When times are tough, "prudent" magazine publishers need to get lean in order to stay mean. That was message from St. Joseph Media president Douglas Knight in an interview with Masthead this morning. St. Joe’s announced Friday that it will close Gardening Life and Wish at the end of the year.
“When you see a meltdown, you support your big traditional titles, they will do well,” Knight said. “Fashion is doing very well, Toronto Life is doing very well. They’ll be absolutely fine through this. But when you’ve got newer magazines and magazines that don’t have big advertising support, you’re looking at losses, the size of which are very difficult to live with for any company. For a small company they’re extraordinarily difficult.”
About 20 people will be laid off as a result of the closure, though Knight said the company would try to place as many employees as possible into other positions with that company.
“The irony in all of this, is that this is not a problem of readership,” Knight said. “Readers love the magazines. Gardening Life had one and a half million readers. But if you look at the category: Conde Nast shut down House and Garden after 106 years of publishing…Fabulous audience. Great demographics. Enormous reader interest. Beautiful magazines. But advertisers were just not there in sufficient volume to support the magazines over time.”
While Wish.ca will continue to run and St. Joe's will launch the popular “20-minute supper club” feature as a separate website, Knight says the closures had nothing to do with the perceived weakness of print magazines in a digital age.
“This is about a cyclical decline. This is purely the economy. This is not about switching revenue from one bucket to another.”
Knight added that there was no effort on St. Joe's part to sell the magazines.
Since the news of the closures became public Friday, Wish editor-in-chief Jane Francisco and Gardening Life editor-at-large Marjorie Harris have posted notes on their respective blogs.
“When we started Wish five years ago,” Francisco writes, “it was our plan to bring you the very best of fashion, beauty, home and food – because busy, stylish women, like you and me, want to put our best foot forward every day. The editors and experts at Wish worked overtime to find the solutions, deals, shortcuts and options to help make life easier – I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed every step of the way.”
“I’m so distraught I haven’t really had time figure out exactly what I’m doing next but it will involve gardens in every aspect possible,” Harris writes. “At least that’s one thing no one (can) close down and I should switch to thinking lucky me, because it was a great run and I loved every minute of it.”