Canadian Magazine Industry News
11 December 2008,     TORONTO
Circ Watch 2008 excerpt: The MagHound question

Back in October, we gathered three of the country's top circulators—Jason Patterson of Transcontinental Media, Jon Spencer of Abacus Circulation, and Peter Willson of Hello! Canada (Rogers)—for a wide-ranging conversation over lunch at The Rivoli in Toronto, moderated by our Circ Matters columnist, Scott Bullock.

A lengthy, edited version of that discussion will appear in the final print edition of Masthead, due in mid-January. In the meantime, we'll be running some selected excerpts here on MastheadOnline, partly to build anticipation and partly beause there's not enough room in the print magazine to fit all 10,000+ words.

Below, the panel talks about MagHound—a Time Inc. initiative that allows readers to pick and choose from a variety of magazines on a monthly basis.

Scott: When we talk about audience development and the Web, one of the things Masthead has reported on is the launch of Maghound in the U.S. What’s your take, Jon?

Jon: The advantage of single copy to a consumer is that I can vote with my wallet. I can say, "I like this cover story," or "I like the fact that you offer such and such on this issue," and I can skip over the issues in between that don’t appeal to me. With Maghound, the idea of switching is odd. I tend to have loyalty to a magazine that I subscribe to. Switching magazines on Maghound doesn’t make sense because I’m not going to know until an issue is in my hands that I don’t want it. I don’t quite get how it makes any real sense.

Jason:  I don’t see how MagHound supports the idea of the right community. People are not schizophrenic about what they’re interested in—they either want to read about cars or they don’t.

Scott: Peter, I’m wondering if this in any way represents a threat to retail?

Peter: Amongst the threats are issues at retailer [level]. There are situations where a publisher may be in a high-demand or a precarious situation and needs a certain circulation level and therefore lowers his subscription price. Or, vice versa, participates in something in order to ensure to the circ level is met at a higher price. So those are some of the areas where there can be frustration at the retail level.

Jon: On the other hand, I think some of that needs to be countered by the fact that, at least in my view, people are generally either more subscriber-type people or newsstand-type people. There are magazines I’ve bought on the newsstand sporadically for years that I’ve never subscribed to. Six out of twelve issues a year may be great, but the other six are duds. Nothing is going to change that particular habit. Whereas magazines I loyally subscribe to are the ones I can count on finding what I want in every issue.

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Wow, Torstar really seems to be on a mission to bankrupt one magazine after another....
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