Canadian Magazine Industry News
23 December 2009,     TORONTO, MONTREAL
Year end Q & A: Pierre Marcoux
Next in Masthead’s year end Q&A series is Transcontinental Media vice president business and consumer solutions group Pierre Marcoux. Transcontinental Media publishes more than 40 consumer and trade titles including Canadian Living and The Hockey News.

Masthead: What measures did your company take to weather the storm?

Pierre Marcoux: As soon as we realised that there was much softness in the advertising market, last year, we reduced our spending in such areas as travel,
Pierre Marcoux
Pierre Marcoux
promotion and entertaining. And as soon as we realised we were facing a major recession, a few weeks later, we went further with our contingency plan.

We looked at our circulation spending; reviewed our suppliers’ contracts; combined our production centers; changed frequency for some magazines, closed one and sold two.

Unfortunately, we’ve also removed layers of management and had to let go many colleagues, many of them long-standing employees. We also implemented a one-week furlough for our remaining employees.

Our employees have also responded by coming up with new ideas to improve efficiency and cut costs, and to put forward ideas for development. I’ll never say this enough: we had to do so to protect the business and consequently, the people that remain.

M: How is the first quarter of 2010 shaping up for your company compared to the first quarter of 2009?

PM: It is still very difficult to say. Some titles are doing well compared to last year, and others are still in a tough spot. And really, there are still no clear trends shaping up. Yet, it is clear that there is more activity than last year on the part of the advertisers. They are discussing yearly budgets, campaigns and projects but some are still in a wait-and-see mode – probably until after the Xmas shopping season.

M: What was the highlight of 2009?

PM: Even as we faced a tough situation, we moved forward with a few interesting projects. First of all, we continued moving ahead with our multiplatform strategy. From a mobile perspective, brands such as The Hockey News, Les Affaires, Investment Executive, and Canadian Living, to name only a few, now offer a mobile service to their clients. We also have launched, refreshed and improved some of our Web sites to make sure they remain relevant for their audience. This is important as we strive to reach and answer our clients’ needs in new ways.

From an advertisers’ point of view, we introduced PresseXpress, a cycle-time project that allows advertisers to submit material up to two weeks before the issue is mailed to our subscribers – compared to a month in the past. It’s one of our initiatives to better answer our customers’ needs. In the same vein, we also moved full-speed ahead with our 360° Sales Solutions approach, which enables us to offer our advertisers customized programs on all of our media platforms.

Also, after making important changes to Homemakers, we’ve worked on the re-launch of one of our most important magazines. What’s interesting is that it is a re-launch that better focuses on our community’s needs both from a paper and digital standpoint. The re-launch will happen early next year.

M: What was the most challenging aspect of the past year?

The most challenging aspect of the past year certainly was the decisions we had to take in regards to our employees. It’s always easy to say but it’s true that it’s very difficult to let go of colleagues – it be through a restructuring or a sale. It’s extremely difficult for the employees that are impacted, obviously, and it’s difficult for those who implement the decisions and for the colleagues who remain.

M: What, in your opinion will be the key to succeeding in publishing in 2010?

PM: We need to push forward with our multi-platform strategy. People’s media consumption habits are changing. They want to be reached on more than one platform and advertisers also want to reach them in more personalised ways. It is clear that the digital transformations won’t stop in 2010.

Transcontinental Media’s Web sites have seen double digit growth this year and we will continue to take advantage of this transformation. We must continue to migrate from having a set of magazines to a set of multiplatform brands. In the end, we are able to better serve our communities of interests, our advertisers and our needs for growth. How will it impact the magazine business? I think magazines will still remain at the core of this strategy for a long, long time.

M: The new federal Canadian Periodical Fund will be launched in April 2010. What effect, positive or negative, do you think it will have on your company?

PM: We understood from the get-go the necessity to revamp the program. And we were happy to learn that the creation and delivery of Canadian content still remains at the core of this program. 

At this point, we are not sure whether large magazines will receive less funding. It is a strong possibility, but one that is not 100% sure. We still strongly believe that large magazines contribute a lot to the industry. They often are investing in the industry’s infrastructure, starting new initiatives, employing many of the industry’s contributors and providing reach to the advertisers.
I don’t think we really understand the impact of affecting the larger titles. Having said this, I am hopeful that if the government decides against the larger titles it will offset this decision by creating a fair distribution mechanism to help the industry grow in these very tough times. This is the issue right now.

— Val Maloney
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Jaded says:
Wow, Torstar really seems to be on a mission to bankrupt one magazine after another....
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Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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