Masthead Blogs
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
It seems that 2016 is turning out to be a bad year for a lot of music celebrity icons.

But my guess is that this is going to help increase the sales for RollingStone magazine.

The February 11th, 2016 issue is a tribute cover to David Bowie.  The May 5, 2016 issue is a tribute to Merle Haggard. And the May 16, 2016 issue is for Prince.

Beautiful covers.



Thursday, May 26, 2016
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
The Summer 2016 issue of Dirt Trax is scheduled to hit newsstands on June 27, 2016.

Art Director Andrew Knor has created the first cover in Dirt Trax’s history that features a dark blue background, as opposed to the usual outdoor backgrounds that come with shots from the field.

The colored background method is a technique that Cosmopolitan made an iconic part of the their brand.  Recently I posted an example of Modern Dog using this technique, which appears to have worked well for them too.


Thursday, May 19, 2016
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
The demise of radio as depicted in the 1979 song from the Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star is a great example of what's happening to all traditional media in the digital age. Doom and gloom came to the radio industry when TV was invented, but it is still around and is ranked #2 of all mediums after TV.  This high ranking could be higher if AM/FM tuner apps were available on top selling smartphones. The technology is there, where your headphones can be used as an antennae for the AM/FM tuner.

Why then is Radio Surviving?
The answer - The medium owns the car,  it is free and the ads are entertaining.
The facts supports this case. According to Audience Insights, a market research firm, the AM/FM dial has a 68% share of listening time in the car. The time spent in the car according to the 2015 Media Directors Digest is 127 km per week with radio listenership at 13 hrs./wk. TV by comparison is 21 hrs./wk. The 30-second ad spot is very effective in creating “Theatre of the Mind” with a great jingle or brand story versus other ad formats.


Radio comes in a wide variety of formats including music, news, talk, cultural and sports. Music has formats like Adult Contemporary, Rock, Hits, Jazz, Classical, Dance and each genre appeals to a different slice of today’ consumer. But, there is no medium that can reinvent itself like radio, as they can change their content format over night sometimes. The history of CHUM 1050 AM in Toronto is a classic case, as it started out as a TOP Hits Radio station during AM’s hey day and is now a sports station owned by Bell Media (TSN).

We now live In a world where all media is crisscrossing each other in their content strategy. Radio websites have also crossed over into the magazine, entertainment, sports and news media space, in this age of media convergence.  So let's have look at what stations across the country are doing, as they reinvent themselves as the “reading and listening" medium—based on their content strategies. You can now go to a radio website listen to the tunes and read news and stories that may interest you.

Indie88, a rock station in Toronto has created a website that is more music and entertainment magazine than radio station. They just won “Rock Station of the Year” at the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards. The website allows you to check out new bands that do not get airplay on other music radio formats and also offers content on Canadian artists, music, film, events, local Toronto news and music videos.


The station was launched three years ago and now has 179,000 traditional daily listeners in the Toronto market. On the digital side the website has 425,000 visitors/month, 45,000 App downloads and 40,000 email subscribers. Users are highly engaged spending 27 minutes per website visit with streaming visitors lasting 1 hr and 20 minutes, which number 50,000 per month.

On the social side the station has over 125,000 followers/likes on three platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The digital audience is rock solid and one that any magazine would be happy to have. The questiojn now is…Are  they still a radio station? Or are they a Music & Entertainment Magazine with a live streaming service of your favourite music?

If we go to cowboy country in Edmonton the Bear 100.3, a Rock station, it takes a different approach, using sex and edgy content like “If you Like Strippers” promo and humorous “guy locker room talk” video content for their male demo. Their approach is leveraging the on-air talent Paul Brown as a talk show host that video broadcasts jokes/skits and on-air interviews. I found them real funny, but I am guy and they remind me of Howard Stern in their type humour.


In Montreal 96.9 CKOI, a French language Hits Radio station has morphed into a content destination hub that offers, music stories, comedy podcasts and a lifestyle magazine that cover topics like news, sports, arts & entertainment, art of living, technology, science & nature. This hub of information rivals any lifestyle magazine that is out there. This site is a truly a read and listen medium for the French market.


Lastly, 680News,  a Toronto news radio station, is now a news aggregator website with  local, national, business, sports, world and entertainment sections from all Rogers titles. A unique feature is a traffic monitor that includes links to traffic cameras for live feeds. This is no different that any newspaper or TV news website for content in the digital age.


There are over 560 radio stations in Canada that are in the digital media scene now and they are producing some great content. Many of them will be recognized at the 2016 COPAs for the first time with the Best Radio Website Award and Best Podcast as the most obvious categories. They can also enter in the News and Consumer categories for content, based on what we see here. In my next COPA Digital Media Spotlight, I will be looking at the changes in the Community News area of content as print and local TV stations converge in this space.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Gadget Blog
Martin Seto
One of the competitive advantages of the ad tech community is that they are positioned as the low cost medium with CPMs as low as $1.00 for ad impressions. To achieve this low price, these companies have automated the content publishing (via user generated) and the ad buying process as part of their business model. This is a huge competitive advantage for the ad tech sector versus traditional media organizational structures, who have editorial and sales teams and ad rates in the $10-50 CPMs range. At these rates, it sounds like they are dumping ad inventory in an oversaturated market to get market share.


This huge price advantage suggests further pain for publishers in the competition for on-line ad sales. As one president of a mid-size ad agency told me “ Business sucks, it’s tough to survive in the digital age”. This  observation offers the media industry little comfort in today’s environment. So what are we to do as an industry? We are told that we have to go digital to prosper, but it is tough to compete against the ad tech community as they eat up more share of the ad market each year. So let's take a page out of their playbook, instead of them taking one from ours like the packaging of content marketing and native ads that follows the rules of magazine publishing. Let's see where we can automate tasks.

One of the great benefits of technology is that it can automate repetitive tasks that can save on labour costs and increase staff productivity. I still remember the first wave of automation technologies in the publishing industry during the late 1980’s where typesetters, mechanical layout artists, stats cameras, digital retouching and film were are part of the production process and replaced with an Apple Macintosh computer with desktop publishing software and eventually direct to print technology.  Art Directors in this period of transition needed to update their skills as the coloured marker and pieces of paper was becoming obsolete in the creative process and replaced with a keyboard and mouse.

Technologies used to automate today are robot calls and email broadcasts for mass communication. On websites content is published through a CMS and the use of e-commerce check-outs for online sales. For operations there are CRMs, accounting, design, digital edition/app solutions, database and pre-press digital systems. As publishing operations we always strive to get leaner and there is an automation technology that can help with web content at no cost to publishers.

CNW has a content automation tool/widget that publishers can use as content on their site for free. ‘’The CNW News widgets helps provide current content at no cost for a blog or news site,’’ says Nadine Tousignant, Manager, Media and Audience Relations for CNW. The source content is from press releases and it appears as content on your website based on editorial and geographical criteria. The publisher provides a blank web page link on the site and CNW provides the code for the content automation that fills the page. The news feed will appear on the site as a special section with a five story teaser feed that can appear on the home page.

We tested this technology on the Masthead and the COPA sites and it works well as the widget enables the publisher to automate the process of reviewing press releases that may be relevant for your audience. In our case Masthead will have media news and on the COPA site we used digital news filters. For transparency with the reader  the content  is clearly identified as a news feed from CNW.  To read the content, they are not directed to the CNW website, but it appears on the host’s website with the graphic branding intact. All traffic on the web site generated by the content is tracked by the host web sites reporting system so content integration with current processes is seamless. All content that is distributed on the site is reported back to the issuer and helps raise the profile of the media brand as a secondary benefit.




This solution can help small publishers compete against the ad tech community’s competitive advantage of free content and will only take a few of hours for your web person to set it up. The time saving through this content automation concept surely has some benefits to consider. This type of content automation can only complement the information provided on the website as original and insightful—thought cannot be generated by an algorithm and that costs money. This looks like a win-win situation for publishers; they can get free content for their website and CNW’s clients get better press coverage in this two way relationship.

There will be a growing wave of marketing automation technologies that you will be pitched from companies promising the benefits of data management and integrating the data with your marketing efforts. They will claim that this will handle your leads and sales better versus what you are doing now. The system will monitor all reader entry points like social media, email and web site plus customer data that is processed by an analytics algorithm. The algorithm creates a personalized customer profile that will help improve customer service and lead nurturing at each stage of the sales cycle. Geez this sound like a modern circulation plan, maybe they took this idea from our playbook too.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Covers Sell
Scott Bullock
The spring 2016 issue (Vol 17 #3) of Dirt Trax is scheduled to go on sale April 25.

Art Director Andrew Knor was able to pack in four vehicles and still keep the overall effect clean and uncluttered.

The cover price was raised to $5.99 from $4.99 or 20% last year, resulting in a revenue gain of 24%.