Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Home for Alberta Magazines Blog!

This blogger version of the Alberta Magazines blog is no longer active...

You can always check back here for past posts, but from now on you'll find new posts on the recently redesigned website of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association at

We'll be rolling out a new blogging program in the next few weeks, with regular posts by guest contributors to All About AMPA, All About Industry and All About Members.

See you at our new home!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Digital sales data cause for nightmares

Image source: CDS Global, image of print subscription report

In a recent story by Audience Development, the nightmarish state of digital magazine sales data is revealed. For those working in circulation, digital newsstand results can be even harder to come by than those for print copies, and are much harder to digest.

Apparently, digital storefronts such as Apple, Kobo and Zinio all use different reports, and nothing is standardized. Zinio is the only one that offers any kind of automated dashboard, but none of the vendors use an existing fulfillment system.

Whatever reports they send, publishers have to decipher and massage the data to glean any sort of useful information.

Thankfully, there are groups working to fix this problem. CDS Global, for example, aims to collect sales and subscription data from all of the digital newsstand providers, standardize it, provide sales and revenue recognition and track it.

But for the average publisher trying to track their digital sales, it's likely going to be some hefty Excel handiwork for a while yet.

Have you figured out a digital circ system that works for your magazine? Share, share!

--- Colleen Seto

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Walrus uses reverse psychology ads in Calgary

Those in Calgary may have noticed a rather unusual magazine ad campaign taking place on billboards, C-trains, and restaurants. WAX, a local ad and design agency, has created a "reverse psychology" ad strategy that encourages people not to subscribe to The Walrus, an award-winning national magazine.

The long-copy approach of the ads demonstrate what readers would find in the magazine, so if you're averse to the ads, you likely wouldn't be a Walrus reader anyhow.

Co-publisher Shelley Ambrose says, "We’re dedicated to reaching intelligent and thoughtful people across the country, and we’re confident that Calgarians will rise to the challenge. The campaign is presented as a challenge to people, so they’ll take a closer look at the magazine."

The campaign is part of a focus on Calgary by The Walrus that includes a refreshing and honest cover story about Calgary in the magazine’s June issue by local writer Chris Turner and an event tonight on Calgary's Cowboy Culture at the EPCOR Centre’s Max Bell Theatre.

For more details, visit Design Edge Canada.
                                                                                                                  --Colleen Seto

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Best Practices Guide for the Magazine Industry

Image source: Canadian Magazines, cover of the 2008 Respect and Remuneration study

At last. A draft of a Best Practices Guide (download the draft) for the Canadian magazine industry has been developed to address the various obligations writers, editors and publishers have to one another.

I'm sure every editor or publisher can describe a misunderstanding or disagreement with a writer, and the same goes for every writer. I've heard plenty from both sides and have had my own share of grievances. Part of the problem is that we're not all on the same page. This guide will help to clarify how we should treat one another and make clear that things like contracts, copyright, timely payment and reasonable working conditions are not afterthoughts, but should be part of every exchange between a magazine and a contributor.

This guide aims to provide that "same page" for everyone to work from so there are fewer misunderstandings and disagreements, or at the very least, to provide some basis for discussion.

Please take the time to review the draft and give your feedback to edickson[at]magazinescanada[dot]ca or by commenting on the Canadian Magazines blog.

For any of you going to MagNet, you can also participate in the session Yes, We Can All Just Get Along (WR2, Wednesday June 6, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.)

The hope is that the guide, once finalized, will be adopted like the advertising-editorial guidelines were, and act as a set of agreed professional standards. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but at least we will have something to reference, to know that we are in fact making one.

--Colleen Seto

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Joyce Byrne Named 2011 Magazines Canada Volunteer of the Year

Woot! Woot! Shout-out to Alberta Venture's Joyce Byrne on being named Magazines Canada’s Volunteer of the Year for 2011.

Joyce Byrne, Magazines Canada Volunteer of the Year

Anyone who knows Joyce knows what an ardent supporter of Canada's cultural magazines she is, as well as a huge advocate for Alberta's publishing industry. She currently sits on AMPA's board of directors and has served as a director on the Magazines Canada Board for 10 years. She is part of Mags Canada's Government Relations committee and MagNet curriculum taskforce, and has chaired the Professional Development committee since 2007.

She's always keen to share her wisdom (and her humour!), often participating on AMPA's expert panels at post-secondary institutions.

Prior to joining Venture Publishing, Joyce was publisher of Toronto-based This Magazine. She was also part of the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) taskforce that established the corporation's successful magazine funding program. She has been a steering committee member of Digital Eve Toronto (and WebGirls), a jurist for the OMDC and the Canada Council for the Arts, and is a director of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Joyce chaired the Advertising Club of Edmonton Awards in 2008, and currently chairs the committee for Edmonton's annual Cannes Reel fundraiser in support of the National Advertising Benevolent Society. She is also the proofreader of the biannual literary magazine Taddle Creek and a consulting publisher to the new Edmonton-based literary magazine Eighteen Bridges.

She'll be officially honoured at MagNet in Toronto on June 7.

Congrats again Joyce! You deserve it!

--Colleen Seto

Print to digital shift still requires a lot of thinking

Image source: emedia vitals
 A recent blog post on eMedia Vitals, an online publication that serves print media professionals transitioning their business to emedia, showed that there has been some headway made by newspapers in the digital circulation realm. But there's still a lot that needs to be re-thunk.

It discusses three areas--packaging, pricing and distribution--where publishers can no longer rely on traditional models in the digital realm.

Have a read, it's good stuff to chew on.
-- Colleen Seto

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Content Curation--the Perfect Job for Magazines

Image source: amandamaks

The idea of content curation has been bandying about for a while now. AMC keynote Gary Ross touched upon it, regarding the work that magazine editors already do. Or should be doing.

And it only makes common sense. The whole point of magazines is to curate--to discover ideas/trends/information and make sense of them for their readers. This can be done be providing context and/or by providing perspective, that is, opinion. Whatever you decide to do with your magazine, consider its "new" role as a content curator. And that role should be an expert one. Why let just anybody on Pinterest be the expert in your field?

Read Fast Company's take on content curation for inspiration. More can also be found at EContent.

                                                                                                                        --Colleen Seto

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gary Davies Leaving RedPoint Media for Canada Wide Media

Breaking news!

Longtime Calgary/Alberta magazine veteran Gary Davies will be leaving his post as Executive Vice-President at RedPoint Media (publisher of Avenue, up!, Wine Access and others) to join Canada Wide Media (publisher of BCBusiness, Westworld, BCHome & Garden and more) in Vancouver as its new President.

Gary Davies, RedPoint Executive Vice-President

He has worked with RPM for 16 years, from its very beginnings, in fact. So why the big change now? "I wasn't looking for a change," he says. "I received a call from an executive search company back in the fall and over the course of many months of discussion, the opportunity turned out to be one I couldn't refuse." And so Gary will officially wrap up at RPM on June 29th and start at Canada Wide on July 3rd, although he will likely only be in the RPM office until the end of May.

He expects the new gig to be similar to his current job. "Essentially, working with a senior management team to run the business; ensuring the company makes a profit on an annual basis; and working with a team to produce quality products, both print and digital, on a regular basis. All the while, hopefully having some fun in the process."

Gary also has a long history with AMPA, and I'm glad that Rob Tanner and I were able to coerce him into rejoining the board a few years ago after he had seen AMPA through some rough times in the early days. I truly enjoyed working with Gary when he was President of the board and I was the Executive Director. He always brought good ideas to the table and wasn't afraid to roll up his sleeves to get things done. At the same time, he respected my ideas and abilities to carry out AMPA's work, and let me run the show the best way I saw fit. It was a healthy partnership that benefited AMPA and its membership, and I thank him for being a great support.

When it comes to what he will miss most about RPM and Calgary, he says, "Obviously the people I work with. I've made a lot of friends here, both at RedPoint and outside of RedPoint. This is my home town and it will be tough to say goodbye. That said, we're looking to start a new adventure in Vancouver."

Congrats Gary. We wish you and your family all the best on this new exciting chapter. You will be missed!
                                                                                             -- Colleen Seto

Friday, April 20, 2012

Digital Copyright for Magazines

Erin Finlay, manager of legal services at Access Copyright

AMPA had the pleasure of hosting Erin Finlay, manager of legal services at Access Copyright, for the seminar “Copyright Issues in a Digital Era” in Calgary and Edmonton. Participants included magazine writers, editors, publishers and marketing consultants, and there was something for everyone to sink their teeth into. 

Erin started with a crash course on the basics of copyright law, and managed to make some pretty heavy legalese come to life. One participant described the seminar as “very thorough without being pedantic.” It was appreciated that, wherever possible, Erin offered definitions related to magazine publishing. For example:
  • Moral rights – an author could claim violation of their moral rights if they don’t want to be associated with an advertisement featured on the same page as their article. 

We also looked at digital copyright conflicts in journalism, and specifically the Heather Robertson case:
  • Class action against the newspaper industry for using her articles in digital archives without her consent
  •  The verdict – newspaper publishers have the right to include articles in a full reproduction of the newspaper, but not when the paper is disaggregated into individual articles
  •  This begs a key question about copyright issues – “are we trying to squeeze old world copyright models into new technology?”

Also of particular relevance to the magazine industry was the Digital Copyright Trail—creator to publisher to distributor to user:
  • Publishing is no longer a model of creators and publishers pushing information out to users via distributors, but rather the reverse. 
  • Digital media distributors (ie: internet service providers and search engines) and users are now pulling that information from publishers and creators.

There was plenty more that we covered in this short seminar, and Erin certainly taught us a lot, but there’s also always more to learn. One participant requested a discussion of contractual rights, and how publishers can create contracts with their freelancers that are fair to all. We’ll have to bring Erin back in the future to tackle that one! 

--- Rebecca Lesser
AMPA Communications & Programs Coordinator

Monday, April 16, 2012

Recap: Good Old-Fashioned Editing with Charlene Rooke

Charlene Rooke at Alberta Magazines Conference (photo courtesy Don Molyneaux and Sandra Markieta)

Editor Charlene Rooke sure packed a ton of info into her session "Stet: A Return to Good, Old-Fashioned Editing" at the Alberta Magazines Conference. She covered everything from the role of the editor to the editing process to essential story elements to a line-editing checklist. Here's a recap of some of her pearls of wisdom.

Role of the Editor
  • The editor is the personality of the magazine.
  • Be able to pluck stories out of the air; see trends; connect the dots between disparate pieces.
  • Be curiosity driven.
  • Believe in the transformative potential of ideas to change the world (even if it's just convincing your readers to paint a room a certain colour or make a certain drink).
  • Nurture writers; if you're not spending time building relationships with writers, you're not optimizing your job as editor. Be a writer's editor; "what other kind is there?"
Editing Process
  • Editing is very iterative and collaborative. Take a "do no harm" philosophy.
  • For your first read:
    1. Print it out. Put down the pen.
    2. Read as a reader, not an editor. 
    3.  What is great about the story?
  • If the story isn't working, figure out whether it's a writing problem (which isn't a problem; it's the editor's job to fix that) or a reporting problem. If it's reporting, the writer has to go back and fix it.
  • Reread your own assignment letter. Has anything changed on your end?
  • If a story seems insurmountable, start thinking radically. Could I cut the whole first half? Could I Rubik's Cube rearrange it? Could the end be the lead? Could the lead be display copy? Is it too long? Could some be a sidebar? Try all this before you start rewriting.
  • Break stories into parts to avoid awkward transitions and create narrative tension.
  • Consider the visuals as they can help tell the story and set the tone.
  • Does the ending leave you satisfied?
  • Get a second opinion before killing a story.
    • Time vs. Money
      • Plan A: Rewrite
      • Plan B: Delay
      • Plan C: Reformat/repackage
      • Plan D: Kill fee
Story Essentials
  • The storyteller has to be present to curate and provide context.
  • Use cocktail narrative; tell the most interesting part first. Don't tell stories in chronological order. Make sure there is order to the story to avoid readers having to jump back and forth.
  • Vary the perspective. Even if it's an in-depth article on a specific topic, provide some macro too; and vice versa.
  • Include telling details; not just details for the sake of details.
  • Sources—are there enough? Is the story balanced? A one-source story is a red flag.
Line-Editing Checklist
  • Are there many short or long sentences? You should typically have a mix.
  • Is the story top-heavy with ideas/words?
  • Check for overused jargon, dashes, contractions, adjectives, slang.
  • Use fresh words/phrases instead of clichés or "potted history".
  • Is your verb tense consistent?
  • Is there any repetition? Is every sentence necessary?
   -- Colleen Seto

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gold-Standard Design: Domenic Macri's Alberta Magazines Conference Session

Domenic Macri at the Alberta Magazines Conference (photo courtesy Don Molyneaux and Sandra Markieta)

"What makes me nuts," says Report on Business (ROB) magazine art director Domenic Macri, "is when you have nothing to work with."

With humour and charm, Macri brought his experience and wisdom to his presentation "Gold-Standard Design" at the 2012 Alberta Magazines Conference, sharing his strategies for great design.

Macri offers these important “things to know” when you're tackling a fresh issue or edition:

         •        Know Your Subject
         •        Know Your Product
         •        Know Your Audience

"Think of your magazine as a person," he says.

Macri says reaching a final product unfolds through a series of difficulties, along with many trials and errors. He uses design to solve problems, such as subjects not wanting their photo on the cover, or not having a photo of a subject at all. There is often more than one solution, Macri says. Often, he'll go through 50 trials in his process to produce a polished cover for ROB.

He does suggest a sly, but effective, method when an editor comes up with an idea that he doesn't think will work well. "Don't make it look good," he says. "If it's not the right idea, I'm wasting my time." 

Here are a few of Macri’s design tips: 

·      Font: every type size should be divisible by the next type
·      Headlines: try them in every version of your font available - capitals, without capitals, san serif, serif, light, bold and regular, etc
·      Body Copy: learn how to use the baseline and try colour type for texture
·      Infographics: don't overdo them, ask yourself what your reader will tolerate

But most of all, enjoy your work. "For me, having fun is everything," Macri says. 

--- Heather Setka 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Effective Social Media: Kat Tancock's Alberta Magazines Conference Session

Kat Tancock at the Alberta Magazines Conference (photo courtesy Don Molyneaux and Sandra Markieta)

As social media platforms proliferate on the web, it can be difficult to manage them all for your publication. Kat Tancock, Toronto-based digital consultant, says you don't have to. 

Tancock, who spoke about effective social media at the 2012 Alberta Magazines Conference, says you should start with the basics - Facebook and Twitter - and then do what you gravitate towards naturally. After all, social should be fun. 

Platform by platform, here are a few of Tancock's top social media tips (generated by her in consultation with top people at publications like Fashion, Today's Parent, Afar and National Geographic Traveler): 

  • Treat your readers as experts and solicit content for your editorial from them. 
  • Choose quality over quantity; refine your frequency and don't post more than a few times a day.
  • Try posting photos instead of links because they receive more attention. 

  • Be personal and sincere.
  • Don't just broadcast: converse, respond and share.
  • Always reply to people when they tweet to you or about you directly.

  • It’s been called "pictures for the kids", so use it to reach younger, web savvy readers (if that's your market).
  • Spotlight original photography.
  • Use it more for branding than to generate web traffic to your site.

  • Showcase your original photos here.
  • Keep it positive; Instagram is not a place to break hard news.

  • Pick topics that fit your brand, position yourself and your publication as the curator and create unique and targeted boards.
  • Participate with others by liking and reposting other people's posts.
  • Put a Pinterest share button on your website (this is key).
Tancock also offers a few do's and don'ts, including don't just broadcast; do respect people's time/space; and don't get too personal. Her number one rule is: don't be annoying. 

And if you're so busy that social media seems to fall to the bottom of the pile, Tancock offers these suggestions:
  • plan through a schedule;
  • create a lineup;
  • share the workload among staff members;
  • set limits,
  • use tools such as HootSuite to manage platforms;
  • and repurpose content wherever you can. 

[Kat has posted both of her conference presentations on her website at]

--- Heather Setka

Monday, April 9, 2012

Managing the Shift: From Sales to Brand Rep, Conference Session

For the first time in 2010, Kim Peacock says (quoting recent stats), the internet outpaced magazines in ad sales. 

Instead of focusing on this as a negative, Peacock says it's a huge opportunity, especially when you consider the good news. Quoting more research, Peacock says people continue to trust traditional media more than celeb rags or even bloggers. 

In Peacock’s session "Managing the Shift: From Sales to Brand Rep" at the 2012 Alberta Magazines Conference, she spoke about managing the shift away from sales towards offering clients a brand.

It starts by defining your brand, she says.  Here are a few things to consider: 
  1. A brand is emotional and psychological.
  2. It's a relationship with customers.
  3. It's not logical like a product.

To implement your brand, you really need to know what business you're in, Peacock says. She references the New York Times as a great example of how one publication turned around its own online strategy. She suggests that magazines aren't necessarily in the magazine business, but rather the content business.

In order to define what business they’re in, Peacock says organizations of all sizes should craft a mission statement in order to: give purpose; guide the actions of the organization; and provide a framework or context.

You can also take a look at four key components of your business or publication by using the SWOT acronym.  
  • Strengths: internal capabilities
  • Weaknesses: anything that prohibits your business 
  • Opportunities: any trends, events or ideas affecting your business
  • Threats: any forces outside your control 

Following this, publications or publishers can develop a strategy and a competitive advantage. It's possible to base your strategy on three different viewpoints: 
  1. Low-Cost Leadership: be the person who sells for the best price. Peacock says this is usually reserved for large conglomerates like Walmart, when a business is selling the same products as everyone else at a high volume. It's not the best strategy for a magazine. 
  2. Differentiation: create a compelling brand, give people a reason to choose you
  3. Customer Relationships: provide ongoing benefits 

One important final point Peacock makes is that publications should "allow as many opportunities to interact with (their) brand as possible.”

--- Heather Setka

Heather Setka is a writer, editor, journalist and blogger. She's written for Swerve, LINK, and other Alberta-based magazines. Her blog about the perils we experience around money can be read at

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gary Ross's Alberta Magazines Conference Keynote

The 2012 Alberta Magazines Conference marked the first time I got to attend the event and actually sit in a session and learn something, instead of being the organizer. I gotta say, being an attendee is much more enjoyable!

So I was happy to take in Gary Ross's keynote luncheon address, "Style Needs Substance: In Defence of Content." Here's a recap of his talk.
  • Editors will never be obsolete (phew!). They are needed to sort through the growing amount of crap that is posted everywhere--separating "the pepper from the flyshit."
  • Editorial budgets are on the way down, and editors are repeatedly asked to do more with less.
  • The preoccupation with SEO and how content will be delivered has taken away from the content itself.
  • What gets delivered is more important than how it's delivered. (Hear, hear!)
  • We're getting confused about what is excellent writing vs. what gets the highest Google ranking.
  • The tricky part is that editorial excellence costs $.
  • New York Times is an example of a publication that went big on content and won. Went from near bankruptcy to success.
  • If your mag's business plan includes excellent content, you will see it in brand revenues.
So what should publishers/editors do?
  1. Define what excellent content is for your magazine. You need to know what's great to recreate it over and over again.
  2. Identify the best mags and figure out what is good about them. Then, copy them. Examples: GQ, New Yorker, Wired. Create your own iterations of old ideas.
  3. Bring the world into your office. Invite anyone you want to chat with to lunch at your office--mayor, business leaders, important people in your magazine community. They'll usually say yes. It's amazing return for the cost of a few sandwiches.
  4. Get out of your office. Go to events, lunches, conferences. You'll be surprised who you might meet.
            -- Colleen Seto