As I mentioned in my first blog post, I consider myself a bit of a spy at TNQ and through me, you all get to be spies as well! (You’re welcome.) Since a spy (I mean… a co-op student) is necessarily transient—here for four months, then back at school, then off to work in some other foreign land—I can’t help but feel that I should experience as many facets of TNQ as possible. I thus jumped at the chance to attend a discussion on digital publishing with Jess Ross, a consultant for Magazines Canada. (I also live-tweeted the second half of the discussion; if you want to check out my immediate thoughts, they’re all here!)
One of the reasons consultancies are good for small magazines like TNQ is because they allow us to garner ideas from sources that we might otherwise not have access to, and to hear about marketing and publishing strategies from other magazines. This is a process that TNQ has taken part in before; a previous Circulation Assistant attended a similar discussion in 2012, which she described here.
In both discussions, one thing has been particularly clear: the contrast between large magazines, such as Elle Canada, and small magazines, such as TNQ and other literary journals. We’re a niche market. They aren’t. (Note that I’m writing “we”… I’m slowly but surely being converted to the publishing side of things rather than only being interested in writing.) Where many subscribers to “regular” magazines have a wider focus and are interested in various types of articles provided, most subscribers to TNQ are writers themselves. This begs the question: how to reach out to the contingent of readers who just like literature, and don’t want to create it?
Even more elusive and difficult to access than these readers are “The Youth”. (Capital letters required.) As someone who is a member of “The Youth,” it was peculiar to hear my age group discussed as though we are some mythical cohort whom magazines must chase. (Like unicorns. Am I allowed to compare myself to a unicorn? I would love to be a unicorn.)
Plus, unlike larger magazines that are actually for-profit organizations, TNQ is a registered charity. Since we’re largely subsidized by grants and donations (feel free to send us a cheque right now…hint hint), we don’t have the same wiggle room to try out new strategies and new technology that commercial magazines do. (Turns out the world of CanLit is not madly profitable. There go my dreams of becoming a millionaire author…)
This point lead to another discussion: the medium of print, which is TNQ’s primary focus, is slowly beginning to be considered a luxury as digital is becoming the more convenient medium. This requires both an adaptation in tools used (hence the concerns about budget) and in the interpretation of our readership. How do readers choose which one to read? Is it a matter of personal preference? Convenience? Or demographics? (As a member of the “youth unicorn” demographic, commonly considered to be the main digital readers, my vote goes perhaps against the majority; I hate reading digital anything.)
So, what did we take away from this consultancy? Following these discussions, we’re even more committed to enhancing our publishing and publicizing strategies to reach the widest audience possible. (CanLit deserves it.) Does this mean changes to the TNQ you know and love? Maybe. Does this mean Twitter-length stories in TNQ? No. (Please, no.) Does it mean a more readable digital edition? We’ll keep you posted.
Don’t worry, though; whatever happens, we’re still dedicated to finding and sharing the best of CanLit with you! (Especially if it involves unicorns. Or spies.)