GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

Publisher’s Column - START THE PRESSES!

Hard copies of GayCalgary Magazine are coming back!

Publisher's Column by Steve Polyak (From GayCalgary® Magazine, September 2017, page 7)
Publisher’s Column - START THE PRESSES!: Hard copies of GayCalgary Magazine are coming back!
Publisher’s Column - START THE PRESSES!: Hard copies of GayCalgary Magazine are coming back!

Before I get into the WTF title of this Publisher’s Column, I should get our readers caught up on what a busy last several months it has been for me. Yes, I am behind on getting the online editions together. Last edition posted online was for August 2017. This one has become the September/October Edition. I know that is strange, but there are reasons for this.

First off, this year has been extremely busy for me. Most people forget that even though I have freelance writers and an editor, everything else is done solely by me. This is not an easy task. When the magazine first started, Rob did the graphic design, programming of the website, editing of articles, writing articles, video editing, some of the magazine layout and more. I did photos, getting content together, assigning articles, most of the layout of the magazine, posting articles, dealing with advertisers and non-profit groups, the bulk of the emails, and more. We both dealt with magazine distribution, which took several days to do.

Everything that Rob did I now do. The last print edition, the December 2014/January 2015, was Rob’s last active edition with the magazine. Removing the hard copies off the task list made it a little easier to take over Rob’s tasks plus add a couple new ones, like concentrating on social media.

As the economy tanked in Alberta down went other publications like FFWD and several others. Over the last three years, LGBTQ publications across Canada stopped printing, like Xtra Vancouver, Xtra Toronto and Outwords in Winnipeg, going in favour of online only – like us – while some publications fully shut down. New gay media websites in Canada pop up, last a year or two and shut down. Canadian mainstream media made major mergers and laid off journalists, and the shut down of local papers showed that the new world of the USA-based Facebook, Twitter and Google are too big competition for ad revenue, hurting local media and journalism across Canada.

For me, the switch was still to produce the PDF edition of the magazine 10 times a year, but to concentrate covering Alberta-based prides along with Whistler Pride; to do travel articles, continue doing our very popular interviews, and photos of community events. June to October became overwhelming to keep up with that plus all the other tasks I need to do.

Just about every weekend from June to the middle of October there was an event that I needed to cover. People would ask me what I had upcoming for events and I could rattle off all of them from the top of my head.

There was Edmonton Pride weekend, Lethbridge Pride weekend, Canada 150 weekend, Calgary Stampede/FAB Bear Weekend, Great Canadian Bear Weekend (Edmonton), Red Deer Pride, ISCWR Coronation (Edmonton), Calgary Pride Weekend, Medicine Hat Pride, Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo, finishing off with Banff Pride. These events do happen every year but, this year, I was able to bundle coverage of the Great Canadian Bear Weekend, Red Deer Pride, Medicine Hat Pride and Banff Pride with travel coverage of each of those destinations. So, I was able to spend a day or more in each location.

With all those events, I still had to deal with 400 to 600 emails per day, plus post stuff to social media, edit and post articles, sort through photos, get content together, do video editing, write articles, do product reviews and other daily stuff I do to run the magazine. I also squeezed in the weekly email blasts that I need to do for over 22,700 digital subscribers. Yup, I work a lot.

I was hoping to reduce my workload by eventually halting the PDF edition, since readers were transitioning from the PDF, ISSUU and Magzter version of the magazine to reading the articles directly online. The focus was to also reduce advertising rates to become comparable or cheaper than advertising on Facebook alone, so there would be absolutely no room to start printing hard copies again. I came up with new ways of getting advertisers exposure, which included web banners and pop ups on the GayCalgary website, and have ads appear in our weekly email blast plus across all our social media feeds, which included Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and still have ads appear in the PDF, ISSUU and Magzter versions of the magazine.

Requests had started coming in that I needed to get hard copies back into the bars. This was not an easy task to do. With the lack of advertisers, which is the only revenue the magazine generates, which just barely covers the cost of operations, to try to squeeze out hard copies from anything remaining is impossible.

I contacted our original printers to get quotes. The smallest print run would be 500 copies and the cost that and shipping would be more than the current monthly operating costs of the magazine. So, either turn off everything that 300,000 visitors a month or over 1.3 million unique visitors a year to the GayCalgary Website see to provide 500 free copies of the magazine? Nope! Not a direction I wanted to go.

Several printers quoted the jobs and they all came up with options to downsize the magazine by reducing our page count. I spent several days trying to figure out what to remove, and it would be a drastic change to what we do, like removing the photo section of the magazine, or all sponsored advertising to non-profit groups, or the map and directory listings for Calgary and Edmonton, or to have every article downsized to one or two pages and force readers to go online to see the rest. Nope! Removing those features would either piss off the readers, or would hurt the non-profit groups.

I could go back to newspaper print with black and white printing, but after being glossy, that would also be out of the question. Then there was the other problem of distribution. Prior to us stopping printing copies, we were down to five locations in Edmonton and 15 in Calgary. There are now even less than for us to distribute to and, after seeing other free publications still getting tossed out at the end of the month, it would be a waste of money.

We did have an option to get single copies printed using a third-party service, which I had done samples of a couple years ago. The copies looked great, but for $35 a copy and up to four to six weeks to receive them from the US, it would not work. The cost of shipping was also about half the price! The other problem would be that if the magazines were sitting out at bars for people to read, we know they would go missing, and who would cover that cost?

I then spent time getting quotes from several local printers in Calgary. I was still getting $30 and up per copy, but at least that did not include shipping. Problem is that the magazine I produce is too thick, so cheap options like stapling them is not available. So back to figuring out how to reduce the page count. The magazine was stapled in the past, even on the thick versions of the magazine. But that was because the paper stock to do the 500 copies is thinner than paper stock for single runs. The cost does go down the more I print, but there again, with the lack of advertising revenue, there was no way I could do it.

Changing to spiral or comb binding would bring the cost down by half, but when was the last time you saw that type of binding? Not really something that would look like a magazine as the finished product.

After doing more research and test runs internally, I finally figured out how I would do it. It will add more to my already busy schedule and, with all this research, it got me even more behind on getting PDF editions together for the remainder of this year. But I think this is the best and right direction to get hard copies.

The magazines would be printed in house. Seeing that even Staples is charging 40 cents a page and the editions are 64 pages or more, printing it in house on glossy paper stock would reduce the cost. To finish off the magazine, I would also bind it in-house too. I still would have to purchase the machine to do it, which of course will be pricy, but once I have it, I would just need the supplies.

On the test runs it turned out to be close to what we would be getting as copies that cost $35 and up. The binding process that I will be using will include a plastic cover, which is perfect for the bars.

Hard copies will not be free as they have been in the past. If the advertisers are paying reduced rates for us to compete with Facebook, then the cost of printing these single copies will need to be covered. At least with the method I will be doing, the hard copies will be only $8.95 each! I hope the price won’t change, but until I see how much laser printer toner I go through per edition, it is hard to judge right now.  You will still be able to read the magazine online for free.

Since I am printing the magazine in house, I can control how many are created for each edition and only supply according to demand. So, don’t expect to see a stack of 25 copies waiting at bars and magazine shops. I don’t want to be wasteful. The plan is to have magazines available at gay bars in Calgary, and eventually in Edmonton, so the bars become a destination point for people to buy copies. I am in the process of working out the logistics for it. Texas Lounge and Goliaths is excited over this, but I am still waiting to hear back from the Backlot and Twisted Element. Both had not read the plan I had submitted by the time I had written this column. Once the logistics have been worked out, I will expand the distribution to Edmonton, hopefully to Steamworks and Evolution.

Advertisers who are supporting the magazine every month would get one or two copies for free, depending on how much they are spending. Since I have control over individual copies, they would be either watermarked with the company name or logo or, somewhere on the cover, it could state something like Texas Lounge Copy.

People will also be able to purchase the hard copies from the GayCalgary website. The store is already running, but is for the previous hard copies from November 2003 to the December 2014/January 2015 edition. These new editions will be added, and magazines will be mailed or picked up from our Calgary office. Another thing that is great with this method, any edition can be printed, including the editions where no print copies were created. Also, past editions that were printed on newspaper stock could be produced using this method. We had done yearly subscriptions in the past so that will be available once I figure out our press schedule for 2018. I don’t know if I will continue with 10 editions per year or reduce the number down to eight or six, which will take more planning to account for all the events happening around Alberta.

One of the problems with going to online only was that when we did interviews with celebrities that appear at the Comic Expos, people wanted hard copies of those editions for the celebrities to sign. This will be perfect for those type of keepsakes. Also, when we featured Kylie Minogue, Cyndi Lauper and other major celebrities on the cover, we had orders from around the world for those editions. Some of them did get editions printed through that third-party service, but readers said they either never received them or they were poor quality. They will now get a great looking copy directly from GayCalgary. Depending on the public relations company we deal with, going online only put us on the level as a blogger, so potential interviews or articles that we had in the past with print were taken away from us, even though we produce a PDF edition.

On the negative side of all of this is the added time. Layout and creating the PDF, ISSUU and Magzter version of the magazine, which I do in the evenings after I am done doing social media throughout the day and flagging emails that I need to respond to, now takes about a week.

The tradeoff is providing something that Facebook will never provide to advertisers, plus engaging a reader base that might have been lost. It will also, hopefully, provide something else to do in the bars when people are waiting around for their friends to show up, or when tourists come to town looking for travel information, or have something to read in the places you can’t have cell phones or mobile devices present.

At $8.95 a copy, it barely covers the cost, but at least it is inline with other magazines out there, as well as subscriptions of online services. I don’t know how many copies will be ordered per month, but maybe if this takes off, I will investigate putting them into limited magazine store locations, and places like Little Sisters and other gay bookstores across Canada. It is still too early to know, but it is a start.

If you run a business and would like to have copies for people to read – like dentist or doctor office waiting rooms – or would like to help support GayCalgary by advertising, please contact me. The more people who I know that are interested in hard copies or advertising, the more it will help me develop the upcoming year for GayCalgary.

On a side note, the next edition of GayCalgary will wrap up the remaining part of 2017 to get the months back on track to go with the hard copies. It will contain all the coverage from Calgary Pride weekend, during which I took over 12,000 photos in just five days, to the start of December. The photos will be posted online prior to that edition being completed. Until logistics get worked out, I don’t know if this edition will be the last one for 2017, or the first one for 2018.

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Contributor Steve Polyak |

Locale Calgary | Edmonton |

Topic History | Publisher's Column |


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