On several occasions during my two years as Masthead editor, I heard a variety of industry folks complain that today’s Canadian magazines don’t take enough chances; that editors—beholden to the bottom line enforcements of their publishers (particularly at larger companies)—play it safe, constantly returning to the same themes, stories, topics, and approaches issue after issue after issue. “They don’t run long features anymore;” “They don’t let writers play with voice, tone or form;” “They’re too white;” “They don’t experiment with radical, art department-driven covers;” etc. What may have been gained in terms of ad revenues and readership has been lost in terms of social impact and cultural influence, the complainers say.
Then again, maybe magazines—at least the ones that survive—have always played it safe. As Don Draper once said, way back in the early (albeit fictional) 1960s, responding to an idea for a new TV show, “It’s derivative with a twist, which is what they’re looking for.”
I’d love to get a discussion on this topic going in the comments section. Do you agree that Canadian magazines have become too conservative when it comes to editorial? If so, why do you think this is the case? Maybe it’s not such a bad thing? What titles are bucking the trend (if it is indeed a trend)?