required.” Graves now fills all three roles. Bowman launched award-winning city magazine Avenue in 1994. His company Avenue Publications later merged with Calgary Publishing, publisher of Calgary magazine, to form RedPoint in 2003. “Publishing is part art and part science but always about vision, so when the vision of the key partners and decision makers differs, you have a fundamental and irresolvable problem that can only result in a parting of ways,” said Bowman in a released statement. According to Graves, the company has grown, some objectives hadn’t been met and a new style of management was in order. “[RedPoint] has [lost money] in some months. And some of it hasn’t built up as well as I’d like to see. The entrepreneurial style is a little different than a general management style so we’re going to make some changes to focus more on what we’re currently doing and do it better. And we’re not going to be as aggressive in trying to chase to find new projects in the immediate future.” The 50-employee company recently acquired a 10-year contract to publish new WestJet inflight magazine, Up! Graves approached Bowman with an offer last week. Both had ownership in the company along with various shareholders; the exact breakdown in ownership has not been publicized. No other staff dismissals are planned. Although Bowman was publisher of the majority of RedPoint titles, Graves plans to appoint separate publishers for each title from within the company.
In another surprise move, Todd Latham, general manager and group publisher of EcoLog Group, resigned on March 11. EcoLog, which publishes HazMat Management and Solid Waste and Recycling magazines, is a subsidiary of Hollinger’s Business Information Group. Latham and partners sold EcoLog to Southam, now Hollinger, in 1999. He’s been waiting to buy it back. “I was hopeful that there would be a management buyout or someone would buy BIG and then I’d have an opportunity to do that but of course that hasn’t happened and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen in the foreseeable future.” Latham hopes that when the time comes he’ll be able to acquire all or part of the group. In the meantime, he’s going to take some time off before exploring his options. Latham says he’d like to continue publishing in the environmental industry in an equity or ownership capacity.

March 17, 2005
Finkle and Osborne entertain at AMPA conference
CALGARY—Interested in selling your magazine? Kevin Rathbun of Watershed Capital Partners suggests making your magazine a more desirable purchase by growing the strength of your brand with ancillary publications such as special issues, annuals, directories or buyer’s guides. This is one of the many tips shared at Magazine Sessions, the annual professional development conference and trade show put on by the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association that approximately 180 people from across the country attended last weekend. It was a balmy 17°C when attendees gathered on Friday to hear a panel of industry representatives dispense advice on various areas of magazine publishing. Topics included the isolation of working from home, the dilemmas of balancing a dual role as editor and publisher and the oft-discussed quandary of advertorials. At a banquet dinner that evening, keynote speaker Derek Finkle, editor of national men’s magazine Toro, reminisced about the hectic eight-week schedule with which he had to publish the inaugural issue in order to make its Globe distribution date. Although it seemed like an insurmountable task, Finkle said, “My gut was telling me I’d regret it if I didn’t take it.” Staff was hired and stories were assigned in bars across Toronto as Finkle was without an office for his first few weeks on the job. The conference continued on Saturday with seminars on a variety of subjects such as circulation, production, editing, cover design, media kits; and fundraising, grant writing and best practices for arts and literary magazines. At lunch, Geist editor-in-chief Stephen Osborne recalled the early days of his literary career. It started with 3 Cent Pulp, which had 5,000 words crammed on an 8.5” x 11” page in 6-point type. Now looking back, “it was a forerunner of the ’zine culture,” said Osborne. He went on to co-found Arsenal Pulp Press and Geist, the magazine of Canadian ideas and culture. The event wrapped up with a plenary session on advertising and editorial policy, which saw heated moments of discussion on advertorial and ad adjacencies. People cooled off at the wine and cheese reception, which ended the conference.

March 15, 2005
Sneak peek at Toronto Life’s new look
TORONTO—Canada’s largest and most successful city magazine unveiled its new look to key advertisers over the last few weeks, a process culminating in a party scheduled for tomorrow night. Toronto Life’s new logo and design debuts with the April issue. Speaking to a roomful of advertisers at the swank Verity Club in Toronto last week, editor John Macfarlane and art director Carol Moskot—she was hired to execute the new design—explained that unlike many redesigns, this one was not forced upon them by an advertising, circulation or editorial crisis. “It’s better to make changes when you don’t have to,” said Macfarlane. He said the staff never liked the old logo much—“a big red blob”—but was careful to create a new logo that would still clearly communicate the brand. “Magazines with strong brands change, but they never walk away from their history,” he said. Gone is the red box, but familiar red letterforms define the new logo. The curved L, F and E in the word “Life” harken back to old logos from the 1970s, created by art director Ken Rodmell—Moskot’s design teacher. Inside pages sport new typography and grids, along with a reworked architecture: columns, then features, then all the listings and other service-oriented departments at the back in a new section called “City Survivor.”

March 10, 2005
Magazine snuffs out its own name
DELHI, Ont.—Canadian Tobacco Grower is no more. The bimonthly trade title will now be known as Specialty Farms. In the past two decades, Ontario tobacco farmers have seen demand for their harvests decline due to punitive taxes and effective government efforts at behaviorial engineering designed to deter tobacco usage. Ontario tobacco farms have dropped in number from a high of 3,000 in 1981 to approximately 650 today, says Margaret Land, the magazine’s editor. As a result, Delhi, Ont.-based Annex Publishing and Printing will reposition the 52-year-old title to focus more on alternative crops such as ginseng, herbs, wheat, fruits and vegetables. Contact: 519-582-2513.

March 8, 2005
Food & Drink under attack
TORONTO—Canadian magazine publishers are hoping that an independent panel appointed in January by the Ontario government to review the activities of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will recommend that the LCBO’s magalogue abstain from soliciting paid advertising. “Publishing a magazine in direct competition with other Ontario-based magazines should not be part of the LCBO’s operations for several reasons,” reads part of a 10-page document submitted by the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association to the panel last Friday. Those reasons include: (i) the LCBO exploits its virtual monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits by using its stores as exclusive distribution points for the magalogue; (ii) its “privileged access” to alcohol beverage advertisers provides Food & Drink with an “unfair advantage” over competing publications; (iii) F & D’s capacity for high production values (glossy paper, quality ink, perfect binding) and expensive editorial offerings (high-quality photography) “is tied directly to its subsidization from Ontario liquor sales.”
The CMPA also argues that due to these advantages, F & D is able to offer advertisers a cost-per-thousand rate of $27.63—thereby undercutting many leading titles, such as Canadian Living ($65.03), Harrowsmith Country Life ($67.21) and Canadian Geographic (68.27). Also, in 2003, 54% of F & D’s advertisers were from outside the beverage alcohol sector, from areas such as automotive, travel and financial services.

March 3, 2005
Pet shop pub purchased
RICHMOND HILL, Ont.—In the dog-eat-dog world of pet retail publishing, Kenilworth Media, located here, purchased rival mag Pet Commerce from August Communications for an undisclosed amount last week. August, a contract, trade and consumer publisher from Winnipeg, is selling off its 14 titles after announcing it’s shutting its doors at the end of this month. Kenilworth will merge Pet Commerce into its existing publication Pet Biz, a 7,000-circ, glossy, tabloid bimonthly that it launched last summer. “The pet market is really growing and the pet retail market is therefore growing quite a bit too, so we already felt then that there would be room for a good publication in the Canadian market and I believe combining the two is the best way to go,” says Kenilworth president Ellen Kral, adding that there was a lot of advertising and readership duplication between the two titles. Pet Biz’s April/May issue will include a new section called Pet Commerce on new pet retail trends and products. Included in the purchase was the annual Pet Commerce Buyer’s Guide that Kenilworth will relaunch next year, stitched into Pet Biz.
Stay tuned to Masthead for more on the fall-out from August Communications.

March 1, 2005
Budget leaves fate of PAP dangling
OTTAWA—There wasn’t much for magazine publishers to cheer about in the latest federal budget, which was released last week. “We were looking for some modest support for the [Publications Assistance Program] …and it’s not there,” says Jim Everson, director of public affairs for the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association. In a letter to Heritage Minister Liza Frulla last December, the CMPA expressed concern over looming cuts to the PAP subsidy—a reference to a scheduled funding decrease from $49.4 million last year to $45.4 million for fiscal 2005-2006. Two aggravating factors are: (i) more magazines are drawing on PAP, including newly eligible request-circulation titles; and (ii) rising postal rates. Publishers are worried a PAP shortfall will further thin their profit margins.
While there was no specific mention of PAP relief in last week’s budget, Everson says the Department of Heritage has the ability to re-allocate funds internally to meet needs. Also, Everson said the CMPA has been engaged in discussions with the Ministry of National Revenue, which oversees Canada Post, to impress upon it the adverse effects of rising postal costs.
From the point of view of cultural industries generally, Everson said there is “some good news,” pointing at the federal government’s renewed support of the Tomorrow Starts Today program, whose beneficiaries include theatres, the National Ballet of Canada, the Shaw Festival, Montreal’s Festival de Nouvelle Danse and the Canada Council for the Arts, which grants funds to such magazines as Maisonneuve, This Magazine, Quill & Quire, Broken Pencil, Brick, Border Crossings and many others.

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I can't wait till this rag of a newspaper chain dies. Shouldn't be long now...
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So what's the solution going forward? I know all about the challenges the industry faces in this reg...