Monday, August 10, 2009
The return of the split-run?
Foreign magazines sold in this country are allowed to sell up to 18% of their ad space to Canadians. Companies exceeding this amount are in violation of the Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act (FPASA), which passed in 1999, ending a heated six-year debate over “split-runs,” where lobbyists successfully argued that foreign magazines were "stealing" potential revenue from Canuck media companies.

So here’s the issue: Split-runs are back. Just not in print. 

And here’s the question: Do we care?

Some background:

A couple of weeks ago, Olive Media, an online ad sales network based in Toronto, announced that it will now represent four Time Inc. magazine websites in Canada:,, and What this means is that Canadian agencies and advertisers buying through Olive can potentially spend all of their money with Time Inc., or any number of the international sites Olive reps for. Olive Media, it should be noted, isn’t the only company repping American brands in Canada and Time Inc.’s aren’t the only U.S. brands being repped by Canadian networks.

When I contacted the Department of Canadian Heritage, I got an e-mail response recounting of the details of FPASA, followed by this line: “The Department is constantly monitoring developments in the industry, including changes in technology, to ensure that its measures continue to meet the objectives of Canada's periodical policy as effectively as possible.”

Magazines Canada CEO Mark Jamison told me individual publishers could offer the best point-of-view, but so far, no one has returned my calls.

The only person I’ve spoken with at length about the issue so far is Simon Jennings, president of Olive Media. And as you might expect, the guy’s not in favour of re-igniting the split-run wars of the ‘90s.

All publishers, Jennings said, are fighting for all dollars on the Internet. “And what they’re actually competing for are Canadian eyeballs. If I’m selling cars, and I want to reach car buyers in the GTA, I’m going to look for the best site with the best Toront- . If it happens to be Toronto born and bred, great. But users are the ones that dictate where advertisers want to spend. Dollars follow eyeballs.”

In other words, if Canadians are using American, or French, or Indian websites, it would be unjust to stop Canadian advertisers from placing ads in front of those eyeballs.

Further to that, Jennings suggested that if the Canadian government wants to help Canadian companies attract online advertising, it should invest in the creation of quality content and websites, rather than setting up regulations on where advertisers can spend their money. “The geographical borders have been dropped in online media,” he said.

To be honest, I can’t say I disagree with Jennings. Do you? If so, feel free to leave a comment on this posting. Or better yet, give me a call: 905-625-7070 x222.
- Marco Ursi
About Me
Marco Ursi
Marco is the editor of MastheadOnline. His blog offers a mix of commentary, service and ideas related to Canadian magazines.


Twitter: @MarcoUrsi

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Masthead, why don't you do this anymore?...
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