Canadian Magazine Industry News
20 August 2009,     TORONTO
Beyond print: The nuts and bolts of
The fourth in a series: Masthead looks inside the toolboxes of five very different online-only publications to show you how they were built from the ground up. Today: only recently joined the online-only crowd. Chart Communications’ monthly music magazine, Chart, folded in January 2009, a victim of the economic downturn. However, the magazine, which launched in 1991, kept going online. These days, the site publishes about 70 new pieces of content each day and received 275,000 unique visitors in July.


The editorial blueprints: Earlier this week, Chart launched a redesigned homepage, intended to more obviously show readers the full range of new material posted on the site. A sidebar that lists the site’s most-read stories was also added. In the two days since these changes were made, the site has already seen a 15% increase in traffic.

“People would come to the [old] homepage and think there were only seven pieces of content per day, and they wouldn’t look further into the site,” publisher Edward Skira says.

There were staff cutbacks during the transition from print to online: three staff members had to be laid off, and only five full-time and one part-time staffer remain. Of those five, one person works in sales, two in editorial, one as webmaster and one in marketing. According to Skira, the site also uses a combination of staff writers and freelancers, who are paid “about the going rate.”

The audience development blueprints: aims for an audience of 15- to 34-year-olds interested in pop culture, rock, alternative and punk rock music. Even before the print magazine folded—the website has been around since 1996—Chart had been making use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to reach that crowd. In fact, last Friday, the site saw a sudden 20% increase in traffic after a large Janis Joplin Facebook group posted a link to a Chart story.

Every Tuesday, the site’s e-newsletter reaches about 5,000 subscribers. Chart also sponsors music events such as Canadian Music Week and shows at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

The business blueprints: The magazine began as a small-scale music publication with only 50 photocopied prints, created by Edward Skira and Nada Laskovski, then students at York University. Through Skira’s connections at Radio York, the magazine caught the attention of EMI Music, which agreed to give the duo $1,500 up front for one full year of half-page ads. After that, ads and subscriptions continued to grow, and in 1997, the company also started publishing programs for EdgeFest, the annual outdoor rock festival.

Although the print magazine gave in to economic troubles, the website is now getting back on its feet and beginning to break even. 90% of revenue comes from ads, and the rest comes from other sources, including a content deal with Canadian Press.

The growth blueprints: According to Skira, the way the music industry and the Internet keep changing, it’s hard to predict what the site will look like in the future. He is, however, planning on expanding the business by adding band merchandise to the site within the next couple of months.
— Laura Godfrey
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