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Winnipeg magazines attribute their success to the communities that support them

  • Aiden Enns, co-creator and editor of Geez, says Winnipeg is the perfect place for a small magazine. – Jordan Janisse

While some see Winnipeg as drab and grey, Aiden Enns sees the subtlety of a vibrant community of artists, activists and people with stories to be told.

The co-creator and editor of locally based Geez is celebrating the magazine’s 20th issue and fifth anniversary this winter, and sees Winnipeg as a socially conscious place for a magazine to help create a community for those who may feel isolated otherwise.

“I think Winnipeg is the perfect place for a small magazine,” he said. “The culture of art and resistance is thriving here and that’s exciting.”

James Patterson, publisher of the magazine that explores faith and social issues with a critical lens, finds relevance between the magazine and its readers, which makes it stand out among competitors.

“It’s always about being seen for small magazines,” he said. “Chapters has, like, a thousand magazines in their newsstands, so how do you get seen?”

Patterson, also the associate publisher for Canadian Dimension magazine, believes the emphasis should be on the reader and the community, rather than the magazine itself, to create resonance.

Canadian Dimension’s second annual “Red” Carpet Gala Awards Dinner and Fundraiser that took place this month, hosted by the 47-year-old magazine, is a perfect example, according to Patterson.

“A fundraiser like that doesn’t raise a lot of money for the magazine,” Patterson explained. “It’s about what people are doing in the community and recognizing those people who are doing it, and that is what the magazine is about.”

Winnipeg Women magazine has been celebrating strong women for over 10 years, creating a well-established relationship with readers.

“Like any relationship, you build it on trust,” said Glenn Tinley, publisher for Studio Group Media, who publishes Winnipeg Women.

“We wrote a story a couple years ago about the trafficking of young girls in the city. We talked to people on the streets about this issue at a time when nobody else was talking about it. Our readers trusted us to handle the issue with respect and care.”

Tinley thinks this relationship attracts advertisers to the magazine.

“People don’t advertise in the magazine because we write a story about their company – they want to advertise in the magazine because readers care about the content,” he said.

Still, it’s not always an easy sell.

“Winnipeg is a small market, so when we talk to brand agencies in Toronto, so many times we’re told Winnipeg is too small – or straight out: ‘We don’t care about Winnipeg,’” Tinley said.

According to Geez, one of their greatest successes is that they are an ad-free, not-for-profit magazine.

For Enns, the dream is to remain that way, but he admits the reality of maintaining a business sometimes means making exceptions.

“We took one ad in 2006 for a social justice event,” he said. “We also run inserts for other magazines in our magazine, so that’s a form of advertising – but we need to distinguish between sponsoring excessive consumer capitalism and promoting anti-capitalism.”

All three magazines are written and published in Winnipeg, and show no sign of disappearing. In fact, the trio are growing in popularity through tools like podcasts, video components and online subscriptions.

“The companies who adapt over the next three to seven years will be the ones around for at least the next fifteen – and that’s where we’re heading,” Tinley predicted.

Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)

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