Tuesday, April 26, 2011
With the help of the Toronto Star (who ironically owns the competitor EYE Weekly, soon to be known as The Grid), NOW magazine continues to milk the PR machine. After all, the Toronto Star’s circulation, readership and reach is very powerful indeed. This kind of free publicity is priceless. One can only imagine the chagrin of EYE staffers, as they see their parent company continue to prime NOW’S pump.



The fun and games are breath-taking to behold.

The results of CoversSell.com’s polls can be found here: http://www.coverssell.com/?p=3343

64% feel NOW’s Rob Ford cover was inappropriate, while 9% thought it was appropriate.

60% feel that the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors should consider creating some guidelines.

After all, Maclean’s was reprimanded by the Quebec Press Council…


And NOW wants the Integrity Commissioner to investigate guidelines being violated…


I have to tip my cap to NOW. They are keeping their brand top of mind… great for PMB stats. That should help them hold down the cost of sex-trade ads and juice the bottom line at EYE’s expense, thanks to the Toronto Star.  Brilliant!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
NOW magazine has asked the integrity commisioner to investigate Rob Ford’s office “overstepping”, according the the Toronto Star.  At issue is whether a code of conduct has been violated.


This should be interesting.

The PR Bonanza continues…these guys are the masters!
Monday, April 18, 2011
A loyal reader of CoversSell.Com tipped me off to an article by Bert Archer from the Toronto Standard titled, The Ken Whyte Effect.

see link: http://www.torontostandard.com/business/the-ken-whyte-effect

The writer opens the piece by asking the rhetorical question: What’s the Ken Whyte effect? The author simply can’t understand why Ken keeps getting promoted at Rogers. Why is he confused? Well, because he has looked at some top-line ABC statistics, which is the evidence he uses to engage in a smear. After setting up the straw man, he quickly knocks him down by answering his own question: “Whatever it is, it’s clearly not higher circulation?” Well then, case closed right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

As one reads on, the writer’s tone becomes quite chippy such as when he says, “But as Whyte’s numbers keep dropping, Rogers keeps promoting him.” It’s puzzling. So why the promotions? It’s a real noodle scratcher. The answer must be that Whyte has successfully ingratiated himself with daddy-type senior managers and “What daddy wants, daddy gets.” Nasty.

It reminded me of a recent episode of Judge Judy, when a younger brother sues his more successful older brother, basically because he is a jealous and petty jackass. As Judge Judy often says, “If it sounds like it doesn’t make sense, it probably doesn’t make sense.”

Are we really supposed to believe that Rogers, a publicly traded company, a well-managed corporate giant in Canada, is promoting someone who is driving the business into the ground? Is that really probable? Or is it more likely that Whyte is being promoted because, like most people who get promotions, he has earned it, by making his employer a lot of money? It’s a hard decision to make. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing he is making his employer a lot of money. I suppose it didn’t occur to the Toronto Standard to ask why it is that Time Canada is no longer in business, rather than attacking Whyte?

Whyte took over Maclean’s in March of 2005. In those pre-great-recession days, all good circulators were told to deliver as many eyeballs as possible, as cheaply as possible, to justify an advertising-centric business model. This often compelled circulators to give away copies post expiration to help prop up the rate base. And circulation pros often turned to cheap, agency-sold subscriptions, with weak remit rates and poor renewal rates, to prop up the readership numbers. Good for advertising, but not good from a circulation profit/loss perspective. It all made sense when advertising sales were buoyant. But the new reality is, circulation profitability is back in style.

Since ABC statistics are being used as evidence against Mr. Whyte, let’s use ABC statistics to offer a more likely reason for why Rogers is promoting him.

The June 2004 ABC statement shows that Maclean’s was giving away an average of 21,435 copies per issue to subscribers post expiration. The Dec 2004 ABC statement shows that Maclean’s was giving away 17,309 copies per issue post expiration. Therefore, in 2004 the venerable weekly was printing roughly 1 million copies a year for which they were receiving zero circulation revenue. Printing, postage, and fulifllment costs would have been staggering.

Today, grace copies are rougly 4,400 per issue. That’s probably close to a million dollars straight to the bottom line, just by radically reducing freebies.

The June 2004 ABC statements show that Maclean’s was selling on average 7,252 single copies. The December 2004 ABC statement shows that Maclean’s was selling 8,874 single copies on average. That’s roughly 419,000 copies at a $4.95 cover price. So let’s call it $2,074,050 in gross retail sales before Whyte’s arrival.

Today, the June 2010 ABC statement shows single copy sales averaging 29,425 and the December ABC statement with single copy sales averging 20,460. That’s roughly 1,297,010 copies at a cover price of $5.95. Let’s call it approximately $7,717,209 in gross retail sales. That’s a 272% improvement, and millions more straight to the bottom line.

Don’t forget all the money that would be flowing in from increased insert card production from single copy sales, a source circulation professionals know generates great upfront cash and fabulous renewal revenue for years to come. My guess is that this highly profitable source of circulation is now replacing a large chunk of the low-efficiency agency-sold subs that circulators used to rely on like a bad addiction to appease the advertising department.

Let’s not talk about the money from Special Interest Publications that Ken’s team is now routinely cranking out. Oh, OK, let's. The Olympic Special sold over 109,000 copies at $9.95, generating $1,090,758 on gross newsstand revenue in 2010. The Royal Engagement issue sold another 40,000 copies at $6.95 for a cool $278,000. And the Newsmakers special is poised to sell another 23,000 copies at $7.95 for a little extra pocket change of $182,850. And, let’s not forget the University Guide which sold nearly 19,000 copies at $19.95 for another $379,050. Not bad, considering so many pundits wrote off Maclean’s when Ken took over the helm, claiming the brand, and the newsweekly genere, had lost its mojo. Really?

If I start imagining the money that is being earned on improved renewal rates, or the money that is being saved by not chasing inflated rate bases…the millions and millions are starting to make me dizzy and very green with envy.

Readers are prepared to pay for a quality product. Sure, top-line circulation numbers are down, but circulation geeks like me call that “managing down” the unprofitable circulation and “managing up” circulation profitability… big time!

I could go on, but I think if Judge Judy were reading this she’d likely say, “Case dismissed.”
Monday, April 18, 2011
Maclean’s magazine has been reprimanded by the Quebec Press Council for a controversial cover last year that featured beloved Bonhomme, the Carnaval snowman.


As discussed in my blog post last week, magazines like Maclean’s and Toronto Life appear to be held to a higher, or shall we say different standard by the journalistic community, than a highly profitable and well-read alternative publication like NOW.

Compare and contrast the Maclean’s cover to the NOW cover:

One cover features a human being, the other a cartoon.

One cover suggests an “evil plot”, the other points to history.

One is formally slapped, the other laughs all the way to the bank to cash checks from sex-trade ads.

Maclean’s offered an apology, while NOW offered no apology and further exploited the controversey on its web site.
Monday, April 11, 2011
After listening to NOW magazine editor Susan G. Cole defend her Rob Ford cover on the radio, and after reading my recent blog post on MastheadOnline.com, a graphic designer (who prefers to remain nameless) decided to have some fun. He has Photoshop equipment, so he turned on his computer and created a mock cover featuring Susan’s face rather than Rob’s on NOW’s cover. The cover lines are arguably offensive, perhaps funny to others, but I am not comfortable posting to this blog. What’s good for the Goose is not Good for the Gander.

This unsolicited work came with the following note:

“When I heard Susan G. Cole, the editor of NOW, defend the cover on the radio last week, I decided to see how she would like it. Here’s what I put together. I sent it to Susan G. Cole and some radio personalities like Arlene Bynon and John Oakley. Arlene sent me a reply, but I haven’t heard back from Ms. Cole.”

NOW magazine’s Rob Ford cover has created quite a lot of noise this past week. One defense offered is “free speech”, a principled position indeed. But sometimes speech isn’t free, if you have to defend a libel suit. That’s called libel chill. Others believe pragmatisim trumps principles, and that if it is good for business, then so be it. Free market capitalist triumphantalism at its best.

Another argument is that the ends justify the means… i.e. that since Rob Ford is politically incorrect, and dangerous… all’s fair in love and war. Apparently NOW is waging a war or sorts. Call it a class war or call it a classless war. Others have suggested that the comedy value of the Photoshopped cover is obvious, and that everyone should just lighten up. Fair enough. As for sex trade ads in a “progressive” magazine and questions of double standards, oh well, who cares, right?

Lost in all the noise is whether or not the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) should adopt some guidelines or code of conduct, similar to the Society of Professional Journalists (which is U.S.-based, but accepts Canadian members): http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

Read the code and then ask yourself:
Are these guidelines smart or stupid?
Are these guidelines helpful or harmful?
Are these guidelines of any value in free market/free speech democracies like the U.S. or Canada?
Are limits of any kind, like yelling fire in a crowded theatre, reasonable or a threat to our liberty?

So let’s vote on two items. The first one is just for fun, the second I hope will actually spark some intelligent debate.

Visit my blog on Coverssell.com to vote on the Rob Ford cover:
Who cares!

You can also vote on the following question:
Should the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors strike a committee to look at developing a made-in-Canada set of guidelines?

Visit by clicking here.

About Me
Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is the the creator of Coverssell.com. Bullock has worked as circulation director for both consumer and B2B magazines including Toronto Life and FASHION. If you have a great cover to share, please send all submissions to 

Note to readers: some of Bullock's posts may refer to his clients.
Most Recent Blog Comment
Kelly says:
Any news on how it performed on newsstands?...
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