Masthead Blogs
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Words of Inspiration
Industry Guest Blogger
Growing up, I always did very well in school—specifically in math. I loved numbers and thought for sure I would be a mathematician one day. As I entered high school my love for education shifted. I still focused on my schoolwork, but I began to expand my horizons to friends and social activities. It wasn’t long before I became the leader of my peer group. It was a tough job ensuring that everyone got along and that we all had a great high-school experience (with as little drama as possible). I managed the team, so to speak, and learned quickly that I liked this role, as a leader and an influencer.

At home, it always seemed as though there was so much to do and so little money. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked in a foundry, earning an income that supported a family of five. In those days, Levi’s and Baby Jane shirts were the bomb, but we couldn’t afford those luxuries unless my parents saved up for a gift for a birthday or another special occasion. I knew what I wanted and I knew that I was on my own to achieve my goals, so I proceeded to apply for jobs at basically any business that would consider hiring a child of 12. Delivering papers, collecting pop bottles, picking up groceries for the elderly and selling magazines over the phone were just a few of my early gigs.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I experienced my first real position in sales. I was hired for a summer job to sell advertising space to local businesses in a community sports program. I was a star! Number one in sales every week. That came with (what I considered at the time) huge financial gains. I was getting bonuses on top of my minimum wage that almost doubled my salary. It was the perfect fit for me, and the beginning of a long career in media.

I landed my first “big girl job” in sales, as a senior account executive with Yellow Pages, which back then was known as Tele-Direct. I loved influencing the buying decisions of a well known brand, and having an impact on people’s lives with my recommendations. I would often have the same clients year over year, and looked forward to their success stories. It was deeply satisfying watching small business owners grow, open new locations, hire more staff, build their brand and reputations, and of course, spend more of their budgets with me. It was all so rewarding, this era when print budgets were huge and digital was non-existent. (Much more simplified when it came to revenue streams, I must say.)

My next career move was into a sales management role, with a leader in the credit collection and credit reporting industry. I wanted to have more influence on the overall numbers, not just my own. I found opportunities to drive revenue in everything I did, and wanted to share those wins and vision with others. I thrived on growth and the bottom line, building new business portfolios and relationships. Coaching and mentoring became a part of my everyday accomplishments; building a strong team came naturally to me.

But I missed the media world, and now, with management experience, I ventured back to where my passion was: in advertising. I wanted more; more responsibility, challenges, control, and accountability. Along came a publishing opportunity that ticked off all of those boxes.

Still in my twenties, I was offered a senior role with Auto Trader Magazines. It meant more responsibility, bigger challenges, and a higher degree of control and accountability. I jumped at the chance to “own” something, and that particular something was the launch of a magazine that’s now known as Auto Mart. I would have full autonomy to build the business from scratch, hiring every role required, building out the pricing model, marketing plan, editorial content, distribution channels and more. It was a dream come true, with one caveat: a cut in pay that represented half of what I’d been earning previously, with a large opportunity to earn 4 times my earnings, should I be successful in this new role. I took the risk, jumped in with both feet, and kicked off my publishing career.

While with Auto Trader, I had many different roles, including senior director, director of dealer services and group publisher. I launched numerous magazines, some of which are still in publication today. Walk along any street in Toronto, and you can still see the original yellow Auto Mart boxes, now reused by other titles. Auto Mart was launched in seven different markets across Ontario, reaching sales (at peak) of $21-million. It was a true success story.

While I was at Auto Trader, the digital world emerged. To me, it felt like a lion in a cage, desperately wanting to break out! I made it my goal to learn everything about this exciting new media (and revenue) opportunity. I was involved in every senior management meeting from the very beginning of’s inception. I saw it grow from the early days when each webpage was a PDF with no functionality or search ability to where the website is today.

We were one of the first to adapt the print business to a digital platform, and in the process, successfully transferring print revenue to digital revenue without taking a huge bath along the way. It was a very exciting time in my career, and I was lucky to have been mentored by the best: John Francis, owner and president of Auto Trader. John inspired me to take strategic risks, innovate without fear of failure, and to work harder than I’ve ever worked, while still having fun. I live by those philosophies and I try to create that same culture today.

After Trader, I dabbled in a couple of other digital and print media ventures that came my way (,,, mainly on the consulting side, helping build business plans and successful launches. I owned the projects until stability was met within the business unit and then moved on to the next challenge.

Along this journey, I met an entrepreneur who owned (and was continuing to amass) local community newspapers. I started off as a consultant but he quickly recruited me as a full-time employee, overseeing 10 local community newspapers as publisher and VP of sales. It was an uphill battle. Each paper was a different size, with different rates, a different printer and inadequacies that proved detrimental to the success of the business. It was clear that change was needed, and over the next three years, we completely transformed those papers, launching automotive and real estate supplements, developing partnerships and synergies within the community and bringing the business to scale. We doubled overall sales within those three years, and with that mission accomplished, my work there was done. It was time to begin another chapter.

That chapter turned out to be a wonderful opportunity with Reader’s Digest, as publisher for Canada. The brand resonated with me, having vivid, fond memories of the magazine from my childhood. I knew that there would be challenges with the brand, as it’s a Canadian icon as a print magazine. How could we develop a digital strategy to reach a different audience while leveraging the brand’s unassailable reputation for truth and engaging storytelling?

We made significant changes to the brand websites and content deliverables to meet the needs of a younger demographic, while ensuring the quality of our content remained at Reader’s Digest’s legendary standards. We built a strong programmatic & Ad Ops team, and partnerships within this segment, that would deliver a revenue opportunity that was nonexistent in past years. We hired a new sales team that has proven to be passionate about their contribution and willing to share each other’s assets to bring in team wins. Last but not least, our marketing solutions team is the best I have ever worked with. Their creativity and innovative ideas have brought on new clients who had never imagined we have the capabilities to do the things that we do. It’s been a challenge, but we feel confident with where we are today and with what the future holds.

I feel fortunate and privileged to have worked with some of the best in the industry, to have had the opportunity to steer well-known brands and to have helped the underdog find success along the way. It’s been a great ride.


Karin Rossi is the publisher of Reader's Digest Brands, Canada

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Off the Page
Richard Johnson
Today we chat with photojournalist Marta Iwanek, who in 2016 was named Canada's Best New Magazine Photographer from the National Magazine Awards Foundation, in addition to winning the Gold Medal for Photojournalism & Photo Essay for her incredible reporting of the 2013-2014 Ukrainian crisis, titled "The Maidan" (Maisonneuve).


In your award-winning photo essay, “
The Maidan,” you take the reader on a journey to a winter in Kyiv, where thousands of Ukrainians gathered to take a courageous stand against their government. You capture the Maidan as a place of fear and uncertainty, but also of community and solidarity. How did you get a sense of the place when you arrived, and what were the human emotions that spoke to you as a photographer?

Marta: I first arrived in Kyiv in early November (2013) before any of the protests had started. I remember driving through the centre of the city and thinking what a bustling metropolis it was. Then I went out east to work on a film and returned in late November a little after the pro-European protests had begun. Everything was still calm at that point and there was a sense of hopefulness among the crowd.

The protest was to last nine days, but on the last night everything changed. The remaining protestors were chased out of Independence Square (Maidan) and beaten by police, angering many people. On December 1 a large demonstration occurred in Kyiv where the people re-took the square and the movement that became known as "the Maidan" began. I was supposed to fly back to Toronto shortly after, but realized I couldn’t leave.

The feeling was so powerful and strong among the people. It felt like people had been pushed to an edge and they had nothing more to lose. There were feelings of frustration, abandonment and urgency. At the same time, you could still find the glimpses of hope and community as people unified under one cause--to oust then President Yanukovych. I was always trying to show those emotions in my photos and trying to understand the situation deeper, trying to figure out what made it this way? I changed my flight and ended up staying three months, living among the protestors and spending my days and nights wandering the square, talking to people and trying to make sense of it.

I like to immerse myself in stories as much as possible and I hope this translates in my photos. It was also a story I felt personally connected to because my roots are Ukrainian and I grew up in the Ukrainian diaspora in Toronto. I grew up listening to the stories of Ukraine’s constant struggle for independence and to be free of corruption, so the feelings of the people in the square were not foreign to me. However, this time, it wasn’t just my parents talking about it in Canada, detached from the situation and it’s consequences. It was happening in front of me. When it was finally time to leave, I will always remember that contrast I felt when I first arrived in the capital and when I left--the place, the people and the country had been changed forever.


Over one hundred people were killed in the government reprisals, and you spent time not only on the front lines but also with those who were wounded and grieving. How did you balance your own safety with your passion for capturing every aspect of the story? And did you learn anything about yourself as a journalist that will assist you in the future?

Marta: There were certain days that felt very unsafe on the square, but the majority of my time spent there, things were peaceful. There would be flare-ups between police and protestors and then things would resume back to “normal.” I looked to other, more experienced photojournalists in the square for guidance and advice. I had only been freelancing for three months at that point, fresh out of college and had found myself in the middle of the news cauldron that was Kyiv.

There were many times that I was scared. Even today I think I still would be. The most important thing I learned in those kinds of situations is to trust your gut. There were certain situations I decided to be close-up and others I held back from. Sometimes, I beat myself up for not being in the right place or holding back too much, but you have to be honest with yourself and with what you’re willing to do. It took quite a while to reconcile these feelings, but the experience taught me that I’m not a conflict photographer.

Many photojournalists starting out often have a dream of covering foreign stories and conflicts. I didn’t go to Ukraine searching out a conflict to photograph, I just happened to be there when it all started. And a part of me left feeling like I had failed as a journalist because I hadn’t gotten the most heated moments, and I was actually back in Canada on the day that over a hundred protestors were shot. For me, it was more emotionally heavy to be away from the square during that time than when I was in it. Not knowing about the fate of many friends who were there, as well as feeling the guilt of not being there, took a toll.

We’re taught to want to be this travelling, conflict photographer, but that’s not who all of us are. The whole time on the square, I found myself being much more drawn and interested in the quieter moments and it took me a while to realize those moments are just as important too.

We are all unique and we will all notice different things in similar situations and we will be better at photographing in certain situations over others. Journalism is a communal effort and we need to be honest with ourselves, find out the type of stories you’re best at and are drawn to. Then don’t be afraid to do it.

That was over three years ago, and since then Ukraine has experienced war and occupation perhaps beyond the worst fears of those who gathered on the Maidan. How has this story stayed with you since then? 

Marta: My time on the Maidan has been one of the factors that keeps driving me to keep coming back to this region and exploring the underlying issues more deeply, looking at why things are the way they are now, what’s caused them and what keeps causing them?

It’s also something I’ve always wanted to do because my background is Ukrainian. I’ve always been drawn to Ukraine and Eastern Europe because I’ve grown up with my cultural heritage being so central in my life, from participating in folk activities, being involved in the diaspora community to regular dinner table conversations about Eastern European politics. I actually started primary school barely speaking English because at home we just spoke Ukrainian. It has a huge place in my heart. I’ve started looking at my own family’s history in the area, connecting with relatives and following the story of Ukrainians in Poland who were deported from the South-Eastern territories in 1947 under military Operation Vistula. Deportations are a huge part of Eastern Europe’s history and play a huge factor in why things are the way they are today.

There has definitely been media fatigue with Ukraine as the conflict reaches yet another year. It’s why I think it’s more important than ever to stay with the story and understand what is happening there, to put the past and the future in greater context for the average viewer.

For the camera nerds, what bodies and lenses do you shoot with? And what was your technical approach to the photography on the Maidan? 

Marta: Back then, during those three months on the Maidan, I was using a D600 and a 35mm f/2 and a 24-70mm. This is still my favourite set-up although now I have a D810 with a 35mm f/1.4. My technical approach is to go as light on gear as possible, zoom with your feet and build intimacy with the people you are photographing. This will create a much better photo than any lens or camera body can.

You worked with Anna Minzhulina, then the art director of Maisonneuve, who said she was stunned by the evocative scenes and characters that jumped out from your images. Can you describe the creative process of how the two of you edited your body of work into a story that connected with the magazine reader? 

Marta: Anna is an extremely talented and passionate editor and I am so grateful for her eye. Editing is an art of its own and a skill many photographers often lack, myself included. It was also a story I had immersed myself in, so it can be very hard to be objective about the photos when editing, which is where Anna came in.

So often, I would attach a personal memory or story to a photo and Anna was able to single out the photos that could still speak to a viewer who was encountering them without all the backstory. She chose the photos that could speak on their own and spoke together cohesively to tell the story of the square.

It was also exciting to be able to tell a story in a magazine over so much space. The majority of my time I’ve spent working in newspapers where it’s usually one image to tell a story, but here it was a different process of how the photos work together to form a narrative.

“Women photographers are still an anomaly in the male-dominated documentary photo world, with its emphasis on traditionally masculine values like the courage and bravery to ‘shoot’ with a camera. We need to encourage more female visual voices like Iwanek's here in Canada and around the world. Death does not distinguish between genders. It takes all. But I'm interested in how the female eye looking through a photographic lens might see it differently. It's important that we have different perspectives, that we pay attention to what they might show us that we haven't considered before. That's why we need exposure to more work of female war photographers, such as Iwanek.”
--Anna Minzhulina, former art director, Maisonneuve

The night of the 2016 National Magazine Awards, you didn’t have a ticket to get in, but as the show started you were hanging out in the foyer in case your name was called. And it was—twice! What was that experience like? And when you were on stage accepting your awards, what was your message to the audience?

Marta: I was generously given a seat at the sponsor table and so in the end I was able to attend the awards. I had a small cheer crew at the table and we had a lot of fun. I hadn’t prepared a speech, but I just went up there and spoke from my heart. I thanked everyone who helped me and it was great to see Anna in the audience as I spoke. I was also thankful that the recognition of the award would bring more attention to the story, which had greatly fallen off the news cycle. It’s a story close to me and so I’m grateful for any opportunity to talk about it.

Can you tell us about some of your latest projects, and what you’re up to next as a journalist? 

Marta: A project titled “Darling” was actually one of my first projects and still one close to my heart. It is a story about an elderly couple in Trenton, Ontario, where Lex Duncan is the at-home-caregiver for his wife Mary Duncan, who has dementia. I started it as a way to reconnect with a generation I felt I didn’t get a good chance to know after my last grandparent died.

It was a project to deal with the loss and also understanding what my parents, as well as countless others in our country are facing as they care for an ailing loved one. I am so grateful to the Duncan family who opened up their home to me and gave me a chance to get to know them and tell this story.

This year I started photographing in the villages my grandparents came from. They were once Ukrainian villages but after WWII became part of Poland and the majority of the Ukrainians who lived there were deported and dispersed either to Soviet Ukraine or throughout Poland, my grandparents included.

I’ve always been curious about my roots and grew up with a father who has worked as a historian, making films and writing books on eastern European history. So after the Maidan I became interested in exploring Eastern Europe on a deeper level and understanding events in the past that have an effect on the present. Through this project I want to explore how identity changes when a culture is displaced from its ancestral land. It’s been a very personal project, but I’ve also found it to be incredibly universal through the many forced migrations happening throughout the world today.


Marta Iwanek is a National Magazine Award-winning photojournalist whose work has appeared in Maisonneuve, Maclean's, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and other publications. In 2016 she was named Canada's Best New Magazine Photographer by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Discover more of her work at



Saturday, January 14, 2017
Words of Inspiration
Industry Guest Blogger
The use of market research is a valuable tool to engage advertisers and is a good way to help magazine brands stay relevant and top of mind with them.

Reader’s Digest conducts an annual Trusted Brand™ survey in which Canadians are asked in an open-ended question to identify the brands they trust the most. In this study, Canadians voted for brands across 30 product categories from consumer packaged goods, to financial institutions and Canadian retailers. It has been estimated that 49% of Canadians agree that they buy items solely based on price, more than half do not, which leaves other influences, like trust, to drive their purchase decisions. Trust influences how Canadians spend and invest their money.

This is an independent opinion poll commissioned by Reader’s Digest, Ipsos Canada conducted an online survey of 4,009 Canadians to identify brands they trust from Sept 9-16, 2016. Respondents were asked for their most trusted brand within each category, in an open-ended question format. Results were weighted to census data to be representative of the population. Using a credibility interval, the overall results are considered accurate to within +/-1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had the entire population of adults been polled.

Survey Findings

Overwhelmingly, 93% of Canadians say they tend to buy products or services from companies they trust more. In fact, 81% of Canadians disclosed they would be willing to pay a little more money to support a product or service from a company they trust. Trust also influences investment decisions, given that 91% of Canadians reported they are more likely to invest their money in trusted companies. “Companies compete for share of wallet; and to influence purchase decisions, companies need to present consumers with a point of difference—trust is that difference,” said Karin Rossi, Publisher, Reader’s Digest Brands-Canada.  

Findings from the study indicate that 86% of Canadian consumers pay more attention to trusted companies. Furthermore, 77% say they are more likely to remember advertisements from companies they trust. Six in 10 Canadians (63%) say they trust third-party recognition of products and services such as awards and seals of excellence—up 4% from 2016. “Companies have the responsibility of earning and nurturing consumers’ trust in their products and services. The Trusted Brand™ award program celebrates the 2017 winners, and is also a means for companies to effectively communicate Canadian consumers’ confidence in their brands throughout the year,” said Rossi.

Here are the 30 Reader’s Digest 2017 Trusted Brand™ Winners, including  GOLD WINNERS, who have been voted as a most Trusted Brand™ for five or more consecutive years.




Friday, January 13, 2017
Words of Inspiration
Industry Guest Blogger
As reported on the World News Publishing Focus website, last week, AEDE held their annual conference. One of the lead speakers was Guy Crevier, President and Editor of Canadian La Presse, who detailed the turnaround of the title’s business model, and shared the very encouraging numbers of its success.  The story is repeated here for Masthead readers for inspiration.


In 2013, before the launch of the tablet application, La Presse’s average weekly paid circulation was 200,000 copies, with a record of 221,000 dating back from 1971.
Today, the print edition is discontinued on weekdays and maintained only on Saturday. The app La Presse+ reaches 260,000 unique tablets every day, with a peak at 300,000 the day after the American elections.
Crevier explained that discussions of a change in business model started back in 2010, under the pressure of shrinking readership and decreasing advertising revenues.
Seamless transfer
La Presse found in the tablet the technology that would allow a seamless transfer of the work of the 250-journalist newsroom into the digital world, without losses in terms of quality. 
"We have always been convinced,” said Crevier, "that the best way for us to differentiate ourselves (from the Facebooks and Googles of this world) is continuing to produce high quality contents and to sustain a large newsroom.”
He added that in his opinion the tablet is the only digital device available at the moment that enables the best possible storytelling, while ensuring the revenues necessary to sustain quality journalism.
Free subscription model
The development of La Presse+ cost in excess of C$ 40 million, including $ 2 million invested in research only. It has a free subscription model and one of the most impressive results concerns the change it enabled in the readers' profile.
La Presse paper edition used to reach 46% of readers aged between 24 and 54, the most attractive audience for advertisers. La Presse+ managed to "over index" the Quebec population in this age group (52%), Crevier said, rising to an astonishing 63%. The time spent on the app is 40 minutes on average on weekdays, with 52 minutes on Saturdays and 50 on Sundays.
Regarding advertising “the readers are always in full control of their experience: there are no pop-ups, no pre-roll, no intrusive items” said Crevier.
Nevertheless, the remarkable level of engagement enables La Presse+ to maintain a CPM at the unprecedented level of $ 51 - in print it was $ 37.
Precise performance reports 
In turn, the tablet app allows for precise performance reports, which detail for each campaign not only the number of impressions but also activated interactions, videos and consulted websites, as well as time spent on an ad beyond the 5 seconds threshold. Today, 92% of La Presse advertising revenues come from digital. 
In a market where competitors face steady revenue decline, La Presse finds itself in a growing business, both in terms of readership and advertising.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
Legion magazine is coming out with a new SIP, this one on the battle of VIMY.  It’s scheduled to hit newsstands on February 6th, 2017.

It retails for $14.95. And as with all Legion SIP’s is oversized and perfect bound, 100 pages thick, on top quality cover and interior stock.

Art Director Jason Duprau.

Strong type treatment.  Aggressive sky bar treatment. Starburst.