Posts Tagged: Business Plans

Reciprocal Rewards: Bringing Reader’s Digest Magazine Brands and Content to Canadian Web Portals


By Megan Lau

ABSTRACT: This report examines the online partnerships that Reader’s Digest Canada’s established with web portals for its magazines and digital properties: Best Health magazine and with; and Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection du Reader’s Digest with When became’s health and fitness channel in 2009, the website’s audience grew exponentially, proving the value of investing in online publishing. This paper presents the marketing, web editorial, and business strategies for the publisher’s web properties. The histories of web portals and Reader’s Digest’s web strategy, with an examination of how and why the publisher’s partnerships with portals were established, are covered. As well, the impact of the partnerships on brand awareness and audience growth is discussed. Finally, the implications of partnerships with web portals for the greater Canadian magazine publishing community are considered.




It is with no small thanks to the unrivalled guidance and teaching of Dr. Rowland Lorimer and Dr. John Maxwell that this report is before you. I would also like to acknowledge my “teachers” at Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada in Montreal and Toronto, who expressed their enthusiasm and interest, and lent their immeasurable knowledge and experience to this project. My sincere gratitude goes especially to production editor, Michele Beacom Cant; vice-president of digital media and strategic partnerships, Yann Paquet; and senior web editor, Kat Tancock, for their significant contributions.

Most importantly, I am grateful for the encouragement and strong support from my cohort in the Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing program, and the unwavering friendship of Andy Au, Deanne Beattie, Brandon Gaukel, Cynara Geissler, Tracy Hurren, William Lau, Ryan McClanaghan, Michelle Reid, Lauren Schachter, and Fraser Stuart. Thank you.




List of Figures
List of Tables

Chapter One
++++++A Note on Research Method and Analysis
+++Canadian Magazines Online
+++Web Portals in Canada
+++Publisher Profile: Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited
++++++Web Strategy

Chapter Two
+++Case Study: Best Health, Plaisirs Santé, and
+++The Partnership
++++++Impact on Traffic
++++++Impact on Brand Awareness and Product Sales
+++The Launch of Plaisirs Santé
+++Web Editorial for Portals
++++++Editorial Staff
++++++Shaping Content
+++Current Activities

Chapter Three
+++Case Study:,, and and
+++The Partnership
+++Publishing Reader’s Digest Content on
+++Projected Outcomes

Chapter Four

Reference List



List of Figures

Figure 1. Home Page, Best Health dropdown menu
Figure 2. The Home Page prior to November 2010
Figure 3. audience subscription offer
Figure 4. Screenshot of, with calls to subscribe highlighted



List of Tables

Table 1. Traffic sources and losses
Table 2. 15-month trend of traffic to
Table 3. Audience demographic profile for
Table 4. 15-month trend of traffic to
Table 5. Audience demographic profile for and



Glossary: Analysis Metrics

Reader’s Digest Canada’s web publishing uses the following metrics from comScore and Google Analytics to measure its performance online:

Comparable Sites: Other website in the same category. At comScore, every website belongs to a primary category. For example, Best Health is in the Health category. Other relevant categories would include Lifestyles, Family & Parenting, and Home categories.

Entries/Entrances: The number of entrances to a website. With content pages, entries will indicate the number of times a particular page served as an entrance to the website.

Exits: The number of exits from a website. ComScore refers to sites that visitors go to after as “losses.”

Impressions: In advertising, the number and quality of page impressions is used to gauge the value of a website or page. Interchangeable with “page view.”

Open Rate: Percentage of messages delivered in an email campaign that are confirmed as having been opened by the recipient.

Page View: (PV) A request to load a single page of a website.

Time Spent: The time a visitor spends a website.

Time on Page: How long a visitor spent on a particular page or set of pages.

Total Audience: The size of the complete Canadian population that uses the Internet as calculated by comScore by extrapolated data gathered from random “digit-dial” phone calling.

Unique Visitors (UV): A unit of online traffic to a website, counting each visitor only once in the time frame of the report. This statistic is relevant to site publishers and advertisers as a measure of a site’s true audience size, equivalent to the term “reach” used in other media.

Visitor: A user of a website site.

Visits: The number of unique sessions initiated by all your visitors.



Chapter One


Canadian magazines have been online since 1996.[1] In the 1990s, as excitement and anxiety built around translating print products and brands for digital platforms, many magazines went online without a strategy for online editorial or revenue development. Like other media businesses that depend on ad revenue, including television and radio broadcasters, magazines struggled to navigate the world online. What would be their business strategy? How would they find funding to invest in technological development and programming? For smaller, non-profit magazines, which make up much of the landscape in Canada, building a functional website was simply not within their means.

One of the largest struggles for Canadian magazine websites is one that the country’s publishers are familiar with: the lack of economies of scale. In publishing print magazines, a smaller audience has always meant fewer subscriptions and single-copy sales, and cautious advertisers; fewer readers makes it more difficult to offset the costs of producing a magazine—such as printing, editorial, design, and rights. Though federal cultural policy has stepped in to help address these economic obstacles, digital publishing has yet to be adequately handled in the same way. As well, Canadian magazine websites are in direct competition with international magazine websites. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that online, all content creators—whether their main business is newspaper publishing, television broadcasting, or blogging—are direct competitors and jockey for the same audiences and advertisers.

In order to attract lucrative advertising accounts, websites must have a substantial number of unique visitors who are engaged with the content. This is no small task to be sure, particularly for magazines. For example, editorial for print and the web are different, in so far as the latter needs to be “read” by search engines and appeal to audiences who generally scan content, rather than read it.[2] Producing an engaging magazine website requires editors to re-imagine their magazine brands in terms of content and form. And, for the first time in magazine history, publishers can and must show their advertisers how well their ads are performing. It is possible to know how many people clicked on an ad, or how many “eyeballs” saw the creative. As a result, the definition of “successful editorial” and the ability to sell advertising becomes all about the analytics.

With the help of a strong research department and its many years of expertise, Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada, one of the country’s largest multi-title publishers, is forging ahead into the world of digital publishing. Reader’s Digest uses its strengths and an innovative publishing model to capture large but targeted audiences online, and thereby provide attractive environments for its advertisers. The Reader’s Digest Canada magazines websites are,,, and

In 2008, Reader’s Digest Canada launched Best Health, a Canadian women’s health magazine.[3] Best Health was extremely successful from the start; it earned $1.9 million in advertising revenue in its first year. The success of the print product, however, was only the beginning. The launch of the magazine was in fact the launch of a multi-platform brand: The magazine’s website,, became an integral part of the Best Health product. Previous to the launch of the magazine, 55 percent of an Internet research panel said they were “extremely interested” or “very interested” in an integrated web component for the soon-to-be-launched title (Boullard, 2008, p. 17). Accordingly, the team behind Best Health engaged the brand’s audience on multiple platforms early on. Today, attracts approximately half a million unique visitors a month; that’s 1.7 percent of the total Canadian audience online (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). Best Health on Twitter (@besthealthmag) has more than 86,000 followers, making it the most “followed” Canadian magazine brand on the social networking application by leaps and bounds (Twitter, 2010).[4]

How Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada found phenomenal success in digital publishing with the Best Health brand is the primary subject of this report. In the summer of 2009, shortly after the launch of Best Health magazine and, Reader’s Digest established a partnership with the web portal, The portal—which split from its partner MSN on September 1, 2009, to become an independent portal separate from the former— adopted as its Health and Fitness section, or “channel.” From there, traffic to grew exponentially. The partnership with is the heart of Best Health’s online business. The editorial and production processes that come with working with an online general interest portal are further explored in this report.

To establish the context in which Reader’s Digest Canada launched its various digital initiatives, the first chapter of this report examines the history of Canadian magazines online, and explores the economics of publishing online. This chapter also presents the history of web portals in Canada, followed by a discussion of the publishing activities of Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada.

Chapter two describes the business strategies and mechanics involved in the Best partnership. This section of the report details how the partnership with was established, the mechanics of producing content for a general interest portal, the impact on the Reader’s Digest websites, the websites’ successes and challenges, and the unique editorial strategies employed. The introduction of the Plaisirs Santé brand, the French-Canadian counterpart to Best Health, is also discussed.

Next, the report describes a different approach to online partnerships for and The development of a partnership with was partly modelled on the company’s success with, but has different goals and parameters. In this chapter, decision makers and editors forecast the partnership’s potential impact on the website in terms of editorial and production, and new advertising opportunities as a result of the expected influx of traffic.

The final chapter assesses the implications of Reader’s Digest Canada’s success for other multi-title publishers. There are possibilities for other Canadian magazines to repurpose their material for general interest portals, but how widely applicable is this business model? And considering the changing demands and realities of readers and the media industries, what is the long-term viability of this strategy? There are no conclusive answers; however, the value of publishers’ expertise in building communities, brands, and content is definite.


A Note on Research Method and Analysis

The web analytics presented in this report are based on custom reports from comScore, a web-research company internationally recognized as the standard for digital market intelligence for the Internet’s largest sites. Reader’s Digest is a customer of comScore, Inc. Canada. Although the publisher’s web department uses Google Analytics internally, most corporate advertisers prefer comScore’s data due to their recognized impartiality.

ComScore’s intelligence is based on data gathered from a random panel. Very roughly speaking, comScore is to Internet audience data as Nielsen’s ratings are to television: Unlike Google Analytics, which captures data on a website’s server, comScore installs proxy-technology software on the computers of panel members. The software captures information about panel members’ behaviour click-by-click, second-by-second. ComScore’s Canadian panel is composed of roughly 50,000 users (comScore, Inc., 2010); globally, the company estimates that its panel comprises two million users (comScore, Inc. website, 2010b).

ComScore determines its clients’ audience reach based on a figure it calls “total audience”; it represents the complete Canadian population that uses the Internet. The company calculates the number of people in the total audience by conducting phone surveys of a random sample group: “Respondents are asked a variety of questions about their Internet use [such as, Do you use the Internet?], and descriptive information about their households is collected” (comScore, Inc. website, 2010a). These data are extrapolated to establish the total audience number, as well as other demographic details about the Canadian online audience. By combining the total audience data with information gathered from panel members, comScore is able to produce an up-to-date picture of online audience behaviour.

This method, which comScore calls “panel audience measurement,” has some limitations. While the software precisely records panel members’ Internet usage, panel members and phone-survey respondents self-report demographic information; this can result in imprecise findings. Another shortcoming of the panel-sample method is that it favours popular websites since there is a higher probability that the panel members will visit them. Conversely, comScore cannot account for smaller websites if no panel members land on the site. In short, when the data are extrapolated, the method can inflate the number of visitors to larger sites and overlook traffic to smaller sites.

In the interest of protecting Reader’s Digest Magazine Canada’s proprietary information, this report mostly uses comScore’s data. Although this information is public, access to purchased comScore products (including comparative analyses and demographic information) was granted on the basis of my status as an employee of Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada.[5] The data presented show the scale of the partnership’s impact on the Reader’s Digest Canada websites, but are not an exact or up-to-date representation of the websites’ performance metrics.

ComScore’s data support the discussion of Reader’s Digest’s web strategy. Using information gathered from extensive in-person interviews with the digital media executives, and the online marketing and web editorial teams, this report serves as a comprehensive picture of how this major Canadian publisher is building targeted audiences online and grooming those audiences for advertisers.

Please see Glossary for a glossary of web analytics terms.


Canadian Magazines Online

The decline of magazines has been predicted since the start of the twentieth century, when film was introduced (Quin, 2003, p. 3). Historically, whenever a new medium for entertainment and information emerges, critics and naysayers speculate that the end of the magazine (or other existing media) is nearing. This was absolutely true at the advent of the Internet.[6] Since its introduction, the Internet has forcefully reshaped the media landscape. Its influence was—and is—so great that predictions of the magazine publishing industry’s imminent demise seemed more likely than ever. In response to the speculation, and making sure not be left in the dust, many magazines publishers launched websites for their titles in the late 1990s.

Theoretically, magazine publishers were well-positioned to take advantage of the features of the new medium, as they already had arresting editorial to offer. A website had the potential to attract new readers and subscribers by offering content (either from the magazine or exclusively online) in a format that was convenient and accessible for readers. However, publishers (and most everyone else) lacked knowledge or expertise about how audiences behaved online, and how to translate magazine content or brands for online audiences. Quin (2003) notes, “By 1996, many magazines were launching sites that were mirror versions of their print products” (p. 8). Early magazine websites were wanting in overall “stickiness” (the quality that makes a user stay on a site, engage with the content, and tell others about it) because without tailoring it for the web, print-magazine content lacks timeliness, interactivity, searchability, and personalization.

There were other challenges, too. For example, monitoring, updating, and editing a magazine website required additional resources in terms of time and money; it often increased editors’ workloads. Most magazine editors were not accustomed to producing daily updates, since they traditionally worked on monthly or weekly production schedules. With smaller staffs and operating budgets than their American counterparts, the vast majority of Canadian magazines did not have the capacity to build and maintain functional websites, market them, cultivate regular audiences, and engage with the audiences in a meaningful way. Another obstacle was gaining rights and permissions for previously published work, since older contracts for writers did not address digital formats. There was always the question, too, of whether making a magazine’s content available online would cannibalize its print operations. Ultimately, without the infrastructure, market research, or knowledge to produce effective online spaces, magazine websites struggled to find audiences and make a profit.

The early 2000s were especially dismal. In his 2002 book Bamboozled at the Revolution: How Big Media Lost Billions in the Battle for the Internet, technology journalist and media critic JohnMatovalli revealed how powerhouse media companies such as Time Warner lost millions in early Internet ventures (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 118). An essay from in 2008, argued that even turning household names, such as Vogue and Esquire, into profitable web properties was “probably not possible, at least not right away,” since advertisers were not willing to pay for online audiences (Blume, 2008). A media expert quoted in the essay estimated that “online CPM is worth between one-seventh and one-tenth of a print CPM” (Blume); in short, the online-advertising model looked bleak for everyone, not just small- and medium-sized magazines. In July 2009, Kat Tancock, who is also the author of the blog Magazines Online,[7] wrote, “The debate is still on (and for good reason) about how the media can make money with their online properties. Readership is certainly there, but display advertising isn’t bringing in enough revenue and most readers are unwilling to pay to read articles online” [8] (2009a). Only very savvy publishers could realistically expect to make a profit from sponsorships and advertising online—and a small one at that.

Faced with this reality, publishers were forced to reevaluate their web properties and thus, redefine their goals and measures of success. While most magazine websites were not likely to sell a fair amount of ads in the near future, they could exploit the equity in the brands. Readers invest trust in magazine brands, and looking at the magazine as a brand created more opportunities to increase visibility and revenue. By extending their brands online, through other media, and in-person, publishers could sell subscriptions and increase single-copy sales, and apply the brands to other media, products, and events. Popular magazines lent their brands to television shows, special interest publications, and merchandise, such as T-shirts, books, and calendars (MacKay, 2006, p. 198). For large media companies with resources and experience to maximize vertical and horizontal integration, this transformation was a familiar evolution.[9] A 2003 survey of the leading magazine publishers in the UK showed that more than half thought of themselves as multimedia publishers and communicators, and not just publishers (Dear in MacKay, p. 213).

Online, some magazine websites became hubs for the communities around the brands. Members of the communities went to the websites to interact with editors and each other (MacKay, 2006, p. 153). In the web and print formats, a magazine represents the centre of a community.[10] As noted in Rowland Lorimer’s 2008 study of Alberta Magazines, “Magazines Alberta: Vibrancy, Growth, Interactive Community Leadership,” “…magazines take their lead from their communities of readers, serving their needs and desires, and in doing so, they emerge as significant and distinctive voices in their communities” (Lorimer 2008, key findings). The formation of a community was especially key for Chatelaine, one of Canada’s most popular magazines. In her research in the magazine’s archives, Valerie Korinek looked at correspondence from readers and discovered that magazines and discussion about magazines “‘fostered a sense of identity or membership in a community’” (Korinek in MacKay, 2006, p. 154). This dynamic is dramatically enhanced by the possibilities of online networking on magazine websites. Says McKay, “the community aspect of a magazine is indeed one of the form’s important traits and a prime requirement for [online] success” (p. 154). Recently, publishers have found their web properties with established and engaged online communities are desirable environments for advertisers.

In 2010, the importance of a having a thoughtful online presence is impossible to ignore. As CEO of Meredith Corporation (publisher of Ladies Home Journal, MORE, and Fitness), William Kerr, notes:

The Internet is your friend. Once viewed as a threat, the Internet is a medium that magazines are using as a growth catalyst on many fronts. For our editors, it allows us a more frequent dialogue with readers. For our marketers, it provides another source of potential revenue generation. For our circulation professionals, it provides a low-cost alternative for generating magazine subscriptions. And it is growing at a phenomenal rate (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 118).

As more and more readers read online in their leisure time, an increasing number of publishers are establishing devoted web editorial and ad sales teams. The user experience has also improved as best practices for producing content online have also emerged: search-engine optimizing content, creating more interactive features, and integrating ways for readers to talk back. And publishers that nurture the communities around their magazines have more engaged online readerships to entice advertisers with. Publishers are also adopting social networking, blogs, email newsletters, and RSS feeds as part of their web strategies. There are also new digital spaces for magazine brands to cultivate audiences, including mobile applications and digital editions. Today, the largest Canadian magazine publishers are looking beyond breaking even. Though small- and medium-sized magazines still struggle to get a return on their investment in online publishing, multi-title publishers are managing to leverage their web properties into money-makers. One way of doing this, as Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada has found, is to partner with a web portal.


Web Portals in Canada

“Web portal” loosely describes any website that aggregates links from diverse sources and presents them in a unified and organized way. General interest web portals curate links to news, stock prices, entertainment gossip, and weather forecasts. Much like a newspaper, portals provide value in aggregating this information in one place. Similarly, portals present their content, gathered from syndicates such as Reuters and the Associated Press, in a consistent look and feel. Some web portals produce some content in-house but all portals have editorial teams gathering content from outside sources, including magazine websites. Web-portal editors analyze which articles, slideshows, services and interactive features perform best and choose the next day’s content accordingly. Many major web portals also host search and email services.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, web portals were important pieces of online real estate because they were daily destinations for users—often they were the first pages users visited before going elsewhere on the web. Internet service providers (ISP) and web portals often formed partnerships: When a user purchased access to Internet from an ISP, his or her browser would be programmed with the partner portal site as their home page.[11] Similarly, users of Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail were directed to the service’s partner portal site upon logout.[12] Accordingly, portals generated substantial traffic. Additionally, before Google, portals’ search engines were a popular way to locate relevant information.

Globally, MSNBC,, Netscape, Lycos, AOL, and Yahoo! dominated the web-portal market during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. While some of these portals went out of business when the bubble burst around 2000, Yahoo! and MSNBC continued to find success. These companies also launched international portals to serve the demand for regional and local content. Yahoo! Canada,, and (owned by Bell Canada Enterprises) were established as dedicated services for the Canadian audience. Other Canadian portals include (which is particularly popular in French Canada), AOL Canada,, and

In 2003, Bell and Microsoft Canada merged their portal websites into the co-branded portal (Canadian Press, 2003). According to Kevin Crull, president of residential services at Bell, “We wanted [Microsoft’s] development capabilities. They wanted our audience” (Avery, 2009). The joint portal combined the large audiences that used MSN’s Hotmail service and those that purchased Bell’s Internet service and/or were readers of At the time, Canada’s online advertising market had an estimated worth of just over $350 million[13] (Lloyd, 2009); accordingly rather than selling consumers to advertisers, the portal’s primary business model was based on selling services to consumers. The partnership allowed MSN to generate additional revenue by offering premium subscription services, developed by Microsoft, to Bell’s customer base (Lloyd). Bell hoped to use Microsoft’s technology to add value to

Over the next five years,, which offered content for English speakers and Francophones, became one of the country’s most visited websites and the major Canadian portal, with 18.5 million unique views a month (Lloyd, 2009).

Nonetheless, in the summer of 2009, MSN and Bell realized the partnership was no longer optimally serving either company. The rise of “freeconomics”—an online-business model where basic services are offered for free and revenues are generated from advertising or selling value-added services—lowered the value of Microsoft’s “premium level” services, such as email, and made it necessary to sell advertising to support those services. The companies divorced and re-established their individual (bilingual) portal sites: and, and improved their inventory of display-advertising spaces by developing video players as part of their advertising services (Lloyd, 2009). Currently, an ongoing task for Bell and Microsoft is restructuring the portals to operate without the content and technology resources previously afforded by having a joint, co-branded portal.

Today, portal sites are still major online destinations, but the number of visitors, page views, and time spent by users is declining. Microsoft Canada and Bell are engaged in a three-year agreement to exchange traffic, but neither portal site has been able to amass an audience as large as the former readership of (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010). Meanwhile, engagement on social media sites is rising (Stableford, 2010). Users are turning to Twitter and Facebook for a more personalized experience. Some users are turning to social media first to get the news, and to tap into what their friends are reading and watching. Due to the ebbing popularity of portal sites, advertisers and agencies are taking their ad dollars to Facebook for more ad impressions[14] (Oreskovic, 2010; Walsh, 2010). AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! are responding to this development by offering new customization options, such as personalized home pages. But more importantly, web portals are investing in quality content and thoughtful presentation. In order to become competitive content providers, portals—particularly—are turning to experts in publishing and journalism, including magazines (Stableford, 2010; Microsoft Canada, 2009).

Canadian magazines have a relatively long history of providing content to portal sites. In 1995, Maclean’s partnered with CompuServe Canada, a popular Internet service provider. At the time, CompuServe had three million Canadian subscribers. The partnership gave CompuServe subscribers—who were also the audience for the ISP’s portal—exclusive access to Maclean’s articles before they hit the newsstand (Quin, 2003, p. 9). In exchange, CompuServe drove traffic to the magazine’s online forum, where readers could discuss articles or talk to the writers and editors. Other magazines have sold content from their websites to portals. Selling daily music news from their website,, to was a major revenue source for Chart magazine’s publishers in the early 2000s (Quin, p. 48).

When portals link to and publish magazine content, they gain content to draw and engage visitors, as well as the authority and credibility of an established magazine brand. A 2010 study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) (Smith, 2010) and a 2008 study by Dynamic Logic (Lakin, 2008) concluded that branded content sites, such as magazine websites, had a greater impact on customer awareness and purchase intent than non-branded websites. Customers and advertisers also positively associated media sites with trust and quality. The OPA survey of 3,000 people found:

Eighty percent of people who said they had purchased brands as a result of online advertising described themselves as having a strong, positive connection to the sites where the ads ran. In most questions regarding trust and ad responsiveness, the branded media sites came out on top.

On the question of which content they are most likely to trust, respondents said: media sites first (72%), then portals (60%), and social media (23%).

Audiences also felt that advertisers were more likely to be of high quality and reputable on media sites (24%) rather than portals (20%), or social media (8%) (Smith).

By partnering with magazine brands, portals can provide advertisers environments where consumers are more trusting and receptive. Ultimately, portals’ burgeoning traffic troubles are creating ripe opportunities for magazine publishers.


Publisher Profile: Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited

The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. (RDA) is an international company with offices in 43 countries (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). Founded in 1922 by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, the company’s flagship publication, Reader’s Digest—known for providing practical and useful information, is the largest independently published magazine in the world with 50 international editions (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 144). The company is also famous for its sweepstakes and contests—both of which are effective marketing and name-gathering techniques and thus, important parts of the RDA business. Its large customer base and database of prospective customers is possibly the most important asset to the company.

Although it has been slower than others in embracing digital services and products, RDA has always been a multi-brand, multi-media company. It produces and markets hundreds of media products. Annually, the company sells approximately 40 million books, music, and video products around the world (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). Over the years, RDA has generated a wealth of content, which it can economically repurpose as digital products. For example, contents from the Reader’s Digest book Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things[15] are the source material for the popular series “5 Things to Do with…” series on RDA owns and operates 78 branded websites. The crown jewel in the company’s digital properties is, the world’s largest online food community, with 15 localized websites, including one for Quebec.

The corporation’s relatively recent but rapid expansion into the digital world is part of its strategy to grow by “creating multi-platform communities based on branded content” (Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. website, 2009). RDA also leverages national successes and expands those brands internationally. In 2006, Reader’s Digest Australia launched HealthSmart magazine, a health and lifestyle magazine for women ages 30 to 50 years old. It is now the leading women’s health magazine in Australia and spawned a New Zealand edition in 2009. In 2008, the editorial formula was imported to Canada; with a few tweaks, it became Best Health magazine. And in 2009, the US offices announced the launch of BestYou magazine.[16]

The Canadian offices of Reader’s Digest were established in 1947. The first Canadian edition of Reader’s Digest, Sélection du Reader’s Digest, appeared in 1948; it was, of course, the French-language edition for Canada. Currently, Reader’s Digest Canada is the largest circulation consumer magazine in Canada[17] (Print Measurement Bureau, 2010) and is also recognized as the most trusted and influential magazine in the country conducted by Ropers Reports (in 2009) and Masthead magazine (in January/February 2008) (Ludgate, interview, 2010). The Canadian editorial offices are located in downtown Montreal, Quebec, and advertising sales are headquartered in the business district of Toronto, Ontario. The Montreal office has approximately 170 Reader’s Digest Canada staff members in the finance, editorial, marketing services, promotions, communications, human resources, sales, and administration departments. Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada publishes five magazines: Best Health, Reader’s Digest Canada, Sélection, Our Canada, and More of Our Canada. The magazine division also publishes special interest publications (SIPs) and produces custom publications for companies such as RONA.


Web Strategy

In Canada, Reader’s Digest has been online since 1998, the year and were launched as online extensions of the magazines. At the time, isolated but dramatic success stories from Silicon Valley created the illusion that e-commerce was the new “Klondike.” However, it was not a simple task to transform two well-established print magazine brands into competitive players in the digital publishing landscape. Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection initially struggled to define their brands and voices online, and without a clear and considered strategy, the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites floundered.

At the time, neither nor had a dedicated editor or a content management system. The websites were updated monthly, mostly with repurposed magazine content. When taken directly from the magazine, the articles did not appeal to the audience of Many of the features published in Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection are examples of extended investigative reporting or long-form journalism, but, as the company later found, the online audience was more interested in shorter, more practical food, home, and lifestyle content. As well, the magazine articles, their headlines, and their descriptions made little to no impact on search engines because the text lacked keywords; this made it unlikely that the latent online audience would find the articles by way of search. To make matters more difficult for the provisional web team, Reader’s Digest did not have the digital rights for some of its previously published content.

After the dot-com bust, online businesses adopted more realistic expectations about what they could achieve. As a provisional solution, the Reader’s Digest Canada websites were made into online stores for the company’s books, music and video products, and magazine subscriptions. Meanwhile, the new-business-development team introduced the famous Reader’s Digest sweepstakes program to the magazine websites. This important addition—which cost relatively little to establish—helped the company to build a large database of customers’ email addresses and to draw visitors to the sites daily. The online sweepstakes made one of the top three Canadian magazine websites online, just behind The “sweeps” program was the bread and butter of the company’s online business; in 2003, it made up 70 percent of Reader’s Digest Canada’s online traffic and an even larger percentage in the earlier years.

However, advertisers were interested in putting their products in front of readers who were engaged with content, and therefore could be influenced about their purchasing decisions. The quality of the magazine’s readership is something Reader’s Digest Canada wanted to offer to its online advertisers, too. Fittingly, the publisher has always boasted the quality of its readers. According to vice-president of digital media and strategic partnerships, Yann Paquet, the readers of Reader’s Digest Canada spend 90 minutes a month with the magazine, on average, and themagazine’s readers highly trust the brand (interview, August 11, 2010). Accordingly, Reader’s Digest moved towards producing websites for content, not contests. The company needed to develop online audiences large enough to be worthwhile for advertisers, but specific enough that demographically, they matched advertisers’ targets.

It was time to set new goals for the Canadian Reader’s Digest web properties: The first was to generate revenue with the company’s existing assets—its brands, customers, prospects, and most importantly, content. In 2008, the company hired a dedicated web editor, Jennifer Reynolds, as part of its initiative to makeover the website. Reynolds focused on developing an identity for the websites that was separate from the magazines. As such, the House and Home, Food, and Health “affinities”[18] were launched. Furthermore, content was written and edited to be more “web-friendly”[19] without straying from the Reader’s Digest brand: Articles were generally shorter and geared towards providing practical, everyday lifestyle advice. As well, user-generated content (UGC) features, such as photo galleries, were introduced. In short, and were transformed into “content-rich sites” with community interaction (Goyette, interview, July 16, 2010). The change was in-line with the Reader’s Digest brand and produced a more targeted and desirable audience for advertisers. At the same time, the Reader’s Digest Association started an international initiative to digitize its content and build an e-library accessible to its offices around the world, which gave the web editor more content to offer to the readers of and

The second goal for Reader’s Digest Canada’s digital business was to expand traffic beyond sweeps visitors, and increase the loyal and trusting audience they had begun to establish. To fast-track the growth of its online audience, Reader’s Digest launched e-newsletters, which are major traffic drivers and a service to their readers. The company also developed cross-promotional partnerships with websites such as and Yahoo! Canada, sometimes running co-branded contests, or cross-promoting content.

The next step in audience development was to establish relationships with national, general interest web portals to give Reader’s Digest content more exposure. Reader’s Digest considered three different partnership models they could pursue with portals: 1) content for traffic, 2) content for dollars, or 3) content for technology. The first model is what Reader’s Digest ultimately found success with (This is covered in extensive detail in the following chapters). The second, in which the publisher licenses its content, was ruled out because although it would be beneficial to the company’s cash flow, the advantages would be limited in respect to traffic/audience development and advertising. The third model was used for

The launch of Our Canada magazine in 2004 is considered one of the most successful introductions of a magazine in Canadian history. The bi-monthly publication is made entirely out of submissions from readers about their experiences of Canada. The magazine’s editors receive hundreds of written and photographic submissions each month, which are compiled, edited, and produced into a glossy, fully illustrated print publication. Within two years, Our Canada gathered 238,000 subscribers. The magazine was so popular Reader’s Digest launched More of Our Canada in 2008 so that subscribers could opt to receive 12 issues of Our Canada content a year.

When conceiving an online space for the Our Canada brand, Reader’s Digest knew it needed a website that would facilitate UGC, by allowing users to upload photos, connect in forums, and publish their own blogs. However, developing that technology alone would be costly and risky. Meanwhile, was looking to expand in the English-language market and had created online tools for community building. The two parties established a mutually beneficial relationship where both could leverage the considerable Our Canada readership and the associated travel and lifestyle content. Beginning in 2009, Our Canada has been hosted on and uses the portal’s social-networking platform.

In the next five years, Reader’s Digest Canada hopes to grow its digital businesses in terms of advertising dollars, product sales, and revenue generated through renting its e-database of customer names and information[20] (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010c). While expanding into mobile downloads and multimedia—an area of growing importance—Reader’s Digest is also focused on enhancing reader engagement. The managers and web editors are cultivating return users by building “community-focused websites,” which integrate social media and other avenues for readers to shape content and generate dialogue. As Kat Tancock told Masthead Online, “Reader’s Digest has always been a community-focused company. [It was a] natural extension to get into social media and let readers contribute to how they see the brand” (Masthead Online, 2010).

· · ·

In the years since Canadian magazines first went online, Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada has had successes and disappointments in experimenting with business and editorial models for digital publishing. Taking the lessons learned from the early days of the web, Reader’s Digest has a wealth of knowledge and resources to draw upon in this time of flux in the publishing industry.

Of course, the business of online magazines is never static, just as users’ behaviours, demands, and desires are inherently dynamic. For instance, in the 1990s, web portals were formidable features in the online landscape but today their status has diminished due to the success of Google and Facebook. Nonetheless, changing realities also mean new opportunities.

Since digital publishing took hold in Canada, Reader’s Digest’s roster of magazine brands has grown new audiences in new environments. Best Health—the magazine, website, and brand—is a successful confluence of the company’s traditional expertise in brand extension, content production, audience development and engagement, and its new online-business strategies.


Chapter Two

Case Study: Best Health, Plaisirs Santé, and

In March 2008, Reader’s Digest Canada launched Best Health. The mission of the Best Health brand is to be the “Canadian authority on enhancing the health of women’s minds, bodies and spirits” by providing information about how to “Look Great,” “Eat Well,” “Embrace Life,” and “Get Healthy.” Under these four editorial “pillars,” the brand aims to cater to the interests and aspirations of its audience, and respect their challenges and realities by providing eye-catching design and trusted, practical healthy lifestyle information (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). Best Health’s target demographic is women 35 to 55 years old, and skews slightly younger online. To Reader’s Digest, Best Health represents new territory and its success extended the publisher’s audience reach in the Canadian market. (The subsequent launch of Plaisirs Santé increased that reach into French-language market for women’s health content.)

In the past year, the magazine has been a major Canadian industry mover and shaker. According to Masthead’s report on “The Top 50” magazines in 2009,[21] Best Health posted a positive 102-percent change in revenue from 2008-2009, leaping from 53rd place in the previous year to number 37 (Masthead, 2010). Its current paid circulation is 100,000. Its success has revealed there is still demand in the competitive genre of women’s magazines. Lynn Chambers, group publisher of Canadian Living and Homemakers, observed, “From an advertiser’s point-of-view, magazines are still highly relevant with this target group…What I’d love to see is a continued strengthening of the magazine category as a great way to reach women” (Masthead Online, 2008).

Best Health magazine is published seven times a year but encourages its readership to be apart of its online activities 365 days a year. Best Health uses a “multi-channel branded approach [to reach its audience], including…media, events, seminars and products” and “keep[s] community building at the centre of everything [it does]” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). Readers’ contributions in tips and personal stories are regular features in the magazine. As Boullard notes, reader involvement breeds loyalty because participants are more likely to feel they played a role in developing the magazine (2008, p. 8). The brand’s focus on connecting and supporting women has resulted in a coveted readership: They are deeply engaged, trusting, and devoted. To advertisers across a broad spectrum, this audience is highly valuable. was launched in tandem with the print magazine in March 2008. The website was designed as a “women’s healthy lifestyle [online] community” (Reader’s Digest Canada Magazines Limited, 2010c). Editorial on is organized into the same four editorial pillars as the magazine. The content takes shape in the form of slideshows, articles (most are original articles but some are from the magazine or repurposed from Reader’s Digest books), recipes, and quizzes. The website is updated several times a day with at least two new stories and one blog post a day. also features a multi-author blog, commenting and rating capabilities, forums, and interactive online tools. The website is complemented by accounts on Facebook and Twitter, which allow the web editors and readers to personally engage with one another. Readers are a part of creating and shaping the content on by commenting and rating stories, contributing to forums, or writing their own blogs. Readers can also preview and/or subscribe to the magazine online, and purchase Best Health branded products through the Reader’s Digest Canada online store.

The Best Health web team started small with one dedicated web editor, Kat Tancock. In less than a year, Tancock increased the number of unique visitors by more than 600 percent: There were 15,000 unique visitors in June 2008 and 100,000 in May 2009[22] (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Reynolds attributes the dramatic growth to Tancock’s launch of several popular e-newsletters that provided multiple “clickable” links back to the site, and optimizing content for search (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Any content that was previously published in the magazine was edited for the web by strategically incorporating keywords into headlines and subheads. By making it easier to find Best Health articles through Google, search traffic increased. The detailed data from Google Analytics allowed Tancock to determine which headlines, keywords, and tags produced the most clicks and highest open rates.

By the summer of 2009, Reader’s Digest Canada had a desirable web property in its hands and an editor with an intimate knowledge of Best Health’s online community. As well, as web editor, Tancock was very successful in building a community of readers, who were enthusiastic about interacting online (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). In order to increase the value of the Best Health website and brand to its advertisers, and increase company’s list of customers and prospects, the Reader’s Digest’s digital media executives knew they needed new users and readers. Moreover, substantial online audiences could be found on web portals. Initially, Reader’s Digest sought a partnership between a high-traffic portal and and/or, but a ripe opportunity arose for with is a web portal owned by Bell Canada. Within the network, there are 23 websites, otherwise known was “online properties.” According to its advertising information, the network captures 85 percent of the Canadian online audience, with more than 17 million unique visitors each month[23] ( Advertising website, 2010).

When and parted ways, many members of the joint portal’s sales staff—and thus its national advertising accounts—remained with Bell also retained advertisers with its strong hold on mobile marketing (Bell claims has the largest mobile advertising network in the country), which it could leverage in combination with its television and Internet platforms (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009). also continued to offer display-advertising inventory on Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Messenger (its instant message software) to its advertisers (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009).

In 1995, when the portal first launched, established a commitment to offering Canadian content in both official languages. The portal has separate editorial teams for English and French content, instead of just translating content to minimize costs. aims to produce content for Canadian users that authentically “reflects their voice and culture” ( Advertising website, 2010).

As part of offering quality content to attract readers, the portal’s editors and managers developed the popular channels (celebrity news and gossip), (fashion and red-carpet looks; the portal’s most popular channel), (music news and videos), (technology), and (skateboard and snowboarding). According to comScore, approximately 6.8 million Canadians visited’s portals channels in 2009 (Bell Canada Enterprises, 2009). These channels are easier to market to users than the portal as whole because they are conceptually concrete as products. Style-savvy readers may have a relationship with but little recognition of or loyalty towards the brand, for example. And while the overall portal’s audience numbers are substantial, advertisers are more interested targeting the niche audiences who visit branded channels within the portal. The branded channels were a part of the former joint portal but they stayed on after the split.

On its own, gained greater editorial flexibility, which its editors and managers used to develop additional branded channels. Most of the content for these channels would be sourced from what Kevin Crull, president of residential services at Bell, called “top content providers” (Avery, 2009). In August 2009, announced four new channels:, Autos,, and its new health and fitness channel, Best Health.


The Partnership

Behind the scenes of the split, and Reader’s Digest Canada were establishing the details of a partnership, and the timing was right for such a deal. As previously noted, both Reader’s Digest and Bell were seeking out opportunities to develop new business: Reader’s Digest needed more exposure for its up-and-coming brand in the marketplace and’s management was seeking high-quality content. Both parties saw a demand in the marketplace for health and fitness content, particularly in the sought-after demographic of women 35 to 55. Additionally, diet and fitness was an editorial niche that MSN (with content from Transcontinental) fulfilled in the former joint portal and needed to replace it after the split. So, the companies began to look into the possibility of a partnership to make Best Health the portal’s Health and Fitness channel. First, Bell and Reader’s Digest Canada investigated the potential benefits of working together.

As one of the three largest magazine publishers in the country, Reader’s Digest offers expertise in organizing content, building community, managing editorial, and developing brands (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). Best Health would be an asset to because of its wealth of quality health and lifestyle content. And since Best Health’s dedicated and specialized web editorial staff would produce this content, the need for to hire its own health-and-fitness editors would be eliminated. Also, offered an attractive amount of reader engagement and commenting on articles; by making its health and wellness channel, the portal could carve out a niche in its broad audience.

Perhaps one of the most important draws for was the cachet of a Reader’s Digest-developed brand, which had already been quickly established over its first year (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). The general principle behind branding is that “a recognizable brand will more easily attract and retain customers than an unrecognizable one” (Bellamy and Traudt in Blevins, 2004, p. 250). Although a prominent brand name does not guarantee success, it can help lower barriers to entry (Blevins, p. 250). Moreover, a magazine brand imbues an inherent level of trustworthiness in the content, as illustrated by the OPA and Dynamic Logic studies discussed earlier.

On the other hand, partnering with would assist Reader’s Digest in its efforts to create what Tony Cioffi, President and CEO of Reader’s Digest, calls “multi-platform communities based on branded content” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada, 2009a). While Best Health’s website had already established the brand and its community on an online platform, the potential partnership would be a way to expand its presence; a partnership with would provide daily opportunities for Best Health’s editors to engage with a new audience (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010).

The most important advantage for Reader’s Digest in the potential partnership was an increase in traffic. While the number of visits to was respectable for a magazine website in its first year, and the site’s traffic from search and organic traffic (either through word of mouth or driven from callouts in the magazine) was significant, having Best Health content featured on a portal would multiply that traffic exponentially. A partnership with would offer Best Health a dedicated channel, meaning users seeking health and fitness content on the portal would be directed only to This arrangement would virtually guarantee more readers for Best Health’s articles. Ultimately, a larger audience would present new sponsorship opportunities, more revenue, and eventually, it could justify hiring more members for the website’s editorial staff.

To definitively determine if there would be an increase in traffic for both parties, the companies consulted an Internet audience measurement agency to determine the size of the audience if a partnership were established. By combining the number of people who visit “Site A” (e.g. and “Site B” (e.g., and subtracting how many visit both, the size of the combined audience can be projected.[24] At comScore, the combined audience is called the “audience duplication number.” If the audience of either site is comparable to the audience duplication number—or, in other words, there is a large overlap between the audiences—then a partnership would be effectively futile. Conversely, if a strong overlap is not evident, then there is opportunity for growth through forming a partnership. The calculations showed that both websites would gain traffic.

The benefits of a partnership were clear to both parties. As identified by Zahra Young, the director of marketing, e-commerce, partnerships, new magazines & series, Reader’s Digest four main goals/opportunities in establishing the partnership were to:

    • Generate advertising sales revenue [via increasing site traffic]
    • Increase brand awareness
    • Generate subscriptions and product sales
    • Generate new prospective customers [via email gathering]

(Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010b)

Now came time to establish the details. Targets for traffic were set. would be responsible for directing traffic to and highlighting Best Health content on its home page. Best Health gained a tab on the portal’s navigation (see figure 1). When hovered over, the button revealed the four Best Health editorial categories and the “Health News” newswire. All of these links took the user to the corresponding section on Best Health was also given a “brick” below the fold on the home page, to highlight articles chosen by’s editors (see figure 2). would also direct traffic to Best Health articles by featuring them on the home-page viewer, which is the dominating feature on the home page. In return, Best Health would draw traffic to by linking to the portal’s home page and helping to cultivate a regular readership by offering clickable and inviting content.

Figure 1. Home Page, Best Health dropdown menu. Each of the portal’s channels has a dropdown menu onthe home page. NB: The homepage was redesigned in November 2010. In the new design, the Best Health “brick” is located just below the fold.


Figure 2. The Home Page prior to November 2010.


A unique aspect of the partnership is its revenue-sharing model: In this agreement, the companies’ sales teams work collaboratively to sell their shared online display-advertising inventory. Both parties are motivated to support traffic to and because if’s traffic sags, so do’s revenues, and vice versa. Under the partnership, two groups sell ads for the health and fitness channel: the Reader’s Digest media sales team, which sells integrated, cross-platform (print and online) advertising, and the sales team, which sells online advertising only. The Reader’s Digest media sales team lends’s team know-how in building, pitching and selling multimedia brands.

A final synergy established through the deal was the possibility of running co-branded contests. Best Health’s digital marketing department could produce the contest creative (i.e. display ads, entry pages, etc.), and source the prizes. The contests could be promoted on the websites’ home pages, contest hubs, newsletters, banners, and in Best Health, increasing the exposure of both brands (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010b). More importantly, however, contests are simple ways for and Best Health to gather names, emails and other customer data. For Best Health, a contest is an opportunity to acquire a new subscriber: special subscription offers on contest entry forms (see figure 3) can create new customers. The online entry forms also offer Best Health an easy way to build the readership of its free e- newsletters: Entrants need only to check off a box on the form.

Figure 3. audience subscription offer.


Best Health began working with at the beginning of August 2009,[25] as it progressively integrated its content on to’s existing health and wellness channel. The official launch on September 1, 2009, was supported by a public-relations campaign to raise awareness of the partnership in the public, as well as the industry. In the first three weeks of integration, the website drew over 1.5 million visits—approximately ten times the number of users before the partnership[26] (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010; Bailey and Tcholakian, 2009). This increase in traffic meant new visitors, and countless additional opportunities to build lasting relationships with readers.

The partnership was the first of its kind in Canada (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). The making of a magazine brand into the channel of a high-traffic web portal was unprecedented. The partnership was effectively a merging of into To any outsider, is just another of’s branded channels, except it offers other branded products, such as the magazine. Says Jennifer Goldberg, web editor of, some of the comments left on the website indicate that some users believe that the content is produced and published by (interview, July 21, 2010). Like Fashionism (, Best Health has its own domain, but its relationship as a property under the umbrella is patent. Now a part of a web portal, Best Health was transforming itself into a media brand, and not just a print magazine. Furthermore, this partnership demonstrated how it was possible for a Canadian magazine brand to build a readership large enough to attract major national advertisers.


Impact on Traffic

To say that the traffic to increased in August 2009 is a gross understatement. Reader’s Digest’s Google Analytics data for illustrates the enormous impact of the partnership:

Source: Best Health/ Partnership Update, prepared by Zahra Young (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a)


It is understood at Reader’s Digest that the scale of the audience’s growth simply would not be possible without a partnership like this (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). Though dramatic, the increase in users matched Reader’s Digest and’s expectations for, which were based on traffic to the portal’s previous health and fitness section. ComScore measured 465,000 unique visitors to the site in July 2010, and 976,000 total visits or “entries.” Three hundred and seventy-one (371,000) unique visitors (80 percent) and 676,000 visits (69 percent) were directed from a property (see “Traffic Sources and Losses,” p. 55). As well, the website gained tens of thousands of Best Health newsletter subscribers (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a).

Notably, the partnership also increased the website’s male readership. Aside from the occasional “Male Call” article or a small tidbit in Best Health’s front-of-book section, “New and Now,” content in the magazine is primarily directed at women. A similar editorial makeup was initially adopted for the website; however, a higher proportion of’s readership is male. To better serve the portal’s readership, included a “Men’s Health” category in its “Get Healthy” section online and tailored more of its content to be gender neutral. Currently, over a third (37.3 percent) of the website’s readership is male (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010).

Since directs traffic back to the websites, there have been gains for, as well, in terms of traffic: In July 2010, 214,000 unique visitors (46 percent) clicked to another site in the network after visiting the Best Health channel (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). The partnership also boosted’s Health and Fitness channel into the number seven spot in the “Health” category, as defined by comScore. Aside from’s Health channel and, the Health and Fitness channel performs better in Canada than any other portal or media site in the same category,[27] including MSN Health (Rank 26), CNN Health (Rank 25), and Canoe Health (Rank 8) (comScore, Inc. Canada).

As a result of the partnership, the sales teams for Reader’s Digest and can offer their advertisers improved ways to reach more consumers. For example, an advertiser may sponsor a section on Best Health’s site and purchase ad space anywhere on the network (also known as “run-of-site advertising”) at a discounted rate. Obviously, the partnership produced another important incentive for advertisers: the website’s increased readership. The larger audience was an important selling point for companies such as Becel, Shredded Wheat, and Splenda, who have sponsored entire categories of content (Heart Health, Simple Living, and Diabetes, respectively). Most notably, VICHY, the international skincare brand, partnered with Best Health to launch its own dedicated micro-site, the VICHY Best Health Challenge, “an invitation to women across Canada to dare themselves to Look Great, Get Healthy, Eat Well and Embrace Life” (Best Health 2010b). An initiative of this size simply could not be launched or sustained by Best Health without the sponsorship of VICHY—which would not be possible without the partnership with


Impact on Brand Awareness and Product Sales

Like being on the newsstand, being on a web portal works as a powerful marketing and promotion tool for a magazine and its brand. Sometimes, it makes the first impression, setting the tone for the reader’s future interactions with the brand. Partly because there is no simple way gauge this change, there are no available data to indicate that Best Health magazine or brand are more well-known since partnering with[28] However, it is safe to venture that by simply being on’s home page, the network’s most popular property, more Canadians are aware that Best Health exists since its visibility has increased.

Reaching’s audience means more people interact with Best Health and may develop a positive perception of the brand. Accordingly, this strategic partnership offers Reader’s Digest an opportunity to substantially grow the online brand community. In the framework for analyzing online brand communities put forward by Madupu and Cooley (2010), online brand communities exist because their members seek “information, self-discovery, social integration, social enhancement, and entertainment” (p.127). When those needs are served and members feel integrated into the community, they recommend the brand to outsiders out of a felt responsibility to contribute to the success and longevity of the brand (Madupu and Cooley, p.141). The more active participants (those that create content or offer their opinions) there are in such a community, the larger the force is to convert first-time visitors into return visitors. The formidable online community Best Health brought into its partnership with worked powerfully to its advantage: Readers who were introduced to through were “welcomed” by the existing brand community and the community “wardens” (in this case, the publisher and the web editorial team).

Perhaps due to the strength of the online brand community, the percentage of traffic to from’s position is diminishing since the partnership began (Google Analytics report, September-November 2010). is becoming a regular destination for more users, who are bookmaking the website and landing there directly, rather than arriving via properties. This development illustrates growing audience loyalty and brand recognition for Best Health.

Does this brand awareness and community engagement translate to magazine sales? Traditionally, one of the primary goals for a magazine website was to sell subscriptions (Sumner and Rhoades, 2006, p. 79). However, anecdotal evidence does not suggest that a larger online readership translates into increased subscriptions or newsstand sales[29] (Goldberg, interview, July 21, 2010; McAuley, interview, July 28, 2010). Even if one were to assume that the entire readership of Best Health magazine is part of the website’s audience, the overlap between the print and online audienceswould be small compared to the actual number of monthly unique visitors. Furthermore, if most of the traffic is from a property, rather than direct traffic, then it is highly probable that most readers do not interact with Best Health in magazine form. It is especially telling that the number of visitors on articles, slideshows, and blog content dwarfs the traffic to pages about the magazine, such as the table of contents, the magazine preview, or pages where readers can buy a subscription (Google Analytics report, 2010).

Even still, the web designers and editors endeavour to support the magazine and make it visible to its online readers. Above the fold on the home page, there are multiple calls to action to subscribe and a tab in the main navigation for content related to the current issue of the magazine (see figure 4). Additionally, a subscription form appears at the bottom of the right-hand column of every page; the digital marketing team sometimes sweetens the deal with a chance to win a $50,000 car, for example, if you subscribe (Best Health, 2010a). Magazine subscriptions are also promoted in the weekly and daily e-newsletters, and the editorial team reminds readers to subscribe by appending articles originally published in the magazine with the note:

This article was originally titled “[Name of the article in the magazine]” in the [September 2010] issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—andnever miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health (Best Health, 2010a; emphasis in original).

Continuing to support the magazine online is important to the Reader’s Digest media sales team, as they sell cross-platform advertising; to effectively sell the Best Health audience, the strength of the print readership needs to be maintained—for as long as people are interested in print magazines.

A brand can adapt to different media as readers’ attitudes and preferences shift. A brand can have a life beyond the print magazine, as is the case with Gourmet magazine. A significant goal for the company’s digital and social media strategies was to raise awareness of the Best Health brand among Canadians. Building platform-agnostic relationships between community members and the brand is the first step in creating additional revenue streams—including digital services, such as mobile apps and SMS subscriptions; in-person events, and books—out of a magazine brand.

Figure 4
Figure 4 A screenshot of, with calls to subscribe highlighted. NB: the middle area of the page wasomitted.


The Launch of Plaisirs Santé

Even before the launch of the partnership with, Reader’s Digest began to investigate the viability of launching a French-language version of the brand. When preparing for the launch of Best Health, the company published Special Interest Publications (“SIPs” or “newsstand specials”) called No Fail Weight Loss under the Best Health brand. These digest-sized magazines, which are sold on newsstands, include recipes, workout programs, and weight-loss and nutrition advice. SIPs are a cost-effective way to try out content, design and branding in the market.[30] Accordingly, Reader’s Digest published a French edition of No Fail Weight Loss (Maigrir Sans Faute) under the Plaisirs Santé (meaning “Best Health” or “Healthy Pleasures”) brand, to test the appeal of women’s health and fitness content in the French Canadian market. The publisher also tested the content in the lifestyle section of Sélection du Reader’s Digest and created a channel for the brand on[31]

The market research showed there was a positive response from advertisers and readers, but the projected profit and losses showed the publisher that the timing was not right to launch a print magazine. However, Reader’s Digest could build a large and desirable readership online—through a partnership with, which it secured for the launch of the website. debuted on in January 2010. Within its first month online, drew 300,000 visitors and 1.5 million page views (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010d). Additional traffic is driven to the website through promotion on the main navigation and in the health section of, and in print in Sélection.

Directed at readers in Quebec, content on is more localized and “less conservative,” says its web editor, Stéphanie Letourneau (email interview, August 16, 2010). Its target demographic skews slightly younger as well (women 25-50). While the English audience generally looks for more “newsy” stories, the French editors find that their readers click more on content related to sex and weight-loss (Letourneau). But overall, like,’s focus is to deliver “healthy lifestyle information that’s inspiring, attainable, and fun” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2009b). The French website is also organized into four parallel editorial pillars: “Mon Look,” “Ma Santé,” “Mon Assiette,” and “Ma Vie.”[32]

For Reader’s Digest Canada, Plaisirs Santé was a landmark initiative: the launch of a brand that started online, rather than in print. Not only does the success of Plaisirs Santé mark significant progress in the company’s overall efforts to move into digital publishing, but in the short term, it also means move revenues, and fuller exploitation of the market interested in health and fitness content. The stake in the French market presents improved opportunities for the and Reader’s Digest media sales teams. With Plaisirs Santé as part of the family, and Reader’s Digest may offer national advertisers tremendous flexibility and reach with this bilingual, cross-platform brand.


Web Editorial for Portals

Best Health’s web editors are responsible for producing content that works for advertisers, the home-page editors, and both websites’ readers. The content on evolves according to the changing needs of these stakeholders. This section discusses the editorial practices and strategies unique to, which have developed out of its partnership with a national general interest portal.


Editorial Staff

The editorial team has changed substantially as the website has grown. is primarily managed by web editor Jennifer Goldberg and assistant web editor Alicia McAuley.[33] Goldberg and McAuley plan and assign content, oversee production, and manage and contribute to the Best Health blog. The editors also respond to comments from readers and are responsible for posting on Facebook and Twitter. Aside from a handful of freelancers and the senior web editor (Tancock, who manages editorial on all the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites), the two editors compose the entire web team for the audience of over half a million users.

On a Canadian scale, the Best Health web editorial team is quite big. Many magazines rely on just one dedicated editor (or, in many cases, volunteers). In comparison,, the website for a comparable U.S. publication—with a print circulation of over one million (Condé Nast, 2010), employs a web team of four members.

According to web editor, Jennifer Goldberg, the editorial team is an agile operation, whose small size works to its advantage. Although there are limitations to having just three editors —such as how much they can produce and cover—Best Health’s web team discusses ideas easily and efficiently. This ease of communication makes it simple to make changes as requested by the portal site. Without the managerial bureaucracy that exists with publishers that license content from many of their magazine brands, “a small team of flexible and creative editors probably works better as a partner for a portal than a larger team that may work more slowly,” says Goldberg (email interview, October 26, 2010). For example, without a lot of lead-time, can coordinate special projects with the Best Health web editorial team, as they are more adaptable and work closely with one another.


Shaping Content

While working with brings Best Health content to a larger audience, there are also increased demands on the online editorial and production staff. The partnership requires coordination and extensive planning on the part of the Best Health web editors to plan upcoming content with the home-page editors for

New editorial strategies emerge when needing to consider two audiences and the expectations and predilections of an additional editorial team.’s home-page editors select their content based on what they think will engage visitors and increase their time on the site; accordingly, content providers, such as Best Health, must design content strategically to get optimal placement on the portal’s home page.[34] The articles, blogs and slideshows Best Health’s web editors offer to their readers need to be interesting, valuable, and informative to a broad audience—it has to be the kind of content that will be the most “clickable.” This is what Halligan and Shan (2010) call “remarkable content”:

Remarkable content attracts links from other web sites pointing to your web site.…Every one of these links (remarks)…send[s] you qualified visitors, and they signal to Google that your website is worthy of ranking for important keywords in your market…. remarkable content is easily and quickly spread on social media sites.

Ultimately, the high-level goal for the web editorial team is to produce content that performs. In the past, search engine optimizing content was a vital editorial practice for Today, search traffic makes up less than five percent of the site’s total traffic (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). Accordingly, Best Health’s editorial is meant to appeal to an audience that does not actively seek out health and fitness content but will be exposed to it on the portal site. One primary method to generate traffic from the portal audience is incorporating topics, titles, and descriptions that grab the attention of online readers. Not unlike any other website, analytics are a helpful resource in determining what sorts of subjects, keywords, and—speaking more generally—ideas are relevant and compelling. The web team has found that historically, articles related to the following topics are highly likely to gather an audience and be promoted in a strong position on the home page:

  • Weight loss (This topic performs particularly well on Mondays, after readers have had indulgent weekends)
  • Sleep (Articles on this topic especially grabs readers on Fridays, as they are likely to have lost sleep over the week)
  • Diabetes
  • Food (Articles on healthy eating, dieting and nutrition, as well as recipes, aregenerally successful)

The web editorial team has also found that articles with a “negative” spin perform well (Goldberg, interview, July 21, 2010; McAuley, interview, July 28, 2010). For example, “The worst Halloween treats you can eat”[35] and “Top 10 weight-loss mistakes”[36] are titles written with the understanding that readers are curious about how they could be harming their health (or their waistline). Words such as weird, strange, easy, tips, surprising, and unusual, and titles with numbers (e.g. “7 things that are secretly making you gain weight”[37] ) also work well to bring readers to Best Health’s website from (Goldberg; McAuley). Articles with numbered titles are often made into slideshows, which increase page views and time spent on site—and thus, the number of impressions for advertisements.

Reader engagement is also integral to the editorial strategy for, as community and dialogue are central to the brand. Readers are always invited to comment and join in the conversation, particularly on blog posts on “newsy” or controversial topics. Similarly, the web editors use Facebook and Twitter to draw the Best Health social media community to the site. For instance, in October 2010, the editors asked Best Health’s Facebook fans, “Have you had laser eye surgery? What was it like?” and linked to their story “Is laser eye surgery right for you?”[38] (Facebook, 2010[39]). The editors also use social networks to produce user-generated content. In another Facebook post, the Best Health editors wrote, “Happy Friday, everyone! Office party today for our soon-to-be-married associate web editor. What are your best tips for a happy, healthy marriage? (Let us know and we may feature them on our site!)” (Facebook[40] ) The responses from readers were used to produce the slideshow “The best advice for a healthy relationship.”[41] Essentially, Facebook and Twitter are two additional avenues to expose readers to the brand and content, and increase the dialogue around health issues for women.

The use of social media to promote Best Health content does not mean that is an insular community or a “walled garden.” Aufderheide (in Blevins, 2004) notes that only linking to one’s own content “structure[s] the user as a consumer of branded services”—and not trust-worthy reporting (p. 248). The practice of linking to sources and resources “is the key gesture to being a citizen of the web and not just a product on the web” (Sholin, 2009). In order to increase the credibility of the content and brand, Best Health links out to research studies, health stories by other media websites, and blog posts. This connects Best Health with the larger community of health and fitness websites, and increases the likelihood that other websites will link back to (and increase its ranking within Google). Making more quality content (regardless of the brand) available to the user has multiple benefits, including improving user experience. After all, the quality of the user and their satisfaction is much more valuable to the publisher and the advertiser:

By adding links out to stories…readers will find interesting, [websites are] extending their brands: Not only do they create content for their readers, they’re presenting themselves as the experts in those content areas, giving their subscribers even more value. And you can make a lot more money off a newsletter subscriber than off a click (Tancock, 2009b).

The best practices presented above are at the foundation of the success has found since partnering Using these techniques, the editorial team manages to create articles that grab the attention of daily readers on a crowded portal page—and on, which itself is densely populated with a growing archive of useful and interesting content. Quality content is the foundation for building a quality readership and community—the elements of a website that produce an appealing environment for advertisers.



One of the challenges of being a part of a web portal is working with at least two brands (in this case, Best Health and, and dozens of advertising brands. When the editorial team plans lineups of content, it creates stories around the Best Health brand while remaining “very mindful of the audience” (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010).

The Best Health brand has four editorial pillars but content under “Look Great” and “Embrace Life” does not necessarily fit’s editorial mandate for its health and fitness channel. Moreover, already publishes fashion and beauty content under the Fashionism channel, and has a separate lifestyle channel. Since features only Best Health’s health and fitness articles on its home page, “Get Healthy” and “Eat Well” stories generate the most page views for

Nonetheless, beauty and lifestyle content are integral parts of the Best Health brand, and for some readers who come directly to, it may be the content they are looking for. To maintain the brand’s editorial voice, the editorial team tries to produce an equal number of articles for each pillar, even though “Look Great” and “Embrace Life” life articles are usually not pitched to

Additionally, the editors need to consider the communities associated with each brand. For, they aim to produce items that are not specifically aimed at women because the portal has a broader audience than Best Health. While this is a departure from the Best Health brand, it is beneficial for’s traffic: Tancock has found that stories that appeal to men and women—such as articles related to fitness, weight loss and healthy eating—produce more clicks (Tancock, email interview, July 7, 2010). At the same time, the web editorial team still publishes more gender-specific, serious issue-oriented, or news-related stories (which have a narrower appeal) on as a way of keeping Best Health content informative, authoritative and insightful—in other words, true to the brand.


Current Activities

A highly trafficked website with the right audience can draw coveted advertisers, who demand unique and prominent ways to showcase their products. This was true for However, the original website (launched in March 2008) was not designed with the partnership with in mind. In the summer of 2010, and were given makeovers (Masthead Online, 2010). The redesign lends the websites a different colour scheme and allows for many more points of entry into Best Health’s (and the Reader’s Digest Association’s) vast bank of health content. Overall, the site was made more functional, usable, and “sticky.”

The redesign also shows that Best Health is part of the media family more overtly by visually integrating the two brands. Since links to health and fitness content on the portal take the reader directly to, arriving at the old website was sometimes jarring for the first-time user. In the redesign, the logo is prominently featured in the upper right-hand corner of the website to signal the connection between the two properties. On most pages, also features links to lifestyle content from, increasing brand awareness for the portal amongst visitors.

Additionally, the new design allows Best Health’s advertisers to do more with the larger audience: “One of the challenges with the old site was it didn’t always allow for the flexibility with advertisers,” Tancock told Masthead Online (Masthead Online, 2010).

The first custom-built program for the new site was the previously mentioned VICHY Best Health Challenge, where participants “pick a [health or fitness] goal and reach it, with help and support from the Best Health community of women” (Best Health, 2010b). The VICHY Best Health Challenge is a multi-platform content and advertising program sponsored by the international skincare company. Each issue of the print magazine includes Challenge-based content. Online, registered participants (called “Challengers”) can set goals, take part in daily challenges, discuss and ask questions in the forums, and write about their experiences on their blogs. The micro-site has its own branding and exclusive content from beauty, fitness, and nutrition experts, and a life coach. The Challenge is also supported by a weekly newsletter, which features new content and forum discussions, and promotes online-community engagement. Best Health’s Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Munday notes, “The Challenge enabled us to create a unique setting for women to empower and inspire one another…Plus, the response to our call for participation in the program was tremendous” (Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, 2010a).

Since the program is targeted at a specific audience that may or may not have been readers of or of, the Challenge has the potential to introduce a new audience to the web portal; community members who visit the Challenge website directly (perhaps having been prompted by the magazine), also see’s branding and links to its content. With the Best Health Challenge, the partnership is further evolving into a symbiosis where both media brands support each other in brand awareness and traffic driving, and ultimately, shared advertising revenue.


Chapter Three

Case Study:,, and

The success of the Best Health and partnership proved that Reader’s Digest Canada could leverage its content and brands online to produce advertiser-friendly environments. With this in mind, Reader’s Digest Canada sought out another formidable online partner for its flagship magazine websites, and, with the hope of replicating the audience growth that came out of the first partnership. had an audience large enough to appeal to and’s potential and existing advertisers; and Reader’s Digest Canada had content, experience and a trusted brand to offer the portal. A partnership was finalized late in the summer of 2010. After months of planning and negotiation, in October 2010, content from was published on”[42] and has five content “affinities”: Health, Food, Home and Garden, Pets (which premiered in October 2009), and Travel (which was added in April 2010). The website is updated with two to three new articles daily, and offers readers practical home and lifestyle content that they can use to improve their everyday lives. also offers special content features such as a Halloween Guide for October and an Outdoor Entertaining section in the summer months. Overall, the website mirrors the “RD Living” section of the magazine: It is a collection of consumer-oriented articles and tips, written in a casual and friendly voice. The content is comparable to that found in the magazines Canadian Living, Homemakers, and U.S. brands such as Martha Stewart Living, Good Housekeeping, and Real Simple. The readership—of approximately 378,000 unique visitors a month—is 66 percent female (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). The average reader is over 35 years old, and has a yearly household income of $40,000-$60,000 (comScore, Inc. Canada).[43]

The English-language audience in Canada far outnumbers its French counterpart[44] ; as a result, the digital strategy at Reader’s Digest Canada is very much oriented towards the English market. has two full-time editors, while has just one part-time web editor and one of the magazine’s print editors is responsible for a considerable portion of the website’s upkeep. Still, the French Canadian readership is an integral part of the publisher’s history, and Quebec is a market where a magazine can develop an exceptionally loyal readership partly because there are fewer competitors from the United States. For that reason, has found an audience with more ease and less marketing. is geared towards younger readers (the lower age bracket of its target audience is 18-25 years old). There is a larger focus on consumer tips and product-oriented content on, instead of the instructional “how-to” articles that appear on the English site (Barillaro, interview, July 8, 2010). The four affinities are Bien Manger, Maison, Santé, and Animaux.[45] And like, produces more local content to appeal to readers inQuebec, who make up most of the French-language audience in Canada (approximately 90 percent) (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010).

For and, one of the publisher’s primary goals is to build community engagement. Both websites have a substantial number of return users, and the websites have cultivated a nascent sense of community (Paquet, interview, August 11, 2010). However, there is potential to foster more “active users.” Currently, has interactive features such as polls and “Join the Debate,” a feature that invites users to discuss a topic featured in the magazine.[46] The websites’ editors are also using social media to encourage more interaction. In the summer of 2010, re-established its presence on Facebook[47] ; since then, it has been using similar practices to (i.e. linking to recent articles; asking questions to Facebook fans to spark discussions) to engage its audience and promote fresh content. A partnership with a portal is another mechanism to stimulate more activity in the online community by drawing more traffic. Having a platform to invite new audiences into the Reader’s Digest brand communities is one of the most important opportunities in working with

When MSN Canada and ended their partnership, the former emerged as the stronger of the two portal sites (Reynolds, interview, August 9, 2010). Microsoft also claims it is the number one home-page portal in Canada, with 10 million unique visitors a month (Microsoft Advertising website, 2010b). To prepare for the newly reestablished, Microsoft added about 60 advertising and editorial staff (Avery, 2009). Though staff had close relationships with Canadian brands, international campaigns drifted towards and its international sales team (Lloyd, 2009). Furthermore, during the relaunch, Microsoft Canada executives announced they would seek out Canadian advertising accounts for by offering Canadian content on the portal.

However, also lost many of its content providers in the split. Microsoft Canada planned to offer the same channels on the new as the former joint portal did (Lloyd, 2009). So, content was sourced from MSNBC, BBC, Delish, CBC/Radio-Canada, Chatelaine and Protégez-vous to populate the portal (Microsoft Canada, 2009). Today, the English-language site has 15 channels, including one that is branded—Delish, its food and recipe channel (Microsoft Advertising website, 2010a). The majority of content published on is from third parties.’s largest content partnership is with Rogers Media, which provides content to the portal site under numerous magazines brands. Reader’s Digest Canada is the second largest Canadian media company to partner with[48] Establishing a partnership with Reader’s Digest reflects’s efforts to compete with in providing Canadian content to its audience.


The Partnership

Though Reader’s Digest had already forged a partnership with a web portal, initiating another one would require the company to evaluate the details of a deal anew to negotiate the most beneficial (and profitable) arrangement for its websites. First off, the company needed to find the portal that could provide the optimal audience for Reader’s Digest. Next, Reader’s Digest and the portal would have to decide if money would be exchanged. They would also need to determine what kind of content Reader’s Digest would provide and how the would portal link users back to or Advertising sales would be another point of discussion. In short, the partnership with could only serve as a scanty outline for how to create a successful partnership involving different magazine brands and a distinct web portal.

The finalized partnership gives access to Reader’s Digest content from across Reader’s Digest’s affinities, with a focus on lifestyle and travel. Articles from or are hosted on the portal site, thus making Reader’s Digest content visible to many more readers; links in the articles to or will drive traffic to the respective sites—if readers are inclined to click through. If the partnership is successful, Reader’s Digest will gain additional and/or larger accounts based on the increased traffic sourced from the portal. Ideally, a presence on will also result in readers actively seeking out or content independently, and/or increasing engagement with the brands through signing up for newsletters, purchasing products, entering contests or buying subscriptions.

Reader’s Digest offered other editorial efficiencies besides a supply of original content.’s home-page editors work with many content providers, and those that can simplify the process are at an advantage. Thus, due to its size and numerous magazine brands, Rogers Media’s significant relationship with is likely a cumbersome one. Although Rogers offers a wealth of content and powerful brand names, the company’s organizational structure offers limited flexibility. Conversely, Reader’s Digest has only one contact person responsible for liaising with to deliver French and English content: Maria Barillaro, associate web editor for As Goldberg suggested when speaking about the benefits of working with the Best Health editorial team, a smaller team means the process is streamlined but the content offered to the portal is still rich and varied (Goldberg, email interview, October 26, 2010).

In several ways, this partnership is very similar to the deal: Again, Reader’s Digest is offering its partner the benefit of a web editorial staff that is well-versed in creating quality content. Similarly, the publisher is leveraging its recognized media brands and content on digital platforms to seek new audiences; in turn, the portal can offer its audience an enriched experience. The salient differences of the partnership are in the details: Reader’s Digest content will be published in thematic channels alongside content from other providers. The publisher’s content will be simply branded with the display of a logo on Thus, without dedicated channels for Reader’s Digest’s brands, it will be harder to establish a presence on the busy portal site and get readers to notice their stories. Furthermore, since is not relying only on to supply content for their channels; accordingly, there are no guarantees that items from Reader’s Digest will be published on, particularly if other content partners present stories that are more competitive. Furthermore, the popularity of story on will not directly translate into traffic for Reader’s Digest’s websites if the “related stories” or internal links are not appealing to readers.


Publishing Reader’s Digest Content on

In the initial months of the partnership, the primary editorial challenge will be to build successful articles by creating content that will appeal to the editors, and draw people back to the Sélection or Reader’s Digest websites, such as recipes, how-to articles, and slideshows. When preparing content with a portal audience in mind, there are new considerations. For example, at the most basic level, there is a different audience to cater to. As the editors of have found working in a portal environment, a key editorial responsibility in this type of partnership is producing the content that calls for (for its audience) while making sure to maintain the integrity of the Reader’s Digest content and brands.

Keeping in mind what Reader’s Digest can offer that is unique from the portal’s other content providers, Barillaro designs a lineup of content for For’s French site, Barillaro pitches items for the portal’s Maison, Vie Practique, Cuisine, Amour et sexualité, Famille, and Mode et beauté[49] channels. For the English site, will provide content for the Lifestyle and Travel channels (Barillaro, interview, August 4, 2010). When offering articles to, it is important for the editor to show that there is an audience for each article or gallery. For example, when pitching “5 delicious low-fat Thanksgiving recipes,” the editor would highlight the thousands of health-conscious homemakers who are planning holiday dinners. Producing original articles for will also be priority for’s editors, as it gives editors the ability to target the audience directly.

Along with additional administration and correspondence, the partnership creates new demands on the editorial teams for and When publishes an article or gallery from either website, Barillaro must review and monitor the content on the portal. She moderates comments posted on the syndicated articles (and alerts an editor if there is an issue), and ensures that the content has been accurately reproduced on the portal site (i.e. all the images appear correctly, and all the links are functional). To improve the performance of Reader’s Digest articles on the portal, the editor also notes patterns in the type of content has selected, and which stories or techniques successfully drive users back to the Reader’s Digest websites. Another responsibility for the web editor is keeping an eye on competing content providers to stay abreast of successful practices and new trends.

At the moment, Barillaro is playing a game of “fill in the blanks,” armed only with some basic clues about’s readers and their behaviour. Each partnership has unique qualities that make creating successful content a dynamic and sometimes unpredictable process. For example, each portal designed differently—leading users’ eyes in a different pattern on the home page—and each portal has a unique content delivery system, different content providers, and a distinctive audience. This is an intricate environment for a web editor to approach. As Barillaro observes how the audience and traffic patterns shift in the coming months, as a result of the partnership with, the most “clickable” words will be more apparent and a better understanding of what the Reader’s Digest Canada and Sélection brands can offer to a broad audience of online Canadians will emerge.


Projected Outcomes

At this time, it is still too early to tell the exact impact on traffic and audience development this partnership will have, and whether the company’s audience-growth and revenue goals will be met. The number of visitors to or will increase; however, without a dedicated channel or a revenue-sharing model that has the advantage of, the audience growth will likely be less dramatic.

For multiple reasons, including taking advantage of the influx of traffic they expect from, Reader’s Digest’s digital media team is in the midst of redesigning of and Like the redesign of, the new look will treat each page of the website like a “landing page,” with multiple points of entry to other content on the site. By having fully branded pages, the design will signal to first-time visitors where they are as soon as they arrive from Furthermore, at a time when there will be many new visitors, Reader’s Digest is also introducing new games and humour affinities to the website to capitalize on those areas of content. Games and humour have already proven to be popular among the existing audience, and having more of this type of content on the website is certain to increase the time spent on the website.

Overall, the publisher is forging ahead with confidence that the partnership will be hugely beneficial to its online business. The anticipated success of the partnership with is a significant part of the publisher’s plan to expand its reach in the digital market and become the top Canadian magazine brand online. Reader’s Digest is not widely known for offering cutting-edge technology or sophisticated web strategies, but already, the company has expanded into the largest publisher’s digital network in Canada (Scott, 2010). If this second portal partnership does well, it will confirm the viability of the portal partnership strategy.


Chapter Four


If one is to accept the Best Health/ partnership as a typical example of what a magazine publisher can accomplish by teaming with a portal, then it appears that Reader’s Digest Canada has done the formerly impossible: It successfully attracted regular and targeted traffic to a Canadian magazine website—and made it profitable. This business model is not the only way for Canadian magazine companies to build an online audience; undoubtedly, other models and strategies have worked for other publishers. However, it shows tremendous promise. For Best Health, a presence on the home page continues to be its primary traffic driver; Reader’s Digest simply could not have gathered the same size audience without a partnership of this sort, despite putting tremendous effort into search engine marketing, SEO, and newsletter campaigns. The portal is a crucial partner for revenue generation, name gathering, and audience development—and this will continue to be true as long as portals continue to be a destination for web users.

As such, there are opportunities for other established, multi-title magazine companies to leverage their content and publishing expertise to forge similar relationships with popular websites. Generally, a perennial problem for Canadian media companies is a lack of economies of scale. As stated in the introduction to this paper, this is a quandary online, too, as Canadian audiences are usually too small to generate sufficient ad sales—and those revenues are needed to support capable web editorial teams. However, large audiences are not entirely absent from Canadian websites. Major national portals such as and have substantial audiences and, fortunately for publishers and media companies, they need content but do not have the resources or experience to produce it. Meanwhile, the multi-title Canadian publishers—Transcontinental, Rogers Media, TVA, and St. Joseph’s—have the know-how to build brands, produce content on a regular schedule, and market the brands properly. As well, large magazine publishers have vital, existing relationships with audiences, writers, photographers, and advertisers. Publishers can also provide Canadian-specific content in place of international newsfeeds. Essentially, when viewed in broad strokes, the needs and strengths of portals and publishers are perfectly complimentary.[50]

A potential challenge for Reader’s Digest Canada in the coming years will be to find alternative revenue sources if the viability of this business model wanes. For several years, experts have been predicting the downfall of portals (Joel, 2010; Stableford, 2010). Even when the portals were popular web destinations a decade ago, there was only room for a handful of players. This led to huge losses for companies as formidable as NBC (with its portal, Snap) and ABC/Disney (with its Go! Network portal).

Web users have become savvier since the days of Go! And Snap. One of new media’s salient characteristics is the decline of the media monolith. Today even the New York Times website can barely compete with online blog news sites like Gawker[51] (part of the multi-site Gawker network) and the Huffington Post.[52] Generally web-native users form their own “surfing patterns,” picking and choosing where they get their information and entertainment, regardless of platform, and sometimes, production value. They curate their own content, according to their moods, tastes, and other preferences. Applications such as RSS-feed readers and applications for tablets such as Flipboard[53] —which presents social media content from Facebook, Twitter and blogs, into a magazine-like form—are totems of this shift. Portals websites need to adapt to these new behaviours. They need to consider how they will provide value to a user who has an abundance of content at his or her disposal.

The future of the portal also depends on them not becoming “walled gardens,” where most of the content and services offered are owned by the portal’s parent company (Aufderheide in Blevins, 2004, p.248). Walled gardens offer owners attractive economic advantages but are a detriment to user experience. For example, according to Kerschbaumer, Go!’s downfall can be attributed to the fact that the Disney portal primarily offered advertising and cross-promotion (for Disney, ESPN, and ABC), not expert content. Kerschbaumer adds, “Success in the portal game has hinged on the ability of the portal itself to be neutral. When visitors…do a search, they want to feel comfortable that they aren’t being pushed to certain sites” (in Blevins, 2004, p.266). In 2010, users feel entitled to choice because they have access to a glut of information and entertainment available to them online, as well as through traditional media, including radio, television, print, and film. Today, the idea of web portals generally brings to mind middling content packaged for the broadest possible audience—in other words, it represents many qualities that are antithetical to what audiences are accustomed to getting online. Google, on the other hand, serves as a platform that consistently presents the most relevant content for the user as decided by an objective algorithm.[54] Accordingly, it is the second most popular site in the world[55] (Arrington, 2010). Furthermore, portals offer information under the large umbrella of “general interest,” which can vary from breaking news to costume ideas for pets, but portals are not established as leaders or experts in most of the topics they cover.

Thus, offering quality, branded content is important to the survival of web portals. As an increasing number of users move towards personalizing their content streams, portals need to make themselves into destinations by narrowing their content down, and giving themselves a distinctive voice (or voices) so that users willingly return to the sites. Publishers can play a crucial role in this necessary evolution: If portals offer the appealing content from the media brands readers trust—such as magazine brands, they will visit regularly to read and to touch base with the online communities built around the sites’ channels. As well, partnerships with multiple publishers can provide a diversity of personalities, ideas, and views, which will prevent the “walled garden” predicament. In turn, portals will have “quality users” to offer to advertisers.

As illustrated by the online partnerships presented in this discussion, portals are already making moves to compete with branded blogs and branded news websites for audiences. In the late summer of 2010, AOL (America Online) hired Former Canwest Global Communications executive Graham Moysey to be the new general manager of AOL Canada (Beer, 2010). Moysey is part of AOL’s “very bold and ambitious plan around quality and unique content creation.” Part of that plan is to make use of its content assets such as Engadget, MapQuest, and AOL Health (Beer).

A decade ago, AOL bought out the world’s largest media company, Time Warner. AOL’s CEO, Stephen Case, championed the merger by arguing that media companies could be successful on digital platforms if their strategies were smart (Lohr, 2000). His predictions were entirely accurate—even when considering the fact that the AOL-Time Warner merger was called, “One of the biggest disasters that have occurred to our country” by Time Warner’s major stockholder, Ted Turner (Arango, 2010). Case knew that the Internet would be the dominant medium for the years to come, but what audiences were seeking was not technology but content. The companies split in January 2010, and all the executives involved with the AOL-Time Warner transaction claim AOL was responsible for the merger’s undoing because it did not meet the projections that were the basis of the deal. Conversely, Time Warner now has a formidable network of online content providers including the successful magazine-brand websites,,, and,[56] and the hugely popular news website, Time Warner’s CEO, Gerald Levin, told the New York Times, “AOL was the Google of its time. It was how you got to the Internet, but it was using some old media business ideas that were undone by the Internet itself, and that’s why Google came along” (Arango, 2010).

Bell held a similarly precarious position in Canada, since it was primarily a technology service provider; however, in September 2010, the telecom bought a majority share in CTV Inc., giving Bell exclusive access to CTV programming. The deal typifies the growing consolidation of media and telecom carriers: Rogers, Quebecor’s Vidéotron, and Shaw—all Internet service providers—have also invested in exclusive content deals to attract customers (Ladurantaye, 2010). This trend indicates a movement towards the walled-garden predicament, but also represents telecoms’ valuation of content providers. So, will Canadian web portals, like in the U.S., be a ball and chain to content creators, or are they a boon to media industries such as publishing? The answer is more likely the latter.

Regardless of the fate of and in the coming years, Reader’s Digest Canada and the country’s web portals have found a way to satisfy some of their most essential needs at the moment: traffic and content, respectively. Publishers live by the maxim that “content is king,” but, as Reader’s Digest Canada recognizes, quality content alone is not sufficient to generate a valuable audience for a brand, particularly in a country where the audience is inherently small. Thus, magazine publishers’ partnerships with web portals are not only effective but also necessary; they are borne out of Canadian media-industry realities. Developing a business model that makes Canadian magazine content profitable online is a landmark accomplishment for Reader’s Digest Canada. With these partnerships, the publisher has shown that a traditional media company can adapt to the new-media landscape and successfully transfer its enduring strengths onto digital platforms.




(Source: ComScore reports, generated September 2010)

1. Traffic sources and losses

“Sources” (below) represent where users come from immediately before and “Losses” (bottom) represents where they went to immediately after.

“Entries” or “Exits” represent the aggregate number of times that source or loss transition happened. E.g. 371,000 unique visitors came from a property. These 371,000 visitors made came from a property to 976,000 times.

Appendix 1


2. 15-month trend of traffic to

Appendix 2-1

Appendix 2-2


3. Audience demographic profile for

% Composition Unique Visitors: proportion of visitors from this demographic
Composition Index UV (Unique Visitors): relation to index for websites in Canada
% Composition Pages: proportion of page views from this demographic
% Composition Minutes: proportion of BH’s minutes spend by this demographic

Appendix 3
Appendix 3-1


4. 15-month trend of traffic to

Appendix 4


5. Audience demographic profile for and

Appendix 5
Appendix 5-1




1 The first Canadian magazine website was Shift, a digital culture magazine founded in 1991, and which folded in 2003. Its website was in operation from 1996 to 2004 (Quin, 2003). RETURN

2 Conventional wisdom holds that online content should be written and edited to cater to short attention spans. However, websites are finding that certain readers are interested in long-form journalism online and that the longest pieces can actually drive the most amount of traffic: New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Marzorati’s claimed, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic” (Garber, 2010). RETURN

3 The launch of Best Health is extensively covered in Lise Hélène Boullard’s project report, “Finding Out What Women Want” (2008). RETURN

4 To compare, Maclean’s magazine (@macleansmag) has 8,030 followers, Canadian Living (@canadian_living) has 4,806 followers, and Chatelaine (@chatelainemag) has 4,553 followers (November 8, 2010). RETURN

5 I interned at Reader’s Digest Canada in the summer of 2010. I worked on four of the publisher’s magazines and provided production and editorial assistance for two of its websites: and This report partly draws on my experiences during that time. RETURN

6 Anicka Quin (2003) posits 1994 as the approximate introduction of the web to the general public in North America (p.1). RETURN


8 Various websites have implemented “paywalls” over the years but with little success. With the notable exception of the Wall Street Journal , charging for online content is an outmoded practice in 2010. RETURN

9 Brand extension in the magazine publishing industry is just as prevalent today: Robert Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast, told the New York Times “he and his staff had been working on creating what he called “12-course content meals”—package deals that would include access to multiple Condé Nast magazines delivered in multiple ways, like print, tablet, mobile, and Internet, as well as invitations to magazine- sponsored events. Tom Harty, lead of Meredith’s magazines division said he would be expanding the company’s licensed products (Peters, 2010, November 28, 2010). RETURN

10 In the midst of the financial maelstrom of 2008 and 2009, some magazines, including Cosmogirl and Gourmet, shut down their print operations and now exclusively serve their online community (Blume 2008). RETURN

11 Today, this trend persists when less tech-savvy users retain the home page that was programmed on their Internet browser when they purchased their computer.generated substantial traffic. Additionally, before Google, portals’ search engines were a popular way to locate relevant information. RETURN

12 In Canada, Yahoo! Canada and, respectively. RETURN

13 According to eMarketer Digital Intelligence, total ad spending in Canada will reach CAD $11.55 billion in 2010 ( RETURN

14 “Nearly one of every four graphical, online display ads viewed in the United States in the third quarter [of 2010] was on [Facebook], according to a new report by comScore… Facebook racked-up more ad impressions in the third quarter than the next four companies combined, which includes Yahoo, Microsoft Corp, News Corporation’s Fox Interactive Media and Google Inc… Analysts note that Facebook ads sell at a significant discount to display ads sold on traditional Web portals like Yahoo.” (Oreskovic, November 8, 2010) RETURN

15 2004, Reader’s Digest Association RETURN

16 In September 2009, Reader’s Digest closed the magazine after the short test launch. RETURN

17 Three professional and association magazines, What’s Cookin’, CAA, and Westworld, have larger circulations (Print Measurement Bureau, 2010). RETURN

18 On, the main affinities were Bien Manger, Maison, and Santé. RETURN

19 See Footnote 2. RETURN

20 Reader’s Digest also offers its some of its advertisers the use of its reader database to distribute direct mail campaigns, samples and custom publications such as The Magazine RONA (Bailey and Tcholakian 2009). RETURN

21 Masthead Top 50 Methodology: Advertising revenue was supplied by Nielsen Leading National Advertisers. Subscription and newsstand revenues are calculated using data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations and Canadian Circulations Audit Bureau and available in CARD. The survey takes into account discounts applied across the board. Revenue from special interest publications, websites, events, government grants and other ancillary products is not included (Masthead 2010). RETURN

22 According to comScore, the number of unique visitors was roughly 79,000. RETURN

23 The home page has approximately 8 million visitors a month ( Advertising website, 2010). RETURN

24 In this case, Bell could offer only approximate numbers for their “individual site traffic,” as did not yet exist. RETURN

25 The partnership was made official and widely announced on September 1, the date and launched their independent portals. RETURN

26 According to comScore, had approximately 62,000 unique users in July 2009, and 857,000 in August 2009 (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

27 The following websites rank higher than in the health category: 1) WebMD Health, 2) Everyday Health (, 3) Health (, 4) LIVESTRONG – eHow Health (, 5), and 6) (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

28 Best Health magazine isn’t yet measured in PMB. RETURN

29 The conversion rate—the rate in which a company converts casual visitors into paying customers—is not measured within the web editorial department. RETURN

30 No Fail Weight Lossis still published on a quarterly basis and is an additional revenue stream for Reader’sDigest. RETURN

31 The initial incarnations of the website did not have any of the community and social media tools it has today. RETURN

32 My Look, My Health, My Diet, My Life RETURN

33 At Plaisirs Santé, there is just one web editor, and a part-time editorial assistant web editor (Tancock, who manages editorial on all the Reader’s Digest Canada magazine websites), the two editors compose the entire web team for the audience of over half a million users. RETURN

34 An item’s position on the page can dramatically influence its success. For example, placement on a “slider,” a tab on the home-page viewer (see figure 1), gives stories more visibility and clicks. Since it occupies prime real estate on the page (i.e. it is a large box in the centre of the page, above the fold), articles featured on the viewer become the most popular on, without fail. RETURN





39!/besthealth/posts/124272757629437 RETURN

40!/besthealth/posts/124272757629437 RETURN


42 The article “Faites votre autobilan de santé” ( appeared in the portal’s health section. RETURN

43 For more detailed information, see Audience Demographic Profile for and, p. 58. RETURN

44 According to comScore, there were 381,000 unique visitors to vs. 90,000 unique visitors to (comScore, Inc. Canada, 2010). RETURN

45 Good Eating, Home, Health, and Pets RETURN

46 Only the former is a part of RETURN

47 The Facebook page had been stagnant for more than a year. RETURN

48 For its French home page, also publishes content from Transcontinental. RETURN

49 Home, Living, Cooking , Love and sexuality, Family , and Fashion and beauty RETURN

50 Smaller magazine brands such as Geist or The Walrus have niche audiences—and fewer resources—and will find it more difficult to establish relationships with portal sites. RETURN


52; While lean and immensely popular, sites such as Gawker and the Huffington Post have also garnered criticism for their use of content created by “old media” companies such as the New York Times. By regularly citing and repurposing content, such sites exploit reporting and other production costs other companies pay for. RETURN


54 Seemingly immune to corporate imperatives…RETURN

55 Facebook is the most popular website in the world (Arrington, 2010).RETURN

56 The website for Entertainment Weekly.RETURN



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McKay, Jenny. 2006. The Magazines Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. Microsoft Advertising website. 2010a. Canada – Display Advertising. [Accessed October 30, 2010].

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The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc website. 2009. Corporation Overview. http://phx.corporate- [Accessed September 16, 2010].

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Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited. 2009a. Best Health Partners with Press Release, September 2. [Accessed August 2, 2009].

Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited. 2009b. Best Health and Plaisirs Santé Brand Placemat.

Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited. 2010a. Best Health Expands Online Content in Support of VICHY Best Health Challenge. News Release, September 9. Retrieved from Reader’s Digest Association, Inc Intranet on September 9, 2010.

Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited. Prepared by Zahra Young. 2010b. Best Health/ Partnership Update, June.

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Understanding the Canadian Small-Magazine Landscape: Mapping a Route to Viability for Spacing


By Holland Elizabeth Gidney

ABSTRACT: Based on the author’s work as the volunteer business manager of the Canadian small magazine Spacing between September 2005 and September 2007, this report begins with an overview of the magazine-publishing industry in Canada and the challenges this country’s publishers face—with a focus on the additional difficulties particular to producing small-circulation titles. It then describes the author’s experience applying strategic-planning principles at Spacing to help its publishing team address the aforementioned challenges and make a successful transition to producing the magazine as a financially viable small business. The report closes with an evaluation of Spacing’s potential for long-term success and the author’s thoughts on the continued viability of small-magazine publishing in Canada. It makes reference to industry, government, and academic documents, and to the author’s two years working at Spacing. In doing so, this report offers insight into the realities of publishing a small magazine in Canada today.




To my mom, Barbara Joan Gidney (1948–2001)




This project report would not have been written were it not for the following people, to whom I owe a great deal of thanks: my fellow Master of Publishing students (Class of 2004-05) and our instructors, Rowland Lorimer, Ron Woodward, Nancy Flight, John Maxwell, Craig Riggs, and Jillian Shoichet; the founders and current staff of Spacing, especially Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan; and the founders and former co-editors of Shameless, Melinda Mattos and Nicole Cohen. In addition, thank you to Kate Bergen, Bonnie Bowman, Nicholas Bradley, Alice Byers, Christine Davidson, Corina Eberle, Duncan Gidney, Norman Gidney, Mary Gidney, Ineke Goedhart, Megan Griffith-Greene, Briana Illingworth, Dory Kornfeld, Andrew MacDonald, Bruce Martin, Peter McCamus, Kathleen Piovesan, Andrea Sproule, Trena White, and everyone at the Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts for being supportive and encouraging during the writing process.






List of Tables


Industry snapshot
Characteristics of small magazines
Key challenges to Canadian magazine publishers
+++Competition from American titles
+++Newsstand distribution difficulties
+++High costs associated with circulation
+++Heavy reliance on advertising revenue
+++Dependence on subsidies
+++Additional challenges for small magazines

+++Brief history
+++Magazine overview
+++Ancillary projects
+++Adding a business manager to the masthead
Strategic planning
+++Strategic planning and small magazines
+++Conducting a situational analysis
+++Starting out
+++Addressing problem areas
+++Making Spacing legal
+++Crafting the mission statement
+++Setting goals and objectives
+++Writing the business plan
+++Professional advice
+++Failing to put the plan into action
+++Deciding to move on
Evaluating the progress made

Spacing’s potential for long-term success
Proof of the continued viability of magazine publishing in Canada
+++Marginal increase in magazine-reading and -buying among Canadians
+++Increase in readership of Canadian-produced titles
+++Continual launching of new Canadian magazines
+++Revenues are up and the majority of Canadian magazines are +++profitable
+++Subscription sales are still strong in Canada
The small-magazine advantage
Principles for successful small-magazine publishing



+++Appendix A: Situational Analysis of Spacing #1
+++Appendix B: Situational Analysis of Spacing #2
+++Appendix C: Steps to Incorporating a Small Business in Ontario
+++Appendix D: Spacing Media Kit
+++Appendix E: Spacing Rate Card
+++Appendix F: Spacing Media Inc. Business Plan



List of Tables





Last January, I agreed to be photographed for a Toronto alt-weekly running a cover story on the challenges of small-magazine publishing in Canada, written not coincidentally by Dale Duncan. The managing editor of Spacing had not had time to interview me for the article but she still thought that it made sense for me to participate in the photo shoot, since at the time as I was working for two Toronto-based small magazines, Spacing and Shameless, and had also been a THIS Magazine editor.

When I turned up at the photographer’s Parkdale studio, he told Duncan, me, and the four other small-magazine editors assembled, that he wanted to create a tableau showing some of our respective magazines “winning” the battle to survive, while others were struggling; one had already died. Makeup gave us bruises and fake blood was splattered liberally on our white shirts, and then we did our best to act out the scene he had described as Wagner blasted from the stereo and the camera clicked away.

The dramatic-looking image that ran on the cover of the January 25, 2007, issue of Eye Weekly had a large red flag fluttering in the background so that it looked like a Cultural Revolution poster crossed with one of those historic war paintings commissioned to capture a pivotal moment in an important battle. In this case, though, the “casualties” were not soldiers but women from Broken Pencil, Kiss Machine, Shameless, and Spacing. The landscape was littered with pages torn from our publications. Superimposed on this image was the slogan “Indie Mag Revolution: Start-up publishers fight for your rights,” while the headline inside for Duncan’s behind-the-scenes exposé (illustrated with more photos of bloodied and bruised magazine editors) was “Fight Club: For independent magazine publishers, love is a battlefield.”

Such provocative photos and controversial words called out for comment and industry insiders and members of the general public alike responded. On his blog, Canadian magazine expert D.B. Scott lauded Duncan for using the article to present “some home truths, among them being how hard it is [for Canadian small-magazine editors] to make a living doing what they do,” but he also noted that “the quotes and information she elicited paint a somewhat gloomy picture.”[1] Spacing’s own blog posting alerting readers to the article’s publication garnered many comments, including one from Steve Keys, who wrote that he fell into “the category of readers who thought these independent magazines, including Spacing, were in better positions.”[2] These responses hint at the crux of Duncan’s piece, which was that while Canadians seem to acknowledge and value the cultural importance of their homegrown small magazines, producing these periodicals is, unfortunately, unsustainable for those publishers who might like to make the “activity” into a career. This conclusion stems from the reality that—to extend the revolutionary war metaphor—those on the front lines must make a financial sacrifice to do battle, which can (and often does) take its toll. As Duncan wrote of her small-magazine compatriots, “if you don’t eventually receive a paycheque for your work, burnout sets in, and when that happens, magazines that fill those gaping holes left by mainstream media run the risk of extinction.”[3]

After I had participated in the photo shoot to illustrate Duncan’s piece, and noted the reactions to the “truths” that the article revealed, my decision to write an academic report on the viability of Canadian small-magazine publishing seemed even more vital. Not only was small-magazine publishing not considered a legitimate career aspiration by those involved but, confounding matters, it also seemed that it was commonly understood that to publish a small-circulation periodical in Canada was to engage in a battle that could be “won” only rarely. I disagreed.

So, with the goal of refuting these preconceptions in mind, I decided that I would use this report to take a critical look at the current state of small-magazine publishing in Canada and to describe the strategic-planning work that I had carried out as Spacing’s business manager (a volunteer position I held from September 2005 to September 2007) and its impact on that publication’s viability. My intent is to show that making the transition from producing a small magazine as a labour of love to publishing it as a sustainable small business (and, thus, creating career potential for its staff), while neither a quick process nor an easy one, is possible—and that other Canadian periodicals can make the same move if publishers are willing to treat their magazines as businesses and make operational decisions accordingly. To that end, by drawing upon on an array of statistics, studies, reports, and other published materials, and personal experience, this report:

  • depicts the current state of Canadian magazine publishing and its inherent challenges; and acknowledges the particular difficulties facing small magazines;
  • describes the strategic-planning project I took on at the invitation of the founders of Spacing, who wanted assistance with turning their small magazine into a small business that would eventually pay them salaries;
  • evaluates the results of my work at Spacing and comments on that publication’s potential for long-term survival and success based on the challenges that Canadian magazine publishers of all sizes face;
  • draws conclusions about the continued viability of small-magazine publishing in Canada; and,
  • provides some advice for small-magazine publishers hoping to make the publication of their periodicals more sustainable.

In presenting an overview of the realities of magazine publishing in Canada alongside a description of my two years serving as Spacing’s business manager, I hope to demonstrate to current and aspiring Canadian small-magazine publishers the benefits of proper business organization and strategic planning so that they will be inspired to work towards greater financial stability (and, thus, increased longevity) for their publications, and to show them, and other readers, that the future of small-magazine publishing in Canada is brighter than it may seem, and for that reason, among others, it should be considered a legitimate career option.




Industry snapshot

“Canadian magazines” can be defined as magazines published, printed, and sold primarily in Canada. One of the first such periodicals was Nova Scotia Magazine and Comprehensive Review of Literature, Politics and News, first published by John Howe in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1790. Over 200 years later, there are nearly 2,400 Canadian magazines, including 1,085 general and specialty-interest “consumer” titles,[4] published in all parts of the country—ranging from tiny literary magazines that only publish several hundred copies once or twice a year to a monthly general-interest women’s magazine that sells 1.5 million copies annually on the newsstand alone.[5]

Canadian-controlled firms produce more than 90% of Canadian magazines, with 61% published in English exclusively, 19% published in French only, 14% published as bilingual English/French editions, and 6% published in other languages.[6] In total, some 778 million copies of Canadian magazines circulate annually, 74% of those copies represented by the general- and specialty-interest consumer magazines that most people read for pleasure.[7] The estimated value of the Canadian magazine sector is $1.56 billion, with the industry employing approximately 17,500 people in part-time and full-time work.

Canadian magazines also have significant cultural importance, which may be of greater value than their economic impact: they overcome the vastness of the world’s second-largest country to provide Canadians with a means of sharing and discussing their news, ideas, opinions, literature, and art. The Canadian titles surveyed by the Print Measurement Bureau—which has 115 member magazines, each with a circulation of over 30,000—reach 82% of the Canadian population, and, the average Canadian consumes 6.4 magazine issues a month.[8] With their ability to disseminate ideas, their wide distribution, and their market penetration, Canadian magazines play a crucial role in the collective creation and development of Canadian cultural identity. The federal government recognizes this importance and the Department of Canadian Heritage’s mandate, as published on its website, includes protecting periodicals devoted to reflecting “Canada’s unique and dynamic culture,” which it aims to do through policies, regulations, and direct-assistance programs so that Canadians have access to “Canadian voices and Canadian stories.”[9]


Characteristics of small magazines

Magazines Canada, an organization that claims to represent 90% of all Canadian paid-circulation magazines, defines small magazines as magazines with a paid circulation of fewer than 10,000 copies. Based on such a definition, it seems that Canadian small magazines would have few common characteristics. For example, a quick survey of the 300 titles included in the directory of magazines published by Magazines Canada members (two-thirds of which are small magazines), shows that small-circulation titles are published from Victoria to St. John’s to Yellowknife and, while many are arts and literary publications, there are also magazines devoted to topics as diverse as horse-racing, antiques, and religion. Geographic location and subject matter aside, some commonalities among Canadian small magazines exist at the operational level. For instance, a survey of 21 periodicals prior to their participation in the Reaching Readers: Circulation Roundtable for Small Magazines held in May 2003 (and reprinted in the Department of Canadian Heritage report Reaching Readers a few months later) found:

  • the majority considered themselves national publications (57%) while a significant number (38%) considered their audience to be even broader: North American or international;
  • half were established as for-profit enterprises while the other half were not-for-profit (of the 11 not-for-profit magazines, 45% had charitable status;[10]
  • all participating magazines received federal funding in some form, 67% received provincial funding, and 24% received other types of external funding; with the majority receiving financing from three or more funders (67%); and,
  • the majority published quarterly (57%)—or even less frequently (33%).[11]

The following year, the Ahnsu Consulting Group’s survey of B.C.’s cultural magazines (the majority of which are also small magazines) found that they typically employ “approximately one or two people full-time, or a combination of people part-time,” and that they all rely on volunteers. In fact, of the 11 magazines that submitted surveys, just three had any paid full-time staff.[12]

Yet despite their likelihood of being produced by small non-profit organizations that are reliant on multiple external funders (and volunteer labour) to subsidize their publishing of several thousand copies on a quarterly basis, small magazines in Canada still play a vital role in the development and promotion of new talent. They do so by providing a “venue” where up-and-coming writers, photographers, and illustrators can début their work, and young editors and designers can hone their skills and gain experience. Since some of these people will inevitably move on to larger publications, small magazines thus serve as a sort of “farm-team” system for “major-league” national and international periodicals.

In addition, since the focus of smaller publications is generally more cultural than commercial, they have more freedom in deciding what to publish. As Anne Ahmad notes in writing about Geist, small magazines promote “non-traditional and experimental writing that is often overlooked by larger publications.”[13] They are also free to cover subjects that larger, mass-market-oriented publications avoid or exclude (usually for fear of losing advertisers and/or readers) and it is in doing so that they “fill those gaping holes left by mainstream media.”[14] In Canada, new small publications help infuse new thought and creative ideas into a magazine industry that might otherwise stagnate—or, worse, become reduced to just a way to deliver advertising messages rather than its current incarnation as a means of representing and discussing Canadian culture.

The mandates of small magazines may also be political, as is suggested by the editorial in the premiere issue of the Ontario politics and current events quarterly Blackfly Magazine, in which the editors announced that launching the magazine was “an attempt to change the media by actively taking part in it.”[15] Similarly, Canadians who feel underrepresented by existing publications can create magazines that speak to them: niche magazines can help build and link communities of interest (such as coin collectors, poets, or horse owners), which in Canada are likely to be quite geographically dispersed, in ways that large, general-interest magazines can only dream of doing. In her essay on the Toronto independent magazine scene, Lisa Whittington-Hill demonstrates how Broken Pencil, a magazine devoted to ’zines and other forms of “indie” culture, has nurtured and connected Canadian ’zinesters and outsider artists—in part by going “beyond the boundaries of the traditional magazine” through events like Canzine, an annual event that brings together the people whose ’zines and art are covered by the magazine with the very people who read about them in the magazine.[16] The same thing happens at the launch parties that small magazines often throw, when editors, contributors, and readers get together to celebrate a newly published issue.


Key challenges to Canadian magazine publishers

Regardless of their size, magazine publishers have never had an easy time of it in Canada. Despite amassing some 200 subscribers at a time when the population of Nova Scotia was 30,000 and the population of Canada was just 161,300, John Howe’s Nova Scotia Magazine lasted only three years before succumbing to high production costs, a small domestic market, and the prevailing preference for better-marketed magazines from abroad. Not much has changed: the same challenges that Howe faced in the 1790s affect magazine publishers in Canada today—in addition to contemporary problems that the Canadian publishing pioneer could not have predicted. Because of Canada’s large size, this country’s relatively small, dispersed population, and our proximity to the world’s largest English-language cultural industry, even the largest domestic multi-title publishing companies struggle to stay profitable; it is even more challenging for the publishers of small-circulation periodicals.

Competition from American titles

“Until we have a [Canadian] magazine with tons of U.S. readers, there won’t be a level playing field.”[17]

— Derek Webster, publisher and editor, Maisonneuve

Every year, the American magazine industry produces several billion copies of 19,400 different magazines—which included approximately 8,100 consumer titles in 2002.[18] Although U.S. magazines sell 1.5 billion copies domestically each year, several hundred with mainstream appeal are also exported for sale in Canada.[19] The top 14 newsstand titles in Canada, based on gross annual sales are all American, with People magazine grossing over $32 million from 6.4 million copies sold in 2006 versus the top-selling Canadian title, Canadian Living (#15 overall), which only grossed $4.8 million from 1.4 million copies sold.[20] One reason why American magazines outsell Canadian titles in Canada is that they monopolize Canadian newsstands. As Rowland Lorimer notes in his book Vibrant But Threatened, “newsstand distribution favours magazines with high production values, long print runs, high circulations, general appeal, and low cover prices,”[21] which gives the advantage to American publishers. Because their per-unit production costs are much lower than those of Canadian magazine publishers—thanks to the large economies of scale that result from having a home market that is ten times the size of Canada’s, and their consequent ability to amortize higher-budget art and editorial costs—American publishing companies can produce high-quality glossy editions and charge less for them, no matter what the exchange rate.[22] As a result, adding several thousand copies to a magazine’s print run to supply Canadian newsstands (and subscribers) can be very cost-effective, not to mention profitable.

And American magazines do not just earn money in Canada from single-copy and subscription sales. The Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act (2002) allows them to cheaply produce so-called “Canadian editions” (as Time Warner has done with Sports Illustrated and Time) that contain just a few token pages of “Canadian content” but up to 20% new ads.[23] The low cost of producing a Canadian edition means that advertising space can be sold to Canadian companies at rates considerably lower than those offered by domestic magazines—and the advertisers get the added benefit of promoting their products or services in a magazine with high production values and excellent newsstand availability. As a result, many Canadian magazine publishers have decried this practice as unfair, with good reason. As Rowland Lorimer and Mike Gasher point out in their textbook Mass Communication in Canada, “Canadian magazines have to pay the whole cost of producing and editing an original magazine, the full cost of selling the ads, and the full cost of printing a short run.”[24]

The omnipresence of “American-grown” magazines in the Canadian marketplace has had a considerable impact on this country’s domestic magazine publishers. For instance, the wholesalers belonging to the Periodical Marketers of Canada (PMC) distribute 2,591 different magazines to some 30,000 retail outlets in Canada yet only 167 titles (or 6.4%) are Canadian (which is just a tiny percentage of the total number of magazines produced in Canada)—so that just 6.7% of the $666 million in annual sales revenue from PMC-distributed titles is derived from Canadian magazines. This is significant because revenue from PMC-distributed titles accounts for 89% of the estimated total $750 million generated in Canad each year through single-copy sales.[25]

While the federal government, primarily through the Department of Canadian Heritage, has implemented and refined over the years a series of measures to support the continued existence of Canadian magazines, its power as a “protector” of Canadian culture is limited not only by its financial resources but by Canada’s trade agreements with other countries—in particular those involving the United States. At various times, the federal government’s “direct-assistance programs” have been the target of American trade lobbyists who do not believe in “cultural protectionism” and thus oppose any sort of support to cultural industries because, they claim, that any government financial contributions to cultural producers like magazine publishers (distributed through grants or subsidies) contravene various trade treaties (such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). While direct-assistance programs are not greatly threatened at the moment, because of the current worldwide acceptance of the legitimacy of national cultural subsidies, there is still the chance that they could be targeted for possible deregulation again in the future,[26] which would give American publications distributed in Canada even more of an advantage over their Canadian competitors.


Newsstand distribution difficulties

Despite American omnipresence on the magazine racks, Canadian magazine publishers need a newsstand presence to increase awareness of their titles and to develop a loyal readership (both through single-copy sales and subscriptions). Companies also like to see the magazines in which they have purchased ads available for sale, and newsstand sales can help to increase a magazine’s readers-per-copy (which, in turn, helps sell more ads). But in Canada most single-copy magazine sales take place in supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores (71% of total sales, as shown in the following table), but these “high-traffic outlets” are primarily the domain of mass-market American titles since, as Rowland Lorimer points out in a report on the B.C. magazine industry, “Magazine rack presence and sales are fraught with systemic bias against other-than-mainstream product…The primary interest of [the] distributors and wholesalers that now dominate the magazine market is in simplicity and quick-selling titles.”[27]


Retail sales by class of trade (2005)[28]



Convenience stores










All other retailers



The key players controlling access to Canadian newsstands, primarily members of the Periodical Marketers of Canada (PMC), are interested in maximizing their profits, which means distributing the optimum number of copies of the highest-selling magazines—regardless of genre or country of origin. The wholesalers and distributors that provide stores with magazines earn profits based on the volume of magazines sold, not on the number of copies distributed. Therefore, they prefer to carry top-selling titles, usually those with larger circulations and budgets for advertising, promotion, and premium rack placement. Their preference for only handling the most profitable periodicals may make good business sense but it means that non-Canadian titles make up 93.6% of magazines provided to newsstands by PMC members, and subsequently generate 93.3% of the sales revenue.[29] Furthermore, the detrimental effect of this practice on Canadian magazines is exacerbated by several additional factors, as unearthed by Abacus Circulation in 2003.

In studying the magazine supply chain in Canada on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Abacus found serious problems. As summarized in Taking Back the Rack, a large number of copies of magazines are distributed to newsstands but most copies are never sold, and there are no incentives to reward efficiency (i.e., bonuses for increased sell-through). Profit margins are so slim that, rather than return unsold copies to publishers (which in 2003 made up approximately 65% of all copies distributed), distributors and wholesalers will either pulp unsold magazines or ask retailers to destroy them. Abacus also found that, because of the way the supply chain is organized, it often takes a long time for issue sales data (and, correspondingly, payments for copies sold) to trickle down to magazine publishers. This delay is significant because timely sales figures are a form of “audience feedback” that could help Canadian publishers increase their sell-through—and, consequently, their competitiveness with U.S. titles and their profits. In addition, in the mid-1990s there was considerable consolidation among magazine distributors and wholesalers across North America—which Abacus found left far fewer distribution choices for Canadian magazine publishers.[30] A more recent development is retailers minimizing the number of suppliers servicing their stores, in the name of “streamlining” operations. A corollary of the newsstand-distribution oligopoly that has resulted is national distributor Disticor demanding that Magazines Canada pay a $0.10 supplementary “handling charge” for each copy of its distributed titles that it wishes Disticor to place in the stores of Canada’s largest bookstore chain. The association is forced to pay this fee because Disticor is one of only two distributors that still have access to Chapters/Indigo stores, which represent an important sales venue for niche publications.

Finally, retailers are exerting more influence on the distribution of magazines to newsstands in Canada (again in the interests of “streamlining”) by reducing the number of titles carried in their stores—and by showing preference to magazines that have proven to sell well in the past. Representative of this trend, Chapters/Indigo has been requesting a minimum average sell-through rate of 50% for all magazines and is apparently adjusting (i.e., reducing) the number of copies it will accept of certain titles in order to achieve it. Also, while retailers used to be satisfied to receive 20–30% of the cover price of each copy sold, some big-box and chain stores are now asking publishers to pay additional fees for “premium” display space and display-related promotions on a regular basis. Known as “Retail Display Allowance” (RDA), these fees are deducted from payments due to publishers and can be calculated as an additional 10–20% of the cover price or as a fixed amount, depending on the type of promotion or placement purchased (for example, it may cost a publisher $2,000 to have a particular title placed on a rack next to the cash register for six months).

Since single copies of magazines are usually spontaneous purchases and the average “mainline” rack in a supermarket, bookstore, or newsstand will have several hundred titles on display, a title’s presence, position, and visibility on that rack will affect how many copies are sold, which is why retailers can get publishers to pay RDA. In today’s increasingly competitive retail market, RDA is quickly becoming a fee for doing business for Canadian magazine publishers, especially when it is construed as the only way to get into certain stores. For example, just to get a magazine “authorized” for sale in the Canadian airport newsstands operated by HDS Retail reportedly requires a minimum payment of $7,000 in RDA. And even if a magazine publisher can afford to pay for placement and/or promotion for a particular title, it does not guarantee the magazine a permanent spot on the newsstand: continued placement is determined by sales. But staying on the newsstand is not a concern for small publishers: most would be happy just to get on the rack in the first place.

Whereas Canada’s large-circulation titles sometimes have to settle for poor newsstand placement (for example, the lower shelves or the back of the rack), periodicals publishing fewer than 10,000 copies per issue may be kept off magazine racks altogether. Since most of them cannot afford to pay the RDA and associated fees that many stores now demand, and since most wholesalers will not accept new clients without a sizeable budget for newsstand marketing, the distribution options for small magazines are limited, as are, consequently, the number and type of stores where they are sold. Most small magazines rely on national and/or regional distributors (and may sometimes handle a portion of their own distribution) but, for the reasons given, they are effectively shut out of the outlets where 71% of magazine sales take place in Canada.[31] Because they often serve niche audiences, it is often argued that small magazines are better suited to the bookstores, newsstands, and specialty outlets that represent 14% of magazine sales in Canada;[32] however, there are fewer independent bookstores than there once were due to increased domination of the Canadian book-selling market by Chapters/Indigo. National distributors, too, do not always have relationships with the specialty stores in which a niche title may sell best and are hesitant to take on new accounts that only want to carry a small number of copies. Finally, small magazines run a risk associated with any sales outlet: when a store re-stocks its shelves with a new selection of magazines on a monthly basis, publications published less frequently may be pulled off the newsstand prematurely, decreasing visibility and killing sales.

The aforementioned factors limit the number of Canadian magazines found on domestic newsstands and the measurable effect of this newsstand “invisibility” is that this sales channels accounts for just 7.6% of the total revenue for the average Canadian magazine[33] and this figure may be lower for the small-circulation titles that are not found in the places where most magazines are sold. Negligible newsstand sales revenue should not be of major concern for Canadian magazines since Canadians are overwhelmingly more likely to buy their magazines by subscription (90% versus 10%, according to one circulation expert[34]), except that it is expensive to obtain revenue from subscriptions, for reasons that I will now describe.


High costs associated with circulation

It is well known in the magazine industry that Canadians prefer to buy their magazines by subscription but convincing them to actually commit to one or two years’ worth of a particular magazine is expensive—and, once they do, there is the added cost of mailing them the publication (a cost that is, obviously, multiplied by the number of issues published each year).

Newsstand sales contribute to subscription sales in that they help to raise awareness of a particular title (and allow potential subscribers to “try” before they buy). But, since all but the largest Canadian titles have trouble getting on newsstands in the first place, most domestic magazine publishers find they must invest in various promotions to “buy” their subscribers (and then pay to keep them around when it comes time to renew). For example, a direct-mail campaign can be an effective means of increasing a magazine’s subscriber base, but typically “costs” $15–$20 per subscription gained (or, according to Rowland Lorimer, as much as $100 if you are Reader’s Digest). If a magazine’s subscription price is in the same range, the publication will not see any increase in its total operating budget until it convinces the new subscriber to renew. Renewals may be the most profitable form of subscriptions (typically accounting for 83% of a magazine’s subscriptions revenue[35]) but because a good renewals campaign requires “precise tracking systems, production of materials such as renewal letters, incentives and unrelenting efforts to keep the subscriber interested,”[36] securing them this way is labour-intensive and costly—and usually beyond the everyday resources of most small magazines.

And not only must Canadian publishers invest a considerable amount in circulation marketing, but the costs associated with sending magazines to subscribers also keep rising. Canada Post has discounted Publications Mail rates that apply to virtually all magazines published domestically and there is also a “postage subsidy” available to qualifying publishers through the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Publications Assistance Program (PAP). But, according to Magazines Canada, the Publications Mail rates seem to rise each year while PAP subsidy remains the same or declines a few percentage points.[37] (At present, it can be cheaper to distribute a magazine as an insert in a national newspaper than by mail, which may be why 73% of Canadian consumer magazines launched in 2006 chose controlled (i.e., unpaid) or combination controlled/paid-circulation models.)[38] Readers are also known to be extremely sensitive to price increases when it comes to subscriptions, so Canadian publishers often find themselves swallowing increases in fulfillment costs caused by rising postage prices and shrinking subsidies rather than raising their prices.

For small magazines, postage costs are disproportionately high because Canada Post’s cost structure does not favour small-time users of its services. Instead, the cheapest rates are available to the biggest users of the crown corporation’s services. For example, 1,000 pieces (for example, copies of a new issue) is the minimum required to qualify for the best bulk mailing rate, which is of no help to a quarterly magazine with fewer than 2,000 subscriptions that simply want to save a few dollars when mailing out renewal notices to a third of its subscribers. As already mentioned, when sending issues to Canadian subscribers even the smallest Canadian magazine qualifies for a discounted Publications Mail rate and most paid-circulation periodicals have their postage costs subsidized further through PAP. However, despite qualifying for higher-percentage postage subsidies, if small magazines publish 4,999 copies or fewer, their Publications Mail rates are actually higher because 5,000 is the minimum number of copies needed to qualify for the most economical Letter Carrier Presort (LCP) rate. (For example, the same 300-gram magazine currently costs $1.08 per copy to mail at the National Distribution Guide [NDG] presort rate versus $0.70 per copy at the LCP rate.)

The result is that the average Canadian magazine derives just 18.8% of its revenue from subscriptions while 9% of its expenses go towards circulation (namely fulfillment and invoicing),[39] even though most Canadian magazines have a good portion of their mailing costs subsidized through PAP. When not enough revenue can be derived from single-copy and subscription sales, Canadian magazines must find supplemental means to fund their publishing activities.


Heavy reliance on advertising revenue

Advertising is the sine qua non for most magazines, revenue that is absolutely necessary to offset the high production values and high-quality editorial content that readers expect. Without the $993.5 million that Canadian magazine publishers receive annually from advertisement sales[40] it would be nearly impossible for magazines to be sold at market-friendly prices because of the expenses associated with producing the magazine in the first place. As a result, the average Canadian magazine receives 64% of its revenue from ad sales[41]—and that percentage seems to be increasing as revenue from other sources declines. Between 1993 and 2003, the percentage of total revenue that the average Canadian magazine received from advertising grew from 61% to 64% while revenue derived from subscriptions over the same time period declined from 25% to 19%,[42] suggesting the shortfall has at least partially been made up by an increased dependence on ad dollars. The fact that most Canadian magazines rely on advertising as their primary revenue source is worrying for a number of reasons.

First, whenever a publication includes advertisements, there is a potential for conflict between the advertising and the magazine’s editorial content. Put simply, this means that an automobile manufacturer may not enjoy seeing an ad for its new SUV in the same issue as an article encouraging people to take public transit more often (and may not advertise again). But more worrisome is the possibility that magazines would compromise their editorial visions or even tailor their contents to attract advertisers. Such “tailoring” could be as innocuous as a magazine adding a book reviews section to try to solicit ads from book publishers but it can also take the form of advertorials (advertisements written and designed in such a way that they blend in with the rest of the magazine’s editorial content) or “sponsored” content, such as the 2005 series of profiles of distinguished Canadians in Maclean’s was written by Peter Newman but “brought to you by Cadillac.” Many magazines see no problem with “pseudo-advertising” but, as Toronto Life contributor David Hayes explained in writing about the need for magazine publishers to keep “church and state” separate, there is an “unspoken understanding that the editorial content and business operations must be kept separate to maintain credibility with readers.”[43] But advertisers are pushy, and most magazine publishers can use the revenue from advertorials (which generally carry a higher price tag than regular ads) so ads masquerading as articles will no doubt continue to be included in Canadian periodicals. Reader’s Digest publisher Larry Thomas claims that the line-blurring advertorials encourage stems from pressure from advertisers who are increasingly allowed, and even encouraged, to influence other forms of media (for example, paid-for product placements in television shows).[44]

Second, because of the relatively small circulation of most Canadian magazines, it is a significant challenge for them to attract any advertisers in the first place—let alone the sort of companies that can afford full-page ads—especially when they can reach a larger audience through other channels for less and so many different places to advertise exist. Marketer and business strategist (and Master of Publishing program instructor) Craig Riggs describes Canada’s media industry in Canada as “a cluttered, complicated marketplace all vying for the same ad dollar”—because there are some 102 daily newspapers, over 1,000 community newspapers, 130 TV stations, 814 radio stations, 20 television networks, and 65 specialty TV stations in addition to the 2,400 Canadian magazines.[45] Most nationally distributed magazines have circulations too small to attract national advertisers, which can more cost-effectively reach a larger audience through newspapers, radio, or television. And the smaller a magazine’s circulation, the harder it is to get any: D.B. Scott suggests that even being a nationally distributed magazine with a circulation of 50,000 is “barely enough to get you paid attention to by advertisers.”[46] For titles that are regional in focus and/or distribution, it can be even more challenging to attract the kinds of companies that can afford full-page ads, let alone repeat insertion orders. Also, local/regional advertisers that seek a geographically specific audience have the option of advertising in weekly newspapers if they want to stretch their ad budgets, or in daily newspapers if they are seeking a venue with greater frequency and reach than most Canadian magazines. Further complicating matters, for reasons already mentioned, the “Canadian editions” of American magazines can usually offer much cheaper advertising rates and larger circulations than most domestically produced publications.

Third, when so much of their revenue comes from advertising, magazine publishers are very vulnerable to market fluctuations and unpredictable advertisers. For instance, if the economy takes a downturn, companies are less likely to spend money on advertising in general and advertising in magazines is rarely viewed as anything but a secondary component of any major promotional campaign. Advertisers are also fickle. According to NUVO Magazine’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Alessandra Bordon, it can be harder to get a reinsertion order from an advertiser than to secure a new advertiser altogether because companies are willing to take chances but, once they have, they expect to see certain results from the advertising they have purchased. Or, a magazine may have trouble rebooking an advertiser because the company wants to test out new advertising venues or because it has switched to a media buyer or agency that prefers to buy ad space in other publications.[47]

So while it is hard for a national magazine with a circulation of 50,000 to attract national advertisers in Canada, for a magazine one-tenth the size (which or may not have only regional distribution) it is near impossible. Small magazines are generally niche (and/or sometimes regionally focused) publications and even if they view themselves as serving national or international audiences, they still have limited readerships, which means they are not a prime venue for advertising because their low reach means a poor return-on-investment for advertisers (unless the magazine has a high number of readers per copy or if its audience is known to have a large disposable income, such as the readership of Canadian Horse Journal, which is primarily horse owners). Also, small magazines publish less frequently, which means their ads cannot be as timely as those placed in larger magazines. Stability is also a concern for advertisers, who like to know that magazines containing their ads can be found on newsstands reliably and will not be pulled off newsstands prematurely. Not only do larger magazines deliver such benefits but they also have the means to deliver advertisers a consistent audience of a known size and demographics because they can afford both circulation auditing and Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) membership. By comparison, smaller magazines typically rely on educated guesses, or on in-house subscriber surveys, to provide advertisers with any sort of information about their readers. Audited circulation figures and PMB statistics, though costly, do offer to advertisers a guarantee that they are reaching the audience they have “purchased.”[48]

Even if potential advertisers are not scared off by the lack of audience information, small magazines may find that their contents and editorial voice can limit their ability to secure advertising. Companies want to promote products and services to people who are likely to use them in an environment that encourages them to buy them. But with their frequent focus on culture, ideas, politics, issues, and the arts, small magazines can seem like the wrong fit for advertisements promoting, for instance, a new kind of shaving cream or the latest type of cellphone, which may seem out of place alongside stories about radical political activism and the detrimental effects of asbestos mining. Also, advertisers may not accept a magazine’s edgy content as readily as its readership so there may be a resistance to supporting a publication whose raison-d’être is to publish radical or controversial ideas.

When attracting national advertising is nearly impossible, small magazines are reduced to selling local (retail) advertising, or to filling their advertising pages with many small ads, instead of just a few full-page or half-page ads, which means more time and resources spent selling and managing accounts. But that avenue is not necessarily any easier since local businesses are not always interested in a magazine with national distribution and, unlike their larger counterparts, smaller magazines do not have the resources or readers to warrant the regional editions that can make it easier to sell local/regional advertising. So instead they may resort to discounts and incentives to attract local companies to buy ads in their national publications, despite knowing that these advertisers might prefer to spend their small ad budgets placing ads in a weekly community newspaper read only by people who could potentially patronize their business. (And even small businesses can be wary of advertising without any market research or readership demographics to suggest the potential return on their investment.)

When not enough revenue can be generated from advertising, Canadian magazine publishers must either find other sources of income or close their doors. While a lack of sufficient advertising dollars is blamed for the demise of Canadian men’s magazine Toro just shy of its fourth birthday in 2007, other Canadian magazines find themselves beholden to government and/or private foundation largesse.


Dependence on subsidies

“No quality magazine with limited circulation can survive without subsidies and it’s always been that way. Whether it’s borrowing money from family or operating out of a basement, you need subsidies over and above advertising.”[49]

— Stephen Osborne, editor-in-chief, Geist

One of the biggest financial supporters of magazine publishing in Canada is the federal government. Dating back to 1849, when the Post Office Act awarded lower postal rates to printed materials circulated by mail, Canadian publishers have had access to federal government funds to subsidize their work. Today, the annual contribution to the domestic magazine-publishing industry through the through the Department of Canadian Heritage-administered Publications Assistance Program (PAP) and Canadian Magazine Fund (CMF), and the Canada Council for the Arts’ Grants to Literary and Art Magazines and Flying Squad program, totals $68.6 million.[50] As already explained, PAP subsidizes a portion of postage costs so that Canadian magazines can be distributed affordably to subscribers across the country while the CMF provides financial incentives to magazines to include original Canadian editorial content, supplies arts and literary magazines with operating grants, and funds initiatives that aim improve the viability of small magazine publishers or support general industry development. Canada Council is an arm’s-length government agency that funds programs that enable small magazines to access industry consultants and provides operational funding to arts and literary magazines directly. In addition, various grant and subsidy programs (and tax credits) exist at the municipal and provincial level—not to mention the public and private foundation funding that is also available. The result is that the majority of publishers (particularly publishers of cultural, literary, and scholarly titles) tap into some sort of largesse—with government grants alone amounting to 2.3% of the average Canadian magazine’s total revenue, and as high as 45% for smaller circulation titles.[51] With all the funding programs they can access, most Canadian magazine publishers have no need to rely exclusively on advertising and circulation revenue; however, they can easily become overly dependent on the contribution of such subsidies to their bottom lines, which is problematic.

First, accepting largesse year after year creates dependence on a revenue source that may not be entirely reliable—particularly when grants and project funds are distributed in large lump sums. The very existence of government funding, particularly that which is provided to cultural industries, is vulnerable to changes in political power. At the time of writing, for instance, the Department of Canadian Heritage was holding consultations on changes to the Publications Assistance Program and the Canada Magazine Fund that may affect program eligibility, the amount of funding awarded to a publication, and how that funding can be spent.[52] The amount of money accorded to and thus distributed through various public and private granting programs also fluctuates so magazines cannot expect to receive a set dollar amount each year. In addition, changing eligibility criteria can mean that magazines that once qualified for funding from a certain granting body and/or under a particular program may suddenly no longer qualify. When I was an intern at Maisonneuve, the magazine learning it would not receive an expected grant from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec created a $40,000 shortfall in the annual budget—equivalent to a staff member’s salary.

Second, to receive any kind of external funding, magazines must jump through certain hoops—and any government funding usually comes with strings attached. For example, the CMF’s “Support for Editorial Content” program requires that recipient magazines publish 80% content produced by Canadian contributors. Such funding is also usually provided for one to two years, so magazine publishers find themselves having to constantly reapply—a very labour-intensive process to begin with (and even more so when a magazine is seeking funding from more than one granting body on a regular basis). Private foundation funding is no different. When Geist received $120,000 from the Tula Foundation in January 2003, it was originally only for a two-year period (which was extended) and the foundation had earmarked the use of this money.[53]

Finally, if grant money is the only reason (or a main reason) for a magazine’s viability, it can create a false sense of security based on what is, in fact, a temporary “subsidized” existence. As Elisabeth Gontard points out in discussing the funding arrangement between Geist and the Tula Foundation, “whatever changes the magazine has made or makes to its operations because of the increased revenue—i.e., the increase in contributor fees—once the Tula money runs out, revenue will have to be in place for the changes to be permanent.”[54]

And small magazines are in a further compromised position, in part because so many have to apply for grants and accept subsidies and donations to just to cover their day-to-day operating costs. In fact, all participants in the 2003 Circulation Roundtable for Small Magazines, regardless of size or business structure, reported receiving some kind of “funding.” First, because of their smaller size, these grants and subsidies can end up comprising a large percentage of their total revenue, which makes them even more vulnerable to program cuts and changing eligibility criteria. For example, when THIS Magazine was ruled ineligible for Ontario Arts Council funding in 1998, it represented a loss of 15% of the magazine’s total annual operating budget.[55] Second, applying for grants requires navigating a certain amount of bureaucracy and dealing with administration. Simply figuring out if a magazine qualifies for a particular grant or subsidy, completing the usually lengthy application form (which typically requires detailed financial and circulation numbers), and then reporting back on how the funding was used and the project’s results can tax the limited human resources of even the most organized small magazines—particularly when few grants provide multi-year funding and different grant and program deadlines are scattered throughout the year. But “subsidy management” is not the only challenge facing small-magazine publishers.


Additional challenges for small magazines

“The impression that small magazines are bigger than they actually are is quite common.”[56]

— Dale Duncan, executive editor, Spacing

As I have already discussed, Canadian small magazines operate in the same challenging marketplace as this country’s largest domestic titles but they must also overcome difficulties unique to their size that affect their day-to-day operations and put them at a disadvantage when it comes to viability.

By virtue of their size, and since most are printed by companies with multiple titles, Canada’s large-circulation magazines can take advantage of the efficiencies that come with doing everything on a large scale and with high frequency. “Vertically integrated” organizations that publish more than one magazine can increase each title’s individual profitability by combining routine operations and having centralized departments manage tasks for all their publications, such as advertising sales and graphic design. To see how doing so is more efficient and cost-effective, one needs only look at the difference in how large magazines and small magazines handle the processing of subscriptions. While multi-title publishers have well-staffed circulation departments, or outsource their subscription management altogether, that is not the case for magazine with only a handful of staff and just a few thousand subscribers. As described in Keeping Readers: Fulfillment for Small Canadian Magazines:

At small circulation levels, publishers may still handle incoming subscription orders on an individual basis — opening one envelope, entering the customer’s subscription, personalizing an invoice in a word-processing program, writing up an envelope, pulling the most recent issue off the shelf and sending it out with the invoice and a ‘welcome’ letter, writing the customer’s name and cheque amount into the bank deposit book, and perhaps entering a record of the transaction in a separate accounting systems.[57]

The report’s authors go on to point out that “some inefficiency is unavoidable” due to the fact that when a magazine is only getting one or two new subscriptions a week, it does not make sense to wait until 100 orders have been placed to process them all at once (because that may be a year after the first order was received). In terms of costs, though, this means time lost to the time-consuming task of processing subscriptions in small batches and also increased postage costs because a magazine often will not have the minimum needed to qualify for “bulk” mailing rates unless they are lucky or limit the number of between-issue mailings they will do (though the latter is risky because fulfillment delays can irritate impatient new subscribers).

However, greater challenges are related, not surprisingly, to economies of scale and the apportioning of costs associated with the physical and “intellectual” production of an issue. It is well known that per-copy printing costs are reduced rather dramatically with the number of copies printed, but the same applies to all fixed and variable costs associated with producing an issue. For example, when it comes to distribution, it can cost the same to ship two copies to a newsstand as it does to ship a dozen—and a magazine must still pay the same fees to freelance writers and photographers—and, hopefully, salaries to staff—regardless of fluctuations in its circulation numbers. The reality is that even if the total per-issue costs are higher at large publications, the per-copy production costs (and distribution costs, to a certain extent) are much, much lower—particularly if it is just one of a stable of periodicals produced by a publishing company.

As a result, shoestring budgets are the norm for small-magazine publishers. For example, Vancouver quarterly Geist may be the largest literary magazine in Canada at the moment, but its circulation is still under 10,000 and its annual revenues are less than one percent of what a typical large paid-circulation consumer magazine grosses each year. Working with a small budget can be challenging, particularly when a few hundred dollars in lost revenue (for example, a last-minute cancelled full-page ad) can mean that a magazine is suddenly unable to print its forthcoming issue. The annual profit of a typical small magazine is usually under $5,000 and when a magazine’s financial “cushion” is that small, its year-to-year survival is precarious. The editorial and production costs associated with publishing a magazine are expensive but, obviously, unavoidable and they will always take priority over the other ways money could be invested to help “grow” a magazine, such as professional development for staff or circulation and marketing projects.

Another downside to having a small budget is small magazines’ inability to offer industry-standard compensation to their contributors and/or salaries for their paid employees (if they are lucky enough to have any). As Maisonneuve publisher and editor Derek Webster once observed, “The cultural publishing economic model runs on volunteerism, token payments, stipends, and eternally underpaid staff. (The pizza-party-in-lieu-of-wage is standard operating practice.)”[58] As a result, most small magazines have just one or two salaried employees, complemented by an average of two to four volunteers,[59] which means that most are produced by just a handful of people who may not even possess much magazine experience. Having a small staff typically means doubling up on responsibilities (such as the art director selling ads and the managing editor coordinating subscriptions) and people having to manage tasks that they may not be qualified to be handling, which can lead to burnout among paid employees and volunteers alike. Another downside is that, even when they have more than one job, most magazines staff will end up working primarily on the production side of the magazine (which affects growth and expansion) or primarily on the business side of things (which affects editorial quality and reader satisfaction). As the Ahnsu Consulting Group noted in The Culture of Cultural Magazines: “The difficulty with admin work is twofold: it either overwhelms and overtakes cultural magazine staff and prevents them from working on bigger-picture issues, or it gets neglected because bigger picture issues are more critical.”[60] Typically, the latter is not the case as most small magazines are staffed by people whose preference is for editorial and design work (which is viewed, especially by volunteers, as more enjoyable and meaningful), but that means the “necessary evils” of selling advertising, bookkeeping, fulfilling subscriptions, and other business-related tasks, are the ones that most often end up neglected, ignored altogether, or handled incompetently by underpaid people who may be untrained in those areas;[61] which, as I will explain in detail in the pages to come, accurately describes the situation at Spacing magazine in September 2005.





Having illuminated the challenges facing Canadian magazines of all sizes, and those specific to smaller publications, I will now describe my experience working for one Canadian small magazine, Spacing. I first provide some background on Spacing’s history, offer an overview of the magazine and its ancillary projects, and describe how I came to become the Toronto-based periodical’s first (volunteer) business manager in September 2005. I then discuss the strategic-planning principles that I applied in mapping out Spacing’s transition from labour of love to small business—and which informed the writing of a business plan for the magazine. Finally, I will describe Spacing’s situation two years later and evaluate the progress I made towards increasing the magazine’s viability.



Brief history

Spacing was conceived in the Fall of 2002 by a group of young activists, then-members of the Toronto Public Space Committee (TPSC), who felt that Toronto needed a publication that would address urban issues like cycling, transit, pedestrianism, public art, and city-planning, which they felt local media were overlooking or addressing inadequately. Over the following year, Matthew Blackett, Dale Duncan, Lindsay Gibb, Todd Harrison, Todd Irvine, Micheline Lewis, and Dylan Reid developed the magazine’s editorial concept, defined roles for themselves, recruited contributors, and organized fundraising events. Their efforts culminated in the publication of the first issue of Spacing in December 2003, which sold out its entire 1,500-copy print run within a month of being published.

Following the release of that initial issue, certain individuals chose to discontinue or limit their editorial involvement with Spacing and new editors came onboard. Therefore, for historical purposes, the magazine’s “founding editors” are considered to be Blackett (publisher and creative director), Duncan (initially managing editor but now executive editor), Gibb, Reid, Anna Bowness, and Shawn Micallef (associate editors). These six own the company Spacing Media Inc. that serves as the current publisher of Spacing—now produced independently of the TPSC—and, with Todd Harrison and Leah Sandals, make up the magazine’s editorial collective. At the time of writing, Spacing was on the verge of publishing its eleventh issue, scheduled for release in March 2008.


Magazine overview

Through compelling journalism and thought-provoking essays, complemented by original illustration and striking photography, Spacing explores Toronto’s architectural, cultural, social, and political past, present, and future, and covers all of the associated issues that concern life in the city’s public realm. Written for and by those who are passionate about Toronto’s public spaces, Spacing contains an eclectic mix of well-researched history, ruminations on the present, and visions of what the future could be.

Each issue of Spacing has a theme, a specific topic of particular relevance to Toronto chosen by the magazine’s editors, to which the majority of the issue is devoted. Previous themes have included public art, the transit system, pedestrianism, and the environment. A large portion of Spacing’s content is dedicated to personal journalism and essays through which writers address the unique components of the social and cultural landscape of Toronto, which in 2007 included: the soundtrack of city life; the industrial design of 1970s subway platforms; an architectural graveyard in a Scarborough park where ornamental pieces from buildings are given a second life; a group of formerly homeless people using photography to tell their stories of hope and desperation; and the use of social-networking websites to enable events like massive pillow fights to flourish in Toronto. The magazine also has regular columns, like “The Toronto Flaneur,” in which Shawn Micallef writes about a part of the city he has wandered through on foot; “Green Space,” which focuses on environmental topics and green organizations; “Outer Space,” which highlights public-space issues in other cities; and “Space Invaders,” which profiles the people behind various Toronto public-art initiatives and creative interventions.

Spacing’s editors generate many of the story ideas for each issue but there is also always an open call for submissions, which helps generate thematic content that might otherwise be overlooked. This editorial process results in engaging, creative, genre-bending content of a notably high quality, which has not gone unnoticed in the industry. In June 2007, the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors named Spacing its “Small Magazine of the Year” and awarded “Magazine Editor of the Year” to Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan. Spacing also won a 2005 National Magazine Award for “Best Editorial Package” for its “History of the Future” issue (and was nominated again in the same category for 2006), and the magazine has been short-listed twice in the “Best local/regional coverage” category of the Utne Independent Press Awards (2005 and 2006), in addition to being nominated for “Best New Title” in 2004.

Spacing’s reputation has attracted established journalists and published authors as contributors but, like many small magazines, it has also been a career “launching pad” for a number of up-and-coming writers. Most of the magazine’s editors had published little writing before Spacing was launched but Shawn Micallef now has a column in Eye Weekly and contributes regularly to the Globe & Mail; Dale Duncan’s writing helped her secure a staff reporter contract at Eye Weekly, for whom she now writes a municipal affairs column; Lindsay Gibb and Anna Bowness are the current and former editor, respectively, of Broken Pencil magazine; and Dylan Reid and Leah Sandals freelance for a variety of publications.

Spacing has also been recognized for the overall excellence and attractiveness of its photography, which is a credit to Toronto’s talented and award-winning photobloggers. Under the art direction of creative director Matthew Blackett, Spacing was a pioneer in introducing local photobloggers—whose work is primarily published on personal websites—to the general public by publishing their work in the magazine and online, and also using their images in art-gallery exhibits and for Spacing promotional materials. But striking digital photography is just one component of the magazine’s design: Blackett also commissions original art and illustration from up-and-coming illustrators and Spacing’s atypical 10-inch by 8-inch landscape format means it stands out on newsstands. In fact, its innovative design has garnered Spacing a number of awards, including an Applied Arts award for “Best Single Issue Design” in January 2005, and a nomination in the “Best Design” category of the 2006 Utne Independent Press Awards.


Ancillary projects

In addition to producing three issues of Spacing a year, the magazine’s publishing team also maintains a website, sells Spacing-branded products, and organizes and sponsors special events.

The website was launched in November 2003 to serve as the online companion to Spacing and act as a promotional tool for the magazine right from the beginning, but, over time, it has become an important entity in its own right. The website features select articles and photos from the magazine, lists retailers carrying Spacing, provides information to potential advertisers, and has an online store where people can buy Spacing subscriptions, back issues, and other products. But’s most popular feature, by far, is a blog written by the magazine’s editors and contributors. Updated daily, Spacing Toronto (, has developed into a hub for information about and discussion of public-space issues. It has been such a success thatSpacing-sanctioned blogs have been set up in other cities: in July 2007, Spacing editors travelled to Montreal to launch the bilingual Spacing Montreal blog ( and a Vancouver blog called “re:place” ( began publishing in January 2008 as the precursor to a print magazine; and it is possible others could soon spring up in San Francisco, Windsor, and Halifax. Blogging allows Spacing to cover public-space issues, news, and events in Toronto, and around the world, in the months between issues of the magazine—an obviously welcome service as the readers of Eye Weekly voted it “Toronto’s Best Local Blog” (2005) in January 2006 and Toronto’s other alt-weekly, NOW Magazine, named it “Best Local Blog” of 2007.

As mentioned, the website’s store sells various Spacing products, among them Spacing’s iconic one-inch subway buttons. Since being launched in December 2004, over 80,000 of the buttons capturing the iconic and distinctive tiles of each of Toronto’s subway stations and Scarborough RT stops (73 in all) have been sold just through and several Toronto stores—plus thousands more at special events. Holiday “gift packs” of back issues and a 2006 calendar have also helped to generate revenue for Spacing at various times but special events, like the launch parties for each new issue, remain a bigger moneymaker and, because they usually attract several hundred people, are a good way to increase awareness of the magazine and the important public-space issues it covers.

Since 2005, Spacing has co-hosted an annual “Toronto the Good” party with partners ERA Architects and [murmur] during the Toronto Festival of Architecture and Design, a social event whose goal is to bring different communities together to celebrate innovation in the city. Spacing has also organized the “MyToronto” video contest, hosted film nights, curated art shows, and co-organized the best-attended mayoral debate of the 2006 Toronto municipal election. Finally, Spacing is also a regular media sponsor of cultural events tied to topics explored by the magazine.


Adding a business manager to the masthead

In September 2005, Spacing had published four issues and a fifth was in production. The magazine was covering its production costs with the revenues from advertising, single-copy sales, its 400 subscriptions, launch parties, and subway buttons. However, Spacing’s founders felt they were neglecting the business side of their publishing venture, which was hampering the magazine’s growth. In an e-mail, publisher Matthew Blackett expressed their collective desire to hire someone to take charge of the magazine’s finances and business development:

We need a biz manager badly to help us move forward, cuz my skills are best used creating and not doing balance sheets. The hope is that the biz manager would help us with a long term biz plan, which would include paying the editors, our writers, and the biz manager… This biz manager position has more to do with freeing me of the biz burdens, so I can concentrate on promotions, partnerships, media outreach, and the editorial/design stuff.[62]

Because I thought highly of Spacing and believed I might be able to assist the magazine in a business-development capacity, I met with Blackett and managing editor Dale Duncan. They seemed confident in my abilities so I agreed to write a business plan for Spacing, and soon became the magazine’s part-time, volunteer business manager.

How I came to work for Spacing in the fall of 2005 is not unusual: many people become involved with small magazines not because there is necessarily a job posting or a formal application process but often just because they happen to be in the right place at the right time[63] and they express a certain enthusiasm for the magazine in question and exhibit a willingness to do the work that no one else wants to do (or is qualified to do)—and, occasionally, as in my case, happen to have some specialized education and/or applicable work experience.



Strategic planning

Strategic planning and small magazines

“Planning isn’t rocket science; in fact it is a fairly straightforward process.”[64]

— B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers


Companies of all types and sizes use strategic planning to take a critical look at the factors affecting their success and/or limiting their growth—or, as is relevant for small magazines, the factors influencing their very viability—so that they can then develop a “plan” that will help them increase their profits, expand, or achieve other major organizational goals. Examining how things are being done, and the internal and external influences that are having a positive or negative impact on the business, is a process that is often beneficial in its own right, particularly for new businesses. As Craig Riggs has pointed out, “when organizations focus on how work is done and measured and improved, things usually start to get better.”[65] However, a strategic-planning process is generally initiated when there is a need or a desire for change, like when there is dissatisfaction with the status quo and it is felt that “charting a new course” could benefit an organization—as was the case at Spacing when I came onboard as the magazine’s business manager.


Conducting a situational analysis

“You have to understand before you can innovate”[66]

— Craig Riggs

In August 2005, Spacing’s founders had set two long-term goals for the magazine—to pay people to work on the magazine (staff and contributors), and to sell 5,000 subscriptions[67]—and the unwritten expectation was that I would figure out how to achieve them and, concurrently, turn the magazine into a viable small business.

When I began this rather daunting project in September 2005, I was almost completely in the dark with regards to the business side of Spacing and how things had been run up to that point. A standard tool for gaining insight into a business’ “situation” and evaluating an organization’s state of affairs is the S.W.O.T.[68] chart. However, following some research, I decided that a Situational Analysis would be a more holistic way to obtain a detailed overview of not just the magazine’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats but also of Spacing’s accomplishments to date and the internal and external factors affecting its ability to be a profitable business. (I also recognized that this framework would create a good benchmark against which progress could be measured later.[69])

I loosely based my situational analysis (see Appendix A) on the framework of what is called a 5C Analysis, and it entailed reviewing Spacing’s records, interviewing staff, and conducting additional research to produce a complete “full-colour” snapshot of the magazine’s operations and a description of the market and climate in which it was doing business.[70]


Starting out

As its name suggests, the situational analysis gave me a good idea of Spacing’s state of affairs in September 2005. At the time, the magazine’s biggest assets were the quality of its products, its reputation, and its dedicated staff. Spacing’s blog was attracting lots of visitors to the website, and the magazine and subway buttons had caught the attention of the media and those who were most passionate about public-space issues (including the Mayor). As a result, organized special events were well attended and the magazine was having no trouble attracting contributors. In addition, the hard work of staff and contributors had resulted in many awards and an operating grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Despite not having an office, Spacing’s editors seemed to be collaborating well and communicating effectively to produce three issues a year and post daily updates to the blog. In addition, Spacing had established good supplier and distributor relationships for the magazine and buttons, both of which were selling very well in stores and at events. The magazine also appeared to be self-sufficient financially through revenue from newsstand, subscription, and event sales, and the sales of subway buttons were bringing in significant additional revenue—enough that contributors to each issue were being paid something and there were also small per-issue honorariums for staff.

However, there was a large disconnect between Spacing’s reputation, its apparent financial stability, and the behind-the-scenes operations. While it was a professional-looking magazine, and appeared to be highly successful based on the turnout for its events, Spacing not only did not have an office[71] but the magazine was disorganized organizationally and financially. The biggest problems were related to Spacing not having been set up as a business when it was first launched: in September 2005, the magazine was not incorporated, nor even registered as a business, meaning that the founding editors of Spacing would have been legally responsible for it, and thus personally liable, had someone decided to take the magazine to court. In addition, Spacing was not paying any business income taxes, nor collecting sales tax (PST or GST). At the time, Spacing was able to cover all of its bills, though no one had any idea of the amount of revenue generated, or expenses incurred, on an annual, monthly, or even per-issue basis. At it was, the only person “taking care of business” was Matthew Blackett, who was simultaneously contributing to the magazine editorially, designing the entire magazine, selling ads, developing partnerships and promotions, and taking a lead role in organizing Spacing events—not to mention managing Spacing’s side business in subway buttons essentially as a one-man show. Despite his high energy levels, burnout seemed inevitable and I had a similar concern for Lindsay Gibb, who, on top of her own editorial duties and a full-time job at another magazine, was managing all subscription orders and fulfillment plus newsstand distribution to Spacing’s dozen house accounts. The magazine was also only publishing three issues a year, on no fixed schedule, which might have been one reason that Spacing had not had much success attracting advertisers. And the same could be said of subscribers, who only numbered 400 in September 2005. Related to subscriptions, I realized that Spacing was paying too much for postage and that the database used to keep track of subscriptions was disorganized, which was likely one of the reasons that Gibb was having to deal regularly with complaints about missing issues and there were frequent delays in new subscribers getting their first issues. Finally, it seemed unlikely that, despite their high levels of enthusiasm for the magazine, Spacing’s staff could continue working as many hours as they were without salaries, or that the magazine’s contributors would continue to accept rates well below the industry standard.


Addressing problem areas

The situational analysis made it obvious what Spacing’s strengths were and where opportunities for growth existed, however, it also revealed the magazine’s weaknesses and problem areas, which called out urgently for addressing prior to any attempt to capitalize on the magazine’s positive aspects.

The biggest problem I identified was Spacing’s severe neglect of basic business organization and financial recordkeeping.[72] This finding was not surprising to me as two of the five items included in D.B. Scott’s list of “Common mistakes of small magazine publishers” are “Forgetting about Revenue Canada” and “Avoiding the icky stuff”—both referring to decisions regarding financial matters, particularly the necessity that publishers “not put off to tomorrow that which they should deal with today.” [73]

The people working on Spacing were skilled writers, editors, and designers but they had been avoiding dealing with (or did not have time to address) anything “icky,” a bad habit enabled by the magazine’s continual ability to pay its bills. However, the magazine’s increasing revenues (primarily from button sales, which by September 2005 totaled nearly $22,000) were worrying Matthew Blackett because of the retroactive GST he thought could be owing. It also concerned me that should anyone decide to sue the magazine, the publishing team could be held personally liable because Spacing was not incorporated nor even registered as a business. And then there were the problems related to subscriptions already mentioned.

While the founders of Spacing were eager to have a large number of subscribers, and to begin paying themselves salaries, I knew there were a number of basic things for me to address first, so I drew up a “laundry list” in October 2005:

  1. Incorporate Spacing(“Spacing Media Inc.”)
  2. Register Spacing Media Inc. as an Ontario-based business
  3. Open Spacing Media Inc. accounts with appropriate government agencies (Canadian Revenue Agency, etc.)
  4. Open a Canada Post corporate account and apply for Publications Mail number to qualify for discounted postage rates
  5. Better organize Spacing’s subscriptions database
  6. Set up financial recordkeeping and bookkeeping


Making Spacing legal

Incorporating Spacing under the name “Spacing Media” and registering it as an Ontario business, and with the appropriate federal and provincial agencies for tax purposes, was a relatively straightforward process and one that was eventually completed mostly online[74]—once I learned the steps were involved (see Appendix C). At the time, I could find no resources detailing the process of setting up a magazine as a legal business, however, Magazines Canada’s online handbook How to Start a Magazine[75] led me to the website of the Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre, where I was able to figure out the steps involved and carry out what was required (see Appendix A).

Opening a corporate account with Canada Post and receiving a Publications Mail number was a simple matter of completing some paperwork[76] and to better organize Spacing’s subscription records, I simply spent some time reorganizing and “cleaning up” the existing 400-record Excel database (for instance, moving the names and addresses of expired subscribers to a separate worksheet from current subscribers).

Thus, all of the items on the checklist were completed by the end of July 2006 with the exception of the final item. Without a background in accounting and only a cursory knowledge of business banking, setting up financial recordkeeping and bookkeeping for Spacing was beyond my abilities so I unwisely postponed that task because I wanted to move on to writing Spacing’s business plan—a project that would be postponed itself for six months when I became preoccupied with a number of other things. The busyness that prevented me from working on the business plan immediately stemmed from my handling day-to-day business tasks (such as banking and), completing various small business-development projects (such as helping to develop an ad kit and writing grant applications), lending a hand where needed (namely proofreading and helping out at launch parties and other events), and taking over as Spacing’s circulation manager when Lindsay Gibb became Broken Pencil’s new editor—all work that I took on in addition to my three-day-a-week job working for a book publisher and a volunteer commitment at another small magazine. However, despite all this work, I did find time to start the business plan in January 2007, beginning with writing a mission statement for the newly incorporated Spacing Media.


Crafting the mission statement

A mission statement should articulate a magazine’s raison d’être and give its publishers a sense of direction that complements their goals and objectives for the publication. As Craig Riggs suggests, “defining the purpose of the organization or publishing program is the first step in creating a framework than can guide decision making.”[77]

Having made note of all Spacing’s activities, I felt that Spacing was potentially more than just a magazine, a hunch confirmed by marketing blogger Sean Moffitt observing that “although it describes itself as a magazine, Spacing is really a mash up of public activism, cool urban ideas and events, a community of like-minded people and a multimedia platform…[that has] invested just as much resources in ‘live urban experiences’ and ‘the web’ than merely the printed guide.”[78] He called Spacing a “category jumper” because not only was there a periodical, there was also “an engaging online forum” (alluding to Spacing’s website, particularly the blog where readers can post comments), and events that brought readers together—all of which were helping to unite a community around the issues at the core of the magazine. Thus, the mission statement I developed for Spacing Media Inc. in January 2007 expressed a broader mandate than just publishing a magazine:

To draw attention to the importance of public space in urban environments and to instill in city-dwellers worldwide—and in Toronto in particular—an appreciation of the endless possibilities that cities offer so that they will be compelled to take ownership of the urban landscape that surrounds them and be inspired to participate in city life.

The next challenge was figuring out the goals and objectives that would help Spacing Media Inc. live up to its mission statement.


Setting goals and objectives

“[A]rticulating clear goals and objectives allows management and staff to have a common idea of where the company needs to go, and how it aims to get there.”[79]

— Craig Riggs

After articulating a “mission” for Spacing, the next step prior to writing the business plan, was figuring out what the magazine’s goals should be, since I did not think that staff salaries and 5,000 subscriptions were going to be immediately attainable based on its current situation. In this regard, I found the advice of the British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers (BCAMP) to be useful. In one of the helpful booklets published by BCAMP to explain and offer advice on the various aspects of the business of magazine publishing, the organization suggests that, to “ensure a magazine’s existence,” publishers should aim to:

  • create and maintain a targeted editorial environment to attract and maintain loyal readers;
  • develop and maintain the capacity to produce and publish the magazine;
  • develop effective circulation and distribution systems;
  • develop revenues to support and justify continued publishing.[80]

I knew that Spacing was strong editorially: over the course of the seven issues released to January 2007, members of the editorial collective had established a system for producing a high-quality, award-winning magazine and continual readership growth confirmed that they had created that desired “targeted editorial environment.” Since September 2005, newsstand sales had almost doubled and subscriptions had more than doubled. Overall, paid circulation had risen from 2,800 copies for Issue #4 (June 2005) to 4,029 for Issue #7 (September 2006); and the magazine’s print run had been increased accordingly from 3,000 copies to 5,000 copies. Spacing’s special events and sales of promotional products were also generating revenue and, along with the website, drawing attention to the magazine and public-space issues—which was noticeably bringing together a community of likeminded individuals.

However, all was (still) not well on the business side of Spacing. While Issue #7 had been the work of seven editors and three proofreaders, the only dedicated business staff were me and Spacing’s ad director, Alex McKenna, who had been hired in June 2006 to take over ad sales from Matthew Blackett. The addition of McKenna to the masthead was a good move for Spacing since the revenue from his ad sales for Issue #7 had more than doubled the $1,950 sold for Issue #6 (and he was on track to triple that for the forthcoming issue). But McKenna was only responsible for selling ads; I was taking care of pretty much all other business matters.

In the 16 months I had been working for Spacing, my contributions to developing and maintaining capacity, and the revenue levels that required, were taking care of the aforementioned “laundry list,” managing the magazine’s banking and payroll, and handling subscriptions (Blackett was now handling newsstand distribution). I had also written the grant application that secured Spacing another year of funding from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) and coordinated the magazine’s participation in several newsstand-marketing and group direct-mail campaigns organized by Magazines Canada. In addition, I had helped to secure Spacing affordable office space in the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), and arranged through Magazines Canada for a magazine-industry expert to meet with us to talk about business development.

In addition, while I still had not yet set up proper financial recordkeeping, I had begun to put some numbers related to Spacing’s finances down on paper. For instance, while preparing Spacing’s 2006–07 OAC grant application in May 2006, I produced rough financial statements for Spacing for 2006 and 2007, which proved useful for goal-setting and determining priorities for the magazine at the beginning of 2007. I had calculated that Spacing’s revenue for 2006 would be $63,675 (with expenses of $61,095) and I was projecting that 2007’s revenue to be $106,646 (with projected expenses of $86,522). I felt this $43,000 increase in revenue and rise in profits from $2,580 to $20,124 would come from primarily from advertising (since McKenna thought he could sell $7,000 in ads per issue ($21,000 annually)—and bring in more revenue potentially if we took his advice and increased the price of ads in Spacing, which he was hearing were low compared to other magazines), but I was also predicting a significant number of new subscriptions and the renewal of existing subscriptions; I was also confident that Spacing could successfully request $20,000 from the OAC for 2007–08 (double the $10,000 received in 2005–06 and again in 2006–07). The increase in Spacing’s budget for 2007 meant that Spacing Media Inc. could not only continue its magazine-publishing activities but there was a large-enough surplus income for a full-time salary in the $20,000 range for one staff member. However, the magazine’s editors felt that having a dedicated workspace would be of greater benefit to the magazine and decided to sign a lease with the Centre for Social Innovation. As a result, the anticipated “surplus” would go towards the office Spacing would begin occupying in February 2007.

While having an office took priority for the editors, they were still interested in eventually being paid salaries so the goals and objectives I developed for Spacing in January 2007 were mostly related to increasing the magazine’s overall revenues to guarantee that would be possible the following year—and also to better balance the workload of the magazine and related projects to prevent burnout:

• Build revenue from magazine sales:
Hire a circulation manager; Promote new subscriptions; Encourage renewals

• Build revenue from promotional products:
Hire a subway buttons coordinator; Increase the number of stores where subway buttons are sold

• Increase advertising revenue
Sell more ads in magazine; Charge more for ads (adjust rates); Sell ads on website

• Cut costs where possible:
Use interns to write articles, take photos; Apply for the Publications Assistance Program (PAP) to reduce postage costs; Solicit sponsorships, in-kind donations for special events

• Leverage grants and funding
Request larger grant from Ontario Arts Council for 2007–08; Apply to Canada Council for the Arts to see if Spacing qualifies for funding; Apply to Canadian Magazine Fund’s Support for Editorial Content program; Apply for funding from the Canadian Magazine Fund or Ontario Media Development Corporation to conduct a direct-mail subscriptions drive


Writing the business plan

“A magazine’s business plan is the really the company résumé… You will not know how useful such a plan can be…until you find you don’t have one.”[81]

— D.B. Scott

With a mission statement and a clear set of goals and objectives in hand, I felt ready to move on to completing the rest of the business plan for Spacing. Informed by my past participation in the writing of a real business plan for a fictional magazine, I decided to include the following sections to document Spacing’s history, current situation, and future plans:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview: History, Company Profile, Mission, Products and Business Activities, Goals and Objectives
  • Magazine Overview: Mandate, Editorial Concept, Sections, Themes, Past Issues, Art Direction and Production
  • Market Analysis: Market, Audience, Competition
  • Advertising: Philosophy, Advertisers, Sales Projections, Opportunities and Challenges
  • Distribution and Circulation: Overview, Publishing History, Circulation History, Subscriptions, Single-Copy Sales, Circulation Promotions
  • Marketing and Promotions: Overview,, Special Events, Media Attention, Awards, Subway Buttons, Holiday Gift Packs, Calendars
  • Management and Operations: Staffing, Compensation
  • Financial Statements

In my opinion, the point of a business plan is to capture a particular moment in a magazine’s “life”—in part so it can later be used to track progress towards stated goals and objectives. In any case, writing one forces the close and careful consideration of all of the aspects of the publishing company and, similar to a situational analysis, doing so inevitably draws attention to its strengths and weaknesses but in greater detail because many more facts and figures have to be included. As D.B. Scott points out, “It takes quite a paragon to avoid the trap of glossing over harsh truths. But such glossing is more difficult when the numbers and the market data is down there in black and white.”[82] There is room in a business plan for assumptions and projections but any forecasts need to be supported by research, experience, and/or statistics, or they will stick out as unrealistic, which means that readers can rely on the document rather confidently to gauge a magazine’s growth potential, future profits, and room for expansion, as well as its current situation. Since a business plan includes financial statements, it is a very important document to have for potential investors, partners, and granting bodies seeking to quickly gain insight into a magazine’s operations—even if they have no specialized magazine-publishing knowledge.

In any case, the business plan I wrote over five weeks (see Appendix F) was a detailed “snapshot” of Spacing at the beginning of 2007, the magazine’s fourth full year of publishing. This portrait proved especially useful when Spacing participated in Magazines Canada’s “Travelling Consultants” program, which uses funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage to subsidize one-on-one consultations with magazine-industry professionals for small magazines.


Professional advice

On February 16, 2007, publisher Matthew Blackett, managing editor Dale Duncan, and I met with Canadian magazine expert D.B. Scott to talk about the future of Spacing. Our pre-stated goals for the day-long session were to figure out how to afford salaries for staff members and to receive advice on which revenue-generating activities to concentrate our efforts—in effect, we were hoping to learn how to implement the brand-new business plan to achieve the magazine’s goals and objectives.

The session, which cost Spacing $250, was helpful in many ways. Even though day-to-day operations were still somewhat disorganized, Scott thought highly of Spacing and was impressed by what had been achieved so far. He liked that we had a business plan and a media kit (see Appendix D), thought our ad sales looked good, and observed that we seemed to have a good handle on circulation and distribution. Remarking on the attention the magazine was getting from readers, advertisers, and the media, Scott pointed out that Spacing was “playing a hot hand” at the moment and suggested that we should try to capitalize on it before interest in the magazine, blog, buttons, and events waned. “It’s a new magazine-publishing world,” he told us. “You build a brand and then exploit it.” However, in order to be in a position to do so, Scott said we needed to make a few changes to the way we were doing business; fortunately, he also had some advice.

Because Spacing had a relatively small budget, and its staff was mostly made up of volunteers, Scott said it was essential that we make the best use of our time and resources. As an example, he pointed out that it only made sense to take on interns if doing so would result in greater productivity for the magazine (i.e., we did not have to spend the same amount of time managing them as it would take us to do the work they were doing ourselves). Since we wanted to increase the Spacing’s revenues, with an eye towards paying staff salaries the following year, he said that we should be looking at areas that were already generating money for the magazine, specifically circulation and advertising.

To boost Spacing’s circulation, Scott recommended that we “pick the low-hanging fruit” first; for example, by putting subscription cards in every issue, by e-mailing lapsed subscribers to ask them to renew, and by promoting subscriptions to anyone who had bought subway buttons or back issues of Spacing. After that, he said that we should prioritize a direct-mail campaign, specifically one where we promoted two-year subscriptions because they were already the most popular (and, at $25 each, would bring in a larger amount of revenue than if we sold the same number of one-year subscriptions). We also talked about expanding the number of retail outlets selling Spacing, possibly by reversing a decision made early on not to distribute the magazine in Chapters/Indigo stores.

As for advertising, Scott thought it was a good sign that Spacing had attracted a number of advertisers (many small magazines cannot get any) but he agreed with ad director Alex McKenna that Spacing had been too generous with the (low) rates we were offering to advertisers and told us that the magazine’s rate card should be adjusted as soon as possible. He also suggested that we should think about selling ads on because the blog it hosted received so much traffic.

Since each issue of Spacing published could be counted upon to generate a certain amount of revenue, Scott advised adopting a quarterly publishing schedule as soon as possible, and then developing a “fifth-issue strategy” (the repackaging of existing content as a special issue or anthology and selling it at a premium price), or adding branded free-standing publications (for example, a “City Builders” yearbook). However, as with any project requiring a certain outlay of cash, he said we should only do special issues if they would earn Spacing additional revenue. From this point forward, he told us, no Spacing project should be a money-loser. Finally, Scott thought we should start soliciting donations from our supporters and—now that Spacing had a business plan—we should explore private investment as a source of operating capital.


Failing to put the plan into action

Following the consultation with D.B. Scott, optimism reigned at Spacing: the industry expert had predicted great things for the magazine and the ability to pay staff salaries seemed just around the corner if only we followed his advice. But, given the realities of publishing a small magazine, what happened over the following six months was not unexpected: the business plan was all but forgotten and only a few of the suggestions Scott had made were actually implemented.

We increased the price of ads listed on the magazine’s rate card (see Appendix E) and Alex McKenna began selling website ads, but Spacing’s editors did not feel capable of producing another issue a year so that idea was shelved—even if Matthew Blackett was taken with the idea of doing some sort of special issue. I had intended to look into applying for funding from the Canadian Magazine Fund to subsidize the cost of a direct-mail subscription campaign for Spacing but a Canada Council grant application with a March deadline postponed that plan—and all other business-development work. But I was not the only person whose attention was distracted away from figuring out how to achieve Spacing’s goals and objectives.

Almost immediately following our consultation with D.B. Scott, Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan put on their editorial hats and began soliciting articles for the next issue of Spacing. It was easy to understand why they would be eager to get started because, even though the water-themed magazine would not be released for another five months, it was not just the day-to-day work of publishing Spacing that was keeping them busy. It seemed that in trying be more than just a magazine, Spacing was agreeing to organize or sponsor more and more special events, and getting involved in new projects all the time. In fact, the months leading up to the publication of the Water issue were packed. There was the “Public Space Invaders” film night in March, the Toronto the Good party in May, and the summer-long MyToronto video contest co-organized with the City of Toronto. Plus, there were trips out of town for meetings related to the brand-new Spacing Montreal blog and the development of a Spacing-inspired Vancouver blog and magazine. And all of these activities were taking place at a time when a lot was happening in Toronto, with projects to make the city more livable being announced every few weeks (from cutting-edge streetcars and new street furniture to plans for a new neighbourhood in the Lower Don Lands and a major revitalization of the Waterfront)—all of which cried out for comment from Spacing editors on the blog.

However, in the midst of the madness, one of D.B. Scott’s recommendations did get acted on. In mid-summer, I learned that the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) would be awarding grants to Ontario magazines for projects that would drive sales and increase revenues. I saw that subscription campaigns were eligible so I prepared and submitted an application in June proposing a direct-mail campaign. While our funding application to Canada Council back in March had not been successful, we had more luck with the OMDC and Spacing was awarded $15,000 (75% of the project’s total cost) in August for a late-fall addressed-admail project targeting non-subscribers with a $25 two-year subscription deal.

For the most part, though, the Spacing staff members who could have moved ahead with implementing Scott’s recommendations, and achieving the goals and objectives articulated in the business plan—namely Matthew Blackett, Dale Duncan, and me, who were the ones working out of Spacing’s new office the most frequently—became busy with the things just mentioned, and the momentum to move forward with Spacing’s business development ground to a halt As I explained in Part 1 of this report, that is not an unusual occurrence at small magazines, where even just the quotidian administration work can become overwhelming, but Spacing Media Inc. was also involved in many interesting projects besides just publishing a magazine so I should have expected that these projects and initiatives would “overtake” the plans for growth and expansion and the far-less-sexy, behind-the-scenes work they entailed. In retrospect, though, I believe the real reason why nothing came of all the effort put into figuring how to make Spacing into a successful small business was that, following the consultation, we never sat down to decide who would be responsible for making sure the work happened, nor when such work would take place, nor even what resources would be required. The key to successful strategic-planning, I now realize, is not just determining what needs to be done in a particular situation (as I did when I wrote the business plan, and which was re-articulated during the consultation with D.B. Scott), but also figuring out the carry-through: who will do it, what resources will be required, and by what date things will be completed. And then ensuring the work actually happens. But, unfortunately, that epiphany came to me too late.


Deciding to move on

By the end of June 2007, I was exhausted, frustrated, and tired of being broke all the time: burnout had set in and I did not have the drive to continue as Spacing’s business manager, which was becoming a more challenging and less rewarding job for me with each passing day. I was undecided about leaving the magazine but when my other employer offered to make my part-time job into a full-time position at the beginning of September, I decided that I should quit Spacing. So, on July 12, I announced my resignation to Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan via e-mail and we met to discuss it the following day. We decided I would wrap up the work I had underway and the resignation would be effective September 1.

In the end, it is amusing—but not surprising—that I fell victim to one of the very challenges of small-magazine publishing articulated in Part 1 of this report. I had already seen it happen to my friends at Shameless (who had started their magazine for teenage girls around the same time as Spacing was launched) and, soon after I announced my decision to leave Spacing, the magazine’s ad director, Alex McKenna, also resigned. As Melinda Mattos, co-founder and ex-editor of Shameless, put it “There’s something romantic about being up in your pyjamas until two in the morning working [for free] on a magazine—for the first few years.”[83] After two years of hard work on behalf of Spacing, I realized it was not my dream that we were staying up late to achieve and I was tired from the lack of sleep. I also felt I had reached the limit of my ability to help with the business side of Spacing, a feeling best described in my resignation letter:

I never expected just how complicated, time-consuming, and ultimately overwhelming actually being the magazine’s business manager would be for me. I committed myself to helping out Spacing initially because I believed I could make a difference significantly and quickly, in part based on what I had learned about magazine publishing in school. But, in retrospect, I didn’t really I know what I was getting into by agreeing to be Spacing’s business manager and I overestimated my own skills, knowledge, and ability with regards to business matters…. Despite my best efforts to convince myself otherwise, I don’t seem to be cut out for the business side of magazine publishing: the stress and anxiety I’ve experienced trying to figure out everything from draconian Canada Post regulations to confusing Magazines Canada remittance reports to what to submit as financials to various grant applications has simply become too much for me.[84]

And even though it had all become “too much” for me, I still wanted to conduct another situational analysis to evaluate the progress made towards my long-term goal of turning Spacing into a viable small business.


Evaluating the progress made

When compared with the first situational analysis I had conducted two years prior, the situational analysis I completed in September 2007 (see Appendix B) showed that my time acting as Spacing’s business manager—and my attempts to apply strategic-planning principles to improve the magazine’s business organization and operating efficiences during that period—had, in fact, had a measurable positive impact.

Spacing was now published by an incorporated business, Spacing Media Inc., which was registered in the province of Ontario, and had an office in downtown Toronto. While financial recordkeeping was still a work in progress,[85] there was at least now a sense of annual and per-issue revenues and expenditures—and, at some point, the accounting software I had purchased would be used to set up proper accounting systems, which would be useful for tracking profits from ancillary products like Spacing’s ever-popular subway buttons and for calculating taxes owing.

Spacing was still riding a wave of popularity, which continued to help attract contributors, advertisers, event partners, and people simply wanting to support the magazine (such as the Centre for Social Innovation, which had found a way to subsidize the magazine’s rent to make it more affordable). Having published eight issues, and with a ninth on the way, the magazine’s editors seemed comfortable with the routine of producing a new magazine every four months. The production schedule Matthew Blackett had set up as the magazine’s publisher and creative director was keeping things on track so that readers, subscribers, advertisers, and retailers now knew when to expect a new issue. It was also helpful that the editorial collective had an office in which to work and hold meetings. In addition, despite the low rates Spacing continued to pay, there were still a large number of loyal writers, illustrators, and photographers wanting to contribute to the magazine and the Spacing Toronto blog, and well-known Toronto journalists like John Lorinc and Christopher Hume had become regular contributors. In general, the overall quality of of the magazine and the blogs had increased since the editors were now more experienced writers and editors. Their efforts had been recognized with more awards, including the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors naming Spacing “2007 Small Magazine of the Year” and Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan as “2007 Editor of the Year.”

Public-space issues had begun to interest other local media outlets and editors and producers had begun relying on Spacing for story ideas for their mainstream audiences. Because of the magazine’s reputation as “the public face of public space,” journalists were also now calling the Spacing office routinely to obtain comments on cuts to transit service, the redevelopment of the waterfront, the creation of new parks, and the like, and Spacing editors were contributing to other publications on a regular basis (usually writing about public-space topics). Still, despite local media interest and increased coverage of public-space issues, no direct competitor for Spacing had emerged, which was fortunate because the magazine was still building its readership.

Subscriptions and newsstand sales were growing, albeit slowly: Spacing had 900 subscribers and approximately 2,500 copies of each issue were being sold on the newsstand (in addition to sales at launch parties and other special events). To meet demand for the magazine, the regular print run for each issue was now 5,000, and Magazines Canada was distributing more copies of Spacing in Toronto and nationwide. In general, though, not a great deal of revenue was being generated through circulation, even though newsstand sales were now generating slightly more income since Spacing’s cover price had been increased from $6 to $7.

Fortunately, advertising and button sales were still profitable for the magazine. Revenue from the former increased dramatically during the time that Spacing had had a dedicated ad director, and even though Alex McKenna had resigned recently, the relationships he had developed with certain companies were continuing to benefit the magazine through the rebooking of ads. The Toronto Transit Commission was now producing its own subway buttons, but Spacing’s versions continued to sell well at events and through the website. Additional revenue was derived from grants: Spacing had received funding from the Ontario Arts Council for three years in a row and, as already mentioned, had also been recently awarded project funding from the Ontario Media Development Corporation to conduct a subscription drive. Since per-copy mailing costs were much less now that Spacing had a Publications Mail number and qualified for the Publications Assistance Program, the cost of fulfilling new subscription orders was considerably lower.

Unfortunately, with the departure of both Spacing’s ad director and business manager, the magazine was back at square one what it came to who was “taking care of business.” Matthew Blackett had taken on ad sales and newsstand distribution again, and Dale Duncan was handling subscriptions—in addition to their respective editorial duties and Blackett’s design work. But, human resources issues aside, Spacing appeared better organized and better run than it was back in September 2005. While there were still some problems to resolve, there were more positive aspects to Spacing’s situation in September 2007 than negative ones. In general, the situational analysis suggested that if the magazine remained on the same path, its viability as a small business seemed good and it would eventually achieve its goals and objectives, as will be discussed in more detail in the next section of this report.




“Unfortunately, magazines do come and go with some regularity—but the strong do survive. And by strong, I don’t mean the biggest… I mean those stalwart independents who carefully carve out their niches, develop strong editorial voices and consequently readerships, and continue to produce creative and pertinent content for their readers, month after month, year after year.”[86]

— Donald G. House, president, Alberta Magazine Publishers Association


Spacing’s potential for long-term success

According to the Print Measurement Bureau, one in every three new magazines fails within the first year, and more than 40% of the Canadian magazines that folded in 2005 were less than five years old.[87] Such statistics mean that, with each issue published, Spacing is beating the odds and I am confident that the magazine will be around to publish its planned fifth-anniversary issue this fall.

Since its launch in December 2003, Spacing has gone from being the part-time labour of love of half a dozen public-space enthusiasts, who were not sure whether they would ever publish a second issue, to a nationally distributed magazine with a passionate readership and a growing subscriber base, which is published by an incorporated small business. Through special events, sponsorships and partnerships, frequent media appearances, a line of award-winning subway buttons, and a hugely popular blog, the publishing team behind Spacing has turned its “baby” into much more than just a magazine—and, in doing so, has brought together such seemingly disparate groups as cycling activists, transit geeks, architects, pedestrians, urban planners, municipal politicians, and heritage preservationists to create a community that is unified in its concern for public-space issues in Toronto.

I believe the concern of Spacing’s own staff for these same issues—and their belief in the magazine’s ability to be an agent for social change—is at least partially responsible for its continued success, despite the odds stacked against small magazines in Canada. Which may mean that the founder and publisher of Cottage Life, Al Zikovitz, was right when he said, “I think so much of it is that [small-magazine publishers] just work on passion. Not numbers but passion—a firm belief in what we do, and goddammit, no one’s going to stop us, no one’s going to say no to us. And if anyone says you can’t do it, all the more reason why you want to prove them wrong.”[88] The Toronto-lovers who created Spacing, and who continue to volunteer their time to prove the naysayers wrong and keep the magazine going, possess the same drive and determination that helped Zikovitz expand Cottage Life—now 20 years old and with a much larger circulation—from a small magazine into a multi-title publishing company that through the magazine, website, television program, and biannual tradeshows strives to be “the first source for cottage-related information, products, and services.”[89] Another reason why I feel Spacing will succeed in the long run is the award-winning quality of the magazine, and the niche audience that it has developed and retained. To refer back to the advice offered to magazine publishers by the British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers (BCAMP), it is clear that Spacing’s editors have succeeded in creating the right “targeted editorial environment.”

But passion and quality can only take a periodical so far. For reasons I have already presented, a small magazine is a business and, as such, should the people behind Spacing wish it to be successful in the long run, they will have to pay attention to BCAMP’s second piece of advice and “develop revenues to support and justify continued publishing.”[90] Given the scope of Spacing’s ancillary projects and “extracurricular” activities, and the very real threat of staff burnout, the magazine’s continued existence will always be somewhat precarious until staff members can be paid to work on the magazine full-time. To afford salaries means increasing revenues and the staff of Spacing needs to become more aggressive about making money and commit to putting more time, effort, and resources into revenue-generating activities. Fortunately, the means for Spacing to generate additional revenue is already in place (and, since I stepped down as the magazine’s business manager, people are taking that aspect of the magazine more seriously).

The success of the recent subscriptions drive and the dramatic increase in ad sales revenue that resulted when the magazine had a dedicated ad director confirm that D.B. Scott was right to recommend that Spacing focus on these areas—and I feel that the potential for even greater revenue generation exists. Attracting more readers and converting newsstand buyers to subscribers would provide Spacing with a renewable source of increased income, one which would be especially welcome since the magazine receives a greater amount per-copy sold as part of a subscription than for a copy sold in a store. At present, Spacing’s single-copy sales per issue outnumber its subscription copies, when newsstand sales typically make up only 17% of a Canadian magazine’s sales, versus 83% from subscriptions. While having a high sell-through rate on the newsstand is desirable (and Spacing’s sell-through rate of over 85% is well above the industry standard of 50%), it is a variable and vulnerable source of income for any magazine because periodicals are typically impulse purchases and their sales can be affected by something as big as a downturn in the economy or something as small as choosing the wrong colour for use on the cover. In addition, Spacing is not immune to the newsstand-access issues already discussed, including the competition posed by American titles and the shrinking number of retail outlets carrying magazines.

Fortunately, Spacing’s online presence also has potential. The readership of the Spacing Toronto blog is large and its popularity keeps growing as word spreads that it is essential reading for those interested in urban issues. At present, efforts to sell online advertising have been mixed but that avenue could, no doubt, be pursued more aggressively now that regularly attracts 5,500 daily visitors. Cross-promotional opportunities also exist with Spacing Montreal, which has seen its audience grow from 400 daily visitors to over 1,400 since its official launch in September 2007.[91] In addition, Spacing has an e-newsletter mailing list with 3,500 subscribers and Spacing’s Facebook group has 2,100 members.[92] These numbers suggest that more people are encountering and interacting with Spacing via the Internet than are buying the magazine on the newsstand or via subscription. Even if there is some overlap, there is still a sizeable community of interested readers inclined to also enjoy the print version of Spacing, and who could be convinced to subscribe or buy the magazine on newsstands (to that end, sidebar ads on the blog “recommend” subscriptions and subway buttons and link directly to the online store where these items can be purchased immediately).

There is also the possibility of deriving more revenue from the magazine itself. The cover price was increased with the most recent issue but adding another issue each year (as is planned for 2009) will have even more of an impact on Spacing’s bottom line—both by directly increasing income from newsstand sales, subscriptions, advertising, and an additional launch party, and indirectly via the benefits that accompany the adoption of a more standard (for small magazines) quarterly publishing schedule. And beginning to accept donations from supporters and inviting private investment are other avenues to explore—ones that would not necessarily increase its staff’s workload, which is important to take into consideration.

So while there is the possibility of Spacing being financially successful, I feel the human resources needed for the magazine to achieve that potential are lacking. To pursue the majority of the revenue-generation options already mentioned will require staff to work additional hours. One solution to the staff shortage on the business side of the magazine would be to streamline editorial activities to free up staff members to sell ads and promote subscriptions. But most of the people who currently work on the editorial side of the magazine are not skilled in theses areas, nor are they keen to take on additional responsibilities (or they would have already volunteered to help out in this capacity), and rather than risk a drop in the quality of the magazine, especially once Spacing begins publishing four issues a year, it makes more sense to add dedicated business staff. Already needed are a business manager and ad director, whose hiring should be followed by a circulation manager (to manage subscriptions and newsstand distribution) and an individual to coordinate the sales, marketing, and distribution of Spacing’s subway buttons. Right now, Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan are handling all of these jobs but once the frequency of the magazine increases, their working hours should be focused exclusively on the production of new issues of Spacing given that their true talents lie in graphic design and editing, respectively.

Even with additional employees, though, the threat of staff burnout is still very real and should not be overlooked. I quit because of it and I worry that it could afflict other key Spacing staff members—particularly those who have been working on the magazine for almost five years without taking home a salary. Also, should efforts to raise Spacing’s revenues succeed to the point where salaries can be paid, publishing a magazine three (and soon four) times a year and coordinating all of Spacing’s ancillary projects is still be an overwhelming and potentially exhausting amount of work for a tiny staff to carry out. To ensure its continued survival, Spacing must figure out how a small number of people can continue to accomplish great things on a shoestring budget and not get burnt out, which is perhaps the biggest challenge facing today’s small magazines. Because no matter how passionate and energetic the individual, most people can only stay up late for so many nights in a row. I lasted two years; how long the rest of the staff at Spacing will last is to be determined. However, as long as passion fuels the publishing of the magazine and staff burnout is avoided, I believe that Spacing will last at least as long as Cottage Life has and continue to represent a Canadian small-magazine success story—in part, because it has already come so far and exceeded many people’s expectations, including my own.

In any case, the staff of Spacing continues to push onwards. According to Blackett, Spacing’s fifth-anniversary issue, titled “ThinkToronto” and scheduled for a fall 2008 publication, will see a re-design and a re-focus of the magazine’s editorial sections, with a strong emphasis on increasing the percentage of advertising in the issue to at least 25%. Because the issue will feature the results of a design competition, editorial costs will be less than usual and an opportunity to solicit congratulatory advertising (“a possible cash cow”) has been created—while simultaneously reaching out to Toronto’s professional city-building community of architects, urban planners, landscape designers, and the like. It is a smart move for Spacing and one that suggests the magazine’s staff have recognized and are embracing, at least subliminally, the goals and objectives I articulated last year for inclusion in Spacing’s business plan. Supportive of the goal of building revenue from magazine sales, this issue will no doubt attract new readers (and hopefully promote subscription purchases at the same time), and revenue from advertising will also increase—at the same time as costs are cut because of the reduced amount of original editorial content needed. Taken as a whole, this issue is a smart way for Spacing to increase sustainability by expanding the magazine’s audience and bringing onboard new funders (in this case, advertisers). It also suggests recognition of the magazine as a business and acknowledgement of the necessity of capitalizing on its growth potential to guarantee its continued ability to publish. Or, as Blackett observed in a recent e-mail, “The issue is meant to signal the next stage of Spacing, entering adulthood, so to speak.”[93] In the same way that young people who have moved out of their parents’ home come to realize that they have to start paying their own way if they want to do anything thing, Spacing is growing up and figuring out how to do exactly that.


Proof of the continued viability of magazine publishing in Canada

Despite the challenges outlined in Part 1 of this report and the difficulties I encountered at Spacing (and those that the magazine still must counter), I believe there is hope for Canadian magazines—particularly for small publications. As Rowland Lorimer noted in his 2005 report on the B.C. magazine industry, magazine publishing in Canada is a “stable cultural industry” and one that seems to be “expanding with economic and population growth.”[94] There are a number of factors behind this stability and expansion, which suggest that the forecast for magazine publishing in Canada is not as gloomy as some critics have suggested.


Marginal increase in magazine-reading and -buying among Canadians

Between 2002 and 2006, the Print Measurement Bureau found that the average readers per copy (“the most reliable standard of magazine readership”) for magazines in Canada rose from 5.1 to 5.5[95] while the number of magazine issues read by Canadians rose from 6.3 to 6.4[96]. Also worth noting is that between 1997 and 2005, consumer spending on magazines and periodicals in Canada rose by 7% (while spending on newspapers decreased by 7% over the same period).[97]


Increase in readership of Canadian-produced titles

Between 1998 and 2003, single-copy sales of Canadian magazines increased by 28% and their total circulation rose by 30%.[98] Currently, Magazines Canada estimates the market share of Canadian titles to be 41% of all magazines sold in Canada[99]—however, the organization feels it should and could be higher since it has been proven that Canadians have a preference for homegrown periodicals: 92% of the population feels that they “play a significant role in informing Canadians about each other,” 88% believe that it is important that editorial content be created specifically for them, and 90% feel that U.S. titles do not effectively cover Canadian issues.[100] These three findings highlight the cultural importance of the domestic periodical industry and which suggest that Canadians would buy more Canadian magazines, provided they could identify them. Therefore, it is not surprising that Magazines Canada’s 2002 “Genuine Article” national circulation and promotion program, which aimed to raise awareness about which magazines were in fact Canadian, caused sales of participating titles to increase, on average, by 6%[101]—proof that Canadians will buy more homegrown magazines if they can pick them out. This campaign continues today, with Canadian publishers encouraged to display the redesigned “Genuine Canadian Magazine” logo prominently on the covers of their publications.


Continual launching of new Canadian magazines

In 1956, Canada had just 661 periodicals to call its own (which accounted for, by some estimates, fewer than 25% of all magazine titles circulating in the country) but ever since the 1965 O’Leary Royal Commission led to the introduction of measures to protect and promote the Canadian periodical-publishing industry, the number of magazines in Canada has increased every year—as has their market share (which was just 20% in 1965).[102] More recently, a 2005 Department of Canadian Heritage internal evaluation of the Publications Assistance Program discovered a 7% rise between 2002-03 and 2004-05 in the number of consumer magazines available in Canada, which is significant when compared to the change in the number of titles available in the U.S. (down 1.6%) and the United Kingdom (down 3.4%) during the same time period.[103] Canadian Heritage only examined change over a short time period but when one analyzes the data over 10 years, as Statistics Canada did, it becomes apparent that between 1993 and 2003, Canada registered a 62% increase in the number of consumer magazines.[104] Trend analysis for more recent years is not available, however, similar information can be gleaned from Masthead, which tracks magazine “starts and stops” in Canada and publishes its findings on an annual basis in its March/April issue. In 2004, the magazine-industry trade magazine reported that 139 new magazines launched, while in 2005 and 2006, the number of launches they counted was 85 and 71, respectively. And Masthead also found that the number of annual closures seems to be declining as well (from 50 closures registered in 2002 to 34 in 2004 to just 21 in 2006).[105]


Revenues are up and the majority of Canadian magazines are profitable

Between 1998 and 2003, there was an increase in industry revenues by 23%.[106] While it is not known how exactly periodical publishers are faring in more recent years, in its 2003-04 examination of the industry, Statistics Canada found that 62.5% of all Canadian magazines were profitable.[107] The profit margin for these magazines is just 10% on average, however, as Globe & Mail journalist James Adams pointed out in his 2005 article about charitable status for magazines, the success of magazines like Chatelaine and Reader’s Digest proves that it is possible for homegrown titles to earn millions of dollars in profit annually and to attain circulation levels of over one million.[108]

Profitability of magazines is tied to ad sales and magazine advertising revenue growth has been outpacing TV and other media in Canada in recent years. Magazines Canada has been investing in campaigns to convince advertisers and media buyers of the value of advertising in magazines—as least as a secondary market. And it may be paying off: between 1998 and 2003, Canadian magazines experienced a 23% increase in revenue derived from advertising.[109]


Subscription sales are still strong in Canada

Canadian magazines also continue to overcome the economic odds stacked against them on the newsstand by successfully taking advantage of Canadians’ increased likelihood of buying magazines by subscription. In Canada, 83% of consumer magazine sales are by subscription versus just 17% at the newsstand (the opposite of Australia and the United Kingdom, where at least 89% of all magazines sold are newsstand sales).[110]


The small-magazine advantage

Despite all of the difficulties they will face, Canadians start new magazines every year and the majority of them are small magazines, which can likely be attributed to the fact that it is easier and requires a smaller initial financial investment to launch one. Masthead’s most recent annual survey of “stops and starts” found that of the 71 magazines launched in 2006, 13% had circulations of 5,000 or less, and 60% fell into the circulation category of 5,001-25,000 (up from 41% in 2005).[111] In fact, as Masthead observed, “small- and medium-sized publishers have always been responsible for more than 90% of all magazine starts,”[112] demonstrating that small magazines are the ones driving industry growth in Canada.

As discussed earlier, because they are not as beholden to advertisers or other commercial interests as larger-circulation publications, small magazines are able to present cutting-edge work that might not otherwise be published. Also, as small businesses, there are fewer layers separating small-magazine publishers from their audiences, which means that publications of this size are able to establish a closer connection to their readership: at events, readers can mingle with the staff that produce the publication; at street fairs, they can buy the magazine directly from one of its editors; and, they can call the magazine’s office directly to have subscription problems resolved. As noted in the Keeping Readers report, “personalized service is, for [small magazines], not merely a buzzword about customer management, but a daily operational reality”[113]—but one that works to their advantage in that it helps develop loyalty and a community of supportive readers.

Finally, while most magazine-industry infrastructure (postal rates, distribution channels, etc.) supports the needs of larger magazines, small magazines have some flexibility when it comes things like swapping advertising in exchange for the use of a venue for a launch party or negotiating direct-to-retail distribution arrangements. (For example, Spacing gets 90% of the cover price for copies sold at one Toronto music store to which it supplies magazines directly.) This flexibility also means they can employ creative revenue-generating strategies (such as selling one-inch buttons) and are thus not as reliant on advertising as bigger-budgeted magazines produced by multi-title publishing corporations.

Yet, even though the future of the magazine industry in Canada overall seems secure, and small magazines possess the survival skills needed, the production of individual titles year after year remains a challenge. To thrive, small-magazine publishers need passion and dedication but also common sense.


Principles for successful small-magazine publishing

Having looked closely at the challenges all Canadian magazines face, and witnessed the difficulties they can present to small magazines firsthand at Spacing, it would be misleading for me to suggest that publishing a small magazine in Canada is easy, however, for the reasons presented previously, I feel confident saying that the future of small-magazine publishing in Canada is bright. For instance, THIS Magazine may still be the work of just a handful of (paid) staff but the bimonthly magazine just celebrated its 40th anniversary—and Spacing could be similar success-story-in-the-making. For that reason and because I feel there are lessons to be learned from the magazine, I have distilled the knowledge and insight I gained at Spacing into 10 principles for successful small-magazine publishing, which I present here as “food for thought” for current (and future) Canadian small-magazine publishers hoping to beat the odds themselves:

  1. Pay attention to history: know why magazines commonly fail and what pitfalls to avoid.
  2. Find your niche and speak to it: produce a high-quality editorial product, don’t attempt to reach too many markets, and focus on your strongest subjects.
  3. Avoid financial fumbles: hire an accountant, balance your chequebook, and pay taxes.
  4. Exercise smart growth: don’t have unrealistic expectations and don’t expand too quickly, but do expand and take the time to plan out how to make it happen.
  5. Be competitive: look at what other magazines are doing and figure out who your competitors are (and recognize that they may not always be other magazines).
  6. Use grants and private funding to your advantage: don’t rely on this source of income but, when the opportunity arises, take advantage of what is available to grow your business.
  7. Get the word out: marketing, self-promotion, and advertising are all important and investing in these areas will pay off.
  8. Recruit allies and supporters: figure out whom you can ask for financial support, who will buy subscriptions, and take on volunteers and interns.
  9. Play by the rules: respect privacy regulations and advertising/editorial guidelines, don’t abuse copyright, and understand the benefits of contracts.
  10. Be grateful: thank everyone who is contributing to your continued ability to publish—whether or not you’re able to pay them (but do that when you can).

If small-magazine publishers keep these principles at heart, and acknowledge the challenges of their industry, I believe it is possible for them to successfully (and viably) produce small-circulation periodicals in Canada today—and, for it to be a legitimate and rewarding career. To quote Colleen Seto, executive director of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association,While it may not be the glamorous life you envisioned, producing a glossy little number can be a pretty satisfying way to make a living.”[114]




1 Scott, “Some truths about indie mags.” RETURN

2 Keys, response to “Indie Mag Revolution in Eye Weekly.” RETURN

3 Duncan, “Fight Club,” 8. RETURN

4 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04. (Note: Magazines Canada 2005 estimate was 1,160 consumer magazines) RETURN

5 Canadian Living, according to “Canadian Newsstand BoxScore,” 2007. RETURN

6 Ibid. RETURN

7 Ibid. RETURN

8 Lorimer and Gasher, Mass Communication in Canada, 140; Sutherland, “Words to the Wise,” 19. RETURN


10 For a not-for-profit magazine to be awarded charitable status, there must be a foundation in place to oversee its publishing activities and Revenue Canada must rule that the title has, in its opinion, a strong-enough educational mandate (rather than being published for purely “commercial” or “informational” reasons). RETURN

11 Parker, Reaching Readers, 42–43. RETURN

12 Ahnsu Consulting, Culture of Cultural Magazines, 10, 32–69. RETURN

13 Ahmad, Geist in the Machine, 16. RETURN

14 Duncan, “Fight Club,” 8. RETURN

15 Whittington-Hill, “Magnetic North,”194. (Note: at the time of writing, the print version of Blackfly was on hiatus) RETURN

16 Ibid., 197. RETURN

17 Hodgkinson, “The mourning after,” November 27, 2005. RETURN

18 American Society of Magazine Editors, “Number of Magazines”; Abacus Circulation, Taking Back the Rack, 18. RETURN

19 Abacus Circulation, Taking Back the Rack, 21; “U.S. Magazine Spill,” 2005. RETURN

20 “Canadian Newsstand BoxScore,” 2007. RETURN

21 Lorimer, Vibrant But Threatened, 244. RETURN

22 A March 2002 Magazines Canada-funded study of 80 U.S. titles found that these magazines discounted their single-copy price in Canada by an average of 15.5% (or roughly $1 a copy), compared to the price that they would have been charged using the US price multiplied by the prevailing exchange rate. (Taking Back the Rack, 59) RETURN

23 Since July 1, 2002, the Foreign Publishers Advertising Services Act allows foreign publishers “to sell up to 18% of the space dedicated to advertisements in their publications to Canadian advertisers.” RETURN

24 Lorimer and Gasher, Mass Communication in Canada, 183. RETURN

25 Periodical Marketers of Canada, “The Newsstand Channel, 2005/06.” RETURN

26 Utne, “Maple Leaf Rags.” RETURN

27 Lorimer, Heterogeneous World, 40, 34. RETURN

28 Periodical Marketers of Canada, 2005 PMC Periodical Database Report. RETURN

29 Periodical Marketers of Canada, “The Newsstand Channel, 2005/06.” RETURN

30 Abacus Circulation, Taking Back the Rack, 5. RETURN

31 Periodical Marketers of Canada, 2005 PMC Periodical Database Report (see chart on page 13). RETURN

32 Ibid. RETURN

33 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishers Survey: 2003–04. RETURN

34 McCreadie, presentation, January 24, 2005. RETURN

35 Abacus Circulation, Taking Back the Rack, 22. RETURN

36 Ahnsu Consulting, Culture of Cultural Magazines, 16. RETURN

37 Magazines Canada’s analysis of Publications Mail rate increases from 2001 to 2007 found that magazine publishers mailing at the Publications Mail National Distribution Guide (NDG) presort rate have endured—depending on their magazine’s per-copy weight—1% to 8% increases every single year to the point where, for example, the per-copy cost of mailing a 300g magazine under this system has increased by 27% overall during this time. RETURN

38 Shields, “Tally ’06,” 14. RETURN

39 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04. RETURN

40 Statistics Canada, “Periodical Publishing.” RETURN

41 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04. RETURN

42 Statistics Canada, “Periodical Publishing.” RETURN

43 Hayes, “Who’s the Boss?,” 36. RETURN

44 Mah, “Worlds Are Colliding!,” 22. RETURN

45 Riggs, lecture, February 1, 2005. RETURN

46 Scott, reference to The Walrus, in Adams’ “We want your tax dollars,” R6. RETURN

47 Bordon, presentation, February 1, 2005. RETURN

48 When determining how to spend a client’s advertising budget, media buyers rely extensively on audited circulation figures in combination with PMB demographics and psychographics. This information allows them to target very specialized audiences (for example, men aged 30-35 who drive SUVs and live in Calgary) in the most efficient way. RETURN

49 Hodgkinson, “The mourning after,” November 27, 2005. RETURN

50 Own addition based on available data. Figures for PAP and CMF taken from Numbers and Issues — Periodical Publishing Policy and Programs Annual Report 2005-2006; figures for Canada Council from its online database of grant recipients. RETURN

51 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04; Stephen Osborne’s “Subsidy Management Model” suggests that the typical small-circulation quarterly receives 1% of its revenue from PAP, 13% from the CMF, and 31% from non-specified grants; for a total of 45%. RETURN

52 Department of Canadian Heritage, “Important Notice: Public Consultations.” RETURN

53 Gontard, Raising the Revenue at a Small-Circulation Magazine, 11–13. RETURN

54 Ibid., 13. RETURN

55 Whittington-Hill, “Magnetic North,” 198–99. (Note: The situation has changed and THIS Magazine currently receives funds from the Ontario Arts Council.) RETURN

56 Duncan, “Fight Club,” 8. RETURN

57 Abacus Circulation, Keeping Readers, 12. RETURN

58 Webster, “Exciting developments are afoot.” RETURN

59 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04. RETURN

60 Ahnsu Consulting, Culture of Cultural Magazines, 19. RETURN

61 Abacus Circulation, Keeping Readers, 13. RETURN

62 Blackett, e-mail, September 17, 2005. RETURN

63 In my case, it was a party hosted by Coach House Books, held shortly after I had moved back to Toronto. RETURN

64 B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers, Business Strategies, 7. RETURN

65 Riggs, lecture, January 26, 2005. RETURN

66 Ibid. RETURN

67 Blackett, e-mail, September 17, 2005. RETURN

68 Generally referred to by the acronym for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. RETURN

69 Which I did when I conducted a second situational analysis in September 2007 (see Appendix B). RETURN

70 The framework is itself an extension of the 3 C Analysis, which examines only company, customers, and competitors. (For more information, see RETURN

71 Without an office, publisher Matthew Blackett’s living room served regularly as the venue for meetings and copy-editing “parties.” RETURN

72 Matthew Blackett would later explain that this was due in part to the founding editors’ incredulity about the magazine’s ability to last beyond one or two issues. RETURN

73 Scott, “Common mistakes of small magazine publishers.” RETURN

74 I filed the application to incorporate Spacing Media on July 14, 2006, through RETURN

75 Magazines Canada, How to Start a Magazine. RETURN

76 Magazines Canada publishes a very useful handbook, The Small Publisher’s Guide to Mailing Your Publication (2004), produced in collaboration with Canada Post, the Canadian Business Press, and the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is available online at RETURN

77 Riggs, “Organizational Management,” 30. RETURN

78 Moffitt, “Word of Mouth Discovery #8.” RETURN

79 Riggs, “Organizational Management,” 33. RETURN

80 B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers, Business Strategies, 5. RETURN

81 Scott, “Importance of a Business Plan,” 88. RETURN

82 Ibid., 89. RETURN

83 Duncan, “Fight Club,” 8. RETURN

84 Author e-mail, July 12, 2007. RETURN

85 At the time of writing, Spacing had just hired a bookkeeper. RETURN

86 House, “President’s Message,” 4. RETURN

87 Sankey, “Flash in the Pan?,” 9. RETURN

88 Wightman, “Al’s Excellent Adventure.” RETURN

89 Cottage Life website, “Our Story.” RETURN

90 B.C. Association of Magazine Publishers, Business Strategies, 5. RETURN

91 Blackett, Spacing website statistics spreadsheet, February 24, 2008. RETURN

92 Blackett, E-mail message to author, February 24, 2008. RETURN

93 Blackett. E-mail message to author, February 24, 2008. RETURN

94 Lorimer, Heterogeneous World, 6. RETURN

95 Print Measurement Bureau, PMB 2007 Survey. RETURN

96 Sutherland, “Words to the Wise,” 19. RETURN

97 Hill Strategies Research, “Consumer Spending on Culture in Canada…”: 5. RETURN

98 Own analysis of Statistics Canada Periodical Publishing Survey, 1998 and 2003/04 editions. RETURN

99 Magazines Canada press release, January 8, 2007. RETURN

100 Referenced without detailed attribution several times in various Magazines Canada publications. RETURN

101 The average was 6%: larger circulation magazines gained 3%, mid-sized magazines 12%, and small magazines gaining 39% (Taking Back the Rack, 115). RETURN

102 Gray, Production & Management of Small Magazines, 4. RETURN

103 Canadian Heritage, Summative Evaluation of the Publications Assistance Program, iv. RETURN

104 Statistics Canada, “Periodical Publishing.” RETURN

105 Shields, “Tally ’06,” 11. RETURN

106 Own analysis of Statistics Canada Periodical Publishing Survey, 1998 and 2003/04 editions. RETURN

107 Statistics Canada, Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04. RETURN

108 Of course, the two magazines he mentions are very mainstream, general-interest periodicals; he points out that “the tricky part appears to be sustaining something with a circulation between 6,000 and 60,000.” (Adams, “We want your tax dollars,” R6.) RETURN

109 Own analysis of Statistics Canada Periodical Publishing Survey, 1998 and 2003/04 editions. RETURN

110 Abacus Circulation, Taking Back the Rack, 22. RETURN

111 Just 23% of all magazines launched last year started with circulations above 25,000. (Shields, “Tally ’06,” 14.) RETURN

112 Shields, “Tally ’06,” 15. RETURN

113 Abacus Circulation, Keeping Readers, 14. RETURN

114 Seto, “Editor’s Letter,” 5. RETURN

*This information was collected in July 2006 and should be used for reference purposes only as it may be out of date. RETURN




Abacus Circulation. Keeping Readers: Fulfillment for Small Canadian Magazines. Department of Canadian Heritage, March 2001.

————. Taking Back the Rack: Amid New Challenges, Canadian Magazines Compete for Visibility on our Newsstands. Department of Canadian Heritage, February 2003.

Adams, James. “We want your tax dollars.” Globe and Mail, October 29, 2005.

Ahmad, Anne. Geist in the Machine: A Case Study of a Literary Magazine. Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2000.

Ahnsu Consulting Group. The Culture of Cultural Magazines: A Report on the Critical Issues Faced by British Columbia’s Cultural Magazines. British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers, May 2004.

American Society of Magazine Editors. “Number of Magazines, 1988–2006.”

Blackett, Matthew. E-mail message to author, September 17, 2005.

————. E-mail message to author, February 24, 2008.

————. Spacing website statistics spreadsheet, February 24, 2008.

Bordon, Alessandra. Presentation to Master of Publishing class, Simon Fraser University, February 1, 2005.

British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers. Business Strategies. In print: Working Strategies for Magazine Publishers. (Vancouver: British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers, n.d.).

Canada Council for the Arts. Searchable database of grant recipients. (Accessed February 11, 2008)

Coast to Coast Newsstand Services Partnership. Canadian Newsstand BoxScore, 2007. (Accessed September 6, 2007)

Cottage Life. “Our Story,” Cottage Life website.

Department of Canadian Heritage, Corporate Review Branch, Evaluation Services. “Executive Summary,” Summative Evaluation of the Publications Assistance Program, June 22, 2005.

Department of Canadian Heritage, Periodical Publishing Policy and Programs Directorate Cultural Industries Branch. Numbers and Issues — Periodical Publishing Policy and Programs Annual Report 2005-2006, 2006, HTML version. (Accessed February 11, 2008)

Department of Canadian Heritage website. “Important Notice: Public Consultations.” www.pch.gc.catprogs/ac-ca/progs/pap/index_e.cfm (Accessed February 21, 2008)

Duncan, Dale. “Fight Club: For Independent magazine publishers, love is a battlefield.” Eye Weekly, January 25, 2007.

Gidney, Holland. E-mail message to Matthew Blackett and Dale Duncan. July 12, 2007.

Gontard, Elisabeth. Raising the Revenue at a Small-Circulation Magazine: Geist Magazine Pursues National Advertisers. Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2004.

Gray, Andrew. The Production & Management of Small Magazines [Creative Writing 521 course reader]. (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1999).

Hayes, David. “Who’s the Boss?” Toronto Life, February 2008. 35–41.

Hill Strategies Research Inc. “Consumer Spending on Culture in Canada, the Provinces and 15 Metropolitan Areas in 2005,” Statistical Insights on the Arts 5, no. 3 (February 2007).

Hodgkinson, Jean.“The mourning after: Saturday Night’s latest death reinforces the notion that Canada cannot support general interest magazines — or does it?,” Ryerson Review of Journalism, online edition, November 27, 2005.

House, Donald G. “President’s Message.” Template: The Definitive How-to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta (Calgary: Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, 2006).

Lorimer, Rowland and Mike Gasher. Mass Communication in Canada, 5th ed. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Lorimer, Rowland. The Heterogeneous World of British Columbia Magazines, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University, August 2005.

————. Vibrant But Threatened. (Vancouver: Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 1997).

Magazines Canada. How to Start a Magazine: FAQs for New and Would-Be Publishers.
(Accessed April 28, 2007)

Mah, Andrew. “Worlds Are Colliding!” Template: The Definitive How-to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta (Calgary: Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, 2006).

McCreadie, Eithne. Presentation to Master of Publishing class, Simon Fraser University, January 24, 2005.

Moffitt, Sean. “Canada’s Word of Mouth Discovery #8 – Spacing Magazine,” Buzz Canuck, December 2, 2006.

Parker, Judith. Reaching Readers: A Report on the Circulation Roundtable for Small Magazines. Department of Canadian Heritage, May 2003.

Periodical Marketers of Canada. “The Newsstand Channel, 2005/06” in Canadian Single-Copy Snapshot. Masthead, November 2006.

————. 2005 PMC Periodical Database Report, September 2005.

Print Measurement Bureau. PMB 2007 Survey cited in “Magazine readership dips slightly,” MastheadOnline, March 29, 2007. (Accessed on March 30, 2007)

Riggs, Craig. Lectures to Master of Publishing class, Simon Fraser University, January 26, 2005 and February 1, 2005.

————. “Organizational Management,” Small Magazine Business. Small Magazines Handbook Series. (Toronto: Magazines Canada, 2006).

Sankey, Derek. “Flash in the Pan? Not With a Plan!” Template: The Definitive How-to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta (Calgary: Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, 2006).

Scott, D.B. “Common mistakes of small magazine publishers,” Canadian Magazines, February 25, 2005.

————. “Some truths about indie mags.” Canadian Magazines, January 25, 2007.

————. “The Importance of a Business Plan,” The Basics of Financial Management: A Handbook for Canadian Magazines, Ed. D.B. Scott, 2nd ed., (Toronto: Canadian Magazine Publishers Association, 1999).

Seto, Colleen. “Editor’s Letter.” Template: The Definitive How-to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta (Calgary: Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, 2006).

Shields, William. “Tally ’06.” Masthead, March/April 2007.

Statistics Canada. “Periodical Publishing.” The Daily, June 8, 2005.

————. Periodical Publishing Survey: 2003/04, 2004.

————. Periodical Publishing Survey: 1998, 1999.

Sutherland, Jim. “Words to the Wise.” Template: The Definitive How-to Guide to Magazine Publishing in Alberta (Calgary: Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, 2006).

Utne, Leif. “Maple Leaf Rags.” Utne magazine, May/June 2005 (online version). (Accessed April 15, 2007)

Webster, Derek. “Exciting developments are afoot at Maisonneuve: Letter from the Editor.” Maisonneuve, online version, May 26, 2006.

Whittington-Hill, Lisa. “Magnetic North: Toronto’s magazines come off the page.” The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto, Eds. Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt. (Toronto: Coach House, 2006).

Wightman, David. “Al’s Excellent Adventure.” Ryerson Review of Journalism, Summer 2003, online version.





Appendix A: Situational Analysis of Spacing #1

app 1.1 app 1.2 app 1.3 app 1.4 app 1.5 app 1.6 app 1.7 app 1.8 app 1.9



Appendix B: Situational Analysis of Spacing #2

app 2.1 app 2.2 app 2.3 app 2.4 app 2.5 app 2.6 app 2.7 app 2.8 app 2.9 app 2.10 app 2.11 app 2.12



Appendix C: Steps to Incorporating a Small Business in Ontario[*]

Preliminary decision-making

  1. Choose a name that complies with corporation-naming conventions. If concerned about uniqueness of name, can do a preliminary name search of NUANS database and/or check Canadian and/or US Trademark database(s):
    • Canada:
    • USA:
  2. Choose a registered office, which should be your actual office or someone’s residence (can’t be a PO box or RR address)
  3. Pick shareholders and decide on share allocation/allotment (one easy way is to have 100 shares, where the number of shares reflects percentage ownership)
  4. Decide on number of directors and choose directors
  5. Decide on number of officers and choose officers
  6. Choose a fiscal year-end (December 31 is typical)


Making things legal

1. Use an online incorporation service like to do a corporate name search (NUANS Report type) and prepare and submit on your behalf the forms required to incorporate your business federally or provincially:
+++++a. NUANS name search
+++++b. Articles of Incorporation
+++++c. Initiation Notice of Directors
+++++d. Initial Notice of Registered Office

2. Use the Canadian Revenue Agency’s “Business Registration Online” system located at to register for the following:
+++++a. Federal Business Number (BN)
+++++b. CRA programs
+++++c. GST (if your annual revenue is $30,000+)
+++++d. payroll deductions (for Employment Insurance and Canada Pension +++++++Plan, if have employees on contract)
+++++e. corporate income tax account (automatically created when you +++++++incorporate)

3. Also use the BRO system to register your business name with the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services in order to get a Master Business License and Business Identification Number.

4. Once you have a Master Business License and Business Identification Number, apply for these accounts:
+++++a. Ontario Retail Sales Tax
+++++b. Ontario Employer Health Tax
+++++c. Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Follow-up paperwork
1. Draw up shareholder’s agreement (if one is desired)

2. Purchase or produce appropriate number of share certificates

3. Call a meeting of the shareholders and directors at which:
+++a. The shareholders:
+++++i. Adopt a general bylaw (or series of bylaws) to regulate the affairs of the +++++++corporation
+++++ii. Elect the directors
+++++iii. Adopt a shareholders’ agreement (if one is desired)
+++++iv. The directors then pass resolutions to:
+++++v. Appoint officers to manage the corporation’s day-to-day affairs
+++++vi. Approve the share certificates
+++++vii. Authorize the issuance of shares
+++++viii. Set the fiscal year
(NOTE: the above can be accomplished by the written consent of the shareholders: to do so, all the shareholders and directors need to sign and date the last page of the bylaw(s)/resolution(s) document)

+++b. Each share certificate is signed by two officers and is either distributed to ++++the shareowner or stored in the minutes book for safekeeping.

+++c. The appropriate registers are completed:
+++++i. Securities register (alphabetically indexed list of share holders and their +++++++addresses and the number of shares held by each)
+++++ii. Shareholder’s ledger (chronological breakdown of share +++++++issuance/transfer/sale by each shareholder)
+++++iii. Stock transfer register
+++++iv. Directors’ register (Register of all current and former directors, +++++++including names and residence addresses with date(s) of election)
+++++v. Officers’ register (Register of all current and former officers, including +++++++names and residence addresses with date(s) of appointment)

4. Set up banking or make adjustments to existing banking arrangements (according to resolutions, particularly with regards to signing authority and borrowing money on behalf of the corporation)

5. Set up or make adjustments to financial accounts and record-keeping

6. Purchase a minute book (a binder with loose-leaf works just fine) and insert:
+++a. Articles of Incorporation
+++b. Bylaws
+++c. Shareholders’ Agreement (if one exists)
+++d. All minutes of meetings and resolutions of directors, shareholders, and any +++++committee(s)
+++e. Securities register
+++f. Directors’ register
+++g. Officers’ register
+++h. Accounting records
++++i. Share certificates (or if certificates have been distributed, then a sample ++++share)
+++j. Register of share transfers (if applicable)


Appendix D: Spacing Media Kit


Appendix E: Spacing Rate Card


Appendix F: Spacing Media Inc. Business Plan



Digital Publishing: How Publishers Can Monetize Content On The Web

By Crissy Campbell

ABSTRACT: This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.

By looking at two case studies – Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program and Capulet Communications and its ebook, both which are projects that monetize the companies’ content – the paper explores tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, the paper describes the details of feasible online business strategies.

This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.




I would like to thank John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for their guidance and encouragement throughout the writing of this project report. I would also like to thank Jo-Anne Ray for her assistance and Darren Barefoot for taking the time to answer my questions about Capulet Communications. I would especially like to thank Monique Trottier for sharing her knowledge and giving me a terrific internship and employment opportunity with Boxcar Marketing. Her help and enthusiasm made this report possible.

I would like to thank my family, friends and fellow classmates for all of their support. And finally, a special thank you to Bob for always being there.





List of Figures

1: Introduction

2: The New Business Environment
2.1 The New Market
2.2 Pricing Models
++++2.2.1 Direct Sales
++++2.2.2 Affiliates
++++2.2.3 Subscription
++++2.2.4 Freemium
2.3 The New Users
2.4 Marketing To the New Users
++++2.4.1 Get Attention
++++2.4.2 Earn Trust
++++2.4.3 Secure Permission

3: Digital Publishing
3.1 Big Publishers Versus Small Publishers
3.2 Steps Small Publishers Can Take To Monetize Content Online
++++3.2.1 Define Business and Marketing Objectives
++++3.2.2 Define Audience
++++3.2.3 Format Content
++++3.2.4 Develop Search Engine Optimization Strategy
++++3.2.5 Create Marketing and Outreach Plan
3.3 Measurement Strategy

4: Case Study: Capulet Communications
4.1 Introduction to Capulet Communications
4.2 Marketing
4.3 Costing Model

5: Case Study: Boxcar Marketing Pro
5.1 Introduction to Boxcar Marketing
5.2 Research
5.3 The Business Plan
++++5.3.1 Audience
++++5.3.2 Marketing Plan
5.4 Content Generation and Packaging
5.5 Delivery Platform
5.6 Marketing and Outreach Plan
++++5.6.1 Leveraging Existing Platforms: Boxcar Blog and Underwire
++++5.6.2 Social Media
++++5.6.3 Blogger Outreach
++++5.6.4 Leveraging Partnerships
++++5.6.5 Advertising and Direct Mail
5.7 Financials and Sales Plan
++++5.7.1 Costing Structure
++++5.7.2 Targets
++++5.7.3 Recouping Costs
5.8 Measuring Success

6: Conclusion: How Publishers Should Move Forward


Appendix A: Personas
Boxcar Marketing’s Primary Personas
Boxcar Marketing’s Secondary Personas

Appendix B: Keywords

Appendix C: Resources and Tools for Publishers

Reference List



List of Figures

Figure 1: Engagement Ladder
Figure 2: Boxcar Marketing Pro Content
Figure 3: Competitor’s Pricing
Figure 4: Boxcar Marketing Pro Costs
Figure 5: Sales Target
Figure 6: Conversion Rates
Figure 7: ROI Funnel




Throughout the first decade of the new millennium the internet has been embraced by institutions, businesses and members of the public and this has eased public access to information – far beyond what was conceivable before the internet. The immediate accessibility of any content uploaded to the web as well as the democratization of online publishing tools, has turned internet users from recipients of information into recipients and participants in the formation of content. In other words, we have all become publishers. As Clay Shirky points out,

We’re not just readers anymore, or listeners or viewers. We’re not customers and we’re certainly not consumers. We’re users. We don’t consume content, we use it, and mostly we use it to support our conversations with one another, because we’re media outlets now too.[1]

As media outlets, internet users are flooding the web with personal blogs, twitter updates, product reviews, and other forms of user-generated content. With these changes to the public’s relationship to content, culture has become overloaded by the vast amount of information available.

This revolutionary change from relative inaccessibility and unavailability to information abundance is a major challenge to book publishers – one that cannot be solved by simply adding a social media position on staff. Rather, it requires publishers to restructure the way they do business.

The web is an opportunity for publishers. With cheap distribution on a much larger scale, the ability to reach highly targeted markets, and the ability to get precise metrics on markets’ behaviours online, publishers should be rushing to the web. But so far they have been hesitant to overthrow the existing business models that they have been comfortable working within for years. While publishers do not need to completely throw out their old way of doing business, they do need to build on and restructure their old models in order to succeed within the new media order.

Publishers are, essentially, experts at making content and information available to the public. They have knowledge, expertise and existing archives of content that are still valuable today and they need to find ways to bring their knowledge, expertise and content over onto the web. One way is to repackage this existing content to sell online and thereby monetize their content on the web.

Online everyone can now publish content and information, including teachers with offline content that can be sold on the web, business professionals with expertise that can be sold online, and traditional nonfiction book publishers with content from print books that can be repackaged for the web. In addition, traditional book publishers have expertise in editing, content packaging, and marketing, all which are valuable online. This paper seeks to illustrate how publishers can take their existing knowledge, expertise and content, and use online tools that are readily available to monetize their content online.

This paper shows how publishers – and anyone with nonfiction content – can monetize their content by building on existing online models. At my internship with Boxcar Marketing, a small online marketing company, I worked to develop an online marketing training program, called Boxcar Marketing Pro, to monetize the company’s content. By looking at how Boxcar Marketing Pro developed as well as at how Capulet Communications, also a small online marketing company, monetized their content by publishing an ebook, I explore tactics and best practices for building an online business strategy around content monetization. More specifically, I describe the details of feasible online business strategies.

This paper is meant as a how-to, to show how publishers can take advantage of the web to create sustainable online business models based on monetizing content online. The paper provides a workable business case that sorts out the details of online publishing strategies for others to use and build upon.

Part Two looks at the current business environment and the problems and opportunities that exist within it. Part Three explores the steps publishers can take to monetize content online. Part Four looks at Capulet Communications’ project and the results that it achieved. Part Five explores Boxcar Marketing’s project, Boxcar Marketing Pro, and outline the steps Boxcar took to monetize the company’s content. The paper concludes by examining what publishers can learn from these projects and how they can use Boxcar Marketing’s case study going forward.



2.1 The New Market

Back in 2004, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, coined the term for the web’s new market, the Long Tail. The theory of the Long Tail is based on the idea that, with the web, the cost of reaching consumers has fallen dramatically, giving rise to more choice in the market which significantly changes consumption patterns. With more choice, Anderson says,

Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail.[2]

According to Anderson, in Long Tail markets, there is much more potential to make money from previously unprofitable niche products and services, and these niche products can “collectively…comprise a market rivalling the hits.”[3]

In the online marketplace, the cost of reaching consumers has dropped because of three factors: the democratization of tools of production, democratized distribution and the ability to connect supply with demand.[4] Personal computers, the internet and relatively cheap technology and software have democratized the tools of production. Anyone with a computer can set up a blog and become published online. Software like GarageBand and iMovie (which are preinstalled on any Mac computer) give users the ability to record and produce music and films. Production costs are no longer a major barrier to entry. The internet has also democratized distribution, making everyone a distributor with no geographical limits and no costs of physical shelf space and warehousing. The third factor – connecting supply and demand – is the most important because, as Anderson states, it “helps people find what they want in this new superabundance of variety [and is where]…the potential of the Long Tail marketplace is truly unleashed.”[5]

Before the web, consumers found out about goods through mass media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines) and then passed along this information to family and friends via phone or face-to-face conversations. The information from mass media was usually from advertisers or columnists serving their own interests and most truly valuable information was from friends and family who had bought the product or experienced it themselves and could give their opinion about it. In these circumstances, hyper-targeted products and information are scarce and search costs – things that get in the way of finding what consumers want, like wasted time, hassle, and mistaken purchases[6] – are high.

These dynamics completely change with the web. In this interconnected and hyperlinked environment, consumers now find products with Google’s organic search and peer recommendations and rankings. When consumers are looking for products or information they “Google it” and, almost immediately, have a list of search results regarding the product or information they were looking for from all over the world. From here, they can delve further, clicking on their search results to read peer reviews and get unmediated opinions from peers who have bought the product. Anderson calls these filters. With quality filters consumers move from consuming mass marketed goods to niche goods that are tailored to personal tastes and areas of interest. As Seth Godin states, “the internet was supposed to homogenize us but what it has done is create silos of interest.”[7]

Long Tail markets “…are not pre-filtered by the requirements of distribution bottlenecks…”[8] so consumers need to do the filtering themselves. And once there are quality filters in place the “odds of finding something just right for you are actually greater in the Tail.”[9] Anderson argues that when search costs are low, not only is there less hassle, but also consumers have a better chance of finding what they like. And in an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, “narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”[10]

The Long Tail is a huge opportunity for publishers. Rather than being costly, online publishing is actually a viable, smarter solution than traditional print publishing. Online content has lower storage and distribution costs as well as lower marketing costs. Products online, if optimized for search, are more likely to be found by those looking for that type of content. When negotiating the online space, taking advantage of Long Tail market dynamics and publishing niche products is where publishers will succeed.


2.2 Pricing Models

In a world where information is no longer scarce and consumers have moved from passive readers and listeners to users and creators of content, how do publishers charge for content? Markets rely on supply and demand and the abundance of supply, in this case content, drives the cost of goods down, even to zero.

Many digital goods cost nothing. News, music and software can all be found for free, or almost free, on the web. Google offers most of its services, like Google Search and Gmail, for free. Copies of digital files – like music, movies and books – are freely available as well.

As a publisher trying to build a business model online, how does one compete with free? Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, argues that because the internet is “a copy machine…you need to sell things which cannot be copied.”[11] These are qualities that are better than free – for example, trust, immediacy, accessibility, personalization, and findability. Chris Anderson has a similar argument, noting, “…as commodities become cheaper, value moves elsewhere.”[12] And “the way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity.”[13] While content is abundant online, quality and expertise is scarce. This is where publishers have the upper hand. They are experts in their subject fields and, in the case of traditional publishers, are also experts at editing, packaging and selling content that is far superior than most of the free content online.

Anderson argues that there are now two economies, the attention economy and the reputation economy.[14] The web is about getting attention – website traffic – and then building a reputation from that traffic – page rank and links.

But how do publishers turn this attention and reputation into revenue?

Google offers Google Search and Gmail for free because these types services are also available elsewhere and having people use its services builds its reputation. But Google charges for its ad program, AdWords, because it has value that no one else can offer. AdWords is built on a brokerage model, replacing the ad agency’s role as the middleman between advertisers and consumers. By positioning itself this way, Google has built a reputation around its brand and has become the world’s most popular search engine. This means that it can earn revenue from its ad programs that have a reach that no one else can match. And something must be working – in 2009 Google earned $23.7 billion in revenue.[15] As Seth Godin states,

People will pay for content if it is so unique they can’t get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people.[16]

What do these new online pricing models look like? The following is a list of different ecommerce models that are in place on the web, from familiar models such as direct sales and subscription, to Freemium, a model based around Chris Anderson’s ideas about free.


2.2.1 Direct Sales

Direct sales is the most obvious and traditional ecommerce model. This includes companies like Amazon, Ikea and Walmart who sell their products online directly to buyers, similar to the conventional catalogue model. Direct sales can also include content and data sales where companies and organizations, such as Healthcare Canada, sell research data and reports to consumers.


2.2.2 Affiliates

Affiliate pricing models are based on partnerships in which people that like a business or product elect to be an affiliate for it. This model is based on a referral system where the affiliate markets the business on their website and to their community, often with a widget or button that links to a shopping cart, to help “benefit…the community, and to be compensated for that promotion.”[17] For example, because I like books, I could elect to be an Amazon Affiliate through Amazon’s Associates program. I would then put the Amazon Affiliate widget on my blog that advertises books that I like. If any of my blog readers click on the widget and buy the book, I get compensated. This helps Amazon because I am promoting and recommending books to people that trust me (my blog fans), this helps the community because they are finding out about good books, and it benefits me because I earn revenue for this promotion.


2.2.3 Subscription

Subscription models are based on charging a flat fee for access to a large volume of exclusive content. For this model to work, companies need to offer content that no one else has, that isn’t available for free somewhere else or that is more convenient to access with the subscription. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style is actually easier to use online, rather than in print, because there is a search feature that makes it quicker and easier to look something up. The content also needs to be dynamic so that users have a need to return and appreciate the duration of the subscription. Many subscription websites offer free content so that new visitors can sample what is offered on the website. These sites then market their ‘premium’ content as only available to subscribers or members. Examples of subscription models include Netflix, MarketingProfs, Mequoda, scholarly journals, and O’Reilly’s Safari Books Online program. These sites require registration and payment for full access and offer valuable content that users will pay for because the benefits outweigh the costs.


2.2.4 Freemium

Freemium models are about leveraging free content in order to charge for more valuable content where “…a few paying customers subsidize many unpaying ones.”[18] Basically, marketers use the free content to get attention – “Free is a relatively cheap way to get attention”[19] – and then offer a premium version that a small group of users will pay for, covering the costs of the free content for everyone else. Examples of Freemium models include Flickr, LinkedIn and MarketingProfs. Flickr and LinkedIn both offer basic free accounts to members but they also have paid ‘pro’ accounts that allow members to do more things – upload more photos at a time, for example. MarketingProfs offers some of its basic marketing information and content for free, but charges for its more advanced content and offers a ‘pro’ membership to those who want access to its extensive content archives. Anderson argues,

…[This model works because] It can accommodate the varying psychologies of a range of consumers, from those who have more time than money to those who have more money than time…Free plus Paid can span the full psychology of consumerism.[20]

Freemium models make publishers nervous, but it is one that they should explore because it an interesting business model that, when done well, works both to market the company and to earn revenue for the business.


2.3 The New Users

These new pricing models need to work within the needs of the new consumers – the users. These new users affect how businesses market and sell to their customers.

The generation born between 1982 and 2000 is referred to as the Digital Millennials. They are the most digitally connected generation in history and are, as Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins state, “…redefining…the rules of engagement for brands.”[21] Growing up online has empowered this generation, influencing their behaviours and values and it is largely with the Digital Millennials’ influence that the new consumers have emerged.

The new users are characterized by hyper-connectedness, empowerment and self-expression – they want to share and expect others to as well. As the Cluetrain Manifesto says, markets have become conversations,[22] which means that users are talking amongst themselves and expect marketers to talk to them in the same way. All of this is enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange. Social media tools like Facebook, WordPress, wikis and product review forms have made it much easier for users to express themselves and connect with one another. As a result, users are more informed and more organized. If a brand is attempting to sell a faulty product, the market will publicize this – on their blogs, on their Twitter feeds and with other tools.

These new users value authenticity and transparency and rely on friends’ word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations to tell them what to consume. As Monique Trottier says,

We trust our friends. Not commercials. Commercials tell us what is available to buy. Our friends tell us whether we want to buy it or not.[23]

One of the most important aspects of these new users is the growing level at which they are participating in communities online. In December 2009, global consumers spent more than five and a half hours on social networking sites that month, an 82% increase from the same time the year before.[24] Clay Shirky believes that the rise in participation in online communities is because communities and groups are inherent to the internet. The impact that these online communities are having on society’s ability to communicate cannot be overstated. As Shirky argues, “we’re living through the largest increase in human expressive capability in history.”[25] For example, as of February 2010, Twitter reported that people were tweeting 50 million tweets a day – an average of 600 tweets per second.[26]

People have always been able to form groups. The difference with the web is that it gives people new tools that extend this ability, allowing individuals to create larger, more effective groups with less effort. The amount of relief money raised for Haiti earlier this year was a direct result of the ability for groups to quickly get together online and work to spread the word, asking for donations. According to, a social media news blog, and the American Red Cross, two days after the earthquake in Haiti the American Red Cross had raised $5 million through their online text message campaign.[27] The amount of money raised was unprecedented and would never have reached the amount that it did without the web and its inherent ability to bring people together.


2.4 Marketing To the New Users

Seth Godin refers to these new groups that users are forming as Tribes. According to Godin, tribes are groups of people that form around strong common interests. They are based on shared ideas and values and, due to the global reach of the internet, even those on the fringes can now find and connect with a tribe. Godin claims that marketing to new users is about helping tribes connect and find each other. In addition, Godin points out that the tribes users form need guidance, so marketing is also about positioning oneself as a leader within these tribes.[28]

The idea of leading tribes makes perfect sense for book publishers because, as Richard Nash pointed out at BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum this year,[29] books are cultural objects that serve to build community. Using Oprah as an example, Nash argues that, contrary to the popular notion that she saved books, Oprah actually needed books to build her audience. Readers read in order to feel connected to the writer and to other readers and Oprah provided a space for readers to connect. So, essentially, publishers are in the “writer-reader connection business” and need to leverage this by building connections with their books. Nash argues that “content isn’t king; culture is,” and culture is the reason that people read, not content. In other words, communities and connecting are inherent to books.

Namaste Publishing, a small Vancouver spirituality publisher, is an excellent example of a publisher leading its tribe.[30] Namaste publishes innovative books on self-help, spirituality and alternative health. These books contain teachings that resonate with readers and, because of this, Namaste has a strong group of loyal fans. These fans want to connect with other readers as well as with Namaste’s writers, so Namaste wanted to provide a space for engagement amongst the group. To do so, Namaste hired Boxcar Marketing to transform the company from a traditional publisher to a leader of a spiritual community.

To become a leader, both Namaste’s online presence and traditional business model needed a major redevelopment. Through a website redesign headed by Boxcar Marketing, Namaste integrated various social web tools and transformed the website from a disconnected collection of sites and blogs into a social platform for the community. Now, visitors to the site can sign up for an account, post spiritual statuses (similar to Facebook status’ but with a focus on one’s spiritual state) and connect with others through forums and other spiritual spaces. In addition, Boxcar Marketing worked to establish a digital publishing business model for the company. The model is based loosely on Mequoda’s Media Pyramid strategy where a business leverages free content to attract email and blog subscribers to build permission, and repurposes content to create many different products in order “to pull customers up the pyramid to maximize profit.”[31] Namastehas a number of blogs that bring in readers, including the Namaste Publishing blog written by the publisher Constance Kellough; Bizah’s blog written by a fictional “student of truth”[32]; and author blogs. The company then builds on these blogs to create paid online courses, such as The Journey to Higher Consciousness, and events, such as Namaste Radio. This audience wanted to form a tribe and Namaste took the opportunity to lead and facilitate these connections and create a business model around it.

To become a leader, one must get the tribes’ attention, earn their trust, and secure their permission.


2.4.1 Get Attention

To start, publishers need to get attention by identifying the compelling or remarkable aspects of their product and tell a story that people will want to share. They need to create something worth talking about, tell the people who want to hear it, and those people will spread the word for them. While finding the core element of one’s product has always been important, marketers now need to position this in terms of new users’ behaviours. That is, marketers need get attention by encouraging user empowerment and self-expression.

Monique Trottier points out that what publishers are ultimately trying to do with the compelling aspects of their product is encourage word of mouth because “online word of mouth is persistent.”[33] Online, everything is logged and archived by search engines so that nothing ever goes away, which means that online marketing efforts have a lasting effect. Trottier continues on to say that, for marketers, the key is to encourage word of mouth by “…giving people the tools to pass it on. To share. To do the word of mouth marketing for you.”[34]

A good example of a product that tells a remarkable story is TOMS Shoes, an online shoe retailer based in California. When consumers buy shoes from TOMS, they are not only buying a pair of shoes for themselves, they are also buying a pair shoes for someone in the developing world: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”[35] This is an incredibly compelling story that is easy to tell – it is not complicated – and that consumers want to tell about their purchase – their shoes represent a kind act on their part.

In addition, TOMS Shoes enables the story to spread by giving consumers a way to share. On the TOMS shoes website, visitors are encouraged to tell the TOMS story (with links to email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks), share the TOMS documentary (where visitors can request a copy of the film and get instructions of how to screen it to a group) and upload their TOMS pictures (where visitors can add photos of themselves wearing the shoes and become a visible part of the community). By positioning the brand as a movement that consumers can get involved in, TOMS is succeeding in attracting attention to its product and the brand overall.

In terms of finding the story or compelling aspects within products based on content and ideas, the key is to pinpoint what users are buying. For example, high fashion magazines are not selling clothing; they are selling a lifestyle based on that clothing. So the story that fashion magazines are telling is a particular lifestyle – which is specific to each high fashion magazine. And this lifestyle story is what empowers users and encourages them to spread the word.


2.4.2 Earn Trust

When everyone is linked, trust is important, as Mitch Joel states,

In a world where we’re all connected, one opinion quickly turns into everyone’s opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your business is going to adapt and evolve.[36]

If publishers want people to spread their story to their family and friends, embed their video on their site, or paste their widget on their blog, they need to be trusted. Andrew Girdwood, head of strategy at bigmouthmedia, states, “Trust has now become the biggest challenge for marketers, and one which many are eager to address.”[37]

Trust requires publishers to be authentic in conversations with their communities. This means publishers need to be personable online and treat the social media space as a “cocktail party”[38] – instead of just talking about themselves, they should encourage conservations by introducing others to each other, asking questions, and be genuinely interested in what others have to say. Above all, when earning trust, transparency is key. Mooney and Rollins sum this up nicely,

The vast majority of online consumers simply want to make informed decisions and to do so, ironically, they go online to seek largely subjective perspectives from complete strangers. This seems like a contradiction: isn’t objectivity consumers’ Holy Grail? No, transparency is.[39]

Transparency requires that publishers don’t filter out negative comments about their brand. Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive,[40] and most companies’ concerns are unnecessary. Mitch Joel states that

According to Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice, Bazaarvoice has served over 10 billion peer reviews to date, and the majority of them are 4.5 out of five stars. Even more surprising, a negative review converts more effectively into a sale than a positive review.[41]

Consumers who read a negative review trust that site because it is honest and consumers are more likely to make a purchase on a site that they trust.

Mitch Joel argues, “Attention does not equal trust and Traffic doesn’t mean you’re building community.”[42] Although a brand may be getting attention, it could be for the wrong reasons. The online attention that BP has received about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a perfect example of attention and traffic not equalling trust. BP has received a ton of attention for the falsity of its online PR. Instead of spending time and effort to regain the public’s trust after the oil spill, BP bought sponsored links so that it would be in Google’s top results for the search term “oil spill”.[43] This manufactured effort to control what information searchers come across only provided fuel for the firestorm that has been brewing online – for example, as of July 2010 there is a fake BP Twitter account that mocks BP’s PR efforts, and a “Boycott BP” Facebook page with over half a million users behind it. Once online communities discover falsity the critical response can be detrimental for the brand.


2.4.3 Secure Permission

Earning trust leads to securing permission – permission to tell users about the next story, to send them an event invitation on Facebook, or to send them a monthly newsletter. Seth Godin argues,

The future of marketing is based on permission. It’s based on sending messages to people who want to get them, who choose to get them, who would miss you if you didn’t send them.[44]

The key is that once a publisher has someone’s permission, that person is much more valuable than a whole group of people who have not given their consent. For example, response emails – emails sent to people in response to requests for information or to orders being placed – “…will frequently generate more than 50% open rates.”[45] This means that at least half of the people that receive these emails open them – a huge percentage compared to regular email newsletters where 25% open rates are average.[46] This is because users are more receptive to marketing when they recognize a name and expect to hear from the marketer. This works in publishers’ favour, too, because they know that they are sending information to an interested audience.

Publishers can earn permission by becoming a resource. People appreciate useful tips and information and will pay attention to those giving it out. Publishers can also earn permission by supporting users’ online behaviours. Mooney and Rollins say that the three online behaviours that marketers should be encouraging are creating, sharing, and influencing.[47] Essentially, publishers want to create a space to encourage dialogue and conversations around their story. Namaste Publishing, for example, has earned permission through its various spirituality blogs by positioning the blogs as both a place for self-help and alternative health advice as well as a place to discuss, and have conservations around, spirituality.

All of the above marketing tactics – get attention, earn trust and secure permission – is a result of having to work within a new purchase funnel. Old consumers would move within the purchase funnel from awareness to interest to purchase. They would see a commercial on TV, something in the commercial would make them want what was being advertised, and then they would go to a store and buy it. But, as Mooney and Rollins argue, new users take the “scenic route,”[48] moving from awareness and interest – which usually happens online through their friends and tribes’ recommendations – to having conversations, making connections, joining groups, and comparing reviews, until, eventually, they arrive at the purchasing stage. And new users do not stop here. Next, they move to the post-purchasing stage where they submit their opinions and reviews online for the next round of buyers to use to make their buying decisions. Mooney and Rollins argue that marketers must “…allocate more resources for strengthening the peer connections and conversations along the way [to purchase]”[49] because these interactions are how users make buying decisions. Marketing is now about supporting, and leading, this longer, more engaged route.

Any online business strategy needs to work within the new market realities and how users are engaging online – both with brands and with each other. This means that publishers should focus their efforts at the niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes through the new purchase funnel. Publishers need to find the compelling aspects of their product that users will want to share, earn trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and secure permission to continue engaging with these communities in the future. Markets have changed significantly and marketers’ tactics need to change with them if they want to succeed online.

This section outlined the new online market realities and how publishers need to work within them. The effects of the Long Tail and the over-abundance of content have demanded new online business models, while the new users and how they interact online require new marketing tactics. Building on and leveraging this new market landscape, the next section outlines the steps that small publishers can take to monetize content online.



A digital publishing project requires a different workflow process than traditional publishers are accustomed to. Fortunately for smaller companies, changes to workflow are often much easier in smaller organizations than in larger companies.


3.1 Big Publishers Versus Small Publishers

In this era of media fragmentation and change, small organizations may have the upper hand – and this is no less true for publishers. Anyone familiar with the traditional publishing industry knows that there are vast differences between the way big publishing houses are run – with disparate, specialized roles for each employee – and the way small publishing houses are run – with employees doing everything from acquisitions to sales. This difference in organization affects how publishers are able to respond to change. In a big publishing house, any change to workflow processes is very complicated and moving over into digital publishing requires figuring out how to manage production, authors, contracts and staff and any decision about formats, digital rights management or distribution is extremely complicated – so much so that it actually impedes big publishers from implementing change.[50]

Small publishers have the upper hand when it comes to adapting. They can experiment with new business models, monitor their progress and quickly try something else if the new model does not succeed. In “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” Shirky argues that we need to move away from complexity and towards simplicity. He builds his argument by looking at the success of YouTube. In the past, large TV networks relied on complex productions and had a monopoly because they were the only ones who could afford such complexity. But Youtube has created “a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.” [51] As Shirky states,

…When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.[52]

Because small organizations have more adaptable workflow processes than larger companies, small publishers have an opportunity to start experimenting with simple business models, using simple tools and simple work flow processes before the big publishing houses have turned themselves around.


3.2 Steps Small Publishers Can Take To Monetize Content Online

While publishers are often told that they need to start publishing digitally, it involves specific steps that are very different from traditional publishing and, for many, the process is unclear. The subsequent section outlines the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web.


3.2.1 Define Business and Marketing Objectives

Publishers need to start by identifying their business objectives. These are the overall business goals for the project. While a mission or purpose outlines what a publisher wants to do, business objectives are measurable and help to prioritize business tasks and strategies. Common business goals are: sell product, create demand (for a product, service or event), create awareness (about a product, story, issue or brand) and get permission (to market to someone in the future).

Next, publishers need to build on their business objectives and the company’s overall identity, and define the marketing goals. Common goals include: promote engagement or awareness (about a story, issue, product or brand), promote a certain community or lifestyle, be a friend, or be an expert. The marketing objectives are how the company will position itself in order to reach the business goals. In other words, while business goals help to define tasks, marketing objectives define how a company will approach these tasks.

At this stage, publishers should further develop their strategy with a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan. The 7-Sentence Marketing Plan was developed by the authors of Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinsoon and Michael W. McLaughlin, and is only seven sentences because it forces one to focus. A 7-Sentence Marketing Plan answers the following questions:


Sentence 1: What is the purpose of your marketing?

Sentence 2: Who is your target market?

Sentence 3: What is your niche?

Sentence 4: What are the benefits and competitive advantage?

Sentence 5: What is your business identity?

Sentence 6: What tactics, strategies and weapons will you use to carry out your marketing?

Sentence 7: How much money will you allocate to marketing?[53]


Once this is completed, publishers will have a concise, yet thorough, strategy document to use as a platform to build the project on. While the 7-Sentence Marketing plan is not the only method for defining a strategy, it is the approach preferred at Boxcar Marketing because it is quick and effective.

When monetizing content on the web, publishers need to start by outlining their business and marketing goals and writing a 7-Sentence Marketing plan in order to narrow the scope of the project. Once these initial steps are completed, publishers should define their audience.


3.2.2 Define Audience

The next step in monetizing content on the web is defining the target audience and developing audience personas in order to focus the project. The development of personas includes defining basic audience demographics – age, sex, location, and profession – and then building on these to define the audiences’ psychographics – values, attitudes and interests. When defining their audience, publishers should also have a basic understanding of how audiences behave online. The figure below is called the “Engagement Ladder” from industry analyst firm Forrester and it depicts typical web behaviours.[54] As the ladder shows, most users on the web are “Spectators” – they read blogs, watch videos, sign up for email newsletters and join Facebook pages, but they never actively comment or engage with brands online.


Figure 1: Engagement Ladder

Figure 1


For publishers, it is important to consider where on the ladder their target audience fits because this determines their engagement strategy. How a publisher engages with Spectators is much different than how a publisher engages with Creators, for example.

From here, publishers can take their audience definition – both demographics and psychographics – and narrow the audience down further by developing personas. Personas are character sketches of individual audience members that define who the content is for. They are an important part of the process because, as Monique Trottier says, “Online communications are about one-to-one communications,”[55] and personas allow one to start thinking of the audience in a more personal, tangible way. As an advocate of using personas for online design, Christina Wodtke says

Instead of a vague design target of ‘users’ (who are capable of anything), you have a specific, targeted person with things that he needs and wants, as well as things that he doesn’t need and can’t use. Suddenly, prioritizing features becomes an easier job.[56]

By developing personas one moves away from thinking about the project team wants and towards what the persona wants. While Wodtke advocates using personas in website design, they are equally applicable to business strategy development.

To create personas,[57] publishers need to start with a discovery document that helps to define who the broader audience is. A discovery document involves researching who will buy the publishers’ content, and should include:

  • Primary and secondary audiences
  • Technical know-how of target users
  • Age range, gender distribution and other demographics
  • Psychographics like morals, values and cultural background
  • Social patterns including how they relate to family and friends in the context of the product
  • Competitor’s products of interest to users
  • Non-competing products of interest to users
  • Needs and common complaints

Building on the discovery document with its broad audience outline, the next step is narrowing the specifics of the audience down by developing the personas. Ideally, a project will have both primary personas – common user types that are important to the business success of the project – and secondary personas – user types that are very different from primary users but whose needs still need to be addressed for the success of the project. This helps to ensure that all user needs are outlined. A persona should include: user’s name; demographics and psychographics; professional and personal background; internet or technical profile (i.e. where in the engagement ladder do they sit? How comfortable are they online and what activities do they perform on the web? This is important for determining how the audience will interact with the brand online); favourite websites; and goals with I need / I want statements. Developing detailed personas will all of these elements help publishers to visualize their audience members, understand their needs and prepares publishers to address these needs as the project progresses.

Defining the audience, writing a discovery document and creating personas are crucial steps when monetizing content on the web, because they help publishers understand who their project is for, what their needs are and how publishers should position their project. Once this is completed, publishers can start formatting their content.


3.2.3 Format Content

The next step in monetizing content online is deciding on a format for the content. While the content already exists, it needs to be specifically packaged for the audience that was defined in the persona stage – an audience that was not necessarily in mind when the content and information was originally created. When deciding on a format, the following are things that publishers should consider (note: think about the personas when going through this exercise):

  • How will the material be consumed? Will it be read on-line or downloaded for off-line use?
  • How much interaction will users want to have with the content? Is just text ok, or will users benefit from images and diagrams?
  • To what extent is search necessary to the use of the material?
  • To what extent is highlighting, annotating, note taking and excerpting critical to the use of the content?
  • To what extent is metadata necessary to find and use the content?
  • What countries does the company have the rights to sell the files in?

Once this exercise is completed, publishers need to determine how the content will be packaged – will it be most effective as a video, podcast, whitepaper, chapter or webinar? The format should suit the content as well as the personas’ needs and goals. Publishers also have to consider their budget and the up-front costs of the format they choose. Whereas a whitepaper is fairly affordable – approximately five hours to create – a video can be expensive due to the editing time that is required, starting at approximately $2000 per video.

An important step in the digital publishing process it determining the format for content and how it will be packaged – there are many more options online than with traditional text and audiences have different expectations. Once the format and packaging has been determined, the next step when monetizing content online is developing a search engine optimization strategy.


3.2.4 Develop Search Engine Optimization Strategy

The next step in a content monetization project is developing a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so that the project and its content can be found. Consumers find what they want online by searching for it, so publishers need to strategize how they will appear in search results. As Monique Trottier says, “Search optimization is the number one thing you need to focus on. Traffic to your website means business.”[58] To start, publishers should determine their keywords and search phrases that they want to appear in search results for. These are words that their audience will use when searching. There are a number of ways to do this. If publishers already have a website with similar content to what they want to sell, they can look at their site’s analytics and see what keyword phrases visitors are using to find various pages of the site. If publishers do not have a website related to the content they want to sell, they can develop an initial keyword list by searching for similar content online and noting what keywords other brands are using. By tracking the keywords that keep coming up while also considering what keywords the personas would use to find the content, publishers can establish initial keywords that they can edit and refine as the project develops.

Next, publishers should take these keywords and plug them into Google Insights for Search and Google’s External Keyword Tool (both free) so that they can see how often these keywords are used in searches and also get ideas for keywords they may have missed. Google Insights for Search is a tool that looks at the trends in search terms. Publishers can enter a term and see the changes in its use over time. Publishers can also plug in multiple terms to see how their popularity compares. Google’s External Keyword Tool is a tool that shows how often that term is being searched for by geographic area and it also gives keyword suggestions for similar terms that publishers may not have thought of. With the data, publishers can create a keyword list to refer to when they are creating any type of content for the project. It is important to use these keywords in key messages; blog post titles, tags and content; and in content on social networks, because search engines use this content when ranking websites and determining search results. In YouTube, for example, in order for a video to appear in search results, it is important that the video title, description and tags all include the keywords.

An SEO strategy with a thorough keyword list that is used when creating content is necessary for publishers and their materials to be found online. Once publishers have developed a SEO strategy, the next step in monetizing their content online is creating a marketing and outreach plan.


3.2.5 Create Marketing and Outreach Plan

At this stage in the development of a digital publishing strategy, publishers need to develop a marketing and outreach plan by choosing their marketing tactics. For each tactic, they should determine the strategy and goal behind it and what tracking tools will track the tactics’ success. This ensures that all marketing activities are accountable to specific goals and can be modified according their success. The following outlines tactics to consider for marketing digital content.

Blogger outreach is an important online marketing tactic because it is basically online public relations. Blogger outreach helps to get a project’s story noticed and build links back the site – which is important for SEO. There are two aspects to blogger outreach. This first is approaching bloggers who are leaders in their community who would be interested in the project’s story. Publishers should find these people and pitch the project in way that entices them to talk about it. The second aspect of blogger outreach is listening for opportunities to integrate oneself into the conversation. To do this, publishers should set up Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches for the company’s brand name, competitors’ names, and keywords and then, when a related story or conversation arises, join the conversation and find an appropriate time to introduce the project. Blogger outreach can be monitored by an increase in a site’s referral traffic and incoming links.

Social media is an excellent tactic for community building. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are platforms for conversation and a chance to engage an audience on a personal level. The goal of social media is to be interesting and engaging and gain followers and fans. Monitoring tools include Facebook Insights and Twitter platforms like Hootsuite, that show statistics like number of clicks and retweets.

Email newsletters are an effective marketing tactic because subscribers have given publishers permission to market to them. Publishers should be clear in the signup process how often the newsletter will get sent out and follow this schedule. They can use the newsletter to talk about the program, give useful advice and promote special offers. The goal is to further interest readers in the content and brand. Publishers can monitor newsletter open rates and click-throughs with email newsletter services like Campaign Monitor, Mail Chimp, or Constant Contact.

Blogs are good tactics for content generation and for positioning publishers as leaders or resources. Blog posts can be repurposed for blogger outreach, social media and email newsletter fodder. Blogs are also good for SEO because every post is a new page on a website, it creates fresh content for site, and is a chance to integrate keywords – all of which Google looks for when ranking websites. Blogs’ success relies on their level of engagement, which can be monitored through Google Analytics and by looking at the number of comments that blogs receive.

Lastly, contests are another tactic to consider. They are fun, a chance to be creative and, when well executed, can work to promote engagement and buzz about a campaign or brand. Contests can be monitored by looking at the number of entries and by looking at Google Analytics – particularly site traffic, referral traffic and incoming links.

Once tactics have been determined, publishers should create a marketing calendar that outlines weekly or monthly content themes that are carried over across all of the marketing platforms. For example, with the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, if Boxcar were planning to release the How to Use LinkedIn for Business whitepaper at the end of the month, Boxcar would spend that month prior to the release tweeting and blogging about LinkedIn, and position these messages as teaser for the actual report. A marketing calendar helps publishers stay focused in their marketing and ties themes together for the audience. Preferably, a marketing calendar is in the form of a weekly activity timeline so that publishers can be consistent and thorough in their marketing. Ideally, the plan would look like this:

  1. Spend time listening and building platforms.
  2. Join in, start conversations and develop relationships.
  3. Push content out through a blog, email newsletter, Twitter, Facebook and blogger outreach. Establish the company as a leader.
  4. Tie online promotions to offline activities.
  5. Pay for some advertising (online or offline).
  6. Monitor and optimize activities.

A detailed marketing and outreach plan is crucial to a digital publishing strategy because this determines how publishers’ will attract attention to their content. More important than the marketing plan, however, is how publishers will measure the success of their content monetization project and adapt as the project moves forward.


3.3 Measurement Strategy

A measurement strategy should be at the core of any digital publishing strategy. The ability to measure the success of marketing online is far more accurate than measurements offline. With any online marketing efforts, publishers need to always ensure that the tactics link back to the strategy, objectives, and goals. Tracking, analysing and responding to the numbers is key to successful online marketing. This includes not only looking at the web stats but analyzing them and using them, as Jason Burby and Shane Atchison authors of Actionable Web Analytics argue, “…to make changes to your site and business decisions based on the data.”[59] In other words, a measurement strategy is about action.

To begin with, publishers need to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) for their campaign.[60] With the business and marketing goals in mind, what is measurable? Publishers trying to sell digital content will want to create awareness about their product, attract customers and loyal fans, and, ultimately, sell the product. Publishers need to think of the actions or goal-paths that lead to these goals. What, of these actions, is measurable? For example, if the goal is to sell the product, the action that leads to a sale is visiting all of the webpages in the checkout process. How many visitors land on the final thank-you page after checkout is measurable and it indicates that they have completed the sale. The development process for KPIs can be visualized as a funnel:

Goal > Action > Measurement (KPI)

With the goals related to selling digital content – creating awareness, attracting customers and promotion engagement, and selling the product – below are some KPIs that publishers should consider. While there are general guidelines for web traffic numbers, what may be ‘normal’ for one site is completely abnormal for another and it is more meaningful to establish a baseline for a particular site and then measure how that fluctuates over time. KPIs Linked to Product and Brand Awareness

KPIs linked to product and brand awareness should focus on the number of people that visit a website and how they found it. Basically, are people aware of and visiting the site? If they are, how did they get there and what was their level of awareness before they visited? Did they already know about the brand and type in the URL? Did they find the site on another website because others are recommending it? The following is a list of web statistics that can help gage the level of awareness about a product and brand.

  • Unique Visitors. This shows how many people are visiting a website.
  • Direct Traffic. This shows how many people are coming directly to a site by typing in the URL in their address bar. These visitors are coming to the site having already heard about the product or brand.
  • Referral Traffic. This shows where visitors are coming from. This is important because referrals are like recommendations. Websites will want to build a relationship with the sites that are directing traffic to them.
  • Search traffic. This does not show current awareness but how people are finding the site, which is important for keywords and site content. If familiar keywords are seen month over month, then it indicates a strong interest in a topic or category, which one may want to profile on the home page. Trending keywords should also be used in the site content, for example, as blog posts and page titles, in order to capitalize on new traffic sources. KPIs Linked to Customer Acquisition and Engagement

KPIs linked to customer acquisition and engagement focus on how people interact with a website as well as how they interact with the brand on social networks. Are people spending time on the site? What are they doing? Are they engaging with the brand by listening, sharing or commenting? These are web statistics that show the amount of customers a brand is acquiring and their level of engagement with a site:

  • Visits (or visitor sessions). Visits displays the total number of times people come to a site. For example, a user comes to the site today and comes to the site tomorrow. This is one unique visitor and 2 visits. Visits is a good indicator of the engagement level of a site because it shows if people are returning.
  • Page Views. Pages Views are the total number of pages requested and served by a web server. This is also a good engagement indicator.
  • Send to a Friend or Share clicks. This shows how many people think that the site’s content is something worth sharing with their friends. They are doing word of mouth marketing for the company.
  • Average Time on Site. The length of users’ site visits shows how long visitors are spending on the site, which is another good engagement indicator.
  • Bounce Rate. This shows whether visitors are spending time on the site or are landing on a webpage and immediately leaving. If the bounce rate is well over 50%, investigate why. Are people not finding what they need?
  • Content Consumption. What are the top-level pages? How long are visitors spending on these pages? Is this the most important content or are visitors not finding what they need?
  • Exit Pages. What the site’s top exit pages? Why are people leaving here? Is it because they are finished exploring the site or because they cannot find what they are looking for or cannot complete what they are trying to do?
  • Number of Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, Blog RSS Subscribers, Blog Comments. Are people engaging with the site? How do these numbers change month over month? If there is an increase or decrease one month, what activities caused this? KPIs Linked to Ecommerce and Sales

KPIs related to ecommerce and sales focus on how many people are buying, at what levels and their behaviours during the purchase process. The following are web statistics related to sales:

  • Overall Purchase Conversion. This is the number of orders divided by the number of total visits to a site. How many visitors are purchasing content?
  • Browse to Buy Ratio. How many visitors are not buying content? How far down the purchase funnel do they get? Where in the cart are people dropping off? Why?
  • Average Order Size and Items Per Order. How much do customers buy per order? What does this show about their purchasing habits? How much is each customer worth? Divide total site visitors by total sales.
  • Conversion of Nonsubscribers to Subscribers and Number of Repeat Visits. This is for subscription sites. How often are visitors converted to new subscribers? Are people returning to the site once they have a subscription? Why or why not? Identify Improvements

Once KPIs start getting tracked, publishers can locate where the problems are with their websites and where improvements can be made. A common issue is what is referred to as “pogo-sticking.”[61] This is when there are a lot of pageviews but a low average time spent on the site. This indicates that visitors are searching around the site and not finding what they are looking for. Another common issue is exit pages. If there are pages that are consistently top exit pages, and they are not thank-you or contact pages – in other words, they should not be exit pages – publishers need to explore why. For example, are these top exit pages confusing? Do they have complicated forms that visitors do not want to fill out? Are pages missing clear calls to action, so visitors do not know what to do or where to go? Once the problem has been identified, publishers can make improvements. Tracking the Numbers

It is important for publishers to spend time every month analyzing the numbers. With the KPIs, they should create a KPI scorecard that is filled in monthly and go back over previous months to determine a benchmark or baseline. What were the numbers like the last couple of months? What were they like a year ago? Looking at the numbers month over month, are they generally the same? Where do they fluctuate? What does this mean in relation to the goals and objectives?

To help track the numbers, publishers can use the Goals feature within Google Analytics to create goals for the website and put a value on different traffic sources. This way it is easier to see how the KPIs are performing. It is also useful to use the Annotations feature. This records marketing activities in a timeline and positions them in relation to the web traffic. For example, if I ran a contest throughout the month of June I can enter the start and end date and see how this affected the number of visitors to my site. Where did those visitors come from? I can look back and use this information as a benchmark for what to expect for the next contest.

With a baseline, publishers can evaluate the numbers to see the results of their marketing activities. The numbers will show what should be repeated, modified, or discarded for something new. By spending time to create a measurement system and scorecard publishers can monitor their marketing activities and, most importantly, adapt their strategy according to the numbers. Return on Investment

A common complaint is that, while it is easy to get numbers online, it is difficult to relate them to Return on Investment (ROI) for the company. In “The Basics of Social Media ROI”[62] Oliver Blanchard outlines how to measure ROI with a company’s social media and online activities by demonstrating how to create an ROI funnel that keeps the business goals and the value of actions in check. He says to start by establishing a baseline for the numbers, so that a company can determine the numbers before online marketing and after. Then he says to create an activity timeline that outlines all of the company’s marketing activities, which should already be outlined in Google Analytics’ Annotations. Next, he says to outline the KPI numbers – sales revenue, number of transactions, new customers, etc. With all of the information laid out, a company can compare their marketing activities with numbers, and look for patterns in data and prove relationships – how certain marketing activities correlate with the KPIs.

From here, companies can place a value on users’ behaviour. Which behaviours lead to sales? Which behaviours lead to indirect sales, like speaker requests? How much are these behaviours worth? For example, publishers can calculate lead value by:

(leads closed x average revenue per sale) / total leads = average lead value.[63]

This helps to put a value on the time spent on online marketing activities, like social media and blogger outreach.

ROI can be measured online. It is just a matter of recording everything – online activities, campaigns, website traffic patterns, transactions, etc. – and analyzing the data in relation to valuable behaviours and revenue.

A measurement strategy should be at the core of a publisher’s overall business plan. This means developing it during the business plan’s initial stages, refining as the business plan develops and measuring and tracking throughout the business’ lifetime. Without a metric strategy in place, it is almost impossible to accurately understanding how a business is performing and, in turn, impossible to know where to make improvements.

This section outlined the steps that publishers can follow to monetize their existing content on the web. To gain further understanding of the content monetization process and what to expect, the next sections are case studies of content monetization projects, including Capulet Communications and their book Friends with Benefits and Boxcar Marketing and its online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing Pro.



Before Monique Trottier and I started Boxcar Marketing Pro, our online marketing training program, Boxcar Marketing studied a similar project carried out by Capulet Communications, a firm with which Boxcar Marketing has a close working relationship. Capulet’s project is related to the plans for Boxcar Marketing Pro in that they took content that they already had in various formats – presentation notes, online marketing guidelines that they had developed for clients over the years, etc. – repackaged it, and sold it online. Their content not only brought in extra income for the company, but it brought in project requests as well. Because the project is so similar and was in many ways what incited Boxcar Marketing Pro, it is useful to examine their project first.


4.1 Introduction to Capulet Communications

Capulet Communications Inc. (“Capulet”) is an online marketing company that helps businesses reach their customers in creative and remarkable ways. Owned and run by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, Capulet specializes in reaching out to online influencers with blogger and social media outreach, running online marketing campaigns, and writing web content.[64]

In 2007, Barefoot and Szabo decided to explore another revenue model for the company. Taking what they knew about online marketing and the common questions that most people have, as well as content from talks that Barefoot had been giving, Barefoot and Szabo wrote and self-published an ebook titled, Getting to First Base: A Social Media Marketing Playbook. The book was aimed at marketers from companies, agencies and small businesses with the purpose of giving them the tools to start taking advantage of the marketing opportunities on the web.

The ebook was successful in building an audience for Capulet and it increased the requests they received for projects and speaking gigs. In addition, Barefoot and Szabo used the ideas in the book to build a full-day Social Media Marketing Bootcamp (which I have attended), giving a copy away for free as part of the cost of the ticket.

In 2009, Capulet published a print version of the ebook, Friends with Benefits, published by No Starch Press and distributed by O’Reilly Media. Barefoot and Szabo continue to repurpose the content from both the ebook and the print book for speaking engagements and marketing opportunities for the company.[65]


4.2 Marketing

Capulet marketed their ebook aggressively for a couple of months – deciding to focus their marketing efforts directly before and directly after the ebook’s release – and did not do any marketing after that because they got too busy with other projects. They used a wide variety of promotional tactics, including advertising the book in the bimonthly Capulet newsletter, setting up a Facebook Group (but they admit that they did not do much with it), and promoting and advertising on Barefoot’s blog. In addition, they sent letters to eight “top-level bloggers” in their target audience. The letters were in the form of a love letter (to go with the theme of the book) and included a link to a personalized landing page with a personalized video for each blogger. The eight videos were simple and shot with a hand-held camera and featured Szabo and Barefoot addressing each blogger on why they should care about the book. Capulet also sent twenty to thirty review copies to “secondary-level bloggers”, as well as review copies to any legitimate blogger that asked, sending out 120 review copies in total. They also received email addresses from everyone who bought the book and, in 2009 when they released the print edition, they used the 500 email addresses that they collected to promote their print book. Now, since the print book has been published, Capulet sees the ebook as an asset and gives it away as a ‘value-add’ at events.[66]

The key to Capulet’s marketing is that they created a campaign that was engaging, relevant to their target audience, and reinforced their brand. Capulet understood that they were selling a story, found the best way to tell the story and made it matter to people.

In terms of marketing conversion rates, the list below represents the majority of the sites that sent Capulet referral traffic over fourteen months, and the conversion rate for each site. These statistics were measured by tracking conversion data in Google Analytics. Barefoot says that these numbers reflect what they see on their client sites, except that YouTube is unusually high. As Barefoot notes, they think that this may be because YouTube was referred to from other sites so visitors were already interested and then the video convinced them to buy. Barefoot also notes that the content relating to their book on the referral site affected the conversion rate. Sites with more content and information about their book converted higher than those with just a link.[67]

  • Capulet Communication Website: 7.9%
  • YouTube: 6.4%
  • Facebook: 6.2%
  • TopRankBlog: 5%
  • Direct (reflecting offline marketing): 4%
  • Common Craft: 2.9%
  • Web-Strategist: 2.5%
  • Flickr: 1.27%
  • (ran an ad on all 4500 of his archived pages): 1%
  • Seth Godin: 0.8%
  • Google: 0.7%
  • Twitter: 0.7% (note: this could be so low because they stopped promoting the book in March/April 2008)

This numbers are useful benchmarks for us to use for our marketing and give us a good indication of what to expect from our own efforts.


4.3 Costing Model

Capulet decided to sell their ebook for $29 and, after costs, made $27 on every book sold. They had one or two people complain about the price point but, other than that, found that people were comfortable with the price. They did not, however, conduct research to see if they would have sold more books at a lower price point. Barefoot says that they did not spend a lot of time thinking about the price, they just did some quick market research on similar books’ price points and choose one that was a little bit higher than the minimum they were willing to charge. This allowed them to offer some books at a discount at $24. On request, they also added a site license model where they charged $300 for a conference to give out unlimited copies to their attendees. Barefoot figures that each site license is worth about ten to twelve copies in sales.[68]

The ebook took one hundred hours to write and Barefoot and Szabo spent sixty hours marketing the book. They sold 500 copies and feel that if they had spent sixty more hours marketing the book, that they could have doubled their sales. 500 copies at $27 equals $13,500; divided by 160 hours spent writing and marketing book means that Capulet earned $84 an hour from the book.

Although $84 an hour is less than Capulet’s hourly business rate, the book really helped to market the company. Almost three years after publication and with zero promotion, they still sell one or two books a week. And since the ebook was published, Capulet receives double the amount of job requests than they did before. But Capulet also admits that, since the ebook, the quality of the job requests they receive has gone down.[69] Although Capulet Communications did not set up an affiliate program, Barefoot admits that, while he estimates that it would have been about ten hours of work to set up, they would have sold noticeably more ebooks with an affiliate program in place.[70]

As Monique Trottier and I develop the Boxcar Marketing Pro project, we have been using Capulet’s project as a guideline – particularly their marketing efforts, conversion rates, and the level of success they saw for their overall project.



5.1 Introduction to Boxcar Marketing

Boxcar Marketing (“Boxcar”) is an online marketing company. Started by James Sherrett and Monique Trottier, the company specializes in helping businesses succeed online through internet marketing, including social media, search engine optimization and email campaigns; website design and online strategy. Boxcar Marketing positions itself as a upfront team that gets the job done and aims to make customers smarter and the client’s job easier.[71]

In the summer of 2009, while I was an intern at Boxcar, Trottier and I started developing Boxcar Marketing Pro, an online marketing training program. This is a project to monetize the company’s existing content that Boxcar has created – content such as notes, resources, and presentation materials that has been created in the process of consulting. Trottier had been exploring this idea for the past year or so and saw an opportunity to sell high-level marketing materials along with resources that help marketers get their work done. While there is a lot of content available on online marketing strategy, social media marketing, and other marketing ‘how-to’ topics, this content is not packaged as tactical templates and checklists that can help execute online marketing strategies, nor is the content portrayed as high-level learning or training packages. Some universities offer online marketing courses for business professionals, Queen’s University for example, but many marketers either cannot afford these courses or do not have time to take them. So Trottier saw an opportunity for Boxcar Marketing to fill this gap. The company already has a lot of useful content – content that is used for speaking engagements, strategy sessions and marketing plans. The project’s purpose is to find a way to repackage this content and sell it online earning extra income for the company. This would be a chance to supplement Boxcar’s existing revenue stream without changing the company’s overall business plan.

Boxcar Marketing is in a good position to take advantage of this opportunity because of its strong following. Trottier began building up an audience for herself in 2005 through her personal blog SoMisguided, which she started while she was working at Raincoast Books. When she started Boxcar Marketing in 2006, she continued to build a following through online channels. The Boxcar Marketing blog, Boxcar’s monthly newsletter Underwire, and Twitter are all platforms where Trottier has built a following by offering free marketing advice. Despite her online efforts, the majority of Trottier and Boxcar’s audience is built through word-of-mouth. Trottier is active in the marketing and technology community, often doing speaking gigs and consulting sessions, and people that have met her or heard her speak often recommend Boxcar Marketing to their colleagues. As of July 2010, Trottier has over 1,100 people following her tweets on her SoMisguided Twitter account. Trottier’s existing audience consists of over 1,100 people throughout Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and San Francisco.[72] Through free online content and paid consultation, Trottier has positioned herself and the company as an authority in the online marketing space and Boxcar Marketing Pro can build this authority further.

This project is meant to generate additional income for Boxcar Marketing that can be used for further developments for the company, like Google and Facebook pay-per-click campaigns and a website redesign. Second, the project is meant as a marketing tool. Boxcar Marketing Pro materials can be used to create an audience for the Boxcar brand and bring in project requests. Boxcar will encourage buyers of the Boxcar Pro materials to take advantage of the company’s other offerings, including its full consulting services.

While the project has not launched yet, this case study explores the processes involved in monetizing content on the web. It highlights Boxcar’s progression, the decisions that were made as the project developed and how the project has unfolded so far. These methods and tactics can be used as a jumping off point for publishers to monetize their own content.


5.2 Research

The research for the project began with an examination of different training models and online marketing courses and explored who was doing what, what individuals and companies are willing to pay for, the best way to learn this type of information and how they costed their product.

Boxcar did some broad research online, both inside the marketing industry and outside the industry, to see how other companies are offering and selling content. Boxcar decided to focus on smaller companies who were doing a variety of interesting things with their content and narrowed the majority of the research to six companies. Common Craft is an online video company that produces educational videos for both individuals and organizations.[73] Dell’s Social Media for Small Business offers social media guides and screen casts for small and medium-sized businesses via its Facebook page.[74] My Yoga Online is an online yoga instruction video service.[75] Mequoda is a consultancy company that helps publishers make money online and offers marketing materials in a subscription model.[76] MarketingProfs is a website that offers free and paid marketing resources.[77] Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program is a university-level marketing course for business professionals.[78]

All of the companies offered something for free – previews, excerpts, or free tips and advice – that helped to give a sense of what they were selling. For example, My Yoga Online provides a free two-minute preview of a video before purchase and Mequoda offers free daily tips and weekly whitepapers. The free content helped to establish these companies’ authority in the space – which is particularly effective if the company is new – and helped to market the paid content. For example, once users sign up to receive Mequoda’s free daily tips and download its free whitepapers, if they want further information on related topics, they can buy their handbooks, case studies, and webinars based on the perceived quality of its content.

In addition, companies that offered site licenses or subscriptions to their content had a fair amount of content available to subscribers. This vast amount of content helps to make the subscription more valuable. Users are more willing to pay a monthly fee for a subscription if they know there is a lot of content that they can use and take advantage of and so the benefits outweigh the cost. For example, MarketingProfs has a ton of valuable content available to its Pro Members, which encourages people to subscribe, including how-to articles, exclusive case studies, online seminars and special reports.[79]

While Boxcar was researching the market, the company was also collecting content ideas. Boxcar researched what others were selling as educational materials, looking at Mequoda, MarketingProfs and Queen’s University’s Executive Development Marketing Program. The research found that presenting content as ‘best practices’ and ‘how-to’ advice was very popular. For example, Mequoda’s “10 Email Newsletter Design Best Practices” and MarketingProfs’ “How to Creating a Content Strategy for B2B Nurturing Campaigns” are both whitepapers that are packaged as tactical, helpful advice. Case studies were also popular. Both Mequoda and MarketingProfs had a number of case studies that explored the marketing strategies within specific companies. Boxcar also found that while Queen’s University’s program was high-level and business-focused, the course seemed to be missing a practical, hands-on component.

Lastly, Boxcar found that creative licensing and costing is important in order to suit the range of audience needs. For example, Common Craft offers its videos in a variety of licenses. First, its videos are available for free for non-commercial sites, like blogs. Next, there are also several licensing models. There is a license for individual use that is higher quality than the free version, a site license for organizations to use internally, and a commercial license for public company websites. There are also options for bundling videos and ebook versions of their videos available for download at the Kindle Store.[80] Capulet also offered more than one pricing option. It had the $29 ebook, as well as the $300 conference license to the book. With a variety of choices, buyers can find an option that suits them.


5.3 The Business Plan

Once the market research was completed, Trottier and I outlined the project’s purpose and goals. The business goals for the project are as follows:

  • Sell product. Boxcar wants to sell the kits to earn extra income for the company.
  • Create demand. Boxcar wants to create demand for the kits and the company’s online marketing consulting services.

Building on these business goals, the marketing goals are:

  • Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
  • Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.


5.3.1 Audience

Once Boxcar Marketing Pro’s goals were determined, Boxcar wrote a discovery document that outlined the project’s primary and secondary target audiences, competing and non-competing products that would be of interest to the audience, and the audience’s needs and goals when buying the product.

Based on Boxcar Marketing’s past and current clientele and Trottier’s experience with their varied needs, Boxcar determined that the project’s primary audience is marketers who need more information about online marketing – either marketing directors who want to brush up on new online marketing information and trends, new marketers who are responsible for implementing marketing strategies and need some guidance, or small business people who have to do the marketing for their company and need to quickly learn and implement tactics. Boxcar Marketing works with marketing directors, marketing managers and small business owners from a variety of industries so Boxcar knows that the program will be valuable to this audience group.

Boxcar also determined that the secondary audience is non-profit groups, environmental groups and volunteers. These are people who are doing outreach and community building with their organization’s website, write their organization’s newsletter or manage the organization’s site. Another secondary audience is trade associations. These are people who want to collect materials for their members for professional development. They may be looking for speakers or research materials that can be passed along and will also see benefit in learning about online marketing. Boxcar works with groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association and can see how they would benefit from these materials.

In terms of technical knowledge, in Boxcar’s experience all of these audience groups are fairly proficient online. They use the web, including email and social media, on a daily basis, but want to learn more about how they can use it for marketing purposes. Understanding the audience’s technical abilities is important to know, because it determines both the level of the training materials and how Boxcar can market these to them.

As for competitor’s products of interest to this audience, the following are some of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s competitors: Mequoda, MarketingProfs, MoreVisibility’s training webinars[81], and conferences such as the Vocus User’s Conference,[82] and Internet Marketing Conference.[83] It is important to keep competitors at top of mind when creating content and marketing materials so that Boxcar can position itself competitively. There are also higher-level training programs that are non-competing products of interest to the audience; these include Queen’s University’s Executive Marketing Program and Simon Fraser University’s Executive Programs, such as the Executive MBA.[84] While they are not direct competitors – because Boxcar is targeting people who either cannot afford these programs or do not have the time to take them – they are still useful to look at for content, content delivery, structure and costs.

Next, Boxcar determined what need the program is trying to fill by outlining the audience’s common complaints and goals. In Trottier’s experience with clients, their common complaints are that they are not seeing ROI in their online marketing, they cannot keep up with all of the changes in online marketing, they need to learn more if they want to get ahead but do not have either the time or money to go back to school, and they want structure to their learning – reading blog posts that they stumble across online is not consistent enough to properly learn from.

From what Trottier sees in her training and consultation sessions, the audiences’ goals are to learn how to fully take advantage of the web for marketing, to have measurable ROIs, to save time and money with both their learning and their marketing, to move forward with either their company or their career, to find an online learning program with structure and value and to understand how the web and web culture works.

From the discovery document, audience personas were developed. This helped to further visualize and understand the audience. From the primary and secondary audience targets, I created Julie, a marketing coordinator at a mid-sized publisher; Ruth the publisher of a mid-sized press; Kate the marketing director for a large company; Heather, a small business owner; Dave, a university department marketer; and Duncan, a trade association director.[85] While this exercise did not change the discovery document information, it helped to make audience members and their goals more concrete and gave Boxcar a reference point when making decisions.


5.3.2 Marketing Plan

From all of this information, Boxcar wrote a 7-Sentence Marketing Plan:

The purpose of my marketing is to sell 100% of applicable content in a simple, cost-effective manner to create an income stream for Boxcar Marketing. Secondarily it is to generate leads for the company’s full consulting services by showing those in need of online marketing help that Boxcar Marketing can provide quality, results-driven content at a reasonable price. The goal is to encourage the audience to take advantage of all levels of Boxcar’s content, leading up to a consulting contract.

I will accomplish my purpose by creating a model that leverages free content to build trust and brand authority, which then promotes the more valuable paid content to users. The marketing will reinforce the credentials of the Boxcar Marketing team, the easy access to information, the low-risk option of accessing content, and the timeliness of the material.

My target audience is North American marketing people who want to brush up on new online marketing ideas and small business owners who do everything themselves and need be able to quickly learn and implement marketing tools.

Marketing weapons that I plan to employ are Boxcar Marketing’s reputation, Boxcar Marketing’s partners/colleagues, content sharing/exchanging, social media tools like Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Google AdWords. Other tools include: persuasive copy, existing platforms, community and word of mouth, free, customer service, social networks, advertising and direct mail, affiliate program and a marketing calendar.

Boxcar’s niche in the marketplace is that the company is platform agnostic and independent of an agency. Boxcar will position itself as friendly, ask-us-anything, fair, reasonable advice providers who focus on hands-on and high-level strategy tips that, once followed, will show results.

The Boxcar Marketing business identity is a blend of professional, speedy, friendly, personable, fairly priced, flexible shop that offers customized advice for those who want to go beyond the paid content. Boxcar makes its clients look smart and makes customers’ interactions online easy. Boxcar speaks human and geek, and if Boxcar can’t answer a question the company can point customers in the right direction.

I plan to devote 10% of projected gross sales to marketing.


5.4 Content Generation and Packaging

Before Boxcar started gathering and creating content, Boxcar needed to develop keywords for the content and marketing materials for SEO purposes, so that Boxcar Marketing Pro would be found online. Keywords came from search terms that visitors use to get to the Boxcar Marketing website, along with common keywords that came up in initial research. Using Google’s External Keyword Tool and Google Insights, Boxcar created a keyword list with keywords categorized by theme.[86] Categorizing keywords by theme makes it easier to determine what keywords to use when writing copy and also makes it easier to create PPC ad campaigns.

Although Boxcar had an idea of what types of content the audience groups are interested in, from my market research and Trottier’s experience and conversations with clients, Boxcar still wanted to ask people directly what they wanted. So Boxcar sent out a survey at the beginning of September through the Underwire monthly newsletter[87] to ask readers what types of content they were interested in. Unfortunately, the survey only got a 1% response rate. While this is not enough data to represent the market, the survey did show that all of the survey respondents were interested in content about online business strategy and the majority were interested in content around social media marketing, content development, and Google analytics.

With all of the research, I gathered the content that Boxcar already had – from Trottier’s presentations and strategy documents – and entered the titles of the materials into a spreadsheet. From here, the titles were categorized so that Boxcar could see common themes within the content. Next, based on the research, Trottier and I added content that the company needs to create to complete these themes. For example, Boxcar often gets asked to develop LinkedIn and Facebook strategies for clients so it was decided that Boxcar needed to create whitepapers on those topics.

Because Boxcar recognized that the audience was looking for higher-level materials with structure to their learning, Boxcar decided to package the content as “kits” based on the common themes that could be seen within the list of content. Each kit will consist of four to six whitepapers, templates and how-to documents that cover the basics within each category and give the audience groups the knowledge and tools they need to be an expert in each subject. Boxcar outlined a Promotions kit, a Web Design kit, an Executive Kit, a Search Marketing kit, an ROI kit, a Publishers kit, and an Operations kit. Each kit includes a combination of whitepapers, tips, how-to, strategies and checklists. Boxcar will also offer the individual content within the kits as a la carte downloads, for those who do not want to buy a full kit. Boxcar has not decided how the kits will be packaged yet, but is considering .zip files with either PDF or .epub files inside.

It was noted during the research stage that almost all of Boxcar’s competitors have content that they give away for free in order to advertise their paid content. This is a valuable marketing tactic, so Boxcar decided to do the same. In order to decide which content should be free and which should be paid, Boxcar categorized the knowledge level of each piece of content, either beginner or advanced, and decided that all of the beginner materials would be available for free. Each kit will have some material that is available for free which will help to market the paid content. While the free material is basic information, the paid portions expand on the free material – similar to how Mequoda’s paid content is an extension of the information that is available for free through its daily tips and whitepapers. In addition, Boxcar already offers free social media, web analytics and email marketing tips in the monthly newsletter and on the Boxcar blog and Boxcar is considering having free previews of the paid content.

In the end, this is what the content grid looked like:


Figure 2: Boxcar Marketing Pro Content

Figure 2.1 Figure 2.2


5.5 Delivery Platform

Next, Boxcar explored ecommerce services that offer online shopping carts in order to find the best way to sell the kits. These are companies and services that can manage the downloading of the kits and handle online credit card transactions. Boxcar looked at Digital Chalk, a service that lets users create online courses with their course software;[88] CubeCart, which is ecommerce shopping cart software;[89] and E-junkie, a shopping cart platform that provides buy-now buttons to let users sell downloads on their website through PayPal and Google Checkout.[90] Boxcar chose E-junkie because it seemed the most straightforward. E-junkie’s shopping cart allows Boxcar to set up an ecommerce page on the Boxcar website, add E-junkie’s buy-now buttons, load all of the files to one place, and track sales with a similar code to Google Analytics. E-junkie is also inexpensive. The platform starts $5 month and increases depending on the number of products a company is selling.


5.6 Marketing and Outreach Plan

With all of this in place, Boxcar developed the marketing and outreach plan. The plan is as follows.


5.6.1 Leveraging Existing Platforms: Boxcar Blog and Underwire

Because much the program is building on Boxcar’s existing reputation, marketing for Boxcar Marketing Pro will start on the Boxcar blog and in Underwire, Boxcar Marketing’s monthly newsletter. Boxcar already has an existing audience in these areas that are interested in online marketing so this is a natural place to start. Boxcar will include content excerpts or how-to advice related to the paid content so that readers can be directed to one of the kits for further information. When promoting, Boxcar will make sure to have direct links related to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and to always encourage an upgrade – even if that is just encouraging blog readers to subscribe to the newsletter. Boxcar can monitor conversion rates with analytics to see the number of visitors that are clicking through to Boxcar Marketing Pro landing pages and, out of these visitors, who are buying kits. Boxcar can also monitor interest by looking at the number of blog comments and newsletter subscribers as well as posting surveys and monitoring the response.


5.6.2 Social Media

Boxcar Marketing Pro will be promoted on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Since the program is business focused, efforts will be concentrated on LinkedIn and Twitter, which are more popular platforms for business conversations. Boxcar will position itself as a resource in these spaces – answering questions on LinkedIn and directing people to useful content on Twitter, for example – while also promoting the Boxcar Marketing Pro content. A recent study showed that marketers most active on Twitter, promoting both their own content as well as the work of others, see better ROI and are more likely to attribute direct sales revenue to Twitter,[91] so Boxcar will make sure to allocate substantial time to these platforms. Boxcar will encourage sharing on these networks with share and tweet buttons and will also encourage retweeting of Boxcar content. Boxcar can monitor its success with Hootsuite, which will show what types of tweets followers click on, Facebook Insights, and analytics which can show what sites are referring traffic to the Boxcar website and which of these sites are referring traffic that convert to sales.


5.6.3 Blogger Outreach

Boxcar has a strong community of fans who are active online so the company will involve them in marketing activities and encourage word of mouth. Boxcar will also perform blogger outreach to the wider community of bloggers and use Google Alerts and Twitter search to find the leaders in the Boxcar’s niche. Boxcar will make it easy for bloggers and others to share promotional content by having benefits lists, excerpts and photos related to the program available on the Boxcar website for bloggers to use. Boxcar can monitor success with this through Google Alerts by recording the number of online mentions received. The company can also monitor the number of incoming links to the site and general traffic increases.


5.6.4 Leveraging Partnerships

As noted earlier, Trottier has put a lot of energy into developing the Boxcar Marketing brand and Boxcar will use the name that she has built up to establish credibility for the program. Connected to Boxcar Marketing’s reputation is leveraging the company’s partnerships. Being active in the technology community has meant that Trottier has developed various partnerships in the community. Leveraging partnerships will expand Boxcar’s marketing reach and give access to the company’s partners’ resources, such as their online platforms and customer base. The key to successful partnerships is figuring out how the two parties can both benefit each other. For example, most blogs struggle for content so Trottier can guest blog on a partner’s blog, which will give them content and while also promoting Boxcar Marketing Pro. Boxcar can monitor the success of these partnerships with an increase in incoming links, online mentions and traffic to the site.

Barefoot believes that an affiliate program would have significantly increased Capulet’s sales, so Boxcar will spend some time exploring affiliate options and use Barefoot’s estimate of ten hours as a baseline for developing the program.


5.6.5 Advertising and Direct Mail

Boxcar will also promote Boxcar Marketing Pro through advertising and direct mail. Boxcar will do a pay-per-click advertising campaign because it is an effective way to track and monitor both leads and keywords. Boxcar will explore print advertising in Business in Vancouver or Report on Business because some of the target audience fits their readership demographics. Boxcar is also considering a direct mail postcard campaign. Because people get less and less mail now, direct mail is a way to stand out. Similar to how Capulet sent love letters to the top bloggers in their audience group, Boxcar can send out a direct mail campaign related to Boxcar Marketing Pro to top bloggers in the audience groups. In addition, since Boxcar is a partner with AdHack, an advertising community built on crowdsourcing,[92] Boxcar may commission some of AdHack’s creators to produce an online video that can be posted to Boxcar’s online channels. Boxcar can monitor the success of the print and direct mail advertising with unique URLs, and the online advertising can be tracked with analytics.


5.7 Financials and Sales Plan

5.7.1 Costing Structure

With all of this planned out, it was time to look at Boxcar Marketing Pro’s costing structure. At this year’s BookNet Canada’s Technology Forum, as well as in an interview on O’Reilly’s Tools of Changing for Publishing, Richard Nash talks about the demand curve. He says that publishers “…capture such a limited amount of the demand under the demand curve,” having only ever captured the demand that lies within the $10 to $30 range. He says, “Below that, we capture no value. Above that, we are giving up most of the value,” arguing that even though some people will pay, say, $10,000 for dinner with Margaret Atwood and others will only ever pay $1 for a digital download, publishers have not figured out how to get that $10,000 from those who are willing to pay it and they refuse to accept anything less than $10 for their product.[93] There is a range of demand for all products and the difficulty of finding a costing model is reaching all of that demand. I started by researching other costing models to see how Boxcar’s competitors were pricing their content:


Figure 3: Competitor’s Pricing

Figure 3.1 Figure 3.2
Figure 3.3


The majority of the pricing that Boxcar came across was in the $50 to $300 range. To see where Boxcar should be at, the costs were calculated:[94]


Figure 4: Boxcar Marketing Pro Costs

Figure 4


Each kit has approximately six documents – three on hand and three that need to be written. So Boxcar estimates, based on other writing projects, that it will take twenty-one hours to write and format each kit.

In terms of Boxcar Marketing Pro’s advertising budget, Boxcar will want to spend $500 a month on a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. This is generally the minimum amount to spend in order to see results and Boxcar will test out both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to see where Boxcar gets the best conversions. Once Boxcar determines which platform has a better conversion rate, how to allocate the PPC advertising budget can be decided. I also budgeted $500 a month for other advertising costs. For example, a Business in Vancouver 1/8 page, black and white ad is $800, so with this money Boxcar could do an ad quarterly, or do three ads a year and one direct mail campaign a year.

Looking at the company’s competitors, Boxcar determined that it could reasonably charge $30 to $100 for a whitepaper or template download. A higher price point, at $50 a download, was decided on because at this price, it makes sense for someone to go through the hassle of a credit card transaction. With that, it was decided to price the kits at $199, hopefully making it more appealing for users to buy the entire package. There’s five paid a la carte downloads in each kit so there is a $50 savings when they buy the whole kit for $199. Boxcar decided against a subscription model because there is not enough content to offer right now, but this model may be explored once Boxcar has built up its content offerings. Including Boxcar’s basic consultation services, which start at $1500, with this pricing model Boxcar have captured four levels of demand for its product and services:

Free > $50 a la carte > $199 kit > $1500 consultation


5.7.2 Targets

To break even on the start-up costs of $1,930 Boxcar needs to sell ten kits. In terms of profit, Boxcar is going to aim to make $18,000 a year, by year two. Trottier and I think this is reasonable as a starting point and is a substantial contribution to Boxcar’s additional business development fund. To break even on the yearly costs of $7,380, Boxcar needs to sell thirty-seven kits, or three kits a month. This means that to earn a profit of $18,000 a year Boxcar has to sell just over ten kits a month.


Figure 5: Sales Target

Figure 5


In terms of a conversion rate, Boxcar will aim for 1% to 3% conversion initially, which is the generally accepted average conversion rate online.[95] Capulet’s marketing conversion rates ranged from 7.9% to 0.7%, with an average of 3%, so aiming for 1% to 3% conversion is reasonable. Once Boxcar has reached 3%, Boxcar will aim for 5%, then 10%. As more content is developed Boxcar will be able to invest more time in marketing as opposed to content development so it can aim for higher conversion rates.

In terms of website visitors, this is what a 1% conversion rate looks like:


Figure 6: Conversion Rates

Figure 6


Even with just 1% conversion at one thousand unique visits a month, Boxcar would sell ten kits a month, so the goals are realistic.

Boxcar also realizes that the marketing efforts will increase visits to the site. Because Boxcar is often very busy with clients, the company is not consistent in its own marketing. Trottier performed an experiment in April 2010, where she blogged twice a week, tweeted for the company on a regular basis and performed some outreach. From this, Boxcar saw a noticeable increase in traffic to the site. Boxcar had over 60% increase in unique visitors from March to April and, importantly, this traffic continued into May, where Boxcar still saw a 30% increase from March. This gives Boxcar an idea of what can be expected from marketing efforts for the program.

The hours that Capulet spent marketing their book is a good baseline for Boxcar. They spent sixty hours marketing the book over a couple of months, so Boxcar should estimate twenty to thirty hours a month for the Boxcar Marketing Pro program since Boxcar wants to spread marketing efforts out. Unlike Capulet, Boxcar will need to continuously promote the program, since Boxcar will be releasing new kits periodically. It is interesting that Capulet believes that spending sixty more hours marketing the book could have doubled their sales, and Boxcar should track the relationship between marketing hours and sales.

Other than extras like pay-per-click advertising, banner ads and direct mail pieces, Boxcar’s marketing hours and costs will be allocated to Boxcar Marketing’s overall marketing costs. This is because most of the planned marketing tactics – blogging, tweeting, and blogger outreach – are already a part of Boxcar’s business costs and, since the project is meant to market the company as a whole, these costs can be absorbed into the company’s regular business expenses.


5.7.3 Recouping Costs

If Boxcar sells ten kits a month with yearly costs at $7,380, it will break even by month four. The kit development costs will take longer to recoup, however because their costs are so high. It will cost just over $16,000 for all seven kits to be developed, so Boxcar will have to launch the program with just three kits, starting with the ones that either have the most demand or the most materials already developed. I believe that three kits will give the program enough weight while balancing what is financially possible. It will cost us $2,310 to develop each kit, which means that after the start-up costs are paid off; each kit will pay for themselves after twelve sales, or, with Boxcar’s target of selling ten kits a month, in the second month.

Trottier and I recognize that the costs are fairly high so another option is to explore where costs can be reduced. All of the estimated hours are based on Boxcar’s experience with other projects so I do not think Boxcar can cut back on those. But the company could try to reduce the hourly rate for those hours. Boxcar could consider hiring an intern to develop the whitepaper templates, ecommerce section on the website and the landing pages. This would cut back on costs but Boxcar would have to factor in training and project management time. The company could also explore hiring an intern for content development – which is where most of the costs are right now. Boxcar would have to be careful, however, because the program is about selling valuable content so quality control is important.

It is interesting that Capulet significantly increased their business requests after they published their ebook. When outlining when Boxcar will recoup the project’s costs Boxcar should keep this in mind and be willing to make less profit if it leads to more business – in Capulet’s case it doubled their business requests.

After six months Boxcar will decide how to move forward with the remaining kits. Also, if Boxcar is not meeting its targets, the company will examine the promotional and financial strategies and see where improvements can be made.


5.8 Measuring Success

If, going back to the business plan, Boxcar’s goals are:

  • Sell product.
  • Create demand.

And Boxcar’s marketing goals are:

  • Promote awareness about Boxcar Marketing Pro and the Boxcar Marketing brand.
  • Position Boxcar as experts in online marketing.

What can be measured? Overall, the project’s ROI funnel looks like this:


Figure 7: ROI Funnel

Figure 7


Boxcar’s direct business goal is to sell kits to add to Boxcar Marketing’s revenue stream. The KPI related to this goal is sales. To measure sales Boxcar would set up a goal funnel in Google Analytics that track visitors’ purchase path. For example, if Boxcar set up a goal that tracks each page that a visitor goes through in the purchase process, ending with the “thank-you for purchasing” page as the goal, Boxcar can measure the number of visitors that land on the thank-you page in relation to the total number of website visitors. Boxcar can also track visitors as they go through the purchase process and see if there are pages in the purchase path where visitors are abandoning the process. If there are common exit pages, then Boxcar will explore how to best optimize those pages, for example with more persuasive copy, a shorter form, or easier ways to complete the task.

The indirect business goal is to increase demand for Boxcar’s consulting services. This can be measure offline, by comparing the number of consultancy contracts before the program and after. Boxcar can also measure online interest in consultancy by adding a button or link to the website for visitors to click on to find out more information about Boxcar’s consulting services.

In terms of marketing goals, Boxcar can measure whether it succeeds at generating awareness of the company and the brand. KPIs related to this include:

  • Number of Facebook fans which can be measured with Facebook Insights
  • Number of Twitter followers, Twitter mentions and retweets, which can be measured using Hootsuite or another Twitter analytics provider
  • Underwire newsletter subscribers which can be measured with Boxcar’s email newsletter software, Campaign Monitor
  • Unique traffic to the website which can be measured with Google Analytics
  • Online mentions which can be measured with Google alerts.
  • Engagement with the Boxcar website by monitoring Google Analytics and tracking:
    • Pageviews
    • Average time on site
    • Top visited content
    • Landing pages
    • Exit pages

Some of these KPIs are also related to measuring Boxcar’s success at establishing itself as an expert in online marketing, namely number of Twitter followers and subscribers to the newsletter. The number of visits to the blog, which can be tracked with Google Analytics, is another indicator of Boxcar’s authority in the online marketing space. LinkedIn also has an “expert” feature where people that answer questions can be graded as “experts” so efforts can be monitored there, too.

As the project moves forward, Boxcar will create a baseline and monitor progress by comparing the KPIs and analytics numbers with online and offline activities. This way Boxcar can monitor can see which activities have the most effect on the project’s goals and the strategy can be adjusted accordingly.



As both Boxcar Marketing’s and Capulet Communications’ case studies show, there are opportunities for publishers to monetize their existing content online. When approached strategically, this content will market the brand for its wider business goals and aims, creating broader opportunities for the company.

That is not to say that there are not problems within each of these business models. Capulet became overloaded with other work, had to stop their marketing and promotion efforts and missed out on further sales. In terms of Boxcar Marketing, high costs and time commitments related to content development have hindered the implementation of the project. But publishers can learn from these problems. They should stretch out their marketing efforts so that they do not get overloaded and stop promoting their project. They should be prepared to incur costs and find ways to cut down on expenses – by using interns, for example. Publishers should never underestimate the opportunities and the opportunity costs for a digital publishing project.

The best way to take advantage of these opportunities is by appealing to new market realities and how new users engage with content and brands. This means that publishers should focus their efforts on a niche level and appeal to users by supporting and leading tribes within the new purchase funnel – finding the compelling aspects of the product that users will want to share, earning trust by being authentic in conversations with communities, and securing permission to continue engaging with communities in the future.

The Boxcar Marketing case study serves as a platform for publishers to build their own content monetization programs and outlines the steps that publishers need to take.

To start, publishers need to find opportunity with their content. Is there a need in the marketplace that the company can fill? Does the company have existing content that can be repurposed online to fill this need? Once the content has been determined, publishers need to create a business plan by clearly defining the program’s purpose and goals and outlining the target audience. Preferably, publishers will already have an existing audience base to build on. With the audience in mind, publishers should experiment with how to best deliver the content to the audience in a way that either helps them learn valuable information or gives them ways to interact with and connect with others. This also includes figuring out what can be free that will market the paid content and positioning the free content so that taking advantage of the paid upgrade is encouraged.

Next, publishers should create a thorough marketing plan that covers multiple channels, with clearly defined strategy and goals behind each tool. Each tool should also have measuring tactics in place. Publishers should not use all of the tools, but choose the tools that will help better execute the strategy and reuse content wherever possible. Both of these tactics will help save time and effort. Once the marketing tools have been decided, marketers need to create an activity timeline that helps them company be consistent and thorough in their marketing.

When costing the materials, publishers need to cover the demand curve by experimenting and responding to the market. They should also set reasonable sales targets. If the financials do not work out, publishers need to change their plans so that they do. Boxcar Marketing, for example, had to limit the amount of kits that it started with, so publishers may have to narrow down the size of their programs, too.

With the business and marketing goals, publishers should determine what can be measured. With clearly defined KPIs, they need to create a culture of analysis where all activities are tracked and measured and related back to ROI. Publishers need to schedule time every month to look at the numbers and make strategic changes to the program and the marketing plan in relation to the data.

The Boxcar Marketing Pro case study demonstrates that an online content monetization program does not have to be on a large scale. The initial goal for the project is to sell ten kits a month. By selling just ten kits a month, Boxcar will break even on the start-up costs after the first month and will start to earn $18,000 a year by year two (less kit development costs) – an ample amount of revenue considering that Boxcar is reusing content that is already on hand. This is not a large-scale, unwieldy project but a manageable one that, with the right content, clearly defined audience and well-thought out business plan, many can implement.

Although the Boxcar Marketing Pro strategy is not perfect, it is a workable business plan for digital publishing – an area where there has been lots of discussion but no detailed strategy. The business plan is meant to be a platform to build upon and, now that the model has been developed, it can be refined and adjusted going forward. For example, if as Boxcar Marketing Pro develops it turns out that the $199 price point for the kits is too high, Boxcar can reduce the price point and then adjust the related numbers, like the breakeven point or conversion targets. Because the details have been worked out, it is now just a matter of tweaking and fine-tuning.

Digital publishing itself is an abstract idea, but the business model outlined in this paper gives publishers a concrete strategy to work from. Like the profit and loss statements that publishers create before publishing a book, this strategy works out the numbers for publishing online. Now that the business model has been developed, publishers can benefit from their existing content and earn additional revenue for their companies by taking advantage of the opportunities that exist on the web.




Appendix A: Personas

Boxcar Marketing’s Primary Personas


Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)
30-something, female, marketing coordinator of a mid-size publisher. Julie handles marketing and promotions, must report to superiors on the effectiveness of campaigns and needs to lobby for online and marketing budget increases.

She has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is involved with music, art, photography, slow food, design, books, and magazines. She likes recommendations from friends and believes that she is an early adopter.

I don’t have time to come up with new ideas all the time. I really want to, which means I can’t spend time on the details of the process. I need checklists, I need to show ROI, I need to quickly take an idea and get buy-in and budget. I need to get from idea to execution quickly.

Technical Background
Fairly savvy but might not think so. She uses a lot of technology and can easily pick up how to do something. She’s ok experimenting if it looks easy and useful.
Julie uses/enjoys these websites:


Goals (I want/I need)

  • I want to focus on the ideas and execution rather than reporting.
  • I want to easily pull together a report after the fact.
  • I need to know what things I can measure.
  • I need checklists so it’s easier to pass things on to interns or other staff.
  • I want a place to find ideas that I can modify for our purposes.
  • I want to know what’s going to work (because I don’t want to take risks, because I can’t tailor each campaign, because I need to show case studies to my boss)
  • It has to be easy to search and find relevant results
  • I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation

Useful Content for Julie

  • Links to resources: blogs, inspiration, big thought leaders, things to read, new stories, industry how to/ebooks
  • Checklists: landing pages, campaign templates
  • Ideas + budget
  • Quick mix and match, decision matrix
  • Case studies (local)
  • Author survey: working with blogging authors or authors not online
  • Keyword generation and SEO 101
  • Press release how to
  • How to find audience online
  • ROI: what can you measure
  • Free: what can you give to get
  • Lone evangelist (getting buy-in)



Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

50-something female publisher of a mid-size press. Ruth is a publisher with a huge amount of industry experience. She handles all of the long-term planning for her company, controls the purse strings and has various departments reporting to her.

Ruth says she understands the online world but needs to be convinced of new ideas. She says she wants to see the numbers when asked to part with her money, but it’s really about needing to see credible sources and something she that can relate to before she can learn something new.

Ruth has a wide range of interests both professionally and personally. She is interested in books, magazines, art, design, interior decorating, traveling and staying fit. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.

I want to spend my money on proven methods that I understand and I can’t afford to jump at every new opportunity. I’ve been working in the industry for over thirty years and while I understand that things are changing, to me, a book is still a book.

Technical Background
She thinks she understands the web but only uses it at a basic level. She has email, visits news and book websites, and is aware of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook but has never used them.

Ruth uses/enjoys the websites:

  • ·

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to choose tactics well
  • I need to know who to read given limited time
  • I need a filter so I save time
  • I need credible sources that I can relate to
  • I need to quickly see if it is relevant or how it applies to my situation
  • I need to know how online fits in to the bigger publishing picture
  • I want to see case studies from companies I know
  • I want to see value in where I spend my money
  • I want to see reporting/numbers on where I spend my money
  • I want validation and an increased profile for my company
  • I want to network at “C” level
  • I want it to be easy to search and find relevant results

Useful Content for Julie

  • Big Picture: case studies (submit yours) publicity opportunities
  • Short/sweet, executive summaries
  • Inspiration, big idea stuff
  • Who’s doing what and how do I compare
  • Resources:, ROI calculators
  • Service Directory: who does what on short notice
  • Cost and budget checklists
  • Visuals, graphs, things to put into presentations
  • Cartoons
  • Decision matrix
  • Ad networks
  • Question Box
  • Consulting Help
  • How to choose a path
  • Reading List: who to follow FB, Twitter, Business reading



Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Kate is in her late 40s/early 50s and is a female marketing manager for a large company. She has worked for the company for 10 years, has five people reporting to her and reports to the CEO.

Kate develops and executes company-wide marketing and business planning but also tries to stay on top of the smaller marketing campaigns. She’s a big-picture thinker and generally has more ideas than she can execute.

Kate understands and likes the internet but doesn’t know if she’s using it to her full advantage in her marketing. She knows that by now her online marketing shouldn’t be in addition to her offline marketing, but she doesn’t know how to fully integrate the two.

Kate works hard and only has a few interests outside of work. She is interested in mystery novels, interior design and trying to stay active. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. While she used to be an early adopter, she is now part of the early majority.

I know that professional development is important and I want to stay on top of marketing trends but I can’t fit the high costs of training and conferences in to my budget.

Technical Background
Kate uses the internet daily for email, news, blogs, and community sites. While she doesn’t know how to build websites, she can tell a good one from a bad one.

Kate uses/enjoys these websites:

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to continue to stay relevant in my field with pro-d
  • I need to learn how to integrate online with offline work
  • I need to learn how online marketing can deliver ROI
  • I need to train my staff on a budget
  • I need to justify where I spend my budget
  • I need to report to stakeholders
  • I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level
  • I want to have tools for metrics
  • I want to be able to direct those under me to training resources
  • I want to be respected as an expert by stakeholders
  • I want my ideas to be respected and heard
  • I want to fully understand the new marketing rules



Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Heather is 30-something, female, and small business owner. She is the only employee so she does everything herself, wears many hats and needs to be able to quickly learn and implement.

Heather fully understands the web but doesn’t have time to stay on top of every new trend. Her company relies on its’ ‘hip factor’ but she still needs to run a solid business. Heather needs new tools and tips that are reliable, worth her time, and will help stabilize/grow her company.

Heather works hard at her startup yet manages to have lots of different hobbies and interests. She is an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, enjoys shopping, design, going to the gym, and meeting up with friends. She likes to lead the pack and make recommendations to friends and family. She is an early adopter.

I want the marketing know-how to be successful with my marketing, show ROI, yet not spend tons of time and resources on it.

Technical Background
Heather is tech-savvy. Her business is online and she does most of the design and development of her company’s website herself. She has a blog and a strong online presence.

Heather uses/enjoys these websites:


Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to grow my company by building its online presence
  • I need to learn easy-to-implement reliable marketing techniques
  • I need to show ROI from my marketing
  • I need to learn how to do it all myself
  • I need to quickly learn
  • I need information to come to me – I won’t remember to find it
  • I need the value to be apparent right away
  • I need to justify time spent on marketing
  • I want to know how to save time and money
  • I want to have a strategy and goals in place for all my marketing
  • I want to learn both at a hands-on level and at a strategy level


Boxcar Marketing’s Secondary Personas


Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

30-something male, Dave works in the marketing and communications department at a university. Dave reports to the department head and he (along with one other person) does all of the marketing for the entire department. Dave is responsible for developing the communication department’s brand identity. Dave is also responsible for attracting new students and keeping current students involved in the department. His work indirectly affects the budget allocated to communications.

The department is growing and wants to increase it’s visibility in the school by appealing to students, potential students, parents and employers. They know that to do so they need to get more online but they don’t know where to start. They’ve asked Dave to take the lead on this.

Dave is happily married and he and his wife are trying to have a baby. In his spare time he enjoys going on hikes, having dinners with close friends, blogging, and reading fiction

Technical Background
Dave is proficient with the web and enjoys learning new things. He blogs regularly and uses Facebook. He doesn’t know how to use the web for higher-level tasks like SEO, analytics, reporting, but he’s willing to learn.

Dave uses/enjoys these websites:

  • Facebook
  • Communication Department Website

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to attract new students to the history department
  • I need to engage current students
  • I need to make the department attractive to parents and employers
  • I need to increase the department’s visibility within the school
  • I need to move most (if not all) of the department’s marketing efforts online
  • I need to know how to develop an online marketing plan
  • I need to know how to report on my marketing efforts
  • I need to know how to integrate social media into a marketing plan
  • I need to know the basics of SEO, email newsletters, PPC, landing pages
  • I want checklists and templates – I don’t want to start everything from scratch



Basics (Demographics & Psychographics)

Duncan is a mid-fifties director for an Energy Association and he wants to collect materials for his member’s professional development. He is looking for material that he can pass along as training material but also sees benefit in knowing this stuff himself. He has a budget for pro-d and would like to find something that he could subscribe his members to, rather than just one-off material.

Goals (I want/I need)

  • I need to keep the trade association up on trends
  • I need training material that I can pass along to my members
  • I need to give them valuable information
  • I want to easily find valuable information
  • I want to be able to subscribe my members rather than just one-off material
  • I want information that will help members improve their marketing, planning and show ROI



Appendix B: Keywords


Keywords Ad Competition Local Search Vol: July Global Monthly Search Vol Category
advertisement banner 0.8 4400 5400 Advertising
advertising banners 1 8100 12100 Advertising
advertising business internet marketing 1 14800 9900 Advertising
advertising on internet 1 9900 9900 Advertising
advertising on the internet 1 6600 6600 Advertising
banner ad design 1 6600 5400 Advertising
banner ads design 0.73 720 590 Advertising
click through rate 0.93 8100 9900 Advertising
cost per click advertising 1 2400 1300 Advertising
cpc ads 0.86 1600 880 Advertising
cpc advertising 1 2900 1900 Advertising
cpm advertising 1 9900 8100 Advertising
designing banner ads 0.6 260 140 Advertising
effective internet advertising 0.93 1300 720 Advertising
internet advertising banner 0.66 9900 4400 Advertising
internet advertising banners 0.6 480 170 Advertising
internet advertising business 1 22200 12100 Advertising
internet advertising company 1 6600 4400 Advertising
internet advertising seo 0.46 1300 590 Advertising
internet advertising strategies 0.86 390 260 Advertising
internet advertising strategy 0.86 1900 1000 Advertising
internet advertising tips 0.66 390 260 Advertising
internet marketing online advertising 1 27100 14800 Advertising
internet online marketing advertising business 1 6600 3600 Advertising
online advertising roi 0.6 260 210 Advertising
online advertising strategy 0.93 1300 720 Advertising
online banner advertising 1 4400 2900 Advertising
pay per click internet advertising 1 2400 1900 Advertising
pay per click management 1 33100 33100 Advertising
pay per click marketing 1 33100 22200 Advertising
pay per click optimization 1 3600 3600 Advertising
pay per click search engine 1 33100 22200 Advertising
pay per click search engines 1 5400 5400 Advertising
payperclick 1 8100 9900 Advertising
ppc ads 1 4400 3600 Advertising
ppc advertising 1 27100 27100 Advertising
ppc how to 0.6 6600 6600 Advertising
ppc internet advertising 0.86 2400 1300 Advertising
ppc search engine 1 60500 33100 Advertising
ppc search engine internet advertising 1 1600 880 Advertising
ppc search engines 1 4400 3600 Advertising
b2b e marketing 0.46 -1 320 Executive
b2b lead generation 1 4400 4400 Executive
best practices strategy 0.46 880 720 Executive
budget checklist 0.33 -1 2900 Executive
business goal setting 0.86 4400 1900 Executive
business management trends 0.33 -1 590 Executive
business marketing techniques 0.66 2400 1600 Executive
business marketing tips 0.86 4400 2900 Executive
business marketing tools 0.86 2400 1600 Executive
business to business marketing strategy 0.93 590 720 Executive
business to consumer marketing 0.8 720 1000 Executive
company goal setting 0.66 210 260 Executive
consulting internet marketing services 1 6600 3600 Executive
corporate internet marketing 0.73 880 590 Executive
courses internet marketing 0.4 3600 2900 Executive
developing a business plan 0.93 1900 2400 Executive
e business marketing plan 0.33 480 260 Executive
e business marketing strategies 0.6 390 480 Executive
e business marketing strategy 0.73 880 720 Executive
e internet marketing 0.46 6600 5400 Executive
e learning marketing 0.73 590 1000 Executive
e marketing campaigns 0.46 -1 390 Executive
e marketing consultant 0.66 390 390 Executive
e marketing course 0.73 880 880 Executive
e marketing courses 0.6 210 480 Executive
e marketing how 0 -1 390 Executive
e marketing seminar 0.46 260 210 Executive
e marketing solution 0.73 880 880 Executive
e marketing strategies 0.8 3600 2400 Executive
e marketing strategy 0.86 4400 3600 Executive
e marketing templates 0 -1 320 Executive
e marketing tips 0.6 720 390 Executive
e marketing tool 0.73 480 720 Executive
e marketing training 0.6 58 320 Executive
easy internet marketing 0.8 -1 880 Executive
easy online marketing 0.6 -1 390 Executive
effective internet marketing 1 6600 5400 Executive
effective marketing tools 0.73 480 720 Executive
effective online marketing 0.93 1300 1600 Executive
emarketing campaign 0.66 -1 320 Executive
emarketing course 0.66 -1 260 Executive
emarketing marketing 0.53 -1 720 Executive
emarketing solution 0.8 480 390 Executive
emarketing strategy 0.86 480 720 Executive
emarketing training 0.66 170 210 Executive
emarketing training 0.66 170 210 Executive
financial strategic 0.46 14800 14800 Executive
goal effectiveness 0 -1 210 Executive
goal management 0.73 14800 8100 Executive
goal setting objectives 0.46 -1 210 Executive
goal setting planning 0.66 3600 1600 Executive
goal setting plans 0.53 1000 1000 Executive
goal setting process 0.8 1000 1300 Executive
goal setting strategies 0.8 590 590 Executive
goal setting strategy 0.73 260 210 Executive
goal setting success 0.66 1600 1300 Executive
goal setting template 0.8 2400 2900 Executive
guide internet marketing 0.73 8100 6600 Executive
help internet marketing 0.53 1900 1600 Executive
how to create a business plan 0.86 1900 1900 Executive
how to develop a business plan 0.8 1000 880 Executive
how to internet marketing 0.73 3600 2900 Executive
how to prepare a business plan 0.8 880 1000 Executive
internet as a marketing tool 1 720 590 Executive
internet business guide 1 3600 2400 Executive
internet business help 0.66 1300 880 Executive
internet business planning 0.6 1300 590 Executive
internet business strategy 1 9900 4400 Executive
internet business strategy 1 9900 4400 Executive
internet business tools 0.8 880 720 Executive
internet marketing analysis 0.93 720 1600 Executive
internet marketing and advertising 1 14800 6600 Executive
internet marketing basics 0.93 1300 880 Executive
internet marketing campaign 1 6600 3600 Executive
internet marketing campaigns 1 880 1000 Executive
internet marketing cost 0.66 -1 1000 Executive
internet marketing course 1 18100 14800 Executive
internet marketing courses 1 3600 2900 Executive
internet marketing expert 1 8100 5400 Executive
internet marketing guide 1 8100 6600 Executive
internet marketing help 1 1900 1600 Executive
internet marketing how to 0.86 3600 2900 Executive
internet marketing management 0.93 2900 2400 Executive
internet marketing plan 1 12100 8100 Executive
internet marketing planning 0.53 -1 390 Executive
internet marketing proposal 0.66 -1 320 Executive
internet marketing report 1 1600 1300 Executive
internet marketing strategies 1 12100 14800 Executive
internet marketing strategy consultant 0.8 1000 480 Executive
internet marketing success 1 5400 4400 Executive
internet marketing template 0.33 -1 260 Executive
internet marketing tips 1 8100 8100 Executive
internet marketing tips 1 8100 8100 Executive
internet marketing tool 1 33100 14800 Executive
internet marketing training 1 9900 8100 Executive
internet marketing training course 0.86 880 720 Executive
internet strategic 0.26 -1 9900 Executive
internet strategies 0.86 18100 22200 Executive
internet strategy 0.93 90500 60500 Executive
internet success 0.93 14800 12100 Executive
internet web site marketing 1 49500 22200 Executive
marketing a business 0.93 18100 14800 Executive
marketing basics 0.86 6600 8100 Executive
marketing internet services 0.66 60500 40500 Executive
marketing on the internet 1 14800 9900 Executive
marketing on the web 0.93 6600 2400 Executive
marketing online learning 0.6 880 1900 Executive
marketing plan strategy 0.86 8100 5400 Executive
marketing plan success 0.53 590 390 Executive
marketing plan web 0.33 3600 1900 Executive
marketing planning and strategy 0.66 720 1000 Executive
marketing services website 0.33 3600 2400 Executive
marketing site strategy web 0.73 6600 3600 Executive
marketing strategies internet 0.46 12100 14800 Executive
marketing strategies online 0.53 8100 8100 Executive
marketing strategies website 0.2 1300 2900 Executive
marketing training seminars 0.66 590 480 Executive
marketing website template 0.46 -1 260 Executive
marketing website tips 0.13 1000 1000 Executive
on line marketing 1 9900 18100 Executive
online business financial 0 1600 1300 Executive
online business marketing plan 0.4 -1 590 Executive
online business model 0.93 2400 2900 Executive
online business plan 1 12100 9900 Executive
online business planning 0.8 1600 720 Executive
online business plans 1 2400 1900 Executive
online business strategy 0.93 3600 2400 Executive
online emarketing 0.53 -1 480 Executive
online marketing analysis 0.8 590 480 Executive
online marketing basics 0.73 -1 210 Executive
online marketing campaign 1 3600 2900 Executive
online marketing campaigns 0.93 1300 1300 Executive
online marketing cost 0.53 -1 480 Executive
online marketing course 1 8100 6600 Executive
online marketing courses 1 4400 4400 Executive
online marketing guide 0.86 1600 1600 Executive
online marketing help 0.86 880 590 Executive
online marketing how to 0.6 4400 2400 Executive
online marketing management 0.86 4400 2900 Executive
online marketing performance 0.46 14800 4400 Executive
online marketing plan 1 5400 4400 Executive
online marketing plans 0.86 1000 590 Executive
online marketing proposal 0.6 -1 320 Executive
online marketing report 0.6 -1 480 Executive
online marketing seminar 0.86 720 1600 Executive
online marketing seminars 0.8 390 390 Executive
online marketing services 1 27100 18100 Executive
online marketing tips 1 3600 3600 Executive
online marketing tool 1 4400 2400 Executive
online marketing tools 1 3600 3600 Executive
online marketing training 1 2900 2900 Executive
online marketing workshop 0.73 -1 480 Executive
online strategic planning 0.26 -1 390 Executive
online web marketing 1 22200 14800 Executive
online website business 0.93 4400 2400 Executive
reporting management 0.66 49500 33100 Executive
reporting performance 0.4 12100 9900 Executive
small business marketing strategies 1 2900 1900 Executive
small business marketing strategy 1 4400 2900 Executive
small business marketing tips 1 2400 1600 Executive
strategic benchmarking 0.6 480 880 Executive
strategic goal setting 0.66 480 320 Executive
strategic internet marketing 1 14800 9900 Executive
strategic internet marketing services 0.93 1900 1600 Executive
strategic management planning 0.73 12100 8100 Executive
strategic online marketing 0.8 2400 1300 Executive
strategic performance management 0.8 2900 2400 Executive
strategic planning strategy 0.53 5400 4400 Executive
strategic strategy 0.66 -1 5400 Executive
strategies marketing 0.8 165000 201000 Executive
strategies planning 0.46 9900 8100 Executive
strategy analysis 0.73 18100 22200 Executive
strategy marketing 0.8 368000 368000 Executive
strategy objectives 0.6 1900 3600 Executive
strategy online 0.93 201000 301000 Executive
strategy planning 0.93 33100 33100 Executive
successful internet marketing 1 2400 1900 Executive
template marketing plan 0.53 18100 18100 Executive
template planning 0.26 27100 27100 Executive
tips internet marketing 0.53 8100 8100 Executive
training internet marketing 0.6 9900 8100 Executive
web based marketing 0.93 12100 5400 Executive
web marketing course 0.86 1000 880 Executive
web marketing guide 0.66 1000 480 Executive
web marketing help 0.8 -1 210 Executive
web marketing how to 0.46 -1 320 Executive
web marketing service 0.86 9900 2900 Executive
web marketing services 1 14800 8100 Executive
web marketing strategies 1 3600 3600 Executive
web marketing strategy 1 14800 8100 Executive
web marketing templates 0 -1 210 Executive
web marketing tip 0.73 2900 1600 Executive
web marketing tips 0.86 1300 720 Executive
web marketing tool 0.93 8100 2900 Executive
web marketing tools 0.93 2900 1600 Executive
web marketing training 0.8 6600 1300 Executive
web site marketing services 1 6600 2900 Executive
web strategies 0.73 9900 8100 Executive
change workflow 0.2 1900 2900 Operations
digital workflow 0.8 9900 8100 Operations
digital workflow management 0.33 -1 260 Operations
digital workflows 0.33 -1 260 Operations
business email marketing 1 74000 18100 Promotions
business email newsletters 0.46 -1 210 Promotions
e mail for marketing 0.13 -1 1900 Promotions
e mail marketing campaign 0.8 720 590 Promotions
e mail marketing strategy 0.73 590 260 Promotions
e newsletter marketing 0.53 880 880 Promotions
effective email marketing 1 1900 1300 Promotions
email internet marketing promotion 0.86 4400 2400 Promotions
email marketing campaigns 1 3600 4400 Promotions
email marketing solution 1 9900 8100 Promotions
email marketing solutions 1 5400 8100 Promotions
email marketing strategy 1 5400 2900 Promotions
email marketing tips 1 4400 3600 Promotions
email marketing tools 1 4400 2900 Promotions
email newsletter design 0.86 2400 1900 Promotions
email newsletter marketing 0.93 18100 4400 Promotions
email promotion internet marketing 1 4400 2400 Promotions
internet marketing promotion advertising 1 6600 3600 Promotions
internet promotions 0.93 6600 4400 Promotions
landing page optimization 0.86 9900 5400 Promotions
marketing with email 0.8 2400 2400 Promotions
online email marketing 1 12100 6600 Promotions
online marketing promotion 0.93 40500 18100 Promotions
online publicity 0.8 4400 2400 Promotions
promotional strategy 0.8 2900 8100 Promotions
web site promotion internet marketing 1 14800 8100 Promotions
web site promotion marketing 1 22200 12100 Promotions
book company online publishing 0.53 390 170 Publishing
ebooks marketing 0.8 8100 8100 Publishing
epublishing 0.8 5400 9900 Publishing
how to publish ebook 0.66 2400 1900 Publishing
how to publish ebooks 0.6 390 210 Publishing
how to publish online 0.4 1300 1300 Publishing
online publishing 1 33100 33100 Publishing
online publishing book 0.2 3600 2900 Publishing
online publishing business 0.33 -1 260 Publishing
publishing ebooks 0.93 2400 1600 Publishing
online marketing roi 0.8 260 260 ROI
performance strategy 0.73 6600 6600 ROI
performance success 0.73 6600 5400 ROI
return on marketing investment 0.8 1900 2900 ROI
roi business 0.33 4400 2900 ROI
roi calculator marketing 0 480 320 ROI
roi calculators 0.66 480 720 ROI
roi measure 0.26 1600 1000 ROI
balanced scorecard metrics 0.73 1000 1000 ROI
banner advertisements 0.93 880 1300 ROI
benchmarking metrics 0.6 1900 880 ROI
best practices metrics 0.2 -1 480 ROI
business kpi 0.6 9900 2400 ROI
business kpis 0.2 -1 390 ROI
corporate metrics 0.4 -1 880 ROI
financial kpi 0.53 390 1300 ROI
financial metrics 0.66 4400 3600 ROI
google analytics training 0.8 590 1600 ROI
how to measure process 0 -1 320 ROI
how to measure success 0.6 1600 1900 ROI
key performance indicators metrics 0.33 -1 210 ROI
kpi benchmarking 0.33 -1 390 ROI
kpi measurement 0.6 720 1000 ROI
kpi metrics 0.66 1600 1600 ROI
kpi online 0.13 -1 390 ROI
kpi performance 0.6 5400 5400 ROI
marketing metrics 0.8 8100 8100 ROI
measure kpi 0.4 -1 720 ROI
measure success 0.73 8100 8100 ROI
measurement consulting 0.33 -1 320 ROI
measuring roi 0.66 2900 1900 ROI
measuring social media 0.6 -1 590 ROI
measuring success 0.73 5400 5400 ROI
metrics management 0.6 9900 9900 ROI
metrics marketing 0.4 8100 8100 ROI
metrics measure 0 -1 1300 ROI
metrics measurement 0.4 2900 2900 ROI
metrics measures 0.33 -1 1000 ROI
metrics measuring 0.13 -1 1000 ROI
performance management kpi 0.33 -1 590 ROI
performance management metrics 0.73 880 880 ROI
performance measurement metrics 0.53 880 880 ROI
performance metrics 0.93 33100 27100 ROI
scorecard kpi 0.33 1600 2900 ROI
strategic metrics 0.53 880 720 ROI
strategy metrics 0.4 -1 480 ROI
web marketing metrics 0.46 210 91 ROI
improve search engine ranking 1 9900 6600 Search
keyword marketing 1 90500 18100 Search
keyword optimization 1 60500 14800 Search
keyword seo 1 22200 18100 Search
search engine consultant 0.93 22200 9900 Search
search engine keyword 1 135000 33100 Search
search engine marketing consultants 1 1300 1000 Search
search engine marketing pro 0.93 720 480 Search
search engine optimisation expert 0.8 720 720 Search
search engine optimisation seo 0.93 2900 2400 Search
search engine optimisation training 0.86 390 1000 Search
search engine optimization seo 1 74000 33100 Search
search engine optimization techniques 1 2900 2900 Search
search engine optimization tips 1 22200 6600 Search
search engine optimization tools 1 4400 5400 Search
search engine optimizing 1 3600 4400 Search
search engine position 1 18100 9900 Search
search engine positioning 1 60500 33100 Search
search engine secrets 1 4400 2900 Search
search engine strategies 1 8100 8100 Search
search engine techniques 0.86 4400 4400 Search
seo keywords 1 9900 9900 Search
seo optimisation 1 5400 5400 Search
seo optimization tips 0.66 -1 390 Search
seo report 1 6600 12100 Search
seo strategies 0.93 2900 2900 Search
seo strategy 1 6600 5400 Search
seo techniques 1 6600 9900 Search
seo tips 1 22200 33100 Search
seo training 1 14800 22200 Search
seo web design 1 18100 33100 Search
b2b social media 0.53 -1 1000 Social Media
social media for business 0.53 -1 880 Social Media
social media how to 0.53 -1 1300 Social Media
social media marketing 1 -1 40500 Social Media
social media marketing plan 0.66 -1 390 Social Media
social media marketing strategy 0.73 -1 480 Social Media
social media metrics 0.46 -1 720 Social Media
social media planning 0.46 -1 210 Social Media
social media strategist 0.4 -1 480 Social Media
social media strategy 0.86 -1 3600 Social Media
social media tools 0.73 -1 2900 Social Media
successful social media 0.46 -1 320 Social Media
affordable webdesign 0.8 260 320 Web Design
budget web design 0.86 2400 1600 Web Design
company webdesign 0.66 1600 3600 Web Design
corporate web development 1 1900 1300 Web Design
corporate web site development 0.86 880 480 Web Design
designing web sites 0.93 1900 2400 Web Design
development web design 0.53 90500 49500 Web Design
effective website design 0.93 720 1000 Web Design
good web site design 1 1900 1000 Web Design
graphic webdesign 0.53 210 590 Web Design
internet website design 1 5400 14800 Web Design
templates web design 0.73 33100 40500 Web Design
tools web design 0.4 14800 18100 Web Design
web design basics 0.86 2400 1900 Web Design
web design best practice 0.46 720 720 Web Design
web design best practices 0.6 1600 1300 Web Design
web design checklist 0.46 480 720 Web Design
web design how to 0.73 27100 27100 Web Design
web design management 0.66 12100 5400 Web Design
web design plan 0.53 2900 1900 Web Design
web design planning 0.53 2400 1600 Web Design
web design plans 0.46 -1 720 Web Design
web design project management 0.66 1000 880 Web Design
web design techniques 0.86 2900 1900 Web Design
web webdesign 0.46 1300 3600 Web Design
webdesign design 0.73 1000 6600 Web Design
webdesign development 0.66 -1 880 Web Design
webdesign website 0.73 880 5400 Web Design
website design basics 0.73 390 480 Web Design
website design best practice 0.4 -1 210 Web Design
website design best practices 0.53 590 590 Web Design
website design how to 0.6 18100 27100 Web Design
website design planning 0.46 720 480 Web Design
website marketing tool 0.73 1300 880 Web Design
websites designers 0.93 6600 5400 Web Design
websites designing 0.86 9900 12100 Web Design



Appendix C: Resources and Tools for Publishers

General Marketing and Social Media Blogs

General Marketing Books

  • Clay Shirky. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: The Penguin Press, 2008.
  • Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins. The Open Brand. California: New Riders, 2008.
  • Any of Seth Godin’s books.

Marketing Writing Resources

  • Chip and Dan Heath. Made to Stick. Random House: New York, 2007.
  • Copyblogger.

Business Development Resources

Online Publishing Resource

Listening Tools

  • Google Alerts.
  • Advanced Twitter Search.

Keyword Tools

  • Google Insight’s for Search.
  • Google External Keyword Tool.

Twitter Management and Metrics Tool

  • Hootsuite.

Metrics Resources

  • Jason Burby and Shane Atchison. Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions. New York: Sybex, 2007.
  • Avinash Kaushik. Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. Sybex: New York, 2007.
  • Google Conversion University.





Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of Radical Price. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2009.

———. The Long Tail. New York: Hyperion, 2008.

Arthur Attwell Blog.

B2B Online,

Barefoot, Darren and Julie Szabo. Friends with Benefits: Online Marketing with Blogs, Facebook, Youtube, and More. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2009.

Blanchard, Oliver. “The Basics of Social Media ROI,” Social Fresh Conference, presented August 24, 2009,


Boxcar Marketing.

Boxcar Marketing Blog, The.

Burby, Jason and Shane Atchison. Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions. New York: Sybex, 2007.

Capulet Communications.

Chris Brogan Blog.

Clay Shirky Blog.,

Cluetrain Manifesto. “95 Theses.”

Common Craft.

Dell’s Social Media for Small Business

Eisenberg, Bryan, Chris Goward and Raquel Hirsch “Activate the 10 Steps to a Higher Conversion Rate,” Webinar, presented June 2, 2010.


Friends With Benefits.

Groundswell: How People With Social Technologies Are Changing Everything,

Godin, Seth. “Seth Godin on the Tribes We Lead.” Video on Posted February 2009.

Google Investor Relations. 2010 Financial Tables.

Guerrilla Consulting. “The 7-Sentence Marketing Plan Sample.”

Internet Marketing Conference,

Jaffe, Joseph. Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand With a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. Books24x7.

Joel, Mitch. Six Pixels of Separation. New York: Business Plus, 2009.





Mooney, Kelly and Nita Rollins. The Open Brand. California: New Riders, 2008.

MoreVisibility Webinars,

My Yoga Online.

Namaste Publishing.

Nash, Richard. “Publishing 3.0: Moving from Gatekeeping to Partnerships,” BookNet Canada Technology Forum. March 25, 2010.

Nielsen Wire,

Queen’s University Executive Development Marketing Program,

Search and Social Media Report (UK: IAB and Microsoft Advertising, March 2010),

Seth’s Blog.

Shirky, Clay. “Clay Shirky On New Book Here Comes Everybody.” Video on YouTube. Posted March 5, 2008.

———. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: The Penguin Press, 2008.

Simon Fraser University Executive MBA,

Six Pixels of Separation,

Technuim Blog.

TOMS Shoes. “Our Movement.”

Tools of Change for Publishing,

Trottier, Monique. “ACP Children’s Committee Presentation.” Presentation at Associate of Canadian Publishers Children’s Committee, Toronto, September 18, 2008.


———. “LPG Presentation at Sales Conference.” Presentation at Literary Press Group, Toronto, December 7, 2007.

———. “Online Markets and Marketing.” Lecture at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, March 6, 2009.

———. “Websites: Investment or Expense?” Presentation at Book Expo Canada, Toronto, June 13, 2008.

Twitter Blog.

Vocus User’s Conference 2009,

Wodtke, Christina and Austin Govella. Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web Second Edition. California: New Riders Press, 2009.




1 Clay Shirky, “Why Small Payments Won’t Save Publishers,” The Clay Shirky Blog, posted February 9, 2009, RETURN

2 Chris Anderson, The Long Tail (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 52. RETURN

3 Ibid., 53. RETURN

4 Ibid., 55-56. RETURN

5 Chris Anderson, The Long Tail (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 107. RETURN

6 Ibid., 56. RETURN

7 Seth Godin, “Seth Godin on the Tribes We Lead,” Video on, February 2009, RETURN

8 Chris Anderson, The Long Tail (New York: Hyperion, 2008),117. RETURN

9 Ibid.,119. RETURN

10 Chris Anderson, The Long Tail (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 52. RETURN

11 Kevin Kelly, “Better Than Free,” The Technuim Blog, posted January 31, 2008, RETURN

12 Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 54. RETURN

13 Ibid., 231. RETURN

14 Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 181. RETURN

15 Google Investor Relations, 2010 Financial Tables, RETURN

16Seth Godin, “Malcom is Wrong,” Seth’s Blog, posted June 30, 2009, RETURN

17Chris Brogan, “My Worry Reduction Buttons- Affiliate Marketing,” The Chris Brogan Blog, posted May 10, 2010, RETURN

18 Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 165. RETURN

19Seth Godin, “Malcom is Wrong,” Seth’s Blog, posted June 30, 2009, RETURN

20Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Toronto: HarperCollins,2009), 69-70. RETURN

21 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 74. RETURN

22 The Cluetrain Manifesto, “95 Theses,” RETURN

23Monique Trottier, “ACP Children’s Committee Presentation,” (presented at the Associate of Canadian Publishers Children’s Committee, Toronto, September 18, 2008). RETURN

24 “Led by Facebook, Twitter, Global Time Spent on Social Media Sites up 82% Year over Year,” Nielsen Wire, posted January 22, 2010, RETURN

25 Clay Shirky, “Clay Shirky On New Book Here Comes Everybody,” Video on YouTube, posted March 5, 2008, RETURN

26 Twitter Blog, “Measuring Tweets,” February 22, 2010, RETURN

27Jennifer Van Grove, “Red Cross Raises $5,000,000+ for Haiti Through Text Message Campaign,” Mashable, posted January 13, 2010, and American Red Cross, Twitter, posted January 13, 2010, RETURN

28 Seth Godin, “Seth Godin on the Tribes We Lead,” Video on, February 2009, RETURN

29 Richard Nash, “Publishing 3.0: Moving from Gatekeeping to Partnership,” BookNet Canada Technology Forum, March 25, 2010, RETURN

30 Namaste Publishing, RETURN

31 “Mequoda Media Pyramid”, Mequoda, RETURN

32 “Who is Bizah?” Namaste Publishing, RETURN

33 Monique Trottier, “Websites: Investment or Expense?” (presentation at Book Expo Canada, Toronto, June 13, 2008). RETURN

34 Ibid. RETURN

35 TOMS Shoes, “Our Movement,” RETURN

36 Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation (New York: Business Plus, 2009), 21. RETURN

37 Search and Social Media Report (UK: IAB and Microsoft Advertising, March 2010), 13, RETURN

38Monique Trottier popularized this phrase. RETURN

39 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 83. RETURN

40 Susan Fournier and Lara Lee, “Getting Brand Communities Right”. Harvard Business Review (April 2009). RETURN

41 Mitch Joel, “Selling 2.0 – Let The Customer Do The Communicating,” Six Pixels of Separation, posted September 24, 2008,—let-the-customer-do-the-communicating/. RETURN

42 Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation (New York: Business Plus, 2009), 167. RETURN

43 Samuel Axon, “BP Buys Top Google Result For ‘Oil Spill’,” Mashable, posted June 8, 2010, RETURN

44 Seth Godin, “Cannibalism and Spam,” Seth’s Blog, posted April 14, 2010, RETURN

45 Neil M. Rosen, “What is the most effective use of e-mail to drive revenue and loyalty?” B2B Online, posted June 17, 2010. RETURN

46 “Email Marketing Benchmarks for Small Business,” MailChimp, RETURN

47 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 187. RETURN

48Ibid., 85. RETURN

49 Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, The Open Brand (California: New Riders, 2008), 84. RETURN

50 Arthur Attwell, “Seven Digital-Publishing Tips for Small Publishers,” The Arthur Attwell Blog, posted April 1, 2010, RETURN

51 Clay Shirky, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” The Clay Shirky Blog, posted April 1 2010, RETURN

52 Clay Shirky, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models,” The Clay Shirky Blog, posted April 1 2010, RETURN

53 Guerrilla Consulting, “The 7-Sentence Marketing Plan Sample,” RETURN

54 Charlene Li,“Forrester’s New Social Technographics Report,” Groundswell: How People With Social Technologies Are Changing Everything, posted April 23, 2007, RETURN

55 Monique, Trottier, “LPG Presentation at Sales Conference,” (presentation at Literary Press Group, Toronto, December 7, 2007). RETURN

56 Christina Wodtke and Austin Govella, Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web Second Edition, (California: New Riders Press, 2009), 130. RETURN

57 The following is built on ideas from Christina Wodtke and Austin Govella, Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web Second Edition, (California: New Riders Press, 2009). RETURN

58 Monique, Trottier, “Websites: Investment or Expense?” (presentation at Book Expo Canada, Toronto, June 13, 2008). RETURN

59Jason Burby and Shane Atchison, Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions, (Indiana: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2007), 9. RETURN

60 Many of the ideas for this section are taken from from a webinar: Bryan Eisenberg, Chris Goward and Raquel Hirsch “Activate the 10 Steps to a Higher Conversion Rate,” Webinar, presented June 2, 2010. RETURN

61 Bryan Eisenberg, Chris Goward and Raquel Hirsch “Active the 10 Steps to a Higher Conversion Rate,” Webinar, presented June 2, 2010. RETURN

62 Oliver Blanchard, “The Basics of Social Media ROI,” Social Fresh Conference, presented August 24, 2009, RETURN

63 Jason Burby and Shane Atchison, Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions, (Indiana: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2007), 95. RETURN

64 Capulet Communications, RETURN

65 Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN

66Darren Barefoot, “Our Pitch to Some Top Bloggers,” Friends with Benefits, posted December 18, 2007, and Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN

67 Darren Barefoot, “eBook Conversion Rates, YouTube and the Cobbler’s Children,” Friends with Benefits, February 11, 2009 RETURN

68 Darren Barefoot, in phone discussion with the author, September 14, 2009. RETURN

69 Ibid. RETURN

70 Ibid. RETURN

71 Boxcar Marketing, RETURN

72 Many of Boxcar Marketing’s blog readers, Underwire subscribers, Twitter followers and members of the technology community are also following Trottier on SoMisGuided’s Twitter stream. 1,100 audience members is a low estimate but ensures that I am not including duplicate people. RETURN

73Common Craft, RETURN

74Dell’s Social Media for Small Business RETURN

75 My Yoga Online, RETURN

76 Mequoda, RETURN

77 MarketingProfs, RETURN

78 Queen’s University Executive Development Marketing Program, RETURN

79 MarketingProfs Pro Members, RETURN

80 Common Craft, “How to Buy Our Videos,” and “Our Story,” RETURN

81 MoreVisibility Webinars, RETURN

82 Vocus User’s Conference 2009, RETURN

83 Internet Marketing Conference, RETURN

84Simon Fraser University Executive MBA, RETURN

85 See Appendix A. RETURN

86See Appendix B. RETURN

87 Underwire is a monthly newsletter sent out by Boxcar Marketing that offers social media tips, technical how-tos, and internet marketing advice. RETURN

88 Digital Chalk, RETURN

89 CubeCart, RETURN

90 E-junkie, RETURN

91Paul Gillin, “B-to-b marketers still looking for return on tweets, ” B2B Online, posted June 14, 2010, RETURN

92 AdHack, RETURN

93Richard Nash, “Publishing 3.0: Moving from Gatekeeping to Partnership,” BookNet Canada Technology Forum, March 25, 2010, and James Turner, “What Does Publishing 2.0 Look Like? Richard Nash Knows,” Tools of Change for Publishing, posted February 11, 2010 RETURN

94 $110 an hour is our preferred client rate, as well as a general rate in the industry if we decide to outsource. RETURN

95Bryan Eisenberg talks argues that the average online conversion rate is 2-3% in “The Average Conversion Rate: Is It a Myth?”, posted February 1, 2008, Bluecorona also quotes a 2-3% conversion rate in “What is the Average Website Conversion Rate?” Bluecorona, posted June 13, 2010, According to Fireclick, the global conversion rate for the last two weeks in June 2010 was 2.2% and 1.7%, Fireclick,, retrieved July 5, 2010. RETURN