Masthead News Archives
February 2006

February 28, 2006
Transcon to launch two SIP pubs
TORONTO, VANCOUVER—Transcontinental Media is building up its position in the shelter category with the launch of two special-interest publications.  

Canadian Home Workshop magazine (paid circ 131,000) will introduce Canadian Home Workshop: Home Renovation this coming weekend at its 22nd annual Canadian Home Workshop Show at the Toronto Congress Centre. The 100-page glossy contains “20 step-by-step projects for every room in the house,” according to a released statement. The magazine will be for sale at the show and on newsstands March 6 with a cover price of $6.95. This effectively boosts CHW’s frequency from nine to 10 issues per year.

The other launch is Western Living Condo, a 25,000 controlled circ glossy companion to Western Living. The magazine will be delivered to 20,000 condo owners in the Vancouver area on April 21; about 5,000 copies will be available on newsstands, polybagged with copies of Western Living. “This is just another publication that we’re doing in our spare time,” kidded Western Living managing editor Felicity Stone, who serves as Condo’s editor. The premier issue is 68 pages with 30 ad pages. Editorial will focus on tips, trends and products and a section called “Condo Gardens.” Each issue will also feature a “high-profile condo dweller,” says Stone.

Interesting to note that a few years ago, Transcontinental was pitched the idea of a condo/shelter magazine (to be called “Square Feet”) by a team involving Gary Stephen Ross, who joined Transcon last month as editor of Vancovuer magazine. Ross said he “barely got the time of day” from the unnamed person in charge at the time (see News Archives, January 17).

February 23, 2006
ABC Fas-Fax numbers released
SCHAUMBURG, IL.—The Audit Bureau of Circulations released preliminary newsstand and subscription figures for many of Canada’s largest magazines this week. Big gains were revealed.

The figures below reflect percentage gains made for the six months ending December 2005 compared to the same period in 2004. It should be noted that the following data are subject to a formal ABC audit. In other words, these are figures supplied to ABC by the publishers themselves. Here’s how things shake out. In terms of subscription sales, the top 10 gainers by percentage increases were:

LOULOU (French):
STAR INC.: 11%

The top 10 newsstand gainers were:

7 JOURS: 30%
FASHION18: 25%

Increases, especially dramatic ones, in single-copy sales can be attributed to one or more of a number of factors: (i) a new focus on newsstand sales, where in the previous period sales efforts had been negligible; (ii) additional distribution channels (retailers, venues, events) brought on stream; (iii) special promotions.
Increases in subscription sales may be due to: (i) additional direct-mail drops to lure more subs; (ii) a new focus on subs, which were few to begin with (the case of Echos Vedette, which sells mostly single copies); (iii) new sources discovered (a show, event or list which is now available. Of course, improved editorial quality can drive both newsstand and subscription sales.

Audited publications that failed to file their numbers on time (never a good sign): Super Shopper Buy, Trade & Sell; Sentier Chasse-Peche, Interim, and the weekly La Semaine, which is locked in a nasty war with TVA Group’s 7 Jours on Quebec’s newsstands. 7 Jours appears to be winning the battle; its subs were up 1.1% while newsstand sales jumped 30%.

February 21, 2006
Ad club to debate pimping in publishing
TORONTO—Never a dull moment at the Advertising Club of Toronto. Every year, a few hundred reps, publishers, advertisers and media buyers gather for hugs and air kisses. The subject this year?

Reader's Digest editor Peter Stockland
“Pimp your mag.” As the Club’s website promises, “[s]ix advocates make their case for or against advertiser encroachment on editorial.” On the panel: Maclean’s editor/publisher Kenneth Whyte; Fashion editor Ceri Marsh; Reader’s Digest editor Peter Stockland; Mindshare managing partner Tim Hughes; and Leo Burnett’s Steve Meraska. One panelist has yet to confirm.

On the same day, the Ad Club will launch the People’s Choice Awards where those in the buying/planning community cast votes for the best sales rep, and sales reps vote for the best buyer/planner. The Ad Club is urging members to vote now through its website at Five finalists from each group will be chosen with the winner feted at Magazine Day, on April 27. Tickets for the Toronto event are $95 per person or $900 for a table of 10 and will be available soon via the Club’s site.

February 16, 2006
Kontent looking to grow by acquisition
TORONTO—Psst. Are you a foreign or domestic media company operating in the fashion, entertainment or lifestyle sectors with print, radio, television or Web assets?

Men in black: Publishing mavericks Geoffrey Dawe and Michael King recline in their Toronto office lounge in 2003
If so, Kontent Group might be interested in your assets. Or merging its with yours. The company makes no secret about its desire to grow, issuing a widely disseminated press release yesterday morning.

In the past four years, Kontent owners Geoffrey Dawe and Michael King have launched Inside Entertainment, FQ and Sir, which last year are estimated to have generated combined ad sales of $11.5 million.* Kontent has retained KPMG Corporate Finance to advise on targets and create financing structures that would enable the company to acquire or merge with complementary businesses ranging in size from $5 million to $50 million.

“The evaluation of strategic investment, merger and acquisition opportunities is a logical progression of the Kontent Group’s long-term strategic plan and will ensure we are well placed to take full advantage of an increasingly competitive and consolidating marketplace,” said King, Kontent’s CEO and group creative director. “Our initial focus is Canada, although it could expand to the United States or Europe under the right circumstances.” Dawe, who is Kontent’s president and group publisher, said in the released statement that “[a]s far as we’re concerned, there are still some very attractive business combinations in the Canadian market.”

*based on data supplied by LNA Canada and Kontent

February 14, 2006
Quebec magazine war saps TVA profits
MONTREAL—The country’s third-largest magazine publisher is feeling the sting of the return of magazine mogul Claude J. Charron. Operating profits at the publishing division of TVA Group were virtually wiped out last year thanks to his handiwork.

TVA Group CEO Pierre Dion
According to financial statements released yesterday, TVA Group’s publishing operation, which produces 23 magazines—including flagship Clin D’Oeil, Cool!, 7 Jours, Le Lundi, Decoration Chez-Soi and Star Inc.—posted an operating income in calendar 2005 of a mere $273,000, compared to $15.7 million in calendar 2004. During the all-important fourth quarter, TVA’s publishing sector posted an operating loss of $4.7 million compared to a $3 million profit in Q4 2004 for a spread of $7.7 million.

TVA Group president and CEO Pierre Dion noted in a released statement that the “fierce competition that is prevailing in Quebec’s magazine publishing market and our desire to protect our market shares resulted in an operating loss for this sector during the quarter. We are making every effort to alleviate the impact of this competition, while sticking with our strategy.”

Dion was alluding to the re-emergence of Claude J. Charron, a magazine publisher with a Midas touch. He sold his magazine company, Trustar Ltd., to Quebecor Inc.’s TVA Publications in 2000 for $46 million (including $23 million in cash). Within days of his non-compete arrangement expiring in January 2005, he leapt from his harness and launched a glossy weekly, Le Semaine (“the week”), to rival TVA’s 7 Jours; and weekly television magazine Télé Semaine to rival TV 7 Jours. Charron also launched a glossy for teen girls called Alexine, which takes on TVA’s Cool!.

The intense competition has pushed operating expenses at TVA’s publishing sector up by 27% to $76.9 million last year from $60.6 million in TVA’s halcyon, pre-Charron era. Publishing revenues in calendar 2005 remained flat for TVA at $77.1 million, up slightly from $76.3 million in 2004.

February 9, 2006
Magazine adspend stable in 2005
TORONTO—While overall run-of-press ad pages in magazines grew by just 0.4% last year, there were a variety of titles from different categories that showed strong double-digit gains reminiscent of the booming 1990s, according to fresh data from LNA Canada. Leading the way was 15-year-old, Montreal-based monthly Movie Entertainment magazine (distributed to 855,000 to pay TV subscribers), which increased its ROP ad pages by 33.7% to 280 pages in 2005—good for $5.01 million in ad sales, according to the magazine’s ratecard. Rounding out the Top 10 gainers were: Filles: Clin D’Oeil (25.2% jump in ROP); enRoute (22.7%); Famous Magazine (19.8%); Madame (18.6%); MoneySense (17.7%); Star Inc. (15.3%); Eclat (12.2%); Western Living (11.3%); and Chatelaine (10.2%).

The country’s single-largest magazine advertiser, Procter & Gamble, increased its Canadian magazine adspend last year by 3.7%, from 4,163 ROP pages in 2005 to 4,314 last year. In 1995, P&G bought just 795 pages; in 2000 it was up to 2,135.

Here’s what the trending looks like for ROP pages in all magazines tracked by LNA going back to 2000 (revenue in brackets). Note that year-over-year jumps in revenue result not only from increased ROP counts but also reflect ratecard increases:

2005: +0.4% ($670.0 million)
2004: +6.5% ($646.6 million)
2003: +4.1% ($600.5 million)
2002: +1.4% ($559.3 million)
2001: +2.1% ($462.7 million)
2000: +10.1% ($454.0 million)

ROP pages in 2005 by category:

News & business: +0.9%
General interest: -8.2%
Women’s: +7.0%
Shelter/décor: 0.1%
TV/entertainment: -7.5%
Outdoor/hook&bullet: -9.1%
Youth: 22.7%
Senior: +5.8%
City: +6.9%
Gardening: -17.9%

February 7, 2006
New Maclean’s has “body of People, mind of The Economist”
TORONTO—At a conference on comebacks in the world of business, Maclean’s editor/publisher Ken Whyte gave outsiders an inside peek at the strategy and newsroom culture animating Canada’s current affairs weekly.

“I joke with people at the office that it’s a magazine with the body of People and the mind of The Economist…[to] emphasize that we learn from both,” Whyte told a group of about 80 business types at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management last Friday. It was a familiar metaphor; when he was editor of the upstart National Post, the paper was said to have the mind of The Globe and Mail and the body of Pamela Anderson, or a similar combination that connoted a rich but rutty intelligence at play.

Whyte began his address with a touch of humility. “We’re still hoping for a turnaround rather than enjoying a turnaround,” he said before setting the Maclean’s story into commercial context. When he came on board nine months ago, he inherited some problems. While Maclean’s is a venerable title with a rich history and broad reach, it had a “shrinking” core of engaged readers. There was a perception that it was serving up “stale,” “unexciting,” rehashed news; the magazine had “lost some of its identity” and sense of purpose over the years; there was a general “lack of confidence” in newsweeklies’ ability to be relevant sources of information, and so began a slide into service journalism. Without referring directly to his predecessor, Anthony Wilson-Smith, Whyte did display several magazine covers from that era to indicate the service approach. “That, to my mind, has contributed to a lack of focus at the magazine,” he said. “You can do some service journalism but it begins to undermine your core purpose of current affairs. We also can’t do money stories, gadget stories, health stories, cool-car stories as well as financial, electronic, health or automotive magazines can.”

And, oh yes, circulation was “plummeting.” Newsstand—which is to be a “key metric of success” for Whyte—had decreased from about 12,500 copies in 1995 to 5,150 copies in 2005. Media critics at other outlets (including Whyte’s National Post) were tearing strips out of Maclean’s. “There was a death watch on the magazine,” he said. “Advertisers were still using us, but using us almost reluctantly, and we couldn’t cut our way to profitability any more. There just wasn’t any fat left and further cuts would have really seriously impeded our ability to put out a weekly magazine…So, how do you get out of a hole like that?”

By returning to engaging, current affairs journalism, sporting the appealing curves and intuition of People, and the perspicacity of The Economist. And surrounding yourself with t
alent you can trust. “When you find talented people, you tend to hang onto them for dear life,” Whyte said, noting that many of his hires are colleagues from his days at Saturday Night and the National Post. “Life is too short” to work with people who aren’t much fun.

Before officially joining the magazine, Whyte asked Paul Jones, his predecessor as publisher, what he thought of the editorial staff. “‘The problem with the Maclean’s staff is that any good editorial staff should be like a pot luck supper. Everybody should bring something different. You put it all together and you’ve got a good meal. At Maclean’s, unfortunately, you got a potluck supper where everybody’s brought lasagna. It may be really good lasagna, but it’s still all lasagna.’ And he was right. There was a lot of good journalists there, really talented people, but almost all of them had only worked at Maclean’s, they had done magazine only one way, and they were really only open to doing it one way and we had to bring in some fresh talents and new perspectives, mix things up a bit….Of the 11 or 12 senior editorial people [working at the magazine since I arrived], we have one remaining at the moment.”

Whyte also spoke of the magazine’s culture, about how stories get generated. “When I came into Maclean’s, they weren’t having story meetings. Reporters were pretty much just doing what they wanted. Sometimes an editor might have an idea and he’d go to a reporter and maybe the reporter would want to do it, maybe not. But there was no discipline, no enthusiasm about the story process. So we set up a large, competitive weekly story meeting. Everybody from the highest editors to the lowliest interns comes every week with stories and they pitch them to the group. If you make everyone laugh, you get high marks. If you make them gasp, you get even higher marks. The whole point is to emphasize to them that stories are important, stories are what we do. We’re only as good as our stories…It’s also a way for them to get to know me, and the stories I like what makes me laugh, what makes me gasp…Everything we do—the personality of the magazine—gets shaped, I think, in those meetings.”

We’ll see if Maclean’s will indeed enjoy a comeback with the release of preliminary audit numbers from ABC for the six months ending December 2005. Those numbers will be available later this month, or early March, and will indicate the “key metric” of newsstand sales—often regarded as the barometer of public approval.

February 2, 2006
Canada Post to offer other publishers an “opportunity”
OTTAWA—It created a stir last summer when it invited the private sector to produce a magazine targeting recent movers, and Canada Post will cause the industry to stir once again when it becomes known that the Crown agency will offer the private sector a chance to speak to some of the 1.2 million Canadians who change their residential addresses every year. It was revealed last month (see News Archives, January 19) that Rogers Media won the RFP process initiated last summer by Canada Post to produce two publications aimed at recent movers. However, questions were immediately raised: (i) has Canada Post secured permission from recent movers to expose them to commercial messages (i.e., the ads in these Rogers-produced magazines); and (ii) if consent has been obtained, would other publishers be allowed to make a magazine pitch to the consenters—in effect, compete with the Rogers titles?

Both questions were put recently to Canada Post. Spokesman John Caines said that, as of April 1, Canada Post will start to “obtain consent for sending relevant offers and promotional products, such as magazines, as part of the change-of-address service.” And, most interestingly, Canada Post “will provide [an] opportunity for businesses to communicate with this consumer segment via the Mover’s Kit mailed to our customers and during select follow-up mailings during the period following their move.”

So, those who lost out on the RFP process may still get a kick at the can after all, it would seem. Stay tuned.

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Jaded says:
Wow, Torstar really seems to be on a mission to bankrupt one magazine after another....
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Full of terrific information, Thanks!...