Canadian Magazine Industry News
17 November 2010,     TORONTO
Digital takes centre stage at ABC annual conference
The recent annual Audit Bureau of Circulations Conference, held at the Royal York in Toronto honed its focus on all things digital. Conversations and seminars circled around touch points including who owns digital subscriber information and how to get it, should publications charge for content and if so how much and just how can digital help magazines make money?

There is in fact money for digital out there MediaBrands Ventures CEO Matt Freeman said in a morning session. But, he also said the sector has had the unintentional consequence of moving publishers and marketers further apart. “Publishers value inventory and marketers value infinity,” he said. According to Freeman advertisers do want to be in the digital marketplace, with 98% of them not spending what they want to be online. 

A panel on e-readers stressed the importance of gaining access to subscriber information as a competitive differentiator, said KOBO executive vice president, content, sales and marketing Michael Tamblyn.  This information, currently unavailable because of ownership issues with companies including Apple will free up for publishers as competition in the device market increases, said the panel. 

The e-reader panel, which included representatives from Rogers Digital Media, The Globe and Mail, Spreed Inc., ZenithOptimedia and OMD stressed the importance of knowing how tablets like the iPad are used by consumers and also how to create an emotional connection with content on the device. “There is a tipping point for consumers where they will be using both print and digital and then their print consumption eventually drops,” said Tamblyn. “People will then say yes I am a digital consumer, give it to me this way or don’t give it to me at all.”

A conversation called “To Pay or Not to Pay” moderated by Rogers Publishing president and CEO Brian Segal included panelists from The Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., Rogers Publishing, Google and The New York Times. All were in agreement that publishers shouldn’t be giving away content on devices such as the iPad, but as Rogers Publishing executive vice president, consumer publishing Ken Whyte said the question is whether or not you can get enough people to pay to make a viable business model in the small Canadian market. 

Continuing the digital theme in the afternoon, Circ3, Smart Circulation Solutions owner Scott Bullock moderated a magazine break-out session which included mobile players from Polar Mobile, Transcontinental, KOBO, Rodale Inc. and Zinio.

Toronto-based mobile application developer Polar Mobile CEO Kunal Gupta said apps have the ability to open up whole new audiences for publications, citing Transcontinental-published The Hockey News as an example. Its mobile application has over one million downloads in 60 countries while its print magazine has a circulation of approximately 100,000 mainly in Canada, said Gupta.

Transcontinental Publishing vice president of consumer marketing Christopher Purcell reiterated the importance of mobile and digital to the brand, saying The Hockey News is in the testing stages of sending digital copies to those who ask for back issues rather than printed copies with largely positive feedback thus far.

Next year's ABC conference will be held in San Francisco, for more information visit

— Val Maloney
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