For those who still don’t know, contra essentially refers to a deal where ad space is exchanged for a good or service, rather than actual money. The goods and services can range anywhere from employee incentives (a BBQ for the year’s top salesperson, for example) to things that actually lower the publisher’s cost of doing business (office furniture, perhaps).
I still find the whole thing kind of weird and funny and amazing and would love to hear from publishers or salespeople about the best or strangest contra deal you’ve ever made or heard about. (There are, of course, horror stories about contra deals that have ruined magazines but let’s keep it positive this time around.) Use the comments function below to post your story. Best entry wins free copies of two EPs by Recordbreaker, featuring Marco Ursi (i.e. me) on drums.
"Another waste of taxpayer money;" wrote old joe. "If the magazines cannot make it on their own, let them go under. Eventually we will have a few less but they will be self supporting. We purchase the ones we like. 'Our Canada' is an excellent example of a good magazine that requires no support to survive."
"This is so stupid its beyond belief," wrote VotesForCash. "it is nothing more than corporate WELFARE. Nothing in this country is off limits to taxpayers subsidizes, except the citizens."
But perhaps using CBC reader comments as a way of taking Canadians' pulse on an issue isn't the best idea. After all, who the hell knows what this lunatic is talking about:
"Rediculous, utterly madening waste of our money," wrote Nutrition Sleuth. "Cancel the program, fire the staff, and move on to protect taxpayers. The chemical pharmaceutical industry plasters ads (back by their vesions of non0science) all over these publications. Tell me they need this governement subsidy. This is an outrage."
Meanwhile, over at the Globe and Mail, someone called Theodore Street believes he's uncovered the secret government agenda behind the funding: "Anything to relaunch the Alberta Report, or whatever organ they use to disseminate the neocon ravings of Mark Steyn and Ezra etc."
Honestly, these big media companies really need to rethink their free-for-all comment policies.
For now, let’s just say that my opinion on the cover story profile of Prime Minister Stephen Harper pretty much sums up my feelings about most of the March issue.
It’s not much of an opinion, mind you; I didn’t read past the opening section. When you don’t learn a single new thing about someone in the first 500 or so words of a profile, you watch Argentinean soccer instead.
I was one of the people who did pay $6.95 for the magazine on the weekend. It's true that Florida's piece—which is surprisingly good—didn't directly reference Toronto but his argument that "mega-regions" will come to dominate the North American economy in the future certainly includes the home of the Maple Leafs. And I certainly don't regret buying the issue: I have been loving every page of it this week on my very long morning commutes.
Now to be fair, I was already aware that the main cover story was what I like to call an "oversell" before visiting the newsstand; l actually bought the magazine because I wanted to know if Guitar Hero can save rock. The author—surprise, surprise—didn't really answer the question but I still liked his piece.
Using coverlines to promote things only tenuously related to content actually in a magazine is a long, proud (or not) tradition in publishing. Just think about the preposterously huge numbers fashion mags love so much or the number of times Men’s Health has promised a quick and easy way to the get great abs. (If it's so quick and easy, why do they keep giving us different ways to do it?)
Everyone from Maclean's to the Ryerson Review of Journalism is guilty of over spicing cover treatments in order to lure fickle newsstand buyers. It's just what we do in this business and we do it because drama, sensationalism and playing to readers' vanities sell better than sober thought, hard facts and complicated ideas.
Does it turn people off? In some cases. But the fact that celebrity tabloids—the worldwide leaders in cover stories that don't quite deliver the promised goods—continue to dominate at the newsstand would seem to suggest that most readers are forgiving when it comes to this rather ridiculous but totally logical practice.
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