It’s challenging but exciting times … so keep on innovating

He will be part of a panel on the role of language in building media brands at FIPP World Congress Toronto in October. The Congress takes place from 13-15 October 2015.

Register here to join 700-800 international delegates at the Congress

• See the provisional programme here

• See more speakers here

Here he is in conversation with Magazines Canada contributor Kim Pittaway.

How is the magazine landscape in Canada changing?

The magazine industry in Canada is getting smaller. Advertising is shifting to digital and it is not necessarily going to magazine digital: the money in digital is going to Google and other suppliers, not to digital display advertising. So there’s some downsizing that is happening. But the magazines that are relevant to people’s lives will survive. Those that deliver relevant information or entertainment that people are willing to pay for will survive. But it’s especially challenging for mass consumer magazines: niche magazines, say for instance a sailing magazine, things won’t change as quickly for them because they still have an audience that is hungry for relevant content. But the more dependent you are on mass consumer advertising, the more volatile it is, the more challenging it will be. The need for magazines will still be there. Consumer money for magazines will still be there. But the size of our audiences is changing. 

What will separate those who survive from those who do not?

Being seen as an expert in your domain. But your expertise might be expressed in print, digital, television, and books. So as a brand you will still be there, but your magazine may be smaller and other elements of your brand may be bigger. The industry is not as it was yesterday and it won’t return to yesterday. The changes are more profound than a recession in the magazine advertising market. Things are changing, and as brand leaders, we have to figure out how to embrace that.

How has your brand responded?

We are available wherever people want to read us: in magazine format, but also in apps, on the web, on tablets, in flipbook editions. We all also need to determine what our unique selling proposition is and stick to that. Do we sell service articles or do people buy us for a good read — or a bit of both? In our last magazine redesign, we placed more emphasis on improving the reading experience because we know that our readers come to our pages to read compelling stories. And following that, we’ve seen improved renewal rates, our reader satisfaction surveys show more engagement and satisfaction with the product — and all of that translates into dollars, because a reader you keep is a reader you don’t have to acquire.

How does the Quebec magazine landscape differ from the rest of Canada?

There is a huge concentration of ownership in Quebec. There is still the variety of magazine offerings to consumers, but for advertisers, there is one huge player, which is very different from the rest of Canada. The other factor in Quebec is that there have always been as many hours of television to fill as you have in English Canada, but those hours are not filled by Hollywood: they are filled by Quebec productions. So Quebec has always had its own stars, which has created a popular press focused on Quebec stars, and that press is more newsstand and less advertiser driven. Also, there are magazines in Quebec for which there are no English Canadian equivalents, because the territory was already occupied by an American magazine: for instance, Québec Science and Protégez-Vous. 

How do you position your company for success?

You need to get your company in shape so that it is able to take advantage of opportunities. And that can mean making some tough decisions about cutting resources when revenues are not growing like they used to. They are tough choices, but they have to be made so that there is the possibility of growth when the opportunities do arise. And you have to keep innovating. It’s a challenging time but it’s an exciting time.

Robert will speak at FIPP World Congress Toronto, Canada. The Congress takes place from 13-15 October 2015.

Register here to join him and 700-800 international delegates at the Congress

• See the provisional programme here

• See more speakers here

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