Friday, February 27, 2009
To be honest, I didn’t realize contra advertising existed until I started working at Masthead.
For those who still don’t know, contra essentially refers to a deal where ad space is exchanged for a good or service, rather than actual money. The goods and services can range anywhere from employee incentives (a BBQ for the year’s top salesperson, for example) to things that actually lower the publisher’s cost of doing business (office furniture, perhaps).
I still find the whole thing kind of weird and funny and amazing and would love to hear from publishers or salespeople about the best or strangest contra deal you’ve ever made or heard about. (There are, of course, horror stories about contra deals that have ruined magazines but let’s keep it positive this time around.) Use the comments function below to post your story. Best entry wins free copies of two EPs by Recordbreaker, featuring Marco Ursi (i.e. me) on drums.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Not much, if the 13 comments on this CBC story
(in which I am quoted) are any indication.
"Another waste of taxpayer money;" wrote old joe. "If the magazines cannot make it on their own, let them go under. Eventually we will have a few less but they will be self supporting. We purchase the ones we like. 'Our Canada' is an excellent example of a good magazine that requires no support to survive."
"This is so stupid its beyond belief," wrote VotesForCash. "it is nothing more than corporate WELFARE. Nothing in this country is off limits to taxpayers subsidizes, except the citizens."
But perhaps using CBC reader comments as a way of taking Canadians' pulse on an issue isn't the best idea. After all, who the hell knows what this lunatic is talking about:
"Rediculous, utterly madening waste of our money," wrote Nutrition Sleuth. "Cancel the program, fire the staff, and move on to protect taxpayers. The chemical pharmaceutical industry plasters ads (back by their vesions of non0science) all over these publications. Tell me they need this governement subsidy. This is an outrage."
Meanwhile, over at the Globe and Mail,
someone called Theodore Street believes he's uncovered the secret government agenda behind the funding:
"Anything to relaunch the Alberta Report, or whatever organ they use to disseminate the neocon ravings of Mark Steyn and Ezra etc."
Honestly, these big media companies really need to rethink their free-for-all comment policies.
Friday, February 20, 2009
I’m reserving judgment on the new John Macfarlane/Brian Morgan-directed Walrus
until after I’ve read the April issue.
For now, let’s just say that my opinion on the cover story profile of Prime Minister Stephen Harper
pretty much sums up my feelings about most of the March issue.
It’s not much of an opinion, mind you; I didn’t read past the opening section. When you don’t learn a single new thing about someone in the first 500 or so words of a profile, you watch Argentinean soccer instead.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
's decision to publish four separate regional covers
to push Richard Florida's cover story
on how the recession will re-shape America has drawn ire from some quarters. James Adams in Saturday's Globe and Mail called it
"a touch misleading" and "chicanery." The Torontoist
people got kinda pissy
about it, too. And D. B. Scott at Canadian Magazines wrote
, "If I were someone who'd paid $6.95 for the magazine and found this bait-and-switch, I'd be seriously annoyed."
I was one of the people who did pay $6.95 for the magazine on the weekend. It's true that Florida's piece
—which is surprisingly good—didn't directly reference Toronto but his argument that "mega-regions" will come to dominate the North American economy in the future certainly includes the home of the Maple Leafs. And I certainly don't regret buying the issue: I have been loving every page of it this week on my very long morning commutes.
Now to be fair, I was already aware that the main cover story was what I like to call an "oversell" before visiting the newsstand; l actually bought the magazine because I wanted to know if Guitar Hero can save rock
. The author—surprise, surprise—didn't really answer the question but I still liked his piece.
Using coverlines to promote things only tenuously related to content actually in a magazine is a long, proud (or not) tradition in publishing. Just think about the preposterously huge numbers fashion mags love so much or the number of times Men’s Health
has promised a quick and easy way to the get great abs. (If it's so quick and easy, why do they keep giving us different ways to do it?)
Everyone from Maclean's
to the Ryerson Review of Journalism
is guilty of over spicing cover treatments in order to lure fickle newsstand buyers. It's just what we do in this business and we do it because drama, sensationalism and playing to readers' vanities sell better than sober thought, hard facts and complicated ideas.
Does it turn people off? In some cases. But the fact that celebrity tabloids—the worldwide leaders in cover stories that don't quite deliver the promised goods—continue to dominate
at the newsstand would seem to suggest that most readers are forgiving when it comes to this rather ridiculous but totally logical practice.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
You can find me at www.twitter.com/MarcoUrsi.
This is not an official MastheadOnline Twitter feed, but I will be using it to promote stories published here and engaging in conversations about the Canadian magazine industry. (I may also post things about music, books and soccer.) Feel free to follow.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Here a look at some of the special features we have lined up for the coming weeks:
- Our annual tally of magazine launches and closures.
- An ad sales roundtable discussion with industry veterans Jane Bradley (ParentsCanada), Randy Craig (Quarto Communications) and Brian Stendel (Keystone Media).
- Our annual list of the top 50 magazines in Canada by revenue.
- A new circulation blog written by one of the country's best young audience developers.
- A new Covershots blog, adapted from the regular Masthead magazine feature, where experts will critique the latest covers from two competing newsstand magazines.
- A digital version of Masthead magazine, produced in partnership with Texterity, that will archive issues from the past two years.
- A redesign of our Masthead Express newsletter.
I'd also encourage readers to have a look through our Resource Library, where there's plenty of evergreen editorial produced over the last 21 years, covering everything from budgeting to cold-calls to covers.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
When it comes to “social media buzz,” newspapers are laying the smackdown on magazines, according to a story in Media in Canada. Chicago-based Cision, a global media research database, conducted a study measuring how often media outlets were mentioned on “message boards, blogs, forums and other social media like Twitter.com,” between Dec. 29, 2008 and Jan. 27, 2009 and how often those mentions received comments from other users.
Only one magazine website, Macleans.ca, cracked the top 10, having received 223 mentions on the “social web” and 926 comments on those mentions.
Here’s the top 10 list, ranked by number of mentions:
1. CBC.ca (2,858 mentions, 5,727 comments)
2. GlobeandMail.com (1,501 mentions, 423 comments)
3. TheStar.com (1,449 mentions, 1,363 comments)
4. NationalPost.com (549 mentions, 1,540 comments)
5. Macleans.ca (223 mentions, 926 comments)
6. Radio-Canada.ca (216 mentions, 432 comments)
7. VancouverSun.com (VancouverSun.com 214 mentions, 184 comments)
8. OttawaCitizen.com (105 mentions, 131 comments)
9. MontrealGazette.com (69 mentions, 26 comments)
10. LeDevoir.com (62 mentions, 30 comments)
So, what does it all mean? Here’s my office chair analysis:
- People are still interested in the information and analysis provided by newspapers, even if they’re not paying for the print product.
- Newspapers (and newsweekly magazines) dominate online discussions because unlike most magazines, they cover a broad range of topics. Take The Star.com: Sports fans can link to something Damien Cox has written about the Leafs, while politics fans can link to something Chantal Hébert has written about Michael Ignatieff.
- Media outlets can no longer “control” what happens to the stories they publish.
I wonder, though: What, if anything, will the Cision report mean when it comes to advertising? Will media buyers be more inclined to buy banners on a site because it’s getting a bunch of links on Facebook and Twitter? Or will they just go straight to Facebook and Twitter and buy there? Aren’t newspapers (and magazines) digging their own grave by spending thousands of dollars to produce content that people are reading and discussing elsewhere?
Holy old media thinking, Marco!
Monday, February 02, 2009
A couple weeks back, Maclean’s published an article about Canada Post that focused in part on the crown corporation’s implementation of distance-related pricing for publications mail. The article quoted two industry representatives—Mark Jamison, CEO of Magazines Canada, and Deborah Morrison, publisher of The Beaver—who both argued that DRP is essentially un-Canadian.
“This is a unique nation with respect to its postal requirements. We’ve got a thin little band of folks spread all over the place,” [said Jamison]. “We have to view our postal delivery system as part of the cultural and social mechanism that helps keep us together. It’s as important as building the railroad was.”
Maclean’s has published three letters responding to the article in its current issue.
In the first, Art Davidson from Edmonton cheekily suggests:
“If Canada Post considers it fair to apply distrance-related pricing to magazines that are shipped long distances, then it should reduce rates for those of us who don’t have home delivery service but have to pick up our mail at centrally located mailboxes.”
A note from Christina M. Babcock of Toronto comes at the question of “fairness” from a different angle:
“If Bell Canada can charge long-distance rates based on the calling distance, then I see no reason why Canada Post can’t charge postage based on how far the item is traveling.”
Heather Jopling of Cobourg, Ont., also has no sympathy for the magazine industry's pleas.
“Canada is the second largest country on this planet, and critics are balking at the notion that it might cost a bit more to deliver mail to our farthest residents? Have these critics mailed anything themselves lately? Heavier mail is charged a heftier postage rate; a package sent from P.E.I. to Vancouver will cost more than a package from P.E.I. to Montreal. The corporation makes money, yes, but also gives money back. According to the article, $47 million of its gross profit of $160 million in 2007 (and that’s gross profit, not net profit) went back to the federal government as a dividend, which in turn helps with federal programs, debt reduction and our Canadian social net, as well as countless other initiatives from the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health to the Santa Letter Writing campaign. If the Canada Post critics would prefer that the corporation not make any profit and cease to do the above-mentioned activities, are those same critics willing to take over themselves?”