Canadian Magazine Industry News
15 July 2008,     WINNIPEG
How DRP will affect The Beaver (and what the publisher plans to do about it)

Will DRP force The Beaver to move printing to Toronto?
The Beaver, Canada’s history magazine, will face a 6.2% increase in mailing costs if the federal government allows Canada Post Corporation (CPC) to implement distance-related pricing (DRP). If that cost can’t be alleviated, the magazine’s editorial department will suffer most, publisher Deborah Morrison admits.

“The first thing that’s going to go is we’re not going to pay writers as much and maybe not hire as many people to write,” Morrison says, “which is counterintuitive to what we’re trying to do with our magazine. Our editorial staff will probably not get that cost of living increase. What hurts is the editorial content first, because all these other costs—getting it out there, distribution—are beyond our control. We have to manage those and respond to those first. We’ve got to get the magazine out the door.”

If DRP is implemented, the majority of The Beaver’s distribution will fall under a new “national” mailing category and will see a three-cent per copy postage increase. The Winnipeg-based bimonthly, published by Canada’s National History Society, has a circulation around 43,000, with close to 95% of copies mailed outside Manitoba.

“Our editorial team is really energetic about possibilities,” Morrison says, “but [DRP] makes me need to put the brakes on these really imaginative new initiatives. [We might have to drop] all these things that would extend our brand and extend our reach because we’re just worried about postage and mailing.”

Strategy for survival

Deborah Morrison

Putting costs onto subscribers is not an option, Morrison says, noting that the magazine’s subscription price was recently upped from $29.95 to $32.95. “We did that just to make up for the accumulated postal increases over the last three years,” she says. “We can’t do that again.”

The Beaver’s printing contract with Transcontinental’s LGM Graphics plant in Winnipeg expires at the end of the year, which gives Morrison some room to negotiate on pricing. “We’ve made it very clear to anyone bidding on the contract that Canada Post is a factor for us,” Morrison says.

(A representative for Transcontinental Printing said the company wants to "hold off" on interviews until that "they have time to review the new rates...and are able to analyze what kind of impact it will have on the business.")

Trying to shift mailing costs onto a printer is part of Morrison’s survival strategy, but she doesn’t believe it’s a viable long-term solution. “I know that it will probably bite us sooner or later because that means every printer across the country is going to raise their rates. We might be able to get some economies this year, but I think we have to prepare for a 6% increase in our cost sooner or later.”

Moving printing to Toronto would save the magazine a lot of money, since 50% of The Beaver's circulation is in Ontario. Morrison says she’s considering the option, but added that leaving Manitoba would be “extremely frustrating” for the province’s magazine industry.

“We recognize we’re probably one of the bigger consumer titles here,” she says. “We’re pretty proud of the fact that we have this leadership role in Manitoba and pretty proud of the fact that a national magazine is printed in Manitoba. We’d really like to keep it that way.”

Not giving up with out a fight


Contingency planning for DRP can’t and shouldn’t be avoided, but Morrison is also putting a lot of effort into opposing it. Along with several other Manitoba publishers, she took the issue to Vic Toews, the province’s senior regional minister in the Harper government. A notice to Beaver subscribers recently went out, urging them to write to their MPs about DRP. There are also plans to take the matter to the provincial government, to “see if they can help make sure that we’re not carrying what I really view as a penalty for publishing outside of Toronto.”

Morrison doesn’t deny that her opposition to DRP is self-interested, but she also makes a philosophical argument in favour of flat pricing across the country: “I do believe [the CPC] has a role that’s beyond a profit-driven motive. I believe they have a responsibility to ensure that everybody in the country has equal access to their magazines and equal access to their mail.”

How will DRP affect your business? What plans of action are you taking to oppose it? What strategies are you considering to manage costs? Write to mursi@masthead.ca with your stories and opinions or post them below in the comments section.

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— Marco Ursi
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