As 2008 winds down, it’s time to look ahead to next year and see what’s down the road for our small but mighty industry. Below you’ll find our take on the five issues we think will have the greatest impact in 2009.
Will the economic downturn result in more layoffs and/or closures?
We are now facing one of the most difficult periods in the history of Canadian magazines, mostly due to the economic malaise affecting, well, everyone. Advertising in key areas such as automotive and toiletries is declining dramatically—third quarter ad pages for the 81 titles tracked by Leading National Advertisers were down 12.4% and all reports suggest that fourth quarter results will show an even steeper drop. St. Joseph Media, the country’s fourth-largest publisher of consumer books, recently closed Wish and Gardening Life—magazines with readerships in the millions—as a kind of pre-emptive measure. Rogers recently laid off 40 people across the publishing division. Transcontinental has yet to make any dramatic moves, nor have any of the major b-to-b companies but you have to wonder if we've only seen the tip.
Will the Canadian Writers Group succeed in raising rates for freelance writers?
Derek Finkle, the man behind the proposed agency for freelance writers, has done a good job of getting word out about his plans to get more dollars into the pockets of Canada’s long-suffering magazine scribes. Still, the timing of the agency’s launch (economic downturn anyone?) has been publicly questioned, and the question of whether there’s actually more money to go around remains a big one.
How will distance-related pricing re-shape the industry?
Canada Post looks set to implement a new policy in January 2009, whereby it will start charging publishers more to mail magazines outside of the surrounding area and even more to mail out of province. This will hurt pretty much every magazine that uses the mail to distribute, but it will be especially damaging to trade publishers with national titles and national magazines based outside of Ontario, such as The Beaver, published out of Winnipeg. Will operations be moved? Will subscription prices climb? Will circulation sizes be trimmed?
What will happen to Canada Post's $15 million contribution to the PAP?
Canada Post’s annual $15 million contribution to the Publications Assistance Program is expected to end in April 2009. The Department of Canadian Heritage has hinted that it wants to get the money from Ottawa but has been mum on the issue since the summer. It is still within the Federal Government’s power to mandate that Canada Post maintain its contribution but this seems unlikely, as the feds have already exercised this once. If the money does disappear, how many magazines will go into the red?
Will someone figure out the magic formula for making money on the Internet?
The industry has been asking this question for more than a decade. Something tells us that we'll be asking it again in 2010.