Canada Subsidizes Fly Fishing Magazine

Will we see U.S. journalists race north to enjoy new subsidies from the Canadian government aimed at supporting magazines? Doubtful, given the legal hurdles. But it does raise the question of whether U.S. fly fishing magazines, which have faced a crushing downturn in ad revenues, aren’t in danger of having their audiences drawn away by government-funded competition.
Yesterday the Canadian Parliament publicly announced new funding to support The Canadian Fly Fisher magazine. A quick review of the records shows that the magazine received $40,000 in support in both 2006 – 2007 and 2007-2008.
No doubt U.S. publishers will be scratching their heads over this one. The Canadian Fly Fisher magazine has a very strong circulation already, with a Web site that ranks above most in the U.S. fly fishing marketplace. They are also the official publication of Fly Fishing Canada, the non-profit organization responsible for organizing the Canadian National Fly Fishing Championships. And they are sold in U.S. fly shops and have a significant international readership.
If, as many are saying, the future of a large portion of print periodical publishing is in the non-profit or even government-subsized model, are Canadians simply ahead of the times?

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  • marshall, do you think we could talk presiden obama out of some of that economic stimulus $$$ to subsidize the us fly fishing blogosphere? i mean we need to level the playing field of international fair competition, right? isn’t that what he wants to do with healthcare and education? i think we could do it for a lot less than $700 billion, and i promise not to pay myself a retention bonus in excess of $250k/year.

  • Marshall,
    I won’t speak for CFF but I have known and worked with Nick Pujic(the guy that runs it) for years. The Canadian government considers CFF a great ambassador for the country and it’s tourism industry. Instead of using their resources to create programs on their own they throw their support behind companies they feel are speaking on their behalf. CFF is not only focused on the residents of Canada, it goes to great lengths to show the world the great opportunities they have to offer. Other than Alaska it seems most U.S. magazines are more focused on getting us out of the country instead of getting anglers from other countries to come here.

  • This is some great info Marshall. I know they are government-funded by the official CANADA on the masthead. The thing that gets me is this type of subsidy breads complacency IMHO. I have been blasted by the staff and readers of Canadian Fly Fisher because I am critical of their magazine. I have been painted as anti Canadian because of my views. Great info Thanks for posting. I look forward to investigating further thanks to your links.
    Robert McFarlane Founder No Excuses. Go Fishing

  • Marshall Cutchin

    National Geographic, which continues to deliver some of the best editorial content in print and online, has long paid the best salaries and freelance fees in the business — in part due to their non-profit status. That CFF is funded in part by the Canadian government means that they should be able to provide even greater service to fly fishers. I’m guessing advertisers like knowing their marketing bets are government-backed. In the end there doesn’t seem to be any necessary connection to the quality of the effort, so it becomes just an interesting question. I wonder if we would be able to say the same about government-supported fly fishing magazine in the U.S.

  • OK I took a quick look-see and it is only fair to state that Canadian FlyFisher is not alone in the Canadian government program Fly Fusion also is a recipient of $40,000 CAN so to be fair I am pointing that out. I look forward to putting this to some debate on a Canadian fly fishing bulletin board.
    Thanks MidCurrent and Marshall Cutchin for opening this up.
    On a side note I do not think the USA needs the government hands in the fly boxes of the nation when it comes to magazines you are doing just fine I wish I could say the same.

  • Marshall, guys –
    Were the U.S. to fund a fly fishing magazine, which isn’t likely, what would be the criteria for choosing which one? To me, the only logical fair magazine would be Trout, since it is run by a non-profit and has conservation goals. If the U.S. gave money to Fly Fisherman to prop it up (because it is biggest in circulation), would that be fair to American Angler or Fly Rod & Reel? What if the sponsoring representative happened to be a Fly Rod & Reel fan? Would that be fair to AA and FF? American Angler is owned by a Georgia-based conglomerate. Would Georgia’s delegation have a floor battle with Pennsylvania’s (where Fly Fisherman is based) over who gets the pork?
    This strikes me as a strictly Canadian thing. I don’t know the reality up there but surely they have competing magazines that resent Canadian Fly Fisher being propped up. I have never opened Canadian Fly Fisher, but I definitely would be against any government funding that helped perpetuate inefficient or outright bad magazine writing or design based solely on perceptions that one magazine is better than another. The market will sort that out; I’d let it.
    Fortunately, chances of a similar US bill getting through Congress) are nil.

  • i doubt it. as soon as the us congress gets involved, it would get all screwed up no matter how good of a plan we started with.
    but i do agree with your fundamental point, marshall. a public-private partnership…if well-crafted and well-managed…can be very effective. i’m not so sure that propping up print media thru gov’t subsidies is the right move for the future, though. i think tree-eating, static, postage-burning, landfill-stuffing print media’s days are numbered. so i don’t see the wisdom in tossing good money after bad.

  • Marshall Cutchin

    For the record, Ken, if I were a U.S. banker, I’d be one of those sending the TARP money back. And I’m not sure I’d want to put the careers of writers and staffers at the mercy of an annual appeal to the government. There’s too much to be said for running a profitable business that depends on its own strategy for success.
    Still, I don’t at all like seeing talented writers and photographers whose professional efforts make the sport better hanging by a thread while the “New Journalistic Model” sorts itself out.

  • i hear ya, marshall. i wouldn’t want tarp $$$ either. no thank you! but the original $350 billion came without guidelines or accounting requirements. so……maybe…..????…nah! it’s just not right. i don’t care how many scumbags took it. i am just a perpetual smart-ass.
    but there is an argument for the effectiveness and competitive edge of the public-private partnerships (from subsidized private enterprises like a whole lot of our industries including the public broadcasting corporation all the way to state-run collective bargaining for pharmaceuticals and such) in the international marketplace. and when we’re talking about that going on right across the border, it’s not much different than if a magazine is hq’d in nyc or across the river in new jersey, and bcuz it’s in jersey it can pay twice as much and offer excellent job security and benefits. in this modern age of telecommuting, writers can write and photographers can photograph from anywhere.
    so i think there could be a very real concern with any sort of expansion of this policy if the canadians get creative and decide to corner the publishing (electronic or print) industry using this sort of competitive advantage. raises some interesting possibilities anyway.

  • Harry Campbell

    Canada has a long, proud history of financially supporting their fine and commercial arts as a means of preserving Canadian culture and heritage. With a population smaller than California, and without such support, the only way Canadian publishers, film makers, tv show producers, writers, musicians, photographers and artists could compete with their American counterparts would be to cater to American markets and tastes. As an American who lived in Canada for many years, I was genuinely surprised when I arrived to see how different Canadians are from us (and, often, from each other as you travel across the country) and how proudly they protect and preserve those differences. Subsidizing their arts is just one of many ways Canadians resist the relentless pressure of Americanization from the south.

  • well, as long as they keep subsidizing their beer artisans, i’m cool with that!

  • Mike Ormsby

    Canada is a relatively small market compared to USA. For a small magazine, especially a special interest one, to survive here in Canada has sometimes required subsidies from various levels of government. But $40,000 (as this figure was already noted) isn’t all that will keep a magazine afloat in an already healthy market, like there is in fly fishing perodicals. The publication has to be a quality publication. Both Canadian Fly Fisher and Fly Fusion may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but obviously enough people read them on both sides of the border to suggest they each must be doing something right. Personally I like both magazines. I find each informative, interesting, and well written. I think Nick Pujic and the rest of CFF do a great job, especially in letting others know about the awesome fishing opportunities here in Canada. So does Fly Fusion, especially in coverage of the Canadian West. Canada has contributed great writers such as Roderick Haig Brown and Greg Clark to fly fishing. And continues that tradition in such fine publications as CFF and Fly Fusion. It’s also interesting that some of the better TV productions on fly fishing are Canadian such as The New Fly Fisher, Fly Max Films (which just happens to be some of the same crew as CFF), and Sport Fishing On The Fly to name but three. And, before that opens up another can of worms, yes in Canada we also subsidize film and TV production too. But whatever monies granted in any of these endeavours, whether magazine publishing or film/TV production, isn’t going to be enough for any such business to merely survive on. But it might help cut costs enough to remain competitive in a very big marketplace. If nothing else, it allows Canadian fly fishers with a voice so to speak. Places to at least get info on the Canadian fly fishing scene. Where to fish in Canadian waters. And what patterns work on such Canadian waters. Both CFF and Fly Fusion do that well (as do the TV shows I’ve noted).

  • Robert Downes

    Hey folks, I’ve had personal experience with the Heritage Canada grants which both CFF and FF receive and want to point out that these grants are project based; meaning that in order for either publication to receive any funds, they must spend it first, and even then, only 75% is covered, up to a total of 40k. In other words, both CFF and FF spent roughly 53,000k in projects such as trade shows in order to be reimbursed the 40k.
    I am in favor of these programs as without them, the small Canadain market would be left without home-grown publications and we would have nothing but US mags up here (not that they aren’t good), but this country needs and deserves national pubs. Canada is the largest land mass in the world with the most and arguably the best fishing opportunities, period.
    Also for the record, CFF was the FIRST Canadian fly fishing mag (national). It is also the official mag of Trout Unlimited Canada and has won an award for best professional business of the year in 2007. These are credentials which can hardly be ignored and must be considered when considering the credibility of any publication receiving federal help.
    Also, both CFF and FF have been receiving this funding since their inceptions as subscription based mags (CFF since 1998 & FF since 2003) – so this is hardly “news”.
    As a trade printer, I can also tell you that it costs upwards of 40k to print & mail a single issue of CFF based on their current circulation numbers, and considering that they publish 5 issues a year, 40k is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount the mag puts back into the Canadian economy (printed in Markham, Ontario). Furthermore, CFF switched to a certified eco-friendly paper / printing process as of their Feb ’09 issue (those who read it already know), showing an evolution with the times to be “green”.
    I agree that gov’t and private sectors sometimes shouldn’t cross paths but wanted to state the facts for everyone to form their own opinions.
    Just my .02 – back to chasing steel!