The Canadian Business Press (CBP) gathers on March 12, 2014 to "reflect and regroup" and plan a way forward as the 94-year-old trade association nears its 100th anniversary.
In a letter to members, chairman John W. Kerr Jr. said economic challenges endemic to all Canadian trade groups in recent years have beleaguered the CBP. "The meeting is a call to arms," Kerr told Masthead
Of late the CBP has been involved with research for a 'value of print' campaign and internal communications, but the group's core mandate since a dramatic transformation in 2011
has been producing the Kenneth R. Wilson memorial awards
"It's something that's been very important for the recognition of good trade press editing in this country for many years, and to let that recognition program drop away would have been a travesty," reflected Kerr.
The CBP has also been dealing with the Department of Canadian Heritage, which supports the awards program in part, "to have them make good on past commitments" and keep CBP in the good graces of its auditors. Kerr maintains the association is financially intact, but says the issue now is waning membership involvement as the economy takes its toll and the digital world exerts its influence.
"Our members, like every publishing company in the country, are struggling with revenue streams and all those things. Nobody is immune to that. The ability for us to hunker down and use a tighter business model for a couple of years just made sense," said Kerr, also chief executive officer of trade and consumer publisher Kerrwil Publications
, which is a member of CBP as well as Magazines Canada, BPA Worldwide and the Canadian Circulations Audit Board.
As Kerr tells it, clear industry-wide issues that previously "galvanized" the country's trade publishers, like the battle over split-runs
that waged through the better part of the '90s, are no longer part of the landscape. "Is there a platform to bring all of the trade press editors together again? I don't know if there is or there isn't," he said.
The upcoming gathering follows a recent meeting of CBP directors, who sat down to discuss and debate the future. "I think what the core group said was, hey, we haven't been as active or as vibrant in the last two years…. What are we doing, why are we doing it, where are we going and how are we going to get there?"
Among the CBP's options are operating as a fee for service organization, largely overseeing and focusing on the KRWs, or returning to prominence as "the definitive voice" of the country's farm, trade and professional press.
This is the agenda for the meeting.
1. Update and Review
a. Financials review and current status not for profit
b. KRW overview and plan
c. Legal issues
d. Operational structure
2. Board and Member Review
a. Current board structure and next steps
b. Current members
a. Structure and raison d’etre (PURPOSE)
b. Focus and programs
c. Networking and interaction
e. Collaboration on research and best practices (online, web, digital)
f. Getting commitment
g. Other options review
i. KRW alone
ii. Foundation structure
4. Moving forward
a. Board structure
b. Membership structure (print and online)
c. Membership fees
v. Statistics and metrics
vi. Recruitment and building depth
vii. Integrated Sales
The options "merge" and "disband" will likely stand out to concerned members, which is why Kerr included them. "Sometimes when you put something out there that's so catastrophic, that gets the creative juices flowing real quick," he said.
Kerr himself doesn't feel a call for shutdown is likely, and he notes that a so-called merger with Magazines Canada could mean a number of different things depending on the structure of an agreement. "Disbanding was put there as a challenge," he said. "What are we going to do, boys and girls?"
The meeting is scheduled for March 12, 2014 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Courtyard Marriot in Toronto. Attending members can RSVP with Lynn Lortie at email@example.com or 1-705-527-7666 ext. 221.