Hands off my Beaver

Locally-based history magazine changes name after 90 years

Canada’s second-oldest magazine, The Beaver, announced last week that it will be changing its name in an effort to connect with a new generation of readers.

In a press release, Deborah Morrison, president and CEO of The Beaver’s publisher, Canada’s History Society, stated “this rebranding will give Canada’s History Society the tools to bring history to life for new audiences.” In other words, CHS is working to make The Beaver more appealing to a younger audience.

Which name, then, will bring this 90-year-old magazine into the new decade?

That name is… Canada’s History. A brilliant choice of title, in my opinion. I hope more publications follow suit.

For instance, I’d like to see the Winnipeg Free Press change its name to “Stuff Going On Around Winnipeg, and Other Places.” The Winnipeg Sun could become “Sports Scores Plus Boobs!” And People magazine could turn into “Please, Stop Buying Me.”

Since The Beaver’s new moniker was made public, some of the higher-ups at the magazine have suggested that the name change has more to do with web presence than anything else.

Mark Reid, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, approached the issue delicately, stating, “We want to make it easier for history enthusiasts to find us [on the web].”

Deborah Morrison was more blunt, saying, “Use of the word ‘beaver’ on the Internet has taken on an identity that nobody could have perceived in 1920.”

I think that’s a fair reason to change names. Would-be visitors to the site must have been having a hard time finding The Beaver amongst all the other “beaver sites” online, right?

Not quite. Recently, I ran a Google search for the word “beaver,” making sure to turn off the “SafeSearch” feature first. The first result was – you guessed it – a link to The Beaver’s website. In fact, the whole first page of results linked to pages regarding Canada’s favourite rodent. It is clear that readers should have no problem finding The Beaver online.

Still, Morrison maintains that the majority of the site’s visitors are misguided web-surfers.

Use of the word ‘beaver’ on the Internet has taken on an identity that nobody could have perceived in 1920.

Deborah Morrison, president and CEO of Canada’s History Society

“We noticed, monitoring our web traffic, that the average visitor time to our website was eight seconds ... [T]hat might be because a lot of people going to the site weren’t exactly looking for Canadian history content.”

Again, the argument makes sense: if the average visitor only views the site for eight seconds, it must be because that person had been looking for something else and had made a wrong turn somewhere on the web. It all made perfect sense to me. That is, it did until I visited the website. Eight seconds was exactly how long it took for me to decide that the website was amazingly, painfully dull and then leave.

And so I am still left wondering why The Beaver would change its name. True, whether or not a magazine changes its name doesn’t affect me. It is also true that I am not big on traditions. But do you know what kind of people usually are big on traditions?

History buffs. Historians. The kinds of people who subscribe to historical magazines.

With that in mind, on behalf of all those who oppose the name change, I’d like to ask the CHS to leave The Beaver alone. This is Canada, after all, and we love our beaver here. We’re proud of it. And we don’t like when people mess with it just for fun.

Rob Holt honestly doesn’t get it.

Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)

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