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Letter from Canada

The iisues faced by our industry and by the PPA ar not unique. All over the world the same issues prevail. I was delighted to be contacted by the Canadian magazine trade body following my post about the appontment of a new CEO for the PPA. I asked the CEO of Magazines Canad to give us a perspective. As you will read, the issues are familiar but I was particularly struck by the call for more international co-operation and by the decription of the trade association CEO role.

From Magazines Canada
Neil Thackray’s piece on expectations for association performance is a very good template for discussion at any national association. I read it and then found myself self-testing here in Canada.

Magazines Ireland might quibble with this but we Canadians think there is no tougher domestic marketplace than Canada for home grown-magazines, whether consumer, cultural or business media publications. This has always been the case. Living next door to the world’s media juggernaut is like having Niagara Falls pouring into every living and working space across the entire 49th parallel. We call it foreign “spill”—not “circulation”—for good reason.

And then someone invented the internet!

In this context, Canadian business media publishers and indeed all magazine publishers continue to aggressively embrace new opportunities to reach and compete for Canadian audiences overwhelmed by foreign content offerings. These publishers are toughened by decades of competing in a global marketplace right at home.

Change? Economic meltdown? Bring it on!

Well no, not if it can be avoided, but Canada does have a small yet feisty, smart and efficient universe of magazine creators. They are responding to this massive change with the innovative energy of early pioneers. I suspect that is exactly what stage we are all at in this world.

After a decade of continuous growth, there are about 2,300 Canadian-owned, Canadian-content titles, of which 800 are business media. For business media, digital touch points continue to emerge in concert with print magazines and events. And everyone here is also looking for revenue on any platform. Although in 2009 we have seen print titles close, a great many people laid-off, consolidations and several high profile brands moving to online only, the number of available Canadian print magazines of all types remains fairly stable.

The industry is facing these challenges head on and expects Magazines Canada—its national trade association—to drive change, not ride along. And it is driving. But first a little profile, so break out the canoes.

Because of their geopolitical reality, Canadians have a long history of balancing tensions to achieve collective success. It is in us to see our part of the universe as expandable and inclusive so we can be, as one of publishers likes to say, “as Canadian as possible under the circumstances.” This could be the association’s mission statement—in both of our official languages.

Originally founded in 1973 as a distributor of small magazines who were rebuffed by big distributors focused on imports, Magazines Canada now houses collaborative advocacy, marketing and training initiatives for a “big tent” (or perhaps “big teepee”) of consumer, business media and cultural magazine content creators. Membership continues to grow in all categories even though the by-laws do not allow us to solicit prospects.

Today, association advocacy activity has evolved well beyond the necessary and often blood-curdling tasks of fighting off breathtaking postal rate increases and keeping governments attuned to cultural content investments.

More collective projects have been launched recently and more are planned. Some examples: in 2008, the tool kit for the times was launched and is regularly updated. Last August 2009, Ad Direct was launched. Last September 2009, Canada’s Digital Newsstand went live. Last October 2009, the Magazines Canada Business Media Summits premiered. In 2007, a revamped national conference was created. Managed by Magazines Canada, the MagNet conference has five associations driving event content. Remarkably, given the economic climate, MagNet attendance increased by 60% to 1,200 last June 2009.

These are a few examples of a collaborative association governance approach that ensures that the work of over 20 consultative committees engaging 200 plus industry volunteers is seen, heard and acted upon. Even in these times, member pride in the association is strong. After all, it’s their association and their agenda. And to Neil Thackray’s point, they have expectations AND they work collectively to achieve those.

Magazines Canada has learned a great deal by studying the online services of its international counterparts. FIPP connects the world’s national associations quite well in my view. But more connecting would be helpful in these times.

Finally, a tip to any prospective magazine association CEO, since it seems a current topic: With all of the smart, dedicated members and focused professional staff driving Magazines Canada’s collective outcomes, what exactly does the association CEO here do? Answer: Absolutely nothing except to facilitate the conversations and let the industry decide what’s next. But the job here is filled, well, for now.

Seasons greetings and all the best in 2010.

Mark Jamison joined Magazines Canada as its CEO in 1999. A career association executive, he has held the senior role in several association environments including a chamber of commerce, a symphony orchestra and a foodservice trade organization.

About Magazines Canada

Magazines Canada is the national trade association representing the leading Canadian-owned, Canadian content consumer, cultural, specialty, professional and business media magazines in the country. Hundreds of French and English member titles span a wide range of topics including business, professional, news, politics, sports, arts and culture, leisure, lifestyle, women and youth. The association concentrates on government affairs, services to the advertising trade, circulation marketing and professional development. Visit magazinescanada.ca.

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December 18, 2009 - Posted by | business media strategy

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