Defining what makes a website an “online magazine” is tricky. Do blogs count? How about “aggregator” sites? Or archives of information about a specific topic? For entities such as industry associations and awards programs (and magazines about magazines), coming up with a clear description is paramount.
In mid-2006, the British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers (BCAMP) created what is probably the first official Canadian definition of “online magazine” and opened its membership to Internet publishers.
The Tyee, a Vancouver-based website covering news and politics, was the first to join, in December 2007, while Suite101, a website that covers over 400 topics, was granted associate membership last month. (The site didn’t qualify for full membership because majority ownership is not B.C.-based.)
For a website to be considered for membership in BCAMP, it must:
- Self-define as a magazine;
- Be professionally edited;
- Be a stand-alone magazine, not an extension of a print magazine or a storefront;
- Make its location and contact for publishers apparent via a masthead-type section;
- Have a mailing address;
- Follow the same standards of quality as apply to BCAMP print magazines;
- Base its centre of operations in B.C.
Recognizing online publications was a logical reaction to changes in the real world, says Ana Torres, BCAMP's executive director. “It’s important for the association to be open to all forms of publishing and to be meeting the needs of all forms of publishers,” Torres says. “We really just care about the printed word—no, not the printed word…the online word—the written word!”
Only in B.C.
While no other association has gone as far as accepting online magazines, plenty of board meetings across the country have been given over to discussing and debating the topic.
“It’s something we’ve been considering for a long time,” says Colleen Seto, executive director of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association (AMPA).
Finding a good definition remains a sticking point for AMPA. “There’s lots of things that are called magazines that we wouldn’t consider magazines,” Seto says.
Trying to serve publishers of two different forms of media in a single association also raises problems. “We’re not really sure what the needs of a digital magazine would be,” Seto says. “It’s an entirely different business model…. The brunt of our benefits are aimed at print publishers.”
At the national level, the Canadian Business Press recently changed its corporate name to include “digital media” but doesn’t currently have any online members (nor has it received any applications), while Magazines Canada took a step toward inclusion of online products when it struck down the provision that a member magazine must be “printed in Canada” at its annual general meeting this month.
Still, as CEO Mark Jamison wrote in an e-mail to Masthead, “it is early days at Magazines Canada in the discussion.... Consistent with trends, our members continue to concentrate the lion's share of resources on print platforms but with ever-increasing emphasis on the synergy of brand extensions to the online platforms.”
- "CBP elects new board, changes corporate name" [MastheadOnline]
- "Magazines Canada opens doors to trade titles, magazines not printed in Canada" [MastheadOnline]