What’s most important for the Review’s future? You
A note to readers from Ivor Shapiro, chair, Ryerson School of Journalism, and publisher of the Review
After more than a year of questions and discussion about the future of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, our plan’s building blocks are in place. It will be an audience-focused, audience-driven, audience-supported multiplatform magazine brand that continues to include an annual print edition, plus much more.
By audience, we mean you. But first, some background.
More than a year ago, I began asking colleagues what the magazine of the future would be like, how this should affect the Review, and how the magazine could become more sustainable given the flight of advertising dollars from print. These private questions quickly fuelled passionate public discussions, which hearteningly affirmed the Review’s importance to readers.
As I wrote in this space on November 30, the key question was always how to identify, reach and engage our audience with maximum impact while offering a highly relevant learning experience to students.
One answer became quite clear, quickly and loudly: our loyal readers want to see a print issue continuing to anchor the Review’s various connections with its target audience.
We hear you. And we need your support to help make it happen.
I’ve received much valuable advice about the Review in the past few months from Ryerson colleagues and leading magazine specialists, and students in the current masthead have pointed the way both through research in magazine trends and experimentation right here on RRJ.ca. Our students have proven themselves more than ready to connect with readers in diverse ways through our new podcast, our engaging weekly newsletter, steady engagement on Twitter and the edgy blog you’re reading now. And it’s now clear that the mix should continue to include an annual print edition.
But the most central insight threaded through all the recent discussions and developments is that a successful magazine today is a multidimensional brand that enjoys a dynamic relationship with its audience community. It is neither print-first nor digital-first: it is audience-first.
Our most important goal for the Review’s future is, therefore, a more intimate understanding of our audience community and its information needs. Starting this September, audience contact and analysis will be built in to each year’s masthead activities—so don’t be surprised if you get a call from a journalism student asking for your story ideas and suggestions for the magazine’s form and content.
To serve that audience well, the Review’s various manifestations will express complementary aspects of the magazine’s unified brand. Our digital and print offerings need to grow more interrelated and interactive. They should be supplemented by other branded activity (such as events and merchandise), and electronic publication should eventually replace newsstand distribution for single-copy sales.
To make all this possible without diminishing the very brand we’re trying to expand, we need to support an equally high standard of reporting, writing and editing on every platform, and to increase the number of students bringing diverse skills and interests to both editorial and publishing activities.
All of this will cost more money, not less. Even in a period of austerity in funding for post-secondary education, Ryerson will continue to invest heavily in instruction, technology and support for the Review, primarily because it’s a serious asset for students’ career preparedness. And the vigorous support expressed for the Review, on this blog and elsewhere, suggests that its audience members stand ready to add their support.
Students, too, will play a part in the sustainability plan. Each future masthead will be given a set publishing budget and will make its own decisions on how to grow and spend that resource, replicating the kind of entrepreneurial sensibility that drives a successful niche magazine today.
I will spare you the many details involved in implementing the above ideas, but be assured that our eyes are firmly on the prize of a growing presence for the Review as a keen eye on the dynamic landscape of Canadian journalism, in partnership with J-Source, which is now housed in the RRJ editorial suite.
As always, my colleagues and I welcome your suggestions and questions on any of the above. You’re our core audience, so please consider yourself promoted to Editorial Director and Co-Publisher, effective immediately.
Chair: Ryerson School of Journalism
by Fatima Syed
Fatima Syed is the blog editor of the spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.