Canadian Magazine Industry News
31 January 2013,     TORONTO
What's Up sinks, Erin Ruddy speaks
What's Up magazine didn't make it into 2013. Its last issue was the December edition, and (former) editor-in-chief Erin Ruddy found out the mag was going down the day she got back in December from a cross-Canada tour promoting the holiday issue.

"It was heartbreaking, and it was a surprise to me," she said. "There was not a lot of discussion with me that it would be ending when it did."

What's Up,
"Canada's Family Magazine" will not publish in 2013

Launched in 1996, What's Up was purchased from founder Dave Walker in 2008 by Paton Publishing, a division of Metroland Media Group. Ruddy, a long-time Paton employee, took over as editor in 2010 and was at the helm of a 2011 redesign and refocus. "I think in the two year period, we really turned the brand around," she said.

But while the mag, published six times a year, was a hit with its demographic (its 2011 media kit says it was No. 1 in women with school aged kids 4 to 12, according to PMB numbers), Ruddy said a new distribution model and staffing issues led to its demise.

In 2011, What's Up stopped actively promoting subscriptions and instead focused on distribution through Metroland's community newspapers; copies of the mag were included with the papers for free, targeting areas with a high concentration of families. "Given that Metroland's forte was community newspapers, we felt that that was a great way of getting into the hands of families," Ruddy said. "But, unfortunately, that changes your PMB numbers."

According to PMB (Print Measurement Bureau) reports, in 2010 What's Up's circulation was 81,000, readership was 335,000, and readers per copy (RPC) was 4.1. In 2011, circ rose to 85,000, readership dropped to 284,000, and RPC slid to 3.3. The trend continued in 2012, where circ increased to 92,000, but readership declined to 279,000 and RPC to 3.0.
 
According to a 2012 AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) Publisher's Statement report, Total Paid and Verified Subscriptions dropped from 48,555 in 2010, to 6,112 in 2011. "We really weren't getting any ad support in the end," Ruddy said.

Add to that the difficulties of short-staffing. According to Ruddy, What's Up had 12 full-time staff members in 2010. By the end, it had only five. "We only had one sales rep, and I felt for her," she said.

Ruddy is now working on contract for MediaEdge, an association for print and digital publishers. "I'm really enjoying it, and I think it's a great start," she said. She plans to stay in the magazine and publishing world. According to her, art director Jenna Wood is also no longer with Metroland, while Deanna Rotsch (sales), Laura Jackman (web marketing manager), and Stacey Coleman (project coordinator) have been shuffled to new roles.

Metroland could not be reached for comment in time for this story.
— Jef Catapang
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