Canadian Magazine Industry News
13 August 2008,     NATIONAL
The problem(s) with Canadian magazines, as told by Globe and Mail readers

What does the general public think of the Canadian magazine industry? Not much, if reader comments posted to a Globe and Mail story about declining consumer magazine circulation are any indication. Magazines, according to several commentators, are bad for the environment, cost too much, carry too much advertising and aren’t worth paying for, since so much information is available for free online.

A James Adams story on the recent Fas-Fax report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations has so far received 27 responses from readers of the Globe’s website. While that number is hardly a representative sample of the Canadian population at large (it more likely represents the cranky 1% of the population that bothers to leave online comments), we thought some of the responses were worth sharing.

It wasn't all bad. Andrew E was happy to see Outdoor Canada experiencing growth. "this is a great publication for we hunters and fishermen who get a bit tired of the US-centric coverage in Field and Stream."

M. O. from Canada expressed sentiments that re-appeared several times throughout the comments. “The newstand price,” he/she writes, “combined with the sales taxes, are a huge disincentive for me. And the large number of glossy ads, mostly for items I either can't afford or can't justify purchasing, is a real turn-off.”

Lefty Lou concurred. “For me, it's mainly the price/disposable income ratio. (Gas for car comes first). There are magazines I would buy if the price was less.” (The average price for Canadian newsstand magazines audited by ABC is $4.59. As Masthead columnist Scott Bullock often points out, most magazines cost less than greeting cards; perhaps Mr. Lou has a taste for pricier literary titles or European imports or perhaps he also avoids greeting cards.)

“Magazines (except for the obvious few) contain so much advertising, they become tiresome to navigate through for articles,” writes persona non grata, who clearly does not fit into oft-cited research that suggests readers value advertising as part of the total magazine experience.

Several commentators had concerns about the environmental impact of magazines, though few went beyond the “dead trees” line of argument. “I dont read magazines for the same reason i dont buy newspapers - it makes me ill to think that we are cutting down trees just to read advertising!!!!!!!” wrote exclamation mark fan Martin Fendgrass.

Jack Robinson from London, Canada consides himself "fortunate to have some sheckles to spare for a few 'essential' pubs like Adbusters, Foreign Policy and our very own This Magazine... which for me at least are worth their weight in re-cycled pulp because of their hefty content, lack of crass advertising and as an alternative to the glossy dreck clogging our news stands and check-out counters."

A handful of commentators offered a more objective, macro analysis of the situation.

Sal Field, despite a seemingly rigid opposition to capitalization, had some interesting points about the way ABC data is analyzed by the industry and the media. “by only judging the success of canadian newsstands by the success of our largest products, we are shooting ourselves in the foot twice - once because we ignore the consumer demand for increasingly specialized / focused (niche) mags by only looking at the success of our most mainstream mags as a barometer of our cultural success and interest, and twice because we then make changes to newsstand policies based on these results.”

The crown for this round of comments, however, must go to Jake Richardson from Kingston, Canada, who with a single word, offered the most cogent and coherent argument of them all: “Internet.” 

— Marco Ursi
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