Business wins out over politics

Quebec has gone a long way since the beginning of the 1980s as the economy has taken over in the preoccupation of most of its elite over purely political and social issues.Was it the cause or the effect, but less than...

Quebec has gone a long way since the beginning of the 1980s as the economy has taken over in the preoccupation of most of its elite over purely political and social issues.

Was it the cause or the effect, but less than 15 years ago there was not even one good, readable business publication available to French Quebecers.

Quebec so-called business publications were out of date and attracted few readers and advertisers. This all changed at the beginning of the ’80s. Why?

There was no miracle, but the conjunction of various factors.

The will and talent of a number of people experienced in the publishing industry helped shape the products that attracted new readers by the thousands.

Some events also played a major role. One was the recession that peaked in 1982, which sent a strong signal to the Quebec population: they could no longer count on the state and large firms to maintain their standard of living.

Development of medium- and small-size local businesses was the only way to get the economy back on track.

The Quebec Stock Savings Plan helped many firms raise capital and did much more in attracting thousands of Quebecers to the financial markets.

Business publications under new management were ready to grab those new interests.

For instance, from 1981-85, the circulation at the weekly Les Affaires went from 30,000 to more than 65,000 sold.

Revue Commerce transformed itself into a general interest business magazine for the new Quebec corporate elite.

Affaires Plus changed its editorial focus to address a growing interest for personal business. PME was launched as a special interest publication for small business owners and managers.

During the most recent recession, Quebecers’ keenness for economic and business news has not been lost.

Les Affaires and Revue Commerce have succeeded in retaining the same level of paid circulation they enjoyed during the boom years of the mid-1980s.

PMB Print Measurement Bureau studies have shown the strength of Quebec business publications in their market.

Market penetration of Les Affaires has been superior to the Toronto-based The Financial Post weekly in its own market.

The same situation applies to Revue Commerce and Affaires Plus when compared to The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business section, the fp or Canadian Business magazines.

Are our readers or products so different? Yes and no.

Readers tend to have the same general profile in terms of income, occupation, purchase influence and other characteristics. Hence, Quebec publications are true business publications.

Because French is the language preferred even by bilingual readers in Quebec, our publications do not face the same competition as those in English Canada.

But more than that, two other factors help to explain the success of French business publications in the Quebec market.

One is that those publications complement rather than directly compete against each other. And this makes Quebec business publications distinct from their English Canadian counterparts.

Second, French publications have become true community newspapers and magazines serving the needs of a readership having common bonds and interests.

In that sense, Quebec is no different than many other parts of North America where regional business publications have sprung up over the last 15 years.

One has only to think of Crain’s business weeklies in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Cleveland. There are many more examples all over the u.s.

Those regional business publications have proven themselves often more useful to their readers than national publications and much more effective media for advertisers.

Usefulness to the needs of Quebec entrepreneurs, managers and investors is the key.

Study after study has proven that Les Affaires readers keep and refer to articles by specialists who are regular columnists writing on legal cases, labor relations, taxation and so on.

This is also true of the special reports included in our business publications. They are connected to the realities of the Quebec economy as it rapidly evolves.

And advertisers close to the Quebec market respond well because they know that those reports respond to our readers’ interests.

Our business publications are successful because Quebecers work and live in a distinct economic, political and social environment.

To get all the information about that specific environment, Quebec business people have to read our publications.

That is why they have become, over a rather short period of time, avid readers of business publications.

Michel Lord is Group Publisher at Montreal-based Publications Transcontinental, publisher of Les Affaires, Magazine Affaires Plus, Revue Commerce and PME.