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Amazing hidden magazine-cover debates of the future


 

Two things about the New Yorker terrorist-fist-bump cover, which I will now ruin your mind by reproducing here:

1. The New Yorker carries a cover flap which obliterates one-third of the cover image, obscuring it with descriptions of the main stories inside the issue, and makes the whole picture incomprehensible. So the people who spent yesterday worrying that rows of cover pictures on the newsstands would ruin the minds of passersby cannot have ever seen a copy of The New Yorker on a newsstand. (For that matter, the way many U.S. newsstands are built, with magazines crammed together like sardines, there is no danger of catching a glimpse of more than one-sixteenth of any random cover.)

2. As recently as a year ago, my reaction to a debate over a magazine-cover image would have been to go to my local newsagent and see what the cover looked like in real life. But I just went to my favourite vendor and he still has last week’s New Yorker on the stands. Of course he does. Because Canadian magazine distributors have decided their response to collapsing sales in the industry should be to get cheap and lazy and to distribute magazines later than ever before. In France — France! — the current issue of The New Yorker is already on sale, but in Canada we won’t see it until Thursday if we’re lucky. Or it may be nap day on Thursday too and we’ll have to wait a whole other week before Monday’s weekly U.S. magazines finally appear, dusty and obsolete, at your favourite kiosk.

What the heck, one more thing.

3. Does anybody actually believe the above cover is the product of a New Yorker vendetta against Barack Obama and his wife? Did anybody actually look at the cover and say, “Wow, hate literature. These folks at this New Yorker publication seem to harbour many grudges against that fine upstanding Barack Obama fellow and, I would go so far as to suspect, against liberals in general and many other decent folk as well”?

Or — and this is crucial, and I see it about a hundred times a week in political circles — did more people tell themselves something that sounded a little more like, “Well, I get it — I see the joke, funny or lame — but I’m quite sure the simple folk, the ordinary voter who is far less sophisticated in these matters than I am… well, they can’t be expected to understand a joke! And therefore I am outraged on their behalf, for I am ever steadfast in my solidarity with the ordinary cretin who can’t be expected to reason things through for himself!”

Because you get a lot of that around here. Politics is full of people who think they’re the only one to get a joke, to see through a fake candidate, to hear the lie in a disingenuous argument, to see the double agenda in a policy stance. I once wrote  column about the myth of the “electable candidate” — Wesley Clark, Belinda Stronach, André Boisclair, there’s always another. The gist was that when somebody says “Well, yeah, but he’s electable,” what they usually mean is that while they see right through a candidate’s limitations, they don’t expect ordinary people to be nearly as insightful. I strongly suspect the same condescending instinct is at play in this monumentally inflated controversy, from which Canadian magazine shoppers are excluded until Thursday at the earliest, over a not-particularly-funny but thuddingly innocuous cover illustration.


 

Amazing hidden magazine-cover debates of the future

  1. Yes, it’s worries for the simple folk:
    http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/07/new-yorker-edit.html

    Jake Tapper (ABC) blogs: I wrote that “the sophisticates at The New Yorker have come up with a cover that is sure to get the magazine a lot of attention… no Upper East Side liberal — no matter how superior they feel their intellect is — should assume that just because they’re mocking such ridiculousness, the illustration won’t feed into the same beast in emails and other media. It’s a recruitment poster for the right-wing. .. I would assume over at the Conde Nast building, they think it’s droll. ”

    Mr. Remnick took some umbrage with that. Not with the criticism per se, but my working-class tone.

    “Playing the elitism card, when you, too, are from New York, and went to Dartmouth, I mean, that really doesn’t wash,” Remnick told me. “I think it’s an easy card to play. Especially with the New Yorker, and, you know, I shouldn’t let you get away with it. You’re not exactly coming from a poor background or from an underfunded media outlet, and I don’t think that’s fair…”

  2. Paul – don’t forget that liberals think conservatives are stupid, and vice versa.

  3. I find your comments about having the cover partially covered kind of surprising – I have seen the picture roughly 10 times in the last day (not even trying to, just it being forced on me) on TV and the internet (and in particular, on blogs).

    So – it’s the cover of a magazine, but, vastly more importantly, it is a picture. A picture that is easily copied and pasted, printed and videoed for the world to see, regardless of language, knowledge or sophistication.

    A great move for the New Yorker to get notoriety and promoted. But a hard blow against Obama.

    Political opponents usually have to spend millions to get an unfavourable but convincing image out to a fraction of the people. The New Yorker did it for the Republicans for free, and add an independent veneer to it (even better than “swift boat” groups!).

    I don’t think this is the end of Obama, but like the “guru ad”, it is a blow: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/weekinreview/10ferrick.html?fta=y

  4. All I want to know is, I wonder how long Barack and Michelle had to hold that pose for?

  5. Hey Luiza – you had the saying slightly warped. Liberals think Conservatives are evil and Conservatives think Liberals are stupid.

  6. I think it’s a fairly inocuous piece of satire, a sneer at the all the innuendo flung Obama’s way. Our own Aislin has been much more biting and hard-hitting in the past.

    The reaction to this has been ‘way over the top. And I wonder, how many of the people who are screaming about this were also so vocally opposed to the Danish prophet cartoons? Just asking.

  7. I agree about the myth of the elecatable candidate and I suspect that Obama may be one of them.

    Beyond that, though, I don’t think any of this really matters. The Obama Campaign is clearly using The New Yorker to publicize the fact that Republicans are accusing him of the things displayed on the cover. They are actually using the magazine cover for the exact purpose for which it was printed. The problem is that they seem to be spinning their argument against the New Yorker. Presumably, this is because they believe that it is the only way to get media coverage.

  8. I think the issue Paul is teasing out here is why do the so called “elite” jump up and down and try to proclaim that they understand or automatically know what the general public can, should or will think.

    It’s patronizing and normally not true. I hate CPC, NDP or LPC leaders who tell me what “Canadians think” or how Canadians will react.

    Many of the people Paul refers to in Canadian political circles somehow think that they “know” what other people feel. This is in contrast to real leaders, who go out and motivate people to come onside to their plan, or alternately canvass the population for ideas and suggestions.

    We need more of the latter and less of the former.

  9. Tintin, you’re right. How clever of The New Yorker to use an illustration on its cover, for the first time in 80 years, in pursuit of its right-wing agenda.

  10. To Wayne: didn’t know there was a saying. Just speaking from experience.

  11. Wayne,

    Actually, as you say, in Canada, Liberals think Conservatives are evil, and Conservatives think Liberals are stupid. But, in the US, it’s the other way round.

  12. John Podhoretz makes a great point about the Obama campaigns (mis)handling of the cartoon flap:
    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/jpodhoretz/16021

    Podhoretz:
    ” Three seconds of thought might have led the campaign to reconsider its decision to denounce the illustration. Six seconds of thought might have led the campaign to see the illustration as an opportunity, to say, “The New Yorker has brilliantly encapsulated the evil right-wing campaign against Barack and Michelle Obama, a campaign that must not be allowed to gain purchase in the American psyche.”

    Had that been the response, an entire day on cable news would not have been spent on the illustration — it would instead have been a very minor story that would have been spun not as “is Obama a Muslim flag-burner” but rather as “Is the Right-Wing attack machine going too far yet again?” Obama has now made certain that millions of people who never would have seen the New Yorker cover now have, and many of those people will take it literally. It’s a rapid response backfire.

    Not to mention that it makes the Obama campaign look considerably less cool — and cool is a key element of the Obama magic. “

  13. I have just finished reading McCullough’s fine biography of John Adams, second president of the U.S. What was printed and said to and about the candidates in those presidential campaigns was REALLY over the top – the New Yorker would have been considered quite polite then, when campaigns got into the gutter in earnest.

  14. I don’t understand the people who are saying this is a “blow” to Obama. In fact, I think this cartoon, coming out at this time, in the manner it came out and with the response that has ensued by McCain in particular (“the shock, the horror”) is the best thing that could have happened to him.

    Obama’s “Muslim faith” and his wife’s hatred for all things American are out there. There were only two ways those issues could play out: either bury them and count on the fact that anyone who believes them were never going to vote Obama or have them surface and swiftly and very publicly repudiated. A website with the “real facts” was never gonna do it. This cartoon may.

    While not a perfect analogy, this is what happened in ’04 with the Killian documents. CBS released documents about Bush’s lackadaisical performance in the national guard. This was potentially problematic for Bush if the campaign narrative became Kerry = war hero, Bush = rich kid whose daddy kept him out of war.

    The documents (though not the charges) were proven to be falsified. CBS was forced to retract the story, outrage ensued, issue was surfaced…and repudiated…tough to keep raising it after that point (admittedly, there was a little swift boat ad that helped too).

    Again, not a perfect analogy but I will bet folks that if you took a poll of how many Americans think Obama is a Muslim last week and another one next week, the number will have been slashed dramatically. Issue doesn’t go away completely but hardly a disaster for his campaign either.

  15. I particularly enjoy how the two articles about Obama in the magazine (that’s what a news magazine is for, right?) are completely ignored in all the hubbub over this cartoon.

    What is it with news pundits and editorial cartoons?

  16. And so there is no confusion – the notion that if Obama were a Muslim that this would disqualify him from being elected as President in the mind of a majority of Americans is odious to me but is what it is.

  17. Can I harp on my magazine-distribution obsession again? What’s that? You say it’s my blog so I can, even though it’s tiresome? Yay!

    What I find interesting is that this entire debate is taking place in the absence of *paper copies of the magazine in the hands of the people who would ordinarily read it, including many of the people who comment on this blog.*

    And why’s that? Why, it’s because The News Group and, apparently, other Canadian magazine distributors have very recently abandoned their policy of delivering the product on time to the country’s largest population centres. So Canadian magazine distributors are doing *whatever it takes* to hasten the irrelevancy of publishing on newsprint.

    I’d have thought that was an *idiotic* thing to do. Suicidal. This entire debate will be exhausted, online, before anyone gets a chance to read the product. And it’s not The New Yorker’s fault — their product used to get to newsstands in Ontario and Quebec (at least) on the same day as in Manhattan and Chicago. Now it doesn’t. I think it’s reasonable to assume that within three years you simply won’t be able to buy The New Yorker in Canadian stores. Apparently it’s too hard to get them there. I guess only a magazine geek like me would care.

  18. Paul, I apologize – I of course do not mean to accuse The New Yorker of any such bias. I should have drawn more of an analogy to the “Oily the Splot”, where commentators and political opponents make a charge and the media serve the story. Here, I think the only difference is that the media have taken the added step to illustrate, for satirical purposes, a picture of what the political opponents are saying.

    And I should have not said “blow” – but it does not help or further Obama’s standing or cause, and references all the very negative things being said about Obama (just in case you haven’t heard). It is unhelpful, that is all.

    Also, I don’t think this is an issue of “voters being stupid”. I don’t think any viewers who may have saw the “guru ad” or swift boat ads and decided to change their vote were stupid – they saw something and decided to change their mind based on their own personal beliefs, reasons or motivations.

    In much the same way, this picture references not only the negative things being said about Obama, and these negative things are things that have strong resonance with many American voters: homeland security, religion, and race.

  19. Paul, Paul… legitimate point. But I won’t tell you how long it takes me to get my Maclean’s here in DC!

  20. “Because you get a lot of that around here. Politics is full of people who think they’re the only one to get a joke, to see through a fake candidate, to hear the lie in a disingenuous argument, to see the double agenda in a policy stance.”

    Indeed. I think the same thing every time I hear someone pontificate about the “tim hortons crowd” vs. “the starbucks crowd.”

  21. It isn’t elitist to say that some people pay attention to current affairs and others don’t, and it isn’t elitist to say that the ones who don’t are less informed about politics.

    It is, however, elitist to infer that the ones who pay attention are more intelligent, which is debatable, especially if we are spending time reading about dysfunctional parliamentary committees.

  22. Jack Shafer touched on the same topics a similar column today at Slate:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2195317/

    There’s a great quote by the LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm in the column.

  23. Perhaps the delay putting the magazine on the newstands here in Canada was to give time for the lawyers to check out whether the newstand might be hauled before one of our provincial “human rights” commissions?

  24. I was annoyed at the New Yorker cover, because I think that effective satire should at least tell something to someone. Convince them of the ridiculousness of something.

    What we have here is a cartoon which, if you are a person who dismisses right-wing caricatures, will make you think “hmm, that is completely ridiculous and over-the-top,” and if you are a person who has decided not to vote for Obama because you think he is a Muslim terrorist (or whatever), you will think “hah! They got it right!”

    I’ve lived in the United States for a number of years, and yeah, maybe it’s elitist, but I think there are far too many already-biased people who will take things like this and talk about it like it proves their own insane ideas. Yes, even though the New Yorker is very liberal, even though they’ve said it’s satire. What if you know nothing about the politics of the New Yorker? A lot of people haven’t, don’t, and won’t read it. American political discourse, such as it is, doesn’t seem to get very far past “us good, them bad”, most of the time, and it gets us things like this:

    (As reported by Media Matters, admittedly hugely left-biased themselves:)

    … for a majority of respondents to WND’s [WorldNetDaily.com] poll, the cover apparently provided support for their false perceptions of Obama’s religion and patriotism: As of 10:07 a.m. ET on July 14, the most popular option in the poll — selected by 60 percent of WND respondents — was “The image isn’t too far from the dangerous truth about the Obama family.” The second-most popular option was “Funny, because there’s some truth in it,” which was selected by 11 percent of respondents.”

    I would really prefer to dismiss this whole thing as a goofy cartoon, but there are people for whom this is a twisted sort of vindication, I think. Hopefully not enough to matter.

    Satire has to go above and beyond reality, and it’s already in an editorial cartoon so it’s got a base level of caricature that the satire has to overcome to be effective, and the beliefs this cartoon is caricaturing are pretty much straight on with the depiction. There are publications that would print this as non-satire. And I think that is the problem. And the people who would read those publications are never going to see anything but the cover, copy-pasted through the whole of the internet.

    Well, except for the deeply rural ignorant white Americans (here comes the elitism!) who won’t see even that. I guess I don’t need to worked up about them. They’ll vote however their preacher tells them to. And no, that isn’t satire.

  25. Paul, as I will continue to say every time you complain about magazine distribution- I got my Canada Day macleans on the 14th, the day I left for an exchange program at UVic. I arrived,and there was a shiny new macleans on the newsstands! (Which will no doubt not arrive to my home for another two weeks). I can’t get my magazines on time in Canada,so I’m afraid I am slightly lacking in sympathy for you.

  26. You live in Eeyou, Sophie. Eighty per cent of Canada’s population lives in cities. There actually is a difference. I’m just back from Calgary and Maclean’s was on the stand within 24 hours of its appearance on newsstands in Toronto.

    And as I’ve said many times, and as you’re certainly more than bright enough to understand, if magazine distributors want to kneecap U.S. magazines by distributing them as slowly as possible in major population centres, their stupidity confers a massive *benefit* on Maclean’s as a business. Every time the distributors take three or 10 days to *begin* distributing a weekly magazine, readers in large cities are likelier to turn to Maclean’s, even if only out of desperation. The current lackadaisical distribution regime is excellent, excellent news for me as a Rogers employee. It just sucks for consumers. If self-interest were my motivator I’d be urging the distributors to take longer vacations and to load the trucks with Time, Newsweek, The Economist and The New Yorker only every month or so.

  27. Canada is not the only country with media distribution problems. I live in New York City and I have spent the last four years scouring the metropolis for someplace – anyplace – that carries domestic newspapers. I challenge anyone to find the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, or LA Times in this city – supposedly the countries best non-New York papers. I have only found the Washington Post once – and I’ve been looking consistently. If I want to read Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper journalism here, I’m limited to the local papers. I can buy four French newspapers at the corner newsstand but none from any American city outside of New York. Canadian papers are unsurprisingly also completely absent.
    On the flip side, I was in suburban Ithaca (New York) last weekend and a large grocery store had an extensive newsstand – including about 20 domestic weekend newspapers (albeit six days out of date).

  28. And just to be annoyingly repetitive, the situation I’m describing with Canadian distribution of U.S. magazines isn’t a long-standing problem that refuses to improve. It’s something that was working fine less than a year ago and has drastically deteriorated during calendar year 2008, thanks to short-sighted, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot business decisions by quasi-monopoly distribution companies.

  29. I can’t figure out why the Obama campaign felt it necessary to respond to this cover. I’m not sure what the circulation of The New Yorker is, but given the hooha over this particular cover, a LOT more people have seen it than would normally bother with an elitist lefty rag. Isn’t there some PR rule that goes, “Never explain, never complain”.

    If Obama is so thin-skinned that he feels it necessary to respond to evey negative cartoon that is printed, if he ever becomes President, he’s going to spend a whole lotta time criticising the media, and not much time left over to actually achieve enything sunstantive.

  30. Paul,

    Distribution of Canadian magazines isn’t just a problem in small towns; I live in Toronto, and I didn’t renew my subscription to Maclean’s this year because I could get it four days earlier at Chapters. I never knew when my copy was going to arrive in the mail.

  31. Tapioca. That’s what people want–tapioca. Anything with flavour causes a furor–bipartisan denunciation, a media feeding frenzy.

    I don’t usually agree with Wells, but on this one we seem to be in substantial agreement:

    http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2008/07/tasteless-and-inoffensive.html

    But I’d go a little further. Even if the “simple folks” (half of adult Americans reject the theory of evolution, and one-quarter thought Christ was going to return last year) *did* believe that the cartoon was the literal truth, so what? You don’t take that sort of thing on by condescendingly protecting them from argument: you have it out in the public arena. That’s democracy–as opposed to elitist condescension.

  32. That’s excellent news, D. We get more money from a maazine sold on a newsstand than from the same issue sold via subscriptions. And it’s gratifying to know you don’t want to wait for Maclean’s, even if it means paying more. Despite that, we would be really, really happy if Canada Post would kick into a higher gear. But we don’t control them. My point, which seems to be arcane despite my best attempts to explain it an annoying number of times, is that a year ago you could get Maclean’s, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and The New Yorker in, say, Toronto or Ottawa, *on newsstands* on the day they were published. And today you can only get Maclean’s.

  33. “D.” in my last comment being D. Jones.

  34. Paul,

    I thought that you might say something along those lines, but I now find myself buying the magazine a lot less frequently. The content is great most of the time, but the Internet is becoming more and more of a draw. Write a few more articles on Battlestar Galactica and I’m all over it.
    As for your point about American magazines, well, it makes sense; I knew there was a reason I hadn’t bought any of those from Chapters for ages. Now, it’s not a weekly news magazine, but I went to purchase a magazine the other day in Chapters and the most recent issue was from February. I don’t know if the magazine was discontinued at Chapters or not, but, really, February?

  35. The circulation of the “elitist lefty rag” is
    substantial and very much weighted towards
    subscription.

    A rare lapse in judgment from Mr. Remnick.

    Satire shouldn’t require explanation.
    And it probably should be funny.

    The Obama camp’s reaction will probably,
    over time,do more good than harm.

    But the whole episode is just so silly and
    depressing. Welcome to election coverage.

  36. I live in Toronto, and I didn’t renew my subscription to Maclean’s this year because I could get it four days earlier at Chapters.

    That’s funny. The Edmonton Chapters has the Canada Day edition on the shelves right now.

  37. Weeklies… err… they pretty much suck. Maclean’s is great because it has a VOICE, Time, etc don’t.

    Foreign mags that are interesting typically have a great website presence anyways (Economist, Spectator, NY Mag) so why not get the stories online for free. Course I typically only buy monthly magazines, though I do buy The Spectator occasionally, for the ads. Weeklies are just so thin in actual content that I feel like they’re a waste of money. But I’m nearly constantly connected to the net and pay for access (personally or corporately) for things like WSJ, FT, and Bloomberg, so much less is “news” to me once it’s hit print.

  38. I didn’t read your entire post so you may have already mentioned this, but all I can say is that if you have something controversial that you know your enemy/competitor will attack you with (like the Muslim issue), don’t wait, find an ally to attack you about it first. Preferably when it doesn’t matter, like three months before the general election in the dead of summer. Make sure you talk about it a lot so the press will be weary for a revisit.

    Kind of like what McGuinty did last summer with a host of criticism (taxes, shaky subsidy grants, etc.). Then come September…make it all about your opponents gaffes, right John?

  39. Paul,

    I’m confused – I’ve done some work with magazine distributors (on the actual physical operations end) – I don’t understand how its in their interest to slow down the distribution of US magazines? How would this help their business?

  40. Fair point, Paul. However, you know that every time you complain about magazine distribution, all the complainers come out of the shadows.

  41. Chuck, I don’t think it’s rational. But they’re staffing one truck run a week now instead of two. It used to be Monday and Thursday, now it’s just Thursday. So Maclean’s got really lucky (or maybe smart, I really don’t know) by moving our street day from Monday to Thursday, because distribution was going to move to Thursday whether we planned for it or not. That still doesn’t explain why they sometimes slip an extra week, to 10 days’ delay from three.

  42. simple folk, the ordinary voter who is far less sophisticated in these matters than I am

    Yes Paul, the folks who daily swallow Fox news will view this quite differently than you and I might

    Free speech OK – but very poor judgment

  43. No doubt, being “current” is important for magazines.
    Frankly, it’s refreshing to see that there are publications out there that are still capable of bucking political correctness and publishing something a little provocative.

  44. Paul, I think poor shipping hits all magazine distributors (although the one-week delay in American weeklies IS particularly annoying). Maclean’s shows up in my mailbox the Monday after it’s printed…when I’m at home in Halifax. The other 8 months in a year, when I’m at university in Sherbrooke, it shows up as late as Thursday, and never earlier than Tuesday. I could have sworn the trip from Toronto to QC was shorter than that to NS.

  45. Northern PoV,

    Firstly, the folks that watch Fox News are probably not stupid – they are ill-informed. Probably about as ill-informed as a Democratic primary voter that watched MSNBC, I should note.

    Secondly, I think the bigger blow to Obama is the notion that he has no sense of humour, and refuses to campaign on a narrative other than how awesome he is. Obama’s glaring weakness is not a lack of patriotism or judgment, but his narcissism.

    Moreover, this cartoon was HELPING to perpetuate a necessary theme of Obama’s campaign: that he is the victim of a right wing disinformation campaign. I have heard more spurious rumours about McCain (for instance a ridiculous claim that the Viet Cong built a statue of him in Ho Chi Minh city, because he was such a great collaborator). Victimhood won Obama the Democratic primary (he won it in the weeks before and after South Carolina, by creating the perception that the Clinton’s were racist, based on what were innocuous statements like the fairy-tale thing). He believes it can win him the presidency – and so can McCain (which is why McCain has echoed the criticism of this magazine cover, backed up Obama on reverend Wright, criticized those that used Obama’s middle name and run nothing harsher than contrast ads (while the armies of 527’s we were supposed to expect have failed to materalize).

    I wonder if Obama’s criticism is a way to play the victim in a two-fold manner. On the one hand, New Yorker readers get the satirical cartoon that they understand. On the other hand, the “rubes” (if you follow Obama’s campaign it is pretty clear that he thinks the bulk of voters ARE stupid) that just watch cable news just hear “Obama attacked”.

  46. Thanks for that – it clarifies the situation.

    Maybe cutting down to one Thursday delivery per week is their way of reducing their carbon footprint!

  47. h2h
    To clarify … it was poor judgment to do this image.
    It won’t swing votes necessarily but will promote divisiveness – entrench the views of the Fox watchers – they are being “made fun of” after all and no one likes that
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/viewbydate.asp?id=1792

    (and anyone watching MSNBC will be definition be slightly better informed than Fox watchers – except in times of “national unity” like the lead up to and Iraq invasion)

  48. will be, by definition, slightly

  49. Paul,
    Your comments on the distribution of Macleans assume that the reader is not subscribed to any of the other magazines you mentioned, and getting them regardless of when they show up on the shelves of news stands. I supposed you might argue that when one gets a subscription to The Economist you’re likely to also get a subscription to Macleans, but given how slow the delivery of Macleans is, I’m not sure that follows.

    I can tell you that in the US, I just received my copy of the Morgantaler(SP?) covered Macleans today, and basing it on some of your previous posts, it is at least a week from publication.
    There have been at least 2 times, where 3 weeks of the magazine show up in my mailbox on the same day. With The Economist it is never more than a day or two late off the stands; further, I get semi-regular emails from The Economist that ask how late I’m getting the issues, so they obviously care about their delivery times.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that on average you make more on a customer who buys issues only at the news stand; otherwise, why encourage people to subscribe? I suppose it could be a form of price discrimination, or there could be a group of people who will only purchase subscriptions if they’re delivered (the elderly?), but I’m more inclined to believe that when everything is said and done you get more value out of a subscriber. Perhaps by selling their demographic information to advertisers (or using to sell ads), or by guaranteeing your advertisers that you will be distribution x copies of each issue, etc…..

    My gripe on how long it takes to get a copy of Macleans aside, I do tend to believe that it helps rather than hinders Macleans if your competitors product is delayed; this makes sense.

  50. Paul,

    Where’s the proof that sales of Macleans have stagnated or dropped since this apparent change of delivery times over the past year?

    Wouldn’t Kenneth Whyte, presumedly also a “magazine geek” have an opinion on this issue you could share with us? How abouit walking down the hall, or picking up the phone and calling the Ops guy, and give us Macleans’ official position on this late dist’n.

  51. Paul

    Like D. Jones I also discontinued my Macleans subs for reasons of poor/non delivery and it didn’t end up being more money for Macleans because I rarely buy it from the newsstand – when it didn’t arrive or arrived late I wasn’t mad at Canada Post, I was mad at Macleans for choosing an inadequate distributor.

  52. I need to stop writing about my own industry. I can be as clear as I know how to be, and people still get it exactly backwards.

    Dot asks where the proof is that Maclean’s has lost sales as a result of changes in distribution practices. That’s after I spent a day explaining, not for the first time, that those changes DON’T APPLY TO MACLEAN’S. “Don’t” in the preceeding sentence, I feel a sudden need to explain, is a contraction of the common phrase “do not,” which is the opposite of “do,” and therefore means, more or less, “don’t.”

    So I’m afraid I have no proof that Maclean’s has lost sales because OTHER publications are now being distributed more slowly because I do not — there’s that tricky phrase again! Somebody get me a thesaurus — claim that we have lost sales.

    Let me recap the evolving state of Canadian magazine distribution, probably for the last time.

    SITUATION ONE: PRE-HISTORY (2007)
    Maclean’s magazine: arrives at newsstands in large central Canadian cities quickly.
    U.S. Weeklies: arrive at newsstands in large central Canadian cities quickly.

    SITUATION TWO: TODAY (today)
    Maclean’s magazine: still arrives at newsstands in large central Canadian cities quickly. Fresh magazine!!!
    U.S. Weeklies: Systematic delays of three to 10 days in arrival at newsstands in large central Canadian cities. Stale magazine!!!

    And, for perhaps the last time, here is my theory-guess-hunch about what happens when Situation 1 gives way to Situation 2: Maclean’s sales improve very slightly at the margin, because our product arrives fresher than do others.

    Why am I complaining, then? Again, not for the first time but probably for the last, because there is only one of me but there are thousands of you, and if you’re anything like me you care about magazines, and I’d prefer if you didn’t have to wait. We’re entirely confident that we are now putting out a competitive product, and we don’t need our competitors kneecapped.

    I’m truly sorry all of this is so mystifying.

  53. dudes, you know what sucks? getting late new yorker delivery when you live in England and find the cover has become a cause celebre! I used to get nothing for a month and four of them at once. Compared to the depths a couple years ago I guess it has improved. They had a boneheaded circulation / internet department somewhere organized around a Midwest call centre too. Despite that, I kept my subscription. Just too good to miss and I walk to work and don’t need it for tube rides anymore.

  54. now, how many other weeklies have that kind of reader loyalship. i hope macleans is one ..

  55. Paul I like this new feature where you deliver random smackdowns on dim commentators/comments. Maybe it will encourage us to raise our game a bit.

  56. I agree, jwl, as long as a computer screen separates him from us so we know we won’t be eaten. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered someone so passionate about magazine distribution- it’s a little bit frightening. Technically speaking, don’t you have a monopoly on Canadian english weekly newsmagazines?

  57. Paul, thanks for the edifying explanation. Obviously, I was not hanging on every word of your earlier comments.

    Your explanation of “do not” lead me to think of an analagous example, “donuts” – which you also may have an intimate inside knowledge about.

    Years ago, as you know, Tim Horton’s management decided, from strictly a business perspective, that it would be cost effective to have all of its donuts made at one central bakery, and then shipped frozen to all of the franchises.

    Naturally, donut aficionados were up in arms – Tim Horton’s was going from fresh (baked on premises) to stale (frozen when delivered)!!! And they professed their displeasure through all media.

    Naturally, the competition across the street, Krispy Kreme was delighted – as they now had a selling /marketing ploy to exploit.

    Some donut eaters quit Tim Horton’s altogether, some switched to Krispy Kreme paying a premium for fresh donuts, some bought their frozen donuts from the grocery store, but by and large it was proven over time through T.H. franchise sales that the vast vast majority just didn’t give a timbit over whether ther donuts were fresh or stale.

    So, unless you have some data suggesting that SOMEONE’s magazine sales have been affected significantly from this change in dist’n, it really is a tempest in a teacup – or a pet peeve not shared by many.

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