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Showcasing Success

We are inspired every day by Canadian magazines and the innovative people and ideas that drive our industry forward. “Showcasing Success” shares stories and best practices from the people producing great things in Canada’s magazine media.

Showcasing Success: Innovative magazine professionals share the stories behind their most successful work and favourite projects.

In Canada, great magazines are made every day. New titles continue to emerge, and our most distinguished magazine brands continue to get better. Why? In addition to the Canadians at home and abroad who read hundreds of millions of Canadian magazines a year, we can thank the innovative people who work in magazines—people like you, who develop the concepts, write and edit, design, produce, publish, distribute, hold events and engage communities of readers across print, digital and multi-platform channels.

At Magazines Canada, we are inspired every day by Canadian magazines and the innovative people and ideas that drive our industry forward. The Showcasing Success project seeks out, interviews and shares stories and best practices from the diverse voices producing great things in Canada’s magazine media. We’re excited to share ten new case studies with you, each one of which focuses on the creativity, innovation and successes within Canadian magazines.

The case studies will be released in April and May, so be sure to check back! Join us as we share these amazing Canadian magazines and the incredible work they create every day across all platforms.

CASE STUDIES

FASHION Magazine in Motion

With a young, ambitious, agile and innovative team, Fashion magazine prides itself on testing out ideas and content plans based on the most immediate information and data available.

“Our chief strategy is to be adaptive!” says Noreen Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief of the St. Joseph Media title. “As everyone knows, print magazines and publishing as an industry are radically different than they were a few years ago and it remains persistently unpredictable. That means we constantly have to be both proactive and reactive; we’re constantly refining our goals and tactics.”

So, part of Fashion‘s strategic plans include video, an unique opportunity for the mag to create original, stylish, visually arresting and entertaining content that can be both separate from the magazine and/or a complement to it.

Read the case study.

Canadian Geographic: Mapping a Historical Tragedy

In April 2017, as part of a massive Google Earth redesign, tech giant Google announced Voyager, a tool that would allow content producers to tell rich textual and visual stories using text, photos, videos and navigable waypoints. The new tool built on Google Earth’s existing 360-degree content and spectacular satellite imagery and featured content from partners including BBC Earth, NASA and the Jane Goodall Institute.

This major update caught the attention of Canadian Geographic.

“We knew immediately that we wanted to produce Canadian content,” said Ellen Curtis, the Director for Canadian Geographic Education. “Because we were already working on our Indigenous Peoples’ Atlas of Canada project, it seems like a natural fit to do our first Voyager story focusing on residential schools.”

In launching their endeavour, called “Canada’s Residential Schools,” Canadian Geographic became the first Canadian content producer for Google Earth Voyager. (Google produced all other Canadian content on Voyager prior to CG’s work.)

Read the case study.

Canadian Underwriter: Comprehensive Coverage

In early May 2016, wildfires ripped through Fort McMurray, Alberta, leaving a wake of destruction. With an estimated damage cost of almost ten billion dollars, it was the single costliest disaster in Canadian history.

As a B2B magazine serving the nation’s insurance industry, Canadian Underwriter immediately began reporting on the insurance implications of the tragedy. What began as rapidfire coverage of Canada’s largest insured catastrophe unfolded into multi-year coverage spanning the B2B magazine’s print, web and social platforms.

Read the case study.

Briarpatch: Sowing Seeds for the Future

In 2017, Magazines Canada announced a new fellowship program designed to give journalists a paid position at a host Canadian magazine and the opportunity to gain valuable experience, broaden their professional network and explore stories that inform, engage and deepen the conversation on issues that drive our country forward. Briarpatch Magazine, a bi-monthly publication headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan jumped at the chance to host a fellow.

The magazine—which focuses primarily on politics and culture—operated with a full-time staff of only two, and the pair knew they could benefit from having a fellow on board for the four- to six-month term of the fellowship program.

“It was exciting to think of all that we could tackle with a third staff person! The financial contribution that Magazines Canada made to the fellowship meant that we had some support to do what we couldn’t have done on our own humble budget—hire and fairly pay an additional staff member for a summer of intensive work,” says Tanya Andrusieczko, the Briarpatch editor at the time.

Read the case study.


Showcasing Success was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Canadian Underwriter: Comprehensive Coverage

In early May 2016, wildfires ripped through Fort McMurray, Alberta, leaving a wake of destruction. With an estimated damage cost of almost ten billion dollars, it was the single costliest disaster in Canadian history.

As a B2B magazine serving the nation’s insurance industry, Canadian Underwriter immediately began reporting on the insurance implications of the tragedy. What began as rapidfire coverage of Canada’s largest insured catastrophe unfolded into multi-year coverage spanning the B2B magazine’s print, web and social platforms.

Cover all the angles: viewpoints, expertise, opinions, outcomes.

WHAT THEY DID

Canadian Underwriter tackled the Fort McMurray storyline with a multi-prong approach. Coverage included print articles, infographics and online news. Content—everything from articles to news items to infographics to images—was created for the print magazine and website, and featured on social channels including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

Because every segment in the industry was discussing the tragedy, the magazine explored all the viewpoints, expertise, opinions and outcomes, says editor David Gambrill.

From the day the fire broke out on May 3, 2016 to June 5, 2016, Canadian Underwriter staff produced 41 web stories about the fire. Canadianunderwriter.ca had 222,000 web page views during that time, reflecting a high reader engagement associated with the ongoing Fort McMurray coverage.

The editorial team honed in on specific, helpful and timely topics for their audience, such as:

The last flames long extinguished, the editorial team continues to use this event to educate and inform their readers. Online and print stories about Fort McMurray within Canadian Underwriter—and references to the fire within stories—now number in the hundreds.

Web stories: breaking news. Print: analysis. Social media: highly visual.

HOW THEY DID IT

Canadian Underwriter accomplished in-depth coverage by assessing what content was most suitable for each platform. They earmarked time-sensitive coverage for their website, reserved more complex ideas for print, and shared basic or picture-oriented concepts on their social media channels.

“More than half of what appears on the site every day is staff-generated. So oftentimes we will write stories based on the information we receive and post shorter, focused pieces immediately,” says Gambrill.

The magazine has also made use of as many sources as possible to consider the catastrophe from every relevant angle.

“There is no end of statistics and information available from a variety of sources in the industry,” says Gambrill. “Information can come from individual insurance companies, adjusting firms, industry trade organizations, and industry research firms.”

Topics x Audience = Multiple Stories

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The sheer magnitude of the Fort McMurray wildfires produced seemingly endless angles and stories. This proved to be an opportunity and a test for Canadian Underwriter. On one hand, the event sparked endless angles and stories. And instead of dying out with time, the story continues to grow. With every new statistic or case law, comes the chance to produce more content. On the other hand, the impact of the wildfires tested the magazine’s ability to satisfy the varied interests of its readership.

“The challenge for any journalist is to make sure that the information and ideas you are presenting are relevant to your audiences,” says Gambrill. “I would write a different story about Fort McMurray for claims specialists than I would for insurance companies or brokers.”

Gambrill acknowledges there remain many unexplored lessons to be learned from the incident.

Canadian Underwriter fulfills an education function for the industry—a place to get industry-specific business information about the event and its impact. This is always true of the publication; it’s just that the role became more important because of the magnitude of the disaster.”

Moving forward, Gambrill says they plan to dive into lessons learned with a video or webinar series featuring interviews with frontline adjusters who helped in Fort McMurray after the disaster.

Gambrill says: "Trust your instincts. You know when something is going to resonate with your readership."

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

When deciding how much focus a magazine should invest in a certain event or topic, Gambrill simply encourages editors to follow their best instincts.

“Some things you just know are going to resonate with your readership,” Gambrill says. “There are very few instances when, as a magazine editor, I am able to justify publishing two daily online stories about a single event for a solid month.”

Much of the decision of how much coverage to dedicate to any given topic comes down to knowing the magazine’s audience and assessing how many different voices are joining the discussion.

“When a catastrophe like this develops, it’s hard to know at the outset what the outcome will be. You often get a feel for the magnitude by the many different voices and perspectives that emerge as you are covering the story. The more people who are touched by the tragedy—consumers and industry professionals alike—the more perspectives are represented in the coverage—and the more coverage there will be.”

Read Canadian Underwriter‘s coverage of the Fort McMurray disaster and its implications at canadianunderwriter.ca.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Fashion Magazine: In Motion

With a young, ambitious, agile and innovative team, Fashion magazine prides itself on testing out ideas and content plans based on the most immediate information and data available.

“Our chief strategy is to be adaptive!” says Noreen Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief of the St. Joseph Media title. “As everyone knows, print magazines and publishing as an industry are radically different than they were a few years ago and it remains persistently unpredictable. That means we constantly have to be both proactive and reactive; we’re constantly refining our goals and tactics.”

So, part of Fashion‘s strategic plans include video, an unique opportunity for the mag to create original, stylish, visually arresting and entertaining content that can be both separate from the magazine and/or a complement to it.

Snackable, shareable, social: The right content for the right audience.

WHAT THEY DO

As a brand, Fashion is all about high-quality content—whether that’s a fabulous photo shoot or an interview with an A-list celebrity—and Flanagan believes video is one of the best methods to tell these stories.

It’s the right format for these types of content, she says, because it allows for shareable and snackable cross-platform marketing, which connects well with the magazine’s audience who tend to be younger, mobile and more social.

It’s the front-row seat to all the things the Fashion girl (or guy—30% of their online audience is male) already loves—fashion, beauty, celebrity, lifestyle. It’s the equivalent of an all-access pass and leads to intimate connection with the audience that might be impossible with static pages and online copy.

To make those connections, Fashion uses video wherever they think it makes sense.

“We are meeting our audience wherever they are. We post videos on all our platforms—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.” In addition, they add video to their hub property, fashionmagazine.com, completing the loop.

42% increase in video views on fashionmagazine.com; 70K views on original produced videos on Instagram; 2M video views on Facebook; 500% increase in shares on YouTube.

HOW THEY DO IT

Flanagan says the title is always looking to diversify and innovate with their digital ecosystem. They were one of the first publications to leverage guerilla-style Facebook Live videos which grew quickly in popularity. It gained enough traction that Fashion was able to monetize them.

“More recently we’ve been experimenting with live cover video shoots, 360० video, as well as video push via Instagram Stories and Instagram Live.”

With this agile approach, Fashion has reaped the benefits:

  • Year over year, they saw a 42% increase in video views on fashionmagazine.com
  • On Facebook in 2016, they had 1.4 million video views. The following year, that number increased to 2 million, a 70% increase.
  • On YouTube, “likes” have increased by 81% year over year; shares increased more than 500%; subscriber numbers rose by 40%; and comments increased by more than 260%.
  • On Instagram, original produced videos generated on average 70 thousand views.

Challenge: Keeping up to the shifting landscape. Solution: Pivoting the strategy to address change.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The challenge with producing video is being able to keep up to the constantly shifting social landscape. The key to Fashion‘s success, says Flanagan, is the team’s ability to pivot their video strategy to match what they see in the wild. For example, when Facebook recently changed its algorithm to prioritize live video and interactive engagement, Fashion made it their focus.

“We have big ambitions in the digital video space and are making significant investments, including hiring a full-time, in-house video editor to help us continue to produce rich, high-quality content. In future, we would love to develop different channels and franchises and we’re interested in experimenting with long-form, scripted or even an original series.”

Flanagan says: "Do video. A third of the time people spend online is dedicated to watching videos. It's clear the medium isn't going away."

ADVICE TO OTHERS

Flanagan’s advice for other magazines who are thinking of trying video? “Just do it!”

She says it’s ideal if you’re able to bring on a dedicated staff member with expertise in video production. For magazines who don’t have the ability to do so, then leveling up skills for all staff members is the next best option. Even learning a simple program like Videoshop can be the difference between producing cool video clips or mediocre content.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Briarpatch: Sowing Seeds for the Future

In 2017, Magazines Canada announced a new fellowship program designed to give journalists a paid position at a host Canadian magazine and the opportunity to gain valuable experience, broaden their professional network and explore stories that inform, engage and deepen the conversation on issues that drive our country forward. Briarpatch Magazine, a bi-monthly publication headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan jumped at the chance to host a fellow.

The magazine—which focuses primarily on politics and culture—operated with a full-time staff of only two, and the pair knew they could benefit from having a fellow on board for the four- to six-month term of the fellowship program.

“It was exciting to think of all that we could tackle with a third staff person! The financial contribution that Magazines Canada made to the fellowship meant that we had some support to do what we couldn’t have done on our own humble budget—hire and fairly pay an additional staff member for a summer of intensive work,” says Tanya Andrusieczko, the Briarpatch editor at the time.

4 months, 1 Fellow, 1 topic, 3 stories.

WHAT THEY DID

In 2013, Briarpatch published Laura Stewart’s story, “A Voice for the Grasslands,” which explored threats to grassland ecosystems. After securing the fellowship in 2017, Stewart was delighted for the opportunity to collaborate more fully with the magazine. With the editors’ guidance, she worked on expanding her original piece into an ambitious series of feature articles investigating climate change, resource extraction, grasslands, and treaty relationships in Saskatchewan.

Articles written during her fellowship included “The Thin Roots of Prairie Protection,” diving into the implications of the provincial government’s decision to privatize public pasture lands; “Science After Harper,” exploring the gradual defunding of scientists’ research; and “Saskatchewan’s Earthbound Climate Action,” examining climate change skepticism among residents of an oil-producing region of the province.

A Magazines Canada Fellow can work in any area of magazine publishing but Stewart chose to mainly involve herself in Briarpatch‘s editorial and production processes during her fellowship from the beginning of May 2017 until the end of August in 2017.

“Laura also took on editing and fact-checking work for the two issues we worked on over the summer,” says Andrusieczko. “[She] contributed her superb fact-checking skills, so we had help publishing the nuanced, well-informed discussions we always strive to have. It was a treat to have a scientist’s eye for detail and nuance in our storytelling.”

Cultivate talent. Nurture growth.

HOW THEY DID IT

Before applying for the fellowship, Stewart had approached Briarpatch about the opportunity with story ideas already in mind. Briarpatch offered feedback to best fit their audience and this helped tighten the focus of her fellowship application.

After being announced as the host magazine, the Briarpatch team guided their fellow in researching stories tailored to their audience, revisiting issues she had previously covered and stretching her writing skills. They also worked with Stewart, who had previously enjoyed the freedom of writing longer pieces for online outlets, to adhere to the stricter word counts their print publication demanded.

“The first time I wrote about the grasslands, I wrote from personal experience about my own immersion in the subject,” says Stewart. “Coming back to it after having been out of province for several years, with the benefit of journalism training and the support of the Briarpatch staff, I was able to see the topic from other angles and bring in other voices for a quite different treatment of the story.”

Dig deeper into the story. A Fellow can help with heavy lifting.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The fellowship afforded Briarpatch the chance to delve into a single story with more depth and continuity than their staffing and budget would normally allow, cultivate a deeper relationship than one-off contracts typically allow, and offer a living wage to a writer. From the reader’s perspective, Stewart’s commitment to the subject meant they could come back for the next installment, giving them a sense of investment. Win-win for everyone.

Andrusieczko says: "Host a Fellow. Make sure your Fellow is meaningfully embedded into your team."

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

As host magazine for the inaugural Magazines Canada fellow, Briarpatch is an enthusiastic supporter of the fellowship process. Benefits for the host magazine included being able to make time for dedicated research, collaborate on fact-checking, and have fulsome discussions at storyboard meetings.

“Small magazines in particular can benefit from this program. It’s great to work with a fellow over an extended period of time on ambitious projects,” explains Andrusieczko. “We found we had the most rewarding experience when we shared the tasks and looped in the fellow on the day-to-day responsibilities.”

After finishing her fellowship, Stewart continues to write for Briarpatch.

Watch this short video that looks at the collaboration between Laura Stewart and Briarpatch: youtu.be/muKAOq_cuYg. You can also find Briarpatch at briarpatchmagazine.com.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)

Content:

Canadian Geographic: Mapping a Historical Tragedy

In April 2017, as part of a massive Google Earth redesign, tech giant Google announced Voyager, a tool that would allow content producers to tell rich textual and visual stories using text, photos, videos and navigable waypoints. The new tool built on Google Earth’s existing 360-degree content and spectacular satellite imagery and featured content from partners including BBC Earth, NASA and the Jane Goodall Institute.

This major update caught the attention of Canadian Geographic.

“We knew immediately that we wanted to produce Canadian content,” said Ellen Curtis, the Director for Canadian Geographic Education. “Because we were already working on our Indigenous Peoples’ Atlas of Canada project, it seems like a natural fit to do our first Voyager story focusing on residential schools.”

In launching their endeavour, called “Canada’s Residential Schools,” Canadian Geographic became the first Canadian content producer for Google Earth Voyager. (Google produced all other Canadian content on Voyager prior to CG’s work.)

First Canadian content producer for Google Earth Voyager

WHAT THEY DID

The goal of the team at Canadian Geographic was to give readers/viewers/users a small glimpse into the horrors of the residential school system that operated from 1831 to 1996. The hope was that viewers would click on links in the story to learn more, or perhaps would even seek out information on their own.

To tackle this enormous story, the team divvied up the information into four chapters:

  • Chapter 1 provides historical context for how the schools came to be.
  • Chapter 2 depicts what the schools were like and how the students were treated.
  • Chapter 3 outlines the effects of the treatment and abuse on the students and how the system was damaging in a number of different ways.
  • Chapter 4 describes the transition that led to their closures, the apologies that followed and the beginning of the healing process.

“There are, of course, more elements to this story than what we were able to cover in those four chapters but we intended this to act as a broad introductory overview.”

To add richness to the story, the team added 63 images, 26 quotes, 130 school waypoints (including 16 waypoints for schools represented inside the story), and 17 videos. The process took about three months, including a full month of research, writing and editing.

21 pages of content, 63 images, 26 quotes, 10 video links.

HOW THEY DID IT

The Canadian Geographic project was unique in that the education team led the process. As team lead, they decided on which stories would be beneficial to tell, collaborated with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation based in Winnipeg, MB for data sets, then looped in the editorial team.

From there, the editors decided how they wanted to tell the story to fit the Voyager format, engaged in research, sourced images, wrote the copy and reviewed it for clarity, flow, tone and style. The NCTR’s director and fact checkers also reviewed the story to ensure accuracy and a respectful tone.

When it came to working with Google, the collaboration was simple, according to Curtis.

“We emailed them a rough draft of the story and they set up the framework on their end. We had multiple opportunities to review and make sure that everything was in the right place, even down to the details of how far we might want to be zoomed in for a location on the map.”

Linked up: Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (project), Canada's Residential Schools (Google Earth Voyager project), Canada's Indigenous People (November/December issue, 2017)

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Curtis says the most challenging part of the project was narrowing down the story and sifting through the experiences, testimonies and videos of people who suffered through horrible and degrading abuses. But facing these hard truths in order to share them with others was worth it. So far, “Canada’s Residential Schools” has been viewed 55,000 times and the goal of shining the spotlight on this tragic part of our history is being met.

“There are so many more stories that we would like to be able to tell with Google Earth Voyager,” she states. “We’re already planning the next ones. Some of them will follow the theme of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, others will have more traditional geographic approaches.”

All told, they hope to have a total of three new Voyager stories posted in 2018 and continue to build their partnership with Google.

Curtis says: "Try Google Earth Voyager. It offers an easy way to make stories interactive, engaging and visual."

KNOWLEDGE SHARING

Curtis strongly encourages other magazines to try working with the Voyager tool.

“Google Earth Voyager offers an easy way to make a story engaging and visual,” she says. “There are many ways to get creative on Google Earth—choosing 2D birds-eye views of locations, using 3D views to make landscapes and cities pop out more, picking street views and photo spheres. All this adds diversity to the visual representation of a story. And the opportunity to put videos and photos in with the text on the panels is great for giving users options for engaging with the story content.”

See Canadian Geographic‘s story, “Canada’s Residential Schools,” on Google Earth Voyager.


This Showcasing Success case study was made possible with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)