Literary mags aren’t traditionally on the leading edge when it comes to business innovations, but the Literary Review of Canada has introduced an online revenue model that other small publishers should take note of.
The Literary Review of Canada, founded in 1991, is published ten times a year and has a circulation of about 3,000.
For the last six months, the LRC has used its website to sell PDFs of the magazine for $6.50. “We’d get people requesting back issues frequently,” says publisher Helen Walsh. “We found over the years that if we ship them and invoice, they almost never pay.”
Though the program isn’t a huge moneymaker for the 16-year-old title (Walsh says an average of two dozen PDFs are sold per issue), the relative ease in carrying it out makes it worthwhile. “Our production manager was creating PDFs of every issue anyway, which we included in some of the press material,” Walsh says. “When people order it [through PayPal], our webmaster facilitates the payment and e-mails the PDF out. So there’s labour but it’s very little.” The PDFs themselves are on average one to two megabytes.
Developing the LRC’swebsite has been a top priority for Walsh, co-publisher Mark Lovewell and editor-in-chief Bronwyn Drainie over the last year. “We’ve always known we have to have something more than a brochure,” Walsh says. “It’s annoying for a user of a website to click on our page and only get a teaser of a few hundred words. At the same time, we didn’t want to offer full-text of all our articles online because we didn’t want to cannibalize the magazine.”
To maintain this balance, the LRC website offers full and free access to three articles from each issue, as well as original online content, which was introduced this month. “We wanted a compromise,” Walsh says.