Most Canadian magazine launches fail within a few issues. Canada is simply a small market to attempt to carve out a successful media niche. When it happens, success is a delicate mix of timing, intuition, a keen understanding of the market, and good content. Oh yeah, and luck.
October 5, 2018 By Scott Jamieson
In the case of Canadian Biomass, that luck came in the form of a long-time competitor of our forestry magazine Canadian Forest Industries — Rob Stanhope, the publisher of Logging & Sawmilling Journal. Rob and I were attending World Bioenergy in Sweden in June of 2008, and there were many Canadians in attendance and lots of buzz around the industry. We may all have been a little desperate after a couple of years of the U.S. housing market collapse, and so saw a possible saviour in all things bioenergy.
Having a beer with Rob just before heading back to Canada, Rob asked a question that I had been asking myself through the whole conference — “What was I going to do about all of this bioenergy buzz?” I told him I didn’t know, that we’d probably not do much more than we were doing already in the pages of Canadian Forest Industries. And that was true at the time.
And then I woke up during my flight home with a start. If Rob was asking me my plans, he was likely planning something himself. I was damned if he was going to be first out of the gate in this emerging market, so I sketched out the first issue on a pad of paper during the rest of the flight, assembled a launch team the next day, and the first issue of Canadian Biomass rolled off the press less than two months later.
We made $455 profit on that first issue, no small feat for issue No. 1. Some magazines lose money for years before they establish readership and a client base. We’ve made money ever since, although in some years not a lot. But people are working, the industry is getting reported on, and we continue to promote the benefits of the biomass sector.
We soon added a website and enewsletters, then social media, and began partnering with the Wood Pellet Association of Canada on all things marketing, including their annual event. We do webinars and the Pellet Mill Map. In fact, more people now know us for all of these things than the actual magazine, and that’s just fine.
We’ve seen a few competitors come and go along the way. The CANBIO association tried their hand at a magazine for a few years, but it vanished, followed soon after by the association itself. Our colleagues south of the border, BBI International, tried a Canadian media brand, but it was short lived. Each discovered how hard it is to run a magazine around a constantly emerging industry.
The biomass “market explosion” I guaranteed in the first issue has yet to happen, as current editor Maria Church so kindly reminds me in her retrospective here. But the industry survives, some parts thrive, and continues to grow. Almost 60 issues later, we’re still here covering it.
I never did ask Rob if he was considering launching a biomass magazine back then. Either way, thanks for the inspiration, Rob. Next round’s on me.
Scott Jamieson is the founding editor and current publisher of Canadian Biomass magazine.
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