Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blogging for Magazines: A Strong Example in Western Horse Review

AMPA’s Blogging Session
On April 19 (Calgary) and April 20 (Edmonton), AMPA hosted the session "Best Blogging Tips for Editors" with speaker Hilary Henegar, the web whiz editor behind You know your speaker has addressed the needs and interests of a broad audience when they're congratulated afterwards with the comment: "the best investment of my time in months." Way to go, Hilary! AMPA Blogger Colleen Seto has done a great job of summing up Hilary’s tips in her post "An Idiot's Guide to Blogging" (and yes, one of the tips was that certain words, idiot for instance, bring in traffic).

Western Horse Review Magazine Offers Strong Example

All of this blog talk had me thinking about one members’ blog efforts that stand out for me as exemplary of everything Hilary emphasized at the sessions: the four blogs (that’s right, four of them!) from Western Horse Review (WHR). I’ll admit, I have little personal knowledge of or interest in horses, but that doesn’t stop me from truly appreciating all that goes into these regularly updated, often personal and always informative blog posts.

And it’s not even always horse-speak! A recent post in “My Stable Life” by Jenn Webster offers a photo-filled glimpse into her personal life; this is one of the great ways that WHR builds relationships with their readers, bringing to light the personality behind the blog.
So You Want to Be a Blogger? I wanted to learn more about all of the work that goes into keeping WHR’s four blogs current and engaging, so I posed a few questions to Ingrid Schulz, WHR magazine editor and “Screen Doors & Saddles” blogger.
Do you pay your bloggers?
Our bloggers are paid either on a monthly salary or "per-post." We don't have a large budget for paying bloggers, they themselves generally have an interest either in promoting the western riding world, and having their writing published.
How is blogging beneficial to your magazine/business?
We deliver a lot of content through our blogs. It's been a real journey partnering up our online voice with our magazine voice. We're still finding our way, but it's coming together, the path is presenting itself. Blogging has tremendously raised the awareness of our magazine.
Do you have any specific instructions, tips or advice for your writers?
  • My request of all potential bloggers is that they submit 10-15 completed blog posts to me. I don't hear back from 99% of them. It's simple, but it's a great exercise in understanding the commitment involved in this venture.
  • I composed posts for a year, prior to going live. Not only did the store of posts help me get through busy times at the magazine, but this method allowed me to develop a real voice for myself. It gave me a stronger start out of the gate.
  • Bloggers are not an "online journalists." Successful bloggers are more like interesting, entertaining and opinionated friends, but they need to be trustworthy as well. We have to know our stuff. I feel very accountable for what I write.
  • Finally, impassivity about your subject matter will translate to your readers. It's hard to fake it as a blogger. Be passionate about what you've chosen to blog about. If you're not, really, what's the point?
--- Rebecca Lesser
AMPA Communications & Programs Coordinator

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Check out the Consumer Mag Fact Book for Ad Sales Support

If you haven't yet seen Magazine Canada's 2010 Consumer Magazine Fact Book, go check it out now. It's chock full of industry info and presented in a way that will help you answer those tough questions about ROI and reader engagement. 

Whether you need some quick facts and figures, or want more in-depth outlooks on trends and research studies about the Canadian consumer magazine industry, you'll find it in this book. It's great fodder for your media kits, and will complement your own numbers for your magazine and readership.

There's also a Fact Book for business/trade mags for those trade pubs out there.

--- Colleen Seto AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Monday, April 25, 2011

Digital Publishing: Good for Landfills, Bad for Ads? (In Honour of Earth Day)

The landfills may be getting a bit of a break as increasingly more magazines are going paperless in favour of digital. Yet things aren’t always as they seem, and both publishers and advertisers face a dilemma: keep up with the times (and out of the landfills) by going online, or stick to print where advertising remains most effective.

Image source Green Living Blog

Recent studies have shown that consumers pay more attention to print advertisements than they do to online ones. In fact, 55% of U.S. consumers reported that they used advertisements in printed magazines as ways of learning about new products; a significant number when one considers how much time we spend online. So should magazines continue to go increasingly digital, or should they take a step back and let the profits dictate the direction?

For more on the state of consumers and advertising in the good ‘ole print world, go to:

---Andrea Cubala
Volunteer AMPA Blogger

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Idiot's Guide to Blogging

Yesterday, AMPA hosted a blogging session with Granville editor Hilary Henegar in Calgary, and she’s doing it again today in Edmonton. Here’s a recap of what she had to share.

First, set your online editorial mandate to parallel that of your magazine’s. Even though you’re on a different platform with different tools, your website should reflect the same voice and brand of your print product. This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen a number of websites that seem like completely separate entities from their print mags.

Recruit bloggers who can and will take ownership. Reliable bloggers help generate traffic by building relationships with readers, and they often use social media to spread the word. Regular contributors are one source. In return, you have to pay these folks. But it may not cost as much as you think if they want that publicity and credibility. If you can’t pay a lot (or at all), try using contra; offering training, exposure and feedback; or develop partnerships instead. But be forewarned, free can often mean more work and less control on your end.

Of utmost importance, Hilary emphasizes how the online space is a community that’s all about karma. If you invest in it, you will get the return. This can come in the form of dollars, time and links.

Overall, blog content should be:
  • Concise and visual
  • Short bits of high-impact content (e.g., infographics)
  • Sharable
  • Clickable
  • Chunky (use subheads and captions)

She offers a few examples of magazines with strong websites/blogs:
Uppercase (an example of a local mag doing a simple, yet effective blog for its niche on the free tumblr blog software)

You’ll probably notice that many of the mags have more than one blog organized by subject and/or writer. That’s right folks, whether to have a blog is no longer the question. It’s now about how many blogs and on what topics.

Thanks to Hilary for some good tips. I’m testing her theory about using the word “idiot” in my headline. Apparently it means we’ll get 10 times the traffic. We shall see!

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Red Bull, Bull Riding and Cardboard Cuts: Behind the Scenes of the 2011 Alberta Magazines Conference

For our member e-publication Currents, we asked Alberta Magazines Awards Coordinator Anh Chu to share an insider's perspective on the 2011 Alberta Magazines Conference. We loved her article so much that we thought we would share it with you, too....

Red Bull, Bull Riding and Cardboard Cuts
Behind the Scenes of the 2011 Alberta Magazines Conference

By Anh Chu

“This conference wouldn't be possible without the help of so many,” begins Andrew Mah, Acting Executive Director of AMPA. “If you can stand where you are or wave...” Upon hearing these words, I stand from my perch by the LCD projector at the front of the room, and wave like a languid pageant-queen to the room of 150 people. That's odd, I think, no one else on my team is vying for recognition. Turns out I had interrupted Mah at the podium, mid-sentence. Dramatics aside, this was an unexpected move. You see, we folks behind the scenes rarely toot our own horns. And rarely do we do it so conspicuously. Alas, I've returned for an encore...

First, a plea. If you haven't been to a conference before, sign up for the next one. Every March, AMPA hosts the Alberta Magazines Conference. It's the largest professional development conference of its kind in Western Canada. It's such a big to-do that it's hard to believe AMPA has just two staffers. It's a celebration. It's inspiration. Staff will tell you it's like planning a wedding each year in addition to your regular job, only there is no proverbial bride and groom. Nor is there wedding cake or an epic dance-off, sadly....

To read the full article, visit

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To App or Not to App

Though I don’t have a snazzy iPhone or iPad, I’m intrigued by the millions of apps you can get for them, as well as for other smart devices like Blackberry. In particular of course, I’m interested in which magazines are diving into the app world and with what kind of apps. 

Not surprisingly, big guns like Time, Sports Illustrated and GQ all have apps that not only offer complete versions of their print editions typically with a customized reader, but also app-exclusive content, such as videos and photos. (See for a bevy of offerings.)

Key factors for whether apps are successful ride on how well they are designed in terms of doing what they say they will, how useful the app actually is and if it ties in well with the magazine’s brand. Ease of use is also a big deal since no one wants to get frustrated trying to make an app work. 
I asked Cottage Life’s Terry Sellwood about their app and the development process behind it. Currently available for free in the iTunes store, the Cottage Life app is “a compilation of many years of content from our question and answer feature in the magazine,” he says. “People have questions about their cottages and cottage life, and we try to answer those questions. Anyone with a question about their cottage is invited to try the app and if their question isn't there, they're invited to send it to us.”  

You can search by the magazine’s topics or enter your own search terms to find out all things cottage-related like how to deal with the stink if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, green suggestions such as going fertilizer-free or whether it’s okay to pee in a lake. (The short answer, by the way, is NO.) The app meets the above criteria as it’s easy to use, practical and ties in with what Cottage Life magazine is all about.

The Cottage Life team decided to create an app based on this popular department in the print mag because as Terry points out, it’s “one of the most useful applications we have.” It’s also a fantastic way to repackage existing content. It took about six months to go from inception to launch, “but it could have been done much sooner,” he says. “Probably just a few weeks of straight time. This was a part time project for a few people.”

In terms of revenues, the app doesn’t generate any as a freebie. “It's free right now until we get a wide enough dispersion,” explains Terry. “It's more of a branding and promotion strategy. We don't expect to make much money on this one. It will probably be charged at $0.99 when it's no longer free.”

That could be reason enough not to do an app for some publishers, but revenue is possible on the app front. Some magazines build advertising into their apps while others create new content for paid-for apps. Similar to how websites have evolved, apps will likely become an expected platform from content publishers.

Right now, Terry says it’s still too early to tell what the overall response to their app is, but his advice to other publishers is: “Just do it.”

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence

Sunday, April 3, 2011

AB Mags Conference--Your Thoughts Please?

Okay, it's been over a week since the AMPA team did a kick-arse job of hosting yet another edition of the Alberta Magazines Conference. Thank you also to AMPA's generous sponsors and funders for helping to make it happen.

By now, you've all had time to reflect and perhaps apply some of the new-found knowledge you picked up at the event. So tell me, what did you love most? Least? Who was your favourite speaker and why? What pearl of wisdom did you pick up? Please share your thoughts! Not only will it help with planning and funding for next year, but I'd really like some interaction here, folks.

Kudos again to Andrew for his stupendous work on this one. (What a joy it was for me to just roam around not being responsible for anything!) And of course, big congrats to the rest of the gang--Rebecca, Angy, Don, Anh and all the volunteers.
--- Colleen Seto AMPA Blogger-in-Residence