It was the buzz of the media industry: Sportsnet was going forward with it's plans to launch a national, full colour sports themed magazine. Viewed as a Sports Illustrated for the Frozen North, the plan was to offer Canadians content geared toward them, to tell their stories. As the sports magazine market is dominated by publishers south of the border, the magazine would be a welcome change, and breath some fresh air into the Canadian sports media landscape.
Having recently finished, and in the motions of launching, the inaugural issue of the groundbreaking magazine, we invited Steve Maich, publisher, editor, and the visionary behind Sportsnet Magazine, to come in and share his thoughts on the Canadian sports media landscape, launching a magazine, marketing, and life in general.
Dome Beers: Welcome, Steve. You are the editor and publisher of Sportsnet Magazine, a new magazine that will be launching this October. You must be very nervous and very excited.
Steve Maich: I am. It took a lot of hard work from a lot of very talented people, but we finally got this baby off the ground. The magazine is full of beautiful pictures and prose, and will really help tell stories that the Canadian sports fan is interested in.
DB: Very cool. But of course, you know the big question the critics will have is, why launch a magazine in 2011?
SM: Well, really, why not? With production budgets getting cut across the magazine industry, and advertising budgets drying up due to the prolonged recession, plus with the migration of many of the industries top writers to online sport platforms, it seemed like the perfect time to launch a national magazine.
DB: That certainly seems to make sense.
SM: Doesn't it? The magazine format allows us to do things we couldn't otherwise do, as well. For an example, we all live in this busy, 24/7 world, where we are all connected and bombarded with the latest and most up to date news available. By choosing to deliver content in a magazine, we can alleviate the stress that having timely and updated news available at your fingertips at any time can bring. Also, there are pictures. You won't find that on the internet!
DB: So you see your magazine as product that can add value to the Canadian sports fan?
SM: Very much so. One of the sayings we have around the office is to 'not be boring'. We have a promise to our readers that we will not bore them. By offering our customers access to stories that will not be updated for weeks, and are often written weeks in advance on the date of publication, we think we live up to the promise of not boring them. After all, who wants to read an opinion that has gone stale by the time the magazine is delivered? Canadian sports fans, that's who.
DB: The other aspect of launching a magazine, of course, is the business one. This magazine give Rogers yet another platform from which they can sell advertising space. Are you excited about that?
SM: Very excited, not just for the opportunity, but for what we did with it. We felt that because we are marketing Sportsnet Magazine as being for the hip and trendy, we should seek out advertising partners who would help reinforce that look and feel.
DB: Any you want to talk about?
SM: Well, we are very proud to have partnered with Johannes Gutenberg, who has bought a full page advertisement in the magazine to showcase his brand new product, movable type. Also, the Wright Brothers are on board, and will be showcasing their new development, the 'airplane', in a special full colour advertisement that will appear on the back of the front cover. And finally, Sears will be debuting a page from their 1925 catalogue exclusively in our magazine.
DB: Very cool. Staying on the advertisement track for another moment, how do you see Sportsnet marketing the new magazine?
SM: Well, we are going to be very aggressively pushed across all the media platforms that are used today: shortwave radio, telegraph wire, carrier pigeon, the silent movie theatre, and thanks to our status as part of the Rogers corporation, we are going to be all over the pager systems as well. We also have plans to heavily advertise on the side of horse buggies, which we feel will help us get our message out, and make people aware that there is a new magazine out that they can purchase. Our plan is to saturate all the relevant media platforms with our message, and hopefully people will head down to Main Street and pick up a copy from the local newsboy.
DB: Sounds like you have a very detailed plan for the roll out.
SM: Well, we do. But it doesn't just stop at advertising at every Pony Express station in the nation, which we also do. No, this is a special magazine, and we are acknowledging that in our marketing. In fact, I will be driving across Canada in a very special coloured black Ford Model T myself to promote the magazine as well.
DB: That is some audacious stuff. Now, Steve, our readers are curious as to the content of the magazine. Can you give us a preview of any of the stories or features that will be in the magazine?
SM: Well, I can't give away the whole store, you understand, but sure, why not, let's talk about some of the features. One of the stories we are very excited about is one on how using laminated wood for the stick construction process is really improving the quality of the game by allowing the players to shoot harder and with greater control. We are also looking at the state of goalie equipment today, and whether or not a goalie should be required to wear a mask or not (Planteing The Seed, page 15).
DB: All stories, of course, that are finding themselves in the news.
SM: And that is very much the point. What is a magazine? It is the newest and hippest idea for a media platform in today's contemporary culture, of course. So we feel a burden to fill the magazine with only the newest and hippest stories. For example, in the inaugural issue we have a story about the new hockey statistics, and whether or not we should, as a sports nation, embrace them. I mean, we all know about goals and assists, and how those measure a players worth. But should we also be looking at the newfangled 'plus/minus' statistic as well, for context? It's a very interesting and edgy story, and one we feel is right at home in our new magazine.
DB: Well, it is nice to hear that someone out there is pushing the boundaries, both on the technological front, and on the content front. We very much appreciate you coming in here, Steve, and wish you and your magazine a lot of success.
SM: Thank you very much. Oh, one last thing before I go?
DB: Certainly, the floor is yours.
SM: Furthermore, I think Peter Loubardias, err, Ken King, should be fired.