Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wither Canadian gardening magazines?

Does Canada only have room for one national magazine devoted to gardening? It now looks that way.

The publishing world is reeling with the economic downturn. Ad revenues have tanked, and Gardening Life magazine is no more.

The recent winter issue will be its second last. I used to write quite a bit for GL, and several years ago the magazine featured my country garden in a very nice spread.

My friend Marjorie Harris, GL's editor-at-large, wrote about getting this shocking news in her blog:
"Well, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. How typical of life. [On] Friday [Nov. 14] I was called to be told that Gardening Life magazine was folding. Right now. No advance warning, no time to write a final Back Talk, nada. No time to figure out what to do in the future.

Since 1996, as the central part of my life this wonderful magazine is gone like a puff of smoke. There will be one more issue. I guess it’ll be a collector’s item. But there will never be another garden magazine started to take its place. It’s the economy, stupid old me — I didn’t see that coming. I had the usual journalistic focus of deadlines. But no more."
A dramatic drop in ad revenues is to blame, according to GL's publisher:
"The global financial crisis has triggered such a dramatic decline in advertising markets that prudent media companies around the world are evaluating their portfolios and making tough decisions about those brands least able to withstand the downturn. Announcements of closures and cutbacks from Canada, the US and Europe in recent weeks are testimony to how widespread these conditions are."
Meanwhile, there are changes at Canadian Gardening, where I've also been a writer — doing a column geared to newbies called "Novice Gardener" — at least until recently.

In late summer, I was told that my column was no more, and I was OK with that because I had already decided it was time for me to pack it in. I'd had been writing the column (based on my book for beginner gardeners) for about three years, and I felt we'd covered all the obvious topics, and the premise was getting a bit stale.

More interesting than content changes is a restructuring plan, announced by CG's publisher last month, with its obvious overtones of "doing more with less."

When Aldona Satterthwaite, who has been CG's editor since 2001, decided to step down, the publisher, Transcontinental Media, did not look for a replacement. Instead, management decided to merge the editor-in-chief, managing editor and art director roles at Canadian Gardening and Canadian Home & Country. Erin McLaughlin, currently Home & Country’s editor-in-chief, will be adding editor-in-chief of CG to her duties.

As the Canadian magazine trade publication Masthead Online reported:
Asked whether she [Deborah Trepanier, group publisher for CG, Home & Country and Style at Home] thought doing “more with less” would affect the editorial quality of the respective publications, Trepanier replied, “No. Not at all. I think our quality will remain as high as it is now…Obviously there’s a lot of work there but there are a lot of talented people associated with both these publications and they’ll certainly be able to manage the job.” The frequency for both titles will be reduced next year, Trepanier said: CG will go from eight to seven issues per year, while Home & Country will drop from nine to six.
A few weeks back, I had dinner in Toronto with two old friends, who have both moved on from high-powered jobs in magazines. One was editor-in-chief at Chatelaine for a decade, while the other held the equivalent position at Canadian Living (where I got my start in national magazines more than 20 years ago). One thing we were all in agreement on: it was a good time to be out of the magazine business.

© Yvonne Cunnington, Country Gardener


  1. I'm sure there will be many who will miss their favorite magazine Yvonne. I think this is just the beginning.

  2. Hi Yvonne, I wasn't aware of that...
    I use the web a lot for advice and information (and your site is always one to check)but my gardening magazines give me inspiration, news, and ideas that I didn't search for and that often cannot be found on the net.
    I've subscribed to both GL and CG and at different times one or both appealed to me. Canadian Gardening will reduce number of issues - hopefully content and size will not be changed.
    btw, the article years ago featuring your property was of great inspiration to me when we bought our 75 acres. (Did one of the magazines not - at another time - show details from your city garden as well? I think I remember some "Black Mondo grass"

  3. Hi Salix: Actually, my city garden appeared in Chatelaine magazine in about 1996. I'm amazed that you remember both. I was lucky to be asked both times to write about my own garden, so not only did my garden get featured, but I also got paid for the articles.

    Cheers, Yvonne

  4. Anonymous6:23 PM

    I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear that one of your magazines is closing down. In the U.S., Cottage Living is the latest to bite the dust. It's getting harder and harder to make money as a writer isn't it?~~Dee

  5. Freelance writing for magazines is no way to make a living. When I was first freelancing in the mid-
    80s (a long time ago now), I was getting a dollar a word. When I stopped this year, guess what the rate was: yup, still just a dollar a word. The only thing that changed in that time: the internet came along and made research and interviewing so much quicker. For me, freelance writing was only ever a part-time gig.

  6. that's too bad...especially since I just renewed my subscription.

  7. Sad news for sure. Reminds me of the decline of gardening content on HGTV over the years. I don't care how much info can be found on the internet these days, to enjoy a sit down with a cup of coffee and a magazine (especially a gardening one)is akin to therapy. Looks like we are in for many lifestyle changes as a result of the unstable economic situation.
    Gardening Life will be truly missed.

  8. Gosh, I am shocked by that news.....that's such a shame. I thought there was a gardening magazine for Ontario gardeners, is that one out of publication now?


  9. Anonymous7:04 AM

    Its a pity to see it go :(


Thanks so much for visiting this site. I have a new country garden blog and I will no longer be publishing comments at this blog. If you have a question or comment about the topic here, please use the contact form at my new blog to get in touch with me.

-Yvonne, aka Country Gardener