Special Report: The Positioning of Magazines: Saturday Night: ‘Editors have to go by their instincts’

In this report, the editors of a half-dozen consumer magazines - Clin D'Oeil, Cottage Life, Saturday Night, Shift, Toronto Life and TV Guide - explain what they are doing to better understand their readers and how they are positioning their product...

In this report, the editors of a half-dozen consumer magazines – Clin D’Oeil, Cottage Life, Saturday Night, Shift, Toronto Life and TV Guide – explain what they are doing to better understand their readers and how they are positioning their product against other media.

As well, reporter David Chilton looks at the effect on the Canadian magazine industry of proposed decreases in postal rate subsidies.

Kenneth Whyte

Saturday Night

Q. What methods do you use to identify and understand your readership so that you can tailor editorial content to their needs?

A. I don’t use any methods in particular.

We’ve done readership surveys and marketing studies in the past, but I’ve always found them to be of minimal use.

I think editors have to go by their instincts, their own sense of their audience’s interests and their own sense of what makes for good reading and what doesn’t.

Q. How do you stay relevant, given the predicted decline of print?

A. I don’t agree with all the dire predictions of the decline of print.

I see more magazines being published and read than ever before. And I see as much hunger among readers for good information and good entertainment as there has ever been.

That demand is fairly constant and any publication that can present good quality material in an interesting fashion will always find an audience.

Q. What characteristics must an effective editor possess to ensure relevant editorial content today, as opposed to the editor of five years ago?

A. I don’t think that that changes very much over time.

There’s different trends in editorial and some editors are hot now who might not have been hot five years ago, but what really makes a good editor – good judgment, a lively and broad mind – doesn’t change over time.

Q. What manner of input or guidance do you get from publishers and salespeople in determining the editorial direction of the magazine?

A. Mostly, I get feedback from them as to how the magazine is being received in the business community, among advertisers and among their aquaintances.

I also get some hard information about whether we are selling subscriptions and selling advertising, which is one among many indicators of editorial effectiveness.

Saturday Night’s publisher and advertising manager happen to have good judgment about editorial product, so I pay close attention to what they like and don’t like in the magazine.