Canada’s magazine sector includes consumer and business-to-business (B2B) publications, with content distributed both in print and digitally, via a variety of web and mobile channels.
Ontario has the largest magazine media industry in the country. It generated $935 million in operating revenues in 2015, which accounted for more than half of national revenues.1
Ontario magazine media are frequently recognized for their excellence in content, design and production:
- Several Ontario magazines earned recognition at the 40th annual National Magazine Awards, which were held in Toronto in May 2017. Cottage Life won Magazine of the Year, The Walrus took home six awards including a Gold for Long-Form Feature Writing, and The New Quarterly received two Gold Medals (for Fiction and Poetry).
- At the inaugural Canadian Magazine Awards / Grands prix du magazine, Cottage Life won Best Multi-Platform Magazine Brand, and Ontario’s The Kit Compact won best Fashion and Beauty Magazine, as well as the coveted Magazine Grands Prix.
- Winners of the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME) Editors’ Choice Awards were unveiled in June 2017. The biggest winner of the night was Precedent, which took home four awards including Editor of the Year (Melissa Kluger) and Magazine of the Year, Trade. Spacing.ca’s Matthew Blackett won for Best Web Editorial.
Industry Size and Economic Impact
Note: The magazine business is transitioning from a print-based industry to one which distributes content on multiple platforms of which print is only one. Robust metrics are not always available for digital efforts of magazine media companies, which may result in these activities being underrepresented in industry data. 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.
Revenues and related figures
- In 2015, the Canadian magazine industry generated total operating revenues of $1.6 billion. Revenues were down 17.7% from 2013 levels as both circulation and advertising took a hit, but profit margins increased from 9% to 13% over the same two-year period as publishers adjusted their spending to account for reduced revenues.2
- Ontario’s magazine industry generated $934.7 million in operating revenue in 2015, which accounted for 58.4% of national operating revenues. Revenues declined at a rate of 17% between 2013 and 2015, similar to the national average. Operating expenses were valued at $784.6 million, bringing the operating profit margin to 16.1%, which is over the national average and nearly double 2013’s profit margin of 8.7%.3
Canadian Periodical Publishing Operating Revenues by Region, 2013 and 2015 ($ millions)
Source: Statistics Canada. Table 361-0032 - Periodical publishers, summary statistics, every 2 years (dollars unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: June 30, 2017)
- Between 2013 and 2015, the Canadian magazine industry saw significant declines in advertising and circulation revenues. Ad revenues decreased 32.6% and circulation declined 16.6% nationally. In 2015, Ontario’s magazine media industry reported $315.1 million in advertising revenue and $267.4 million in circulation revenue. Advertising revenues declined substantially between 2013 and 2015, contracting by approximately 44%, while circulation revenues were down 12.8%.4
Periodical Publishers, Sales by Activity, 2013 and 2015 (percent)
Source: Statistics Canada. Table 361-0051 - Periodical publishers, sales by activity, every 2 years (percent), CANSIM (database).
(accessed: June 30, 2017)
Employment and wages
- Canadian magazine media companies paid out $486.5 million in salaries, wages, commissions and benefits in 2015. Ontario companies paid out $297.1 million of that figure.5
- The Canadian magazine media industry’s total spending on salaries, wages, commissions and benefits accounted for 34.5% of overall industry expenditures in 2015, with an additional 9.3% reported in subcontracting expenditures.6
- In 2015, of the publications distributed by Canadian magazine publishers, 81% were defined as ‘general interest periodicals’, and 19% were business and trade periodicals.7 In the same year, a total of 1,305 English- and French-language consumer magazines were available in Canada.8
- The most recent readership data collected by Vividata confirms that print remains the preferred consumption platform for magazine media, however there is a more noticeable transition occurring to multiple digital platforms. The data shows that 7 out of 10 Canadians read a magazine (print or digital), which is comparable to magazine readership figures from 5 years ago.9 The largest share of Canadians is consuming magazine media in print formats (57%), followed by a combination of digital and print (35%), and digital exclusively (8%). Notably, sports, business and news magazines have displayed a higher digital readership than other genres.10
- Furthermore, 60% of millennials are magazine readers, with 16% exclusively consuming a digital version, 37% relying exclusively on print, and almost half of all readers using both mediums.11 According to Vividata, 76% of Millennials access magazines on their smartphones.12
- Digital magazine consumers tend to navigate across different devices. Recent data from Vividata suggests that 33% of digital magazine readers use laptop/desktop only, while 45% use both mobile and desktop, and 22% use mobile only.13
Trends and Issues
Growth rate and industry trends
- PwC forecasts that the global consumer and trade magazine market will decline by 0.5% CAGR over the next five years to stand at US$91.3 billion by 2021, down from US$93.4 billion in 2016.14
- Canada’s magazine industry is expected to fare better than both the global and North American markets, growing at a 1.2% CAGR between 2016-2021 as digital advertising and digital circulation grow, offsetting the declines in print. In the consumer magazine sphere, growth will be driven by digital advertising, while trade magazines will see digital circulation rates rise most quickly in the next five years. Total magazine revenue should reach US$1.36 billion by 2021, slowly regaining some of the ground lost since 2012 and prior.15
- eMarketer reported that North America is forecasted to reach US$217.51 billion in media ad spending in 2017, which accounts for 36% of global ad outlays. Digital ad spending in Canada is expected to grow 16% to US$4.78 billion this year.16
- The notion of what a digital magazine is or should be is currently in flux. There are digital replica versions of print magazines but increasingly the term includes magazine websites, apps, social media and messaging. As interest in anytime, anywhere mobile reading and video consumption have become the norm, magazines have needed to respond.17 Digital magazine readership in Canada has grown to reach a Monthly Digital Audience of 8.5 million as of Q1 2017.18
- Video plays an increasingly important role online and in the mobile space and its use in magazine media is no exception. According to an eMarketer forecast, advertisers were expected to spend $383.9 million on digital video in Canada in 2016, which is a 17.3% increase over video ad spending in 2015.19
- Globally, magazine publishers are experimenting with video distribution through channels such as Snapchat and others. This type of activity is difficult to monetize directly, therefore growth in digital revenue is smaller than might be expected, but allows publishers to play in the space with digital-first publications and YouTubers, which are very popular with younger audiences. Snapchat partner Cosmopolitan, for example, logs nearly as many views on Snapchat as on its website. However, Snapchat is now moving to a licensing model from the revenue share arrangements it had established with publishers at the outset.20
- Some publishers have experimented with releasing dedicated apps, and a 2014 study by the Information and Communications Technology Council found that 55% of Ontario magazine media publishers had adopted mobile apps in their business processes. However, a separate study conducted in the same year identified a move among magazine publishers in Ontario toward development of responsive websites (i.e., websites optimized for most screen sizes, browsers and devices) rather than devoting resources to dedicated apps.21
Global and domestic issues
- As print advertising revenue and paid circulations decline, many magazines have found their models unsustainable. An editors’ note to a recent FIPP Innovation Report argued: “We must move fast and furiously. The half-hearted reorganisations of the past decade will not suffice. The reorganisation of both the editorial and sales departments must be utter, unconditional and unflinching. First our missions must be redefined, our audiences clearly identified, and our business goals laid out very clearly. Then, in light of each of those, every product, job description, workflow, organization chart, training system (if one exists), publishing schedule, computer system, work tools (iPhones, communication systems), sales tools and even work spaces must be recreated from scratch.”22
- In September 2016, Rogers Media unveiled a new magazine content strategy, and almost a year later, has made a lot of changes to keep up with the transition towards digital consumption with its consumers. This strategy led the company to focus on five editorial genres, or audience pillars, namely: lifestyle, parenting, entertainment, current affairs and sports. The company pulled Canadian Business, Sportsnet, MoneySense and FLARE from print publication and made them digital-only. Other publications (Maclean’s, Chatelaine and Today’s Parent) were reduced in frequency. Thirty-four B2B publications were among the titles sold. The transition brought layoffs at 27 English-language publications, 60 in Quebec and 13 at Maclean’s. Despite this, Rogers Media was able to set record highs in regards to their digital audience.23
- The B2B media landscape in Canada has experienced major changes in both ownership and operations over the last several years. With the exit of Rogers Media from the sector and its B2B properties now divided primarily between Brunico Communications of Toronto, Chicago-based EnsembleIQ and Quebec-headquartered TC Media, a significant shift has occurred in the size and makeup of the key players. In terms of operations, a diversified environment with multiple revenue streams is the new normal as publishers realize the value of reader data, both qualitative and quantitative.24
- Diversification is key for this industry. Many publishers are developing an events portfolio to drive revenue in both B2B (where it has a longer history) and consumer magazines. Canadian examples of the latter include The Walrus Talks national tour and Cottage Life’s consumer shows. Similarly, forays into retailing, book publishing, and podcasting (e.g. Spacing) are increasingly common as publishers take their brands and audiences with them into new realms, aiming to grow their base.
- Over the last four decades, there has been a long-term decline in the rate of U.S. magazine circulation in Canada. From 1983-2015, U.S. “spill” declined by 73% in the Top 5 magazines, 70% in the Top 10 and 64% in the Top 20. In 2015, only six U.S. magazines made it into Canada’s Top 100 circulation including National Geographic (ranked 25th), People (ranked 50th) and Cosmopolitan (ranked 71st). Magazines Canada attributes this trend to an increase in the availability of quality Canadian magazines with editorial and advertising content tailored specifically to Canadian readers. Canadians feel strongly about the value of domestic media: 88% of Canadians feel it is important that magazines have specific content for Canadian readers; 90% of Canadians feel that US titles don’t effectively cover Canadian issues, and only 17% believe that ads in US magazines are more relevant to them than ads in Canadian magazines.25
- An emerging issue of particular interest to magazine publishers worldwide is the adoption and use of ad-blocking software, and the threat its use poses to digital advertising revenues. It was estimated that ad-blocking cost publishers nearly US$22 billion in 2015, with 198 million active ad-blocking users around the world. Recent data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IAB Canada) shows that the penetration rate of ad-blocking software in Canada is 17%, which is 1 in every 6 Canadians. This rate varies across the country, with Ontario having the second highest share of ad-block software users (18%).26
- 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.27
- At the federal level, two recent consultations may have an impact on Canada’s magazine media industry going forward. The Canadian Content in a Digital World consultation (undertaken by the Department of Canadian Heritage) is examining the entirety of Canada’s cultural policies (including laws, institutions, policies and programs) to ensure that they remain relevant. Second, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released its study on the state of Canada’s media industry, entitled Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape, which looks at how Canadians engage with news, broadcasting, digital and print media. Among other recommendations, the Report proposed changes to the Canada Periodical Fund including extending eligibility to daily and free community newspapers. The Government is expected to table its response to the Report at the same time as it announces its vision for a new cultural policy in September 2017.28
- The Canada Periodical Fund (CPF), administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH), 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 CPF recently launched a pilot project aimed at supporting emerging digital publishers by providing up to $5,000 in start-up funding for a digital-based project. This program is targeted to digital publishers who either have no commercial operations (currently) or who are in their first 12 months of operations.
- Ontario magazine publishers currently have access to public funding through the OMDC Magazine Fund. OMDC 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 OMDC Interactive Digital Media Fund.
- Additional support is available to art and literary publishers at the provincial and federal levels through the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Profile current as of June 30, 2017
1 Statistics Canada. Table 361-0032 – Periodical publishers, summary statistics, every 2 years (dollars unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: May 30, 2017). Statistics Canada includes activity from advertising periodicals, newsletter publishing and other types of periodicals.
4 Statistics Canada. Table 361-0052 – Periodical publishers, advertising and circulation revenue, every 2 years (dollars x 1,000,000), CANSIM (database). (accessed: June 23, 2017)
5 Statistics Canada. Table 361-0032.
6 Statistics Canada. Table 361-0033 – Periodical publishers, industry expenditures, every 2 years (percent), CANSIM (database). (accessed: June 23, 2017)
7 Statistics Canada. Table 361-0053 – Periodical publishers, circulation net of returns by type of publication, every 2 years (percent), CANSIM (database). (accessed: May 30, 2017)
12 Sara Hill and Tosha Kirk, “Study: Print remains preferred magazine platform,” Satisfying Audiences Blog, International News Media Association, November 8, 2016.
13 Vividata, “2015 Q4 Readership and Product Database (January-December 2015 Fieldwork),” April 14, 2016.
16 Magazines Canada, “Media ad spend in Canada to reach $10.74 billion in 2017,” April 17, 2017.
18 Vividata, 2017 Q1 Magazine Topline Data. Unduplicated audience of all measured English and French language magazines in Canada. Digital audience is defined as audience who accessed any digital content of the magazine in the past 30 days.
21 Information and Communications Technology Council, Mobile Apps: Generating Economic Gains for Creative Media Industries in Ontario, 2014, pp. 8-9; Magazines Canada, The Opportunity for an Electronic Market Connecting Magazine Publishers to Video and Application Vendors, 2014.
23 Jessica Patterson, “Behind Rogers Media’s biggest transformation,” FIPP, June 5, 2017.
24 John Milne & D. B. Scott, Magazines Canada Business Media White Paper #5: Moving Forward from a Position of Strength, May 2017.
25 Magazines Canada, U.S. Magazine Spill into Canada 2016.
26 PageFair, The cost of ad blocking: PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report, August 10, 2015, p.3; The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, IAB Canada Ad Blocking Study, May 24, 2016, pp. 8, 10.
27 Magazines Canada, “Recycling”; Canadian Magazines Blog. “Magazines Canada wants changes to Blue Box pricing and accounting,” April 30, 2015.
29 The information included in this section is an overview of some government support programs for the magazine sector. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of government support available