On June 4, at its annual general meeting in Toronto, the Magazines Canada board is expected to recommend a change to the bylaw that bars b-to-b magazines from attaining membership. This change will allow the b-to-b division at Rogers Publishing Ltd. to join Magazines Canada, something Rogers has been publicly lobbying for since November, when the company announced it would not be renewing its membership in the Canadian Business Press.
Brian Segal, president and CEO of Rogers Media, believes the Canadian magazine industry would be better-served by a single organization representing both trade and consumer publishers. “We’re a small country,” he said. “The UK has one organization and they are about twice our size.”
(The Periodical Publishers Association in the UK, which has represented the interests of both consumer and b-to-b publications there since 1967, currently serves about 2,300 magazines, or roughly 80% of the UK publishing industry. In the US, there are separate associations: the Magazine Publishers of America for consumer titles, the American Business Media for the b-to-b sector.)
Beyond his desire to help create a “single unified voice” for the industry, Segal says he is dissatisfied with the CBP. “I don’t think the CBP has anything effective to offer its members,” Segal said. “We don’t know what it does. What programs does it have? What events does it have? Besides the Kenneth R. Wilson awards, which is nice.”
Asked whether he sees a place for the CBP in some sort of umbrella arrangement with MC, Segal replied: “[The board members] would have to have an interest in it and some sort of structure would have to be created to meet everyone’s objectives.”
“But if you aren’t interested, there’s no point trying to figure out how to get you interested. Either make up your mind and try to figure out how to do it, like we did when we integrated the old Magazines Canada into the new Magazines Canada. But, you know, some people have their view of the future, and some people have their view of the past.”
CBP board members, such as Michael Atkins, CEO of ITWorld Canada, came to the defense of the 88-year-old trade magazine association. “I’ve sat on lots of boards and for the cost, [the CBP is a] very effective group,” Atkins said.
Atkins, who during his time as CBP board chair co-sponsored a joint meeting between the consumer and business magazine associations, says he endorses closer relations between the two organizations, but he doesn’t see any benefit to joining Magazines Canada. “If there was any advantage at all, of course I’d look at it. But having been in this business for 25 years, I see no advantage.”
Bruce Creighton, president of the Business Information Group, remains firm in his belief that the b-to-b sector is better served by its own association. “I think [the CBP has] done an outstanding job in terms of training, in terms of the KRWs, the [Magazines University] conference and in dealing with Canada Post and the government,” Creighton said. “I don’t think we would get represented at all, to any great extent, as part of the [Magazines Canada]. Our interests would not be aligned.”
Todd Latham, president of We Communications and a former CBP board president, disagrees. "The bottom line is we’re all magazines," he says. "Our true competitors out there are not the consumer titles, they’re the foreign titles, they’re the Internet. It’s a much bigger thing now than this petty magazines vs. magazines stuff."
Latham, who joined Magazines Canada in 2006 with his hybrid title ReNew Canada, says a b-to-b unit within Magazines Canada would have more government lobbying power than the CBP. "We'd have a lot stronger case for trade [magazines] working with [Magazines Canada] rather than against them."
Asked whether b-to-b titles would be an afterthought in Magazines Canada, Latham responded, "We already are....The bottom line is we have to make our industry stronger and the best way to do that is to join forces with an [association] that is already strong."
Whether Magazines Canada voting members will approve the board recommendation at the annual general meeting remains to be seen. The representatives of consumer magazines who sit on the Magazines Canada board appear to be in favour of the proposed change, since a consensus must be reached before they can make recommendations to voting members.