Industry Profile - Magazine
- Magazine publishers are facing a number of difficulties in the face of COVID-19, including lost revenue due to brick and mortar store closures, in some instances, a difficulty migrating content online, a significant loss of ad revenue, and staffing reductions.
- Revenue for the magazine sector has dropped significantly since the onset of COVID-19 lockdown measures. This trend is likely to continue through the summer and possibly into the fall.
- Magazine companies have needed to let go of staff in the face of lost revenue, many of whom may not be brought back to work. In cases where staff are not let go, employees are still seeing work hour reductions.
- Both staff and revenue reductions have contributed to a decreased publishing schedule for many arts publications, and many consumer magazines are at risk of permanent closure.
- Ad spend has decreased in both print and digital advertising. This is likely to continue into the fall, though local and regional digital advertising may return sooner.
- Most Canadian brick and mortar retailers are closed, with all Chapters and Indigo locations having been closed since late March, and 75% of Magazine’s Canada’s independent retailers also closed.[i]
- Please visit Ontario Creates’ website for more information on our COVID-19 response plan.
Interim Update to January 2020 Profile
- The Ministry of Canadian Heritage has provided additional COVID-19 support to Canadian magazine publications. Magazines that receive Canada Periodical Fund Aid to Publishers support got a 25% top-up to their 2020 ATP amount, and Canada Council has received $55 million to administer to supported organizations, including magazine publishers. Eligible publications can also receive support through the Special Measures for Journalism portion of the Canada Periodical Fund.[a]
- A five year study by the American Association of Magazine Media about magazine audiences showed that magazine brands have expanded in a multimedia world, with a 24% audience growth across all formats between August 2014 and August 2019, as well as strong performance on social media and other online platforms.[b]
- While publications are becoming increasingly digital, print still holds significant sway, with 58% of subscribers surveyed in a FIPP study describing themselves as primarily print-oriented, and 60-80% of publisher revenues coming from print media.[c]
- The Canadian federal government plans to undergo a modernization of the Canada Periodical Fund, specifically targeting the Aid to Publishers (ATP) and Business Innovation (BI) components. Among other changes, this will involve increased investment in editorial and journalistic content, a new sub-component for digital-only content, and a widening range of eligibility for the BI component. This modernization will be implemented over five years, with stakeholders having an opportunity to discuss the plan with Canadian Heritage beginning in Fall 2020.[d]
- As publications move online, bringing in paid readership can be a challenge. Moving consumers from free readers to paid subscribers can be done in a number of ways, but low-friction subscription models can be helpful in easing readers through the process. These include methods such as contributions, donations, time passes and single purchases.[e]
- There are many reasons that magazine and news publication consumers choose to subscribe to publications, and understanding these motivations is key to building a strong consumer base. These reasons include community (interest in local news and events), cost (receiving discounts and promotions at key times), content (desire to read interesting content), and contribution (supporting local publications and local journalism).[f]
- Ontario magazines were well-represented at the 2020 National Magazine Awards. Among these were Prefix Photo winning Gold for Best Magazine: Art, Literary, & Culture; Jocelyn Bell of Broadview winning the Editor Grand Prix award; Inuit Art Quarterly winning Gold for Short Feature Writing; Cottage Life winning Gold for Feature Writing; and Toronto Life winning six Gold awards and one Silver award, including Long-Form Feature Writing, Investigative Reporting, and Profiles.
Ontario Creates Industry Profiles receive a full update once per year. The interim update summarizes key changes approximately six months after the profile's release.
January 2020 Profile
Canada’s magazine sector includes consumer and business-to-business (B2B) brands, with content distributed both in print and digitally, via a variety of web and mobile channels. Business models in the magazine industry increasingly incorporate a range of revenue streams beyond traditional subscription and advertising, such as custom publishing, events-based and retail-based revenue generation strategies.
Ontario has the largest magazine media industry in the country. It generated $801 million in operating revenues in 2017, which accounted for more than half of national revenues.
Industry Size and Economic Impact
Note: The following information on revenue, employment and the consumer market should be considered a snapshot of activity in the industry based on the best available information. All dollar figures are in CAD unless otherwise noted.
Revenues and Related Figures
- Ontario periodical publishing industry operating revenue declined by 28.9% between 2013 and 2017, from $1,126.2 million to $801.1 million. The decline was more drastic in Quebec (45.8%) and the Prairie provinces (43.1%), but less severe in the Atlantic provinces (23.7%) and British Columbia (20.3%). Canadian periodical publishing industry operating revenue declined 33.6% overall in that period.
- Ontario accounted for 61.3% of the national total in 2017, up from 57.2% in 2013.
- In 2017, the Ontario periodical publishing industry was operating at a 12.0% profit margin, higher than the federal profit margin of 10.3%, and higher than any other province or territory in the country.
- Breaking down total sales by activity, the greatest percentage of Canadian sales can be attributed to advertising, followed by circulation. However, advertising sales have decreased over time, from 61.8% of total sales in 2013 to 52.9% in 2017. In comparison, the proportion of circulation sales has increased, from 27.9% in 2013 to 34.0% in 2017.
- On a national level, digital products are becoming an increasingly significant part of the revenue generated by the periodical publishing industry. In 2017, 17.8% of total advertising revenue was attributable to digital products. Additionally, 9.9% of circulation revenue was attributable to digital products, and 4.0% to custom publishing revenue.
- In 2017, periodicals generated over $1 billion in national GDP, almost half of which, or $472 million, was generated within the province of Ontario.
- According to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019-2023, the global consumer magazine market continued to decline with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.6% from 2017 to 2018.
- Global print consumer magazine circulation revenue has consistently decreased and is projected to decline further from US $41.1 billion in 2018 to US $37.1 billion in 2023, with advertising revenue for print consumer magazines also falling from US $19.5 billion in 2018 to US $13.6 billion in 2023.
- Although print magazine revenue is dropping, global digital magazine circulation revenue is forecasted to grow from US $3.9 billion in 2018 to US $4.9 billion in 2023, with advertising revenue for digital magazines also increasing from US $9.6 billion in 2018 to US $12.3 billion in 2023.
- Global B2B digital magazine and digital advertising revenue are projected to climb at a higher rate than revenue for consumer magazines, with a projected 13.1% increase for B2B digital as opposed to 5.5% for consumer digital, and 9.0% for B2B digital advertising as opposed to 5.8% for consumer advertising.
- The Canadian consumer magazine market has seen a decline, with a -0.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to US $947 million in 2018. However, the outlook for the Canadian magazine market is more positive than that of the United States.
Employment and Wages
- In 2017, the Ontario periodical publishing industry spent $263.6 million on salaries, wages, commissions and benefits. This was a 5.7% decrease from the previous year, and makes up 65.7% of the national expenditure in this area.
- Over 5,600 people were employed in the Ontario periodical industry in 2017, out of almost 12,600 employed nationally.
- Print magazines still have a strong place in the market, with 63% of magazine readers age 18 and over stating a preference for print versions of magazines, 29% liking to read in both print and digital formats, and 8% reading only in digital formats.
- The number of people reading magazines in Canada has been decreasing, dropping from 17.2 million in 2014 to 15.9 million in 2016. One significant factor in this decline is a consumption difference between generations, with only 44% of Canadians between age 21-34 reading print magazines weekly, compared to 67% of Canadians between 50-69 years of age.
- Ads in magazines are more impactful and engaging than on website or ad-supported television networks. In a US study, magazines scored higher in all examined fields, including how much people pay attention to ads, whether the ads were relevant to them, how likely they were to buy products, and how well the ads fit with the other content. Additionally, one in two magazine readers conducted online searches for products, brands or services advertised in a magazine, and one in five made a purchase.
- In the same study, audiences overall state a preference for reading print on paper over reading digitally when it comes to books and magazines for a number of reasons, including improved retention, less distraction, and more pleasant physical feel.
- The most popular type of magazine among Canadian readers is “Food/Recipes” with 69% of readers reading them. “Entertainment/Celebrity” is next with 62%, followed by “Health/Fitness” and “Travel/Tourism,” both with 61%.
Trends and Issues
The current key trends in the magazine publishing industry are a rise in the use of paywalls, the need to expand into niche markets, and an overall migration towards digital over print product. A number of magazine brands are making greater use of technology in order to stay relevant and innovative in an increasingly digital market. There is an increase in integration with smartphones, such as apps, augmented reality, or virtual reality.
Growth Rate and Industry Trends
- PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019-2023 predicts that one of the most significant traits a magazine will need to prosper in future markets is the ability to offer niche, premium content to differentiate itself from more generic online platforms. A digital monetization strategy will also be essential.
- Paywall models are increasing in popularity in the global magazine industry. FIPP estimates that paywall-using magazine websites provide on average around five free articles per month, though some provide as few as two. More magazines are beginning to use dynamic paywalls, which analyze a user’s behaviour and user profile to vary the number of articles that reader is shown and better convert them to a paying subscriber.
- Print magazines have historically made as much as 70% of their revenue via print advertising, but these revenues are shrinking. In reflection of this, many magazine media companies are starting to develop new revenue models which emphasize other sources such as memberships, digital subscriptions, ecommerce, licensed good and events. FIPP’s new report Paywalls: How to start your subscription strategy gives advice for following the “relationship strategy” to improve subscriber base and build relationships with consumers, as well as outlining the benefits of a number of different paywall models.
- Innovations in artificial intelligence (or AI 2.0) are being predicted to transform the media industry, including the magazine sector. This includes AIs with editorial intent and opinion, and using machine learning for linking content.
- In response to the rising emphasis on digital content, some magazine publishers have moved towards “reverse publishing,” wherein content is first published online in a digital format, and is then released in print format later, as opposed to the traditional format which operates in reverse. This allows for a wider reach, and also allows publications to be more reactive to news stories, events and product releases.
- The Association of Magazine Media’s Magazine Media Factbook provides an outline of the greatest values brought to audience engagement with magazines by various social media platforms. Among other insights, the report observes that Facebook is successful at bringing in new audiences due to the popularity and size of the network; Twitter is successful due to the concise and fast-paced format; and Instagram has the highest number of actions per post due to emphasis on visuals and user-friendly response options.
- Magazines are beginning to find value in using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to bring their content to life. In July 2019, Time magazine launched “Time Immersive,” an AR and VR app designed to integrate with and expand upon Time stories. The first experience offered by the app is called “Landing on the Moon” which provides a cinematic recreation of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This follows Time’s past VR projects “The March” and “Remembering Pearl Harbor.” National Geographic magazine also has three VR projects in development this year, the first of which will take viewers to Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
- In May 2019, Instagram collaborated with youth crisis service The Mix, as well as charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) to launch an online-only magazine called #GramFam intended to help students during exam season. The magazine consisted of a number of “Insta-zines” which included advice and messages of support from a number of celebrities and Instagram influencers. This publication, along with other similar publications launched by online platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat, opens questions about what constitutes a magazine in the changing digital landscape.
Global and Domestic Issues
- In March 2019, Apple released Apple News+, a subscription service within the Apple News app allowing users to access magazines and paid content for some news organizations. This release replaces the magazine subscription service Texture, which Apple purchased in 2018, and limits its services to Apple users whereas Texture was also available on Android.
- The adoption and use of ad-blocking software is of ongoing importance to magazine publishers worldwide, as is the threat its use poses to digital advertising revenues. It was estimated that ad-blocking could cost digital publishers over US $27 billion by 2020, and there were an estimated 615 million active ad-blocking users around the world as of 2016. Estimates of the penetration rate of ad-blocking software in Canada vary from 18%-25%, but are believed to exceed those of the U.S., UK and Australia; the rate varies across the country and is highest among millennials, aged 18-24.
- A report by explored the potential benefits of a paid internship program for the national magazine industry. Internships frequently lead to employment, and the study recommended that such a program would yield benefits to publishers by helping to develop a more diverse talent pool, providing a source of digital expertise and innovation to publishers, and creating an advantage for the industry in competing for talent with other sectors. Magazines Canada
- Provincial Blue Box recycling programs are another key issue for Canadian magazine publishers. Namely, Canadian magazine publishers are concerned that the current fee structure results in magazine publishers subsidizing the recycling costs associated with the disposal of foreign tonnage (publications) and newspapers. Furthermore, there is some concern that the costs for magazine publishers have grown to be disproportionately higher than the costs associated with other materials that are harder to recycle. The Ontario government is re-examining these costs, with changes to be made in 2023.
- In the fall of 2018, Canada’s federal government announced that they are launching $595 million in funding over five years to support Canada’s media sector (primarily news), as well as a proposed temporary 15% tax credit for online subscriptions and some media outlets. The government also plans to allow non-profit media organizations which “produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians” to apply for charity status.
- In July 2019, a panel of independent experts issued a report making recommendations to the Canadian Heritage and Finance Ministers regarding the tax credit program being offered by the federal government to support small news-media outlets. In this report, the panel recommended expanding tax credit coverage to allow for freelancers and independent contractors to be counted as journalists. The panel also suggested that the government dedicate a percentage of the federal advertising budget to written publications in minority-language communities.
- The , administered by the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF), offers funding to eligible magazine publishers for content creation, distribution, online activities, and business development. It also provides support for business innovation projects and collective initiatives that strengthen the Canadian magazine sector. The Fund currently includes a pilot project to support emerging digital publishers by providing up to $5,000 in start-up funding for a digital-based project. Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH)
- Ontario magazine publishers currently have access to public funding through the Ontario Creates Magazine Fund. Ontario Creates also provides funding to trade and event organizations in the province’s magazine sector through the Industry Development Program for events and activities that stimulate the growth of the industry. In some cases, magazine publishers may be eligible for the Ontario Creates Interactive Digital Media Fund.
- The 2019 National Magazine Awards were held in May, and Ontario was well represented.
- The gold for Best Magazine: Service & Lifestyle went to Cottage Life, the Editor Grand Prix award to Alison Uncles of Maclean’s, and the Publisher Grand Prix award to Ken Hunt of Toronto Life. Ontario publications also won a number of writing and visual awards.
- Ontario publications also received a number of honourable mentions, including two to The Walrus and Toronto Life for Best Magazine: News, Business, General Interest, one to U of T Medicine for Best Magazine: Special Interest, and two to Toronto Life and Broadview Magazine for Best New Magazine Writer.
- At the 2019 National Magazine Awards: B2B, Ontario-based Pivot, CPA Canada won six gold awards, including Best Magazine, Best Profile of a Company, and Best Profile of a Person. Other gold winners included Azure (two golds), Canadian Architect, Franchise Canada, Precedent Magazine, Professionally Speaking (one gold and four silvers), and University Affairs (three golds and one silver).
Profile current as of November 13, 2019
1 Ontario Creates relies on the most recent Statistics Canada data releases to compile this profile. There is a period of time needed for Statistics Canada to collect the data (e.g. receipt of income tax returns) and compile the data releases. Statistics Canada magazine industry statistics for the year 2019 will be available in early 2021.
9 ibid., p. 24.
11 Martha Williams, Paywalls: How to start your subscription strategy, 2019, p. 14.
22 Martha Williams, Paywalls: How to start your subscription strategy, 2019, pp. 2, 18.
26 Jessica Patterson, “Time launches AR and VR app, moves forward with immersive experiences,” FIPP, July 18, 2019; Jessica Patterson, “Time begins production on epic immersive, virtual reality experience,” FIPP, February 28, 2019; FIPP, The Future of Media: How digital-to-print revenue models continue to shape the industry, 2019, p. 5.
28 Gerry Smith, “Apple’s ‘Netflix for magazines’ getting a chilly reception,” Toronto Star, December 12, 2018; Juli Clover, “Apples News+ Guide: Everything You Need to Know,” MacRumors, August 2, 2019; Sarah Perez, “Apple to close Texture on May 28, following launch of Apples News+,” Tech Crunch, March 29, 2019.
29 Arjun Kharpal, “Adblocking will cost publishers $27B by 2020: Study,” CNBC, May 11, 2016; PageFair.com, retrieved July 25, 2018; Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, “IAB Canada releases second annual ad blocking study for 2017,” www.iabcanada.com, 2017; PageFair.com, “Intel,” Retrieved July 25, 2018
31 Magazines Canada, “Recycling”; Canadian Magazines Blog. “Magazines Canada wants changes to Blue Box pricing and accounting.” April 30, 2015; David Rider and Robert Benzie, “Ontario will shift Blue Box program costs to waste producers,” Toronto Star, August 15, 2019.