Canadian Magazine Industry News
18 December 2009,     MONTREAL
Year end Q & A: Tony Cioffi
Reader’s Digest Canada president and CEO Tony Cioffi is the next to end 2009 with a look back at the year and forward at the climate of the industry. Reader’s Digest Canada publishes magazines including Best Health and Our Canada.

Masthead: What measures did your company take to weather the storm?

Tony Cioffi: We implemented what we called a recession plan. It included cutting costs in travel, entertaining and cutting back on promotion costs. The
Tony Cioffi
Tony Cioffi
biggest thing we did was we reduced staff by approximately eight percent. We also implemented a program where we had five closure days that were unpaid. Tried to spread it out so that employees weren’t losing one paid day every month. We are on a fiscal year that ends June 30 and the plan is to do it for the full fiscal year.

M: How is the first quarter of 2010 shaping up for your company compared to the first quarter of 2009?

TC: It is mixed. We have been putting a push on our digital platforms so we are really out there selling programs that are cross-platform and that is really having a positive impact. This year we will be probably be flatter ahead of last year. The biggest challenge on the print side is that dollars are released much later than they were before. Where before you might get a commitment three months in advance now you almost have to keep the magazine open while the ink is still wet. Starting into calender 2010 where you would have expected budgets to be released we are hearing positive signs from the market that people are going to start spending but budgets are still released much later than they used to be.

M: What was the highlight of 2009?

TC: The multi-platform strategy working. We have launched digital platforms, new brands online. The deal we made with Sympatico for Best Health was really exciting. It allows us to get in front of our advertisers with different ways to connect with consumers. Hopefully as the budgets get released for 2010 this will all be momentum.

M: What was the most challenging aspect of 2010?

TC: We are still seeing declines in circulation. Subscriptions going down, financial reasons for not renewing like they did in the past. It is a challenging environment. You have to fight for every dollar and it is a challenge that way. People have less disposable income. Add that to the fact that we have had to cut costs and even if you stop spending a little it effects readership.

M: What, in your opinion will be the key to succeeding in publishing in 2010?

TC: To me the key for 2010 and the future is making that multi-platform strategy work. If you can effectively connect with consumers in ways that they want to be connected with that will not only help us to retain subscribers and provide a value-added connection with them on a more regular basis. Not just once a month of every couple months through a publication. The digital platform from a content perspective is probably the biggest opportunity long term to connect and keep our subscriber base. When you have a trusted brand people connect to that.

M: The new federal Canadian Periodical Fund will be launched in April 2010. What effect, positive or negative, do you think it will have on your company?

TC: I can tell you it is going to be very negative on Reader’s Digest. We are doing everything we can to talk with them about how it is going to be launched. My personal opinion is that I don’t agree with it because when you think of the whole magazine industry it is the large magazine industry that leads the way in terms of investment and investing. We are changing our businesses from print to multiplatform and that costs a lot of investment.

In terms of hiring and keeping Canadian editors and keeping Canadian content alive that is all coming from the large publishers. If the large publishers are hurt in the transition those investment dollars are going to be reduced. I don’t think there is a clear understanding on how it is going to effect the industry if you’re taking money away from the large publishers. A lot of that money is going towards investing in the industry. We expect it to have an impact on our smaller titles but Reader’s Digest will definitely be affected negatively. Because we are the number one magazine in Canada with the biggest circulation and the cap will have an impact on us for sure.




— Val Maloney
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