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Small magazines make big splashes

You don’t have to be a big publisher to bring in big revenue, one Canadian magazine publisher told attendees at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto today. 

Matt Blackett, publisher and co-founder of Spacing Canada, outlined what has made his magazine such a unique, award-winning title. The magazine was co-founded by Blackett and friends in 2003 in Toronto. Now 12 years old, Spacing is a quarterly magazine with a circulation of 10,000. “Most of the time we’ve been succeeding because we rely on our instincts and what we know about the city,” Blackett said. 

As a magazine, Spacing is unique. Blackett said Spacing’s layout is landscape format. “Because a magazine needs to feel like the city, and cities spread out, the magazine’s format reflects that.” 

Over the years, the magazine format forced store staff in striking areas that drew attention, like on the top shelf, which helped the sales. From 2003 – 2010, Spacing’s newsstand sell-through rate was 90 per cent. Five issues had 100 per cent sell-through.

Spacing has accomplished some unique, different things to increase awareness, sales and revenue. Events are a big part of Spacing’s strategy. Every time Spacing puts out an issue, they throw a party, Blackett said. Spacing has thrown 37 release parties, 15 social events, five film nights, six road trips, and 20 lectures and talks related to story content, to date. “To make Torontonians feel better about their city, we took them to Detroit. We have a waiting list of 500 people for these trips,” Blackett said.

Spacing has released other merchandise over the years that have been received with tremendous success. 

In 2004, Spacing created buttons that replicated the design of subway stations in Toronto. “No one likes TTC, the transit system in the city, but people have affinity for the station near where they live. In the years since they’ve been out, we’ve sold 500,000 of them. “It’s what kept us alive the first couple of years,” he said. 

They’ve created a set of guitar picks out of unused Toronto transit passes, and a set of magnets out of the subway line. “Fifty per cent of our sales have gone to the US,” Blackett said. “People are buying them all over the country and North America.”

Blackett said their merchandise has generated more income for Spacing than advertising and subscriptions combined, but he hasn’t stopped there.

Spacing opened a retail store in 2014, in downtown Toronto. That made them the only Canadian consumer magazine to have a retail location, which has doubled the magazine’s annual revenue and also increased subscriptions by 25 per cent. 

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