Thursday, January 19, 2017
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

Saturday, January 14, 2017
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
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.
Thursday, December 22, 2016

Any type of content created by unpaid contributors falls into the category of user-generated content (UGC). UGC can include tweets, blog posts, testimonials, snapchat stories or Instagram posts. According to Business Insider, shoppers interacting with UGC are 97% more likely to convert with a retailer than customers who do not. That’s a pretty good reason to incorporate UGC into your communications strategy.

UGC works in the same way as word-of-mouth referrals and for this reason, is a credible form of referral. Aaron Orendorff explains, “A brand is not necessarily its own best salesperson. Nobody within your business is as good at selling as your customers.”

With 86% of millennials saying that UGC content is a good indictor of the quality of a brand and 68% of 18-24-year-old social media users taking this type of content into account when making a purchase decision, UGC has grown beyond the buzzword phase. (It even has its own acronym!)

Back in 2009, Burberry’s successful Art of Trench campaign asked fans and customers to upload pictures of themselves in the brand’s iconic trench coat, the best of which were curated and shared on their Facebook page as well as on a campaign microsite.

Looking to up your brand’s UGC game?

Share user generated content

GoPro does UGC better than anyone. GoPro’s fans publish videos of their own experiences and tag the brand (#GoPro), but to provide added incentive GoPro often buys the rights to those videos, polishes them and then uses this content across their channels. The GoPro Instagram page frequently showcases user- generated images and videos, with the Photo of the Day feature ensuring a daily dose of UGC. 


GoPro even celebrates and rewards the best user-generated content, with the GoPro awards. 


Credit your content creators

Recognizing fans for their creative work is a great way to build relationships with customers, show that their work is appreciated and it also encourages others to share too. 


Work with influencers

The successful #MyCalvins campaign from Calvin Klein leveraged celebrity influencers to encourage UGC.  Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, The Blonde Salad’s Ciara Ferragni, and even music stars such as Fergie and Trey Songz all posted images of themselves in their Calvin Klein attire. Tapping into these respective fan bases is a smart move for marketers, particularly those looking to engage millennials.

The hashtag associated with the campaign encouraged fans and customers to share their own content on social media, with the very best submissions shared on a shoppable dedicated microsite.


Custom snapchat filters

In February of this year, Snapchat launched on-demand geofilters. If you are in a certain location, such as Times Square or the London Eye, there are certain geo-filters available for you to use.

During this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, CTV’s entertainment show, ETalk, took full advantage of the app’s function and snapped up a storm with their custom “CTV ETalk” filter. Festival-goers were also able to use this filter in downtown Toronto and were encouraged to send their own snaps using this filter.


Host a contest

Decorating the white cups, and the Holiday red cups, has been a hobby of Starbucks fans for years. Last December Starbucks invited customers to take part in a contest, sharing their best cup designs on Instagram. The contest received over 1,200 individual submissions with thirteen designs chosen as the overall winners. These Holiday cups are now being served in over 25,000 Starbucks stores in 75 countries.


The #CastMeMarc campaign asked users to post their own images for the chance to model for fashion brand, Marc Jacobs. With over 100,000 Instagram submissions alone, the wildly successful campaign ran in 2014 and again in 2015.

Like any other marketing tactic, UGC needs to be carefully monitored and managed to ensure the content being shared by users reflects the brand’s ethos and positively showcases products and services.

Amy-Louise Tracey, Communications Manager. CNW    

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Medium is the Message – 1964 (Mcluhan)

The Medium is the Massage – 1967 (printer error?)

The Medium is a Mess! – 2016 (Mcluhan again)


It’s hard really to know where to start, so I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Twenty years ago I was a failed photocopier salesperson who stumbled into the world of publishing strictly by chance. By any stretch of the imagination, I am not supposed to be here. The fact that I am even writing something about magazines for a website is pure fluke.

Full disclosure: this post is not for the scores of people who work tirelessly at large magazines. If you work at a business to business publication, it probably won’t really resonate with you either. That’s ok. The truth is that this post is really for the independent publishers and the small, yet fearless staff who work for them. What constitutes a truly indy publisher? These are the folks who do their own writing, sales, collection, marketing and bookkeeping along with trying to make sense of the world.

If you have more than one person full-time under your wing, congratulations! You have 100% more staff than I do.

It might surprise you to learn I started my first magazine with $50 worth of phone calls. I started my magazine because no other magazine would touch the subject I wanted to write about. They were all stuck in a monolithic/tunnel vision time warp. Every issue, it was pretty much the same stuff. I decided to create something different.

That was 18 years ago. Prior to this, I had a website that cost me $5 a month to run. It was that particular website that led to a book publishing contract that eventually led to a career in magazines. I am great believer in that the lack of money can be more than made up by passion and a dash of “let’s freaking do this!”

Independent publishers know it’s messy out there. Not only is Prince dead, a number of people are convinced print is dead. Advertisers are throwing out the analog baby with the digital bathwater. A number of my larger advertisers have pretty much decided they are content creators and don’t need to be involved that much in print.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing from digital marketing gurus that all independent magazines need to do is to engage readers by creating outstanding content on multi-platforms and financial rewards will be at hand. While I have absolutely no doubt that some of my indy publisher friends are in fact thriving in today’s environment, I am having a little more difficulty.

Perhaps the best way to explain why I am encountering issues is to imagine you are portraiture painter. You make your living with brushes, canvas and paint. You spend hours at your craft and the painstaking attention you put into the work pays off. But it’s not really the money that drives you. What drives you is seeing a blank canvass and creating magic with each brushstroke. You view your work more like a symphony conductor. You know where each colour needs to be placed on the canvass in order to make a truly exceptional product. Your paintings fetch a minimum of $1000 and clients are pleased with your work.

Although your paintings are truly exceptional, they can only be seen indoors. Clearly, elements like rain and snow would destroy your work. One day, a client comes along with a block of marble and a chisel. She says she will pay you for time and quickly urges you to get busy. You realize that art is buried in the rock, just waiting to break free.  As you cradle the tools in your hands and run your fingers over the hard rock, you begin to imagine how wonderful it will be to showcase your work outdoors. However, when you start to hammer away to bring life into the marble, you suddenly find yourself not really enjoying the experience. The tools are unfamiliar and while you are forming something of permanence, you can’t really quite find your flow. You are not in the zone the way when you use a brush, paint and canvass.

After hammering away for what seems hours, you are left with a giant pile of rubble and what appears to be a face. Both you and client realize this marble bust can withstand the mightiest storm. But you know in your heart it’s not really reflective of who you are as an artist. Your client senses your misgivings but smiles and says she appreciates your time. She offers you $10 for the bust and leaves. You go back to your canvasses, brushes and paint and wonder “how did I get here?”

Perhaps I am being a little more dramatic than I need to be, but I think a number of publishers will understand the analogy. I’d like to think that when I create a magazine, it’s not just a bunch of ink thrown onto paper. I spend hours hunting down photos and a remarkable amount of time ruminating on the kinds of stories I want to publish. Bringing all the elements of design, imagery, words and fitting them into a schedule can be daunting. Ensuring that you’ve got money in the bank to publish can be even more challenging. And yet, month after month, independent publishers create fresh pieces of work that audiences (aka readers) find captivating.

When I first started publishing, there was no real market. Advertising was few and far between. I used the power of print to cultivate new customers and fire up the committed enthusiasts. The magazine served as a catalyst for change. The magazine was niche, but it was powerful way to communicate new ideas.

On numerous occasions I have introduced someone to the world of skateboarding that I cover. They are incredulous at what they experience and are eager to learn more. It is this initial spark of interest that gives me the greatest satisfaction. It’s not about click bait – my magazine is just pure bait! And once I have a reader hooked, the possibilities are endless. They may purchase product. They can put on an event, they may even start up their own skate company. They may even wind up writing or shooting for the magazine.  Our magazine fosters engagement in many different ways. While a like is great, it just can’t be compared to something like a double page spread. I am convinced a healthy media landscape is made up of a variety of medium.

Likewise, in a healthy economy, you have small, medium and large companies. Each feed the other in some special way. The new ideas generally come from those companies willing to take chances and try something unique. You will find that small and medium companies are nimble enough to do this. As a niche magazine publisher, I want to be there to cultivate this type of ecosystem.

By Michael Brooke, Publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine, a publication for the Skakeboarding community and is an independent publisher



About Me
Industry Guest Blogger
This guest blog is for an exchange of stories from members of the publishing industry be it a magazine, newsapaper or digital only publisher to help foster change and innovation in the digital age. These stories will inspire the industry with ideas to help the industry prosper and keep it relevant with readers and advertisers. If you will like to contribute your story contact Martin Seto 416-907-6562 or
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