Thursday, November 27, 2008

crowd critique: toronto life

So, it would seem many of us magazine types have a love-hate relationship with Toronto Life. It wins many awards and (admit it) a lot of you would want to work there (if only to have the name on your resum̩). Yet, I've heard and read many negative things about the publication Рthe most recent, a comment on my post about how to come up with great ideas. An anonymous commentator said
Toronto Life isn't usually associated with smart ideas... its voice is certainly bratty enough that Toronto Life must think itself sharp... its "genius" doesn't usually surpass Spy magazine ol' schtick, and that got tired fast 20 years ago. The "new" Toronto Life believes its youth in leau of experience is the dawn of brilliance, whereas the magazine isn't breaking ground anywhere new and keeps crashing with aloof mistakes in both the editorial and art departments.

I debated not publishing the comment because it seems a tad bitter and doesn't back up its claims, but to each their own opinion, right?

I've heard the "it's skewing young" argument a few times now (which I know Sarah Fulford disagrees with), but shouldn't that be considered a good-ish thing? The complaint I heard most often about the John Macfarlane version of the mag was that it was too old-money, old-establishment Toronto.

So, this is my invitation to all of you to weigh in – let's get a conversation going about what makes Toronto Life a good and a not-so-good magazine. What works; what doesn't work? Don't be shy! (Please keep it civil, though.) If this "crowd critique" is successful, I just might make it a regular feature of this blog, because I think we can all learn a lot about how to be better editors by critiquing the magazines we read. Let the debating begin!

[Be sure to check the comments both on Masthead's site and at Dream Job TK's home base.]


Jowita said...

The only time I've ever wanted to write a letter to the editor was after March 2008 issue came out with that particular feature on young people buying real estate in Toronto ("Mortgage Slaves"). I've always heard people complain about how out-of-touch TL was, but that was my first experience with that. The article talked about the harsh reality of first-time buyers – people in their late 20s/ early 30s – and the sacrifices they had to make (Eating tuna sandwiches! Joining AutoShare!). I read that really-well written piece and felt like that wasn't my Toronto at all because in my Toronto most people in their early 30s are still renting, paying off their student debts, bike to work… anyway, I could go on and on. Since that article I started paying close attention to what TL was "selling" me and I realized that the magazine is more in the realm of aspirational rather than rational. Which is fine, I suppose, but maybe they could call it Toronto "Life"? (Having said all that, I still buy it from time to time. I also buy W, The New Yorker, Vogue… I like to dream.)

Jowita Bydlowska

Anonymous said...

But worst of all was TL's recent story on how much it takes to live in Toronto. Their sample group was a joke!– The “poorest” was making $65,000 (but soon, in her own words, would be making $400,000 once her residency was finished). Most people I know are lucky to be making $45,000 (with nary a major salary bump in site!) Why not talk to those people? Surely a sampling from Toronto Life’s very own editorial offices  would have found plenty of young professionals in their late 20s to mid-30s making UNDER $45,000!

Marco Ursi said...

Criticizing Toronto Life for carrying too many articles that appeal to wealthy Torontonians is like criticizing Fashion Magazine for running too many items about clothes or saying Canadian Living shouldn't run so many recipes.

The editors are aiming at a particular audience, an audience that likes to read about expensive restaurants, real estate, lifestyle trends, and rich, powerful and famous people in the city. They do a good job of telling stories/presenting information about this stuff. Proof? The magazine has a large paid circulation and drew almost $10 million in advertising last year.

Anonymous said...

Spacing is my favourite - I love that it is inclusive. It talks about the suburbs and the unknown neighbourhoods (yes, people, real, interesting, smart people, live in Scarborough ! )

Jowita said...

Nope, it's not the same. Toronto Fashion is about fashion so why would one be shocked to read about clothes in there? And Canadian Living is "Smart solutions for everyday living" so give me recipes any time. Toronto Life on the other hand... well, I think this is what we're trying to figure out here.

Anonymous said...

If you want to understand a magazine's editorial mission or audience, just look at its advertisers. In the issue I've got in my hand, Toronto Life's advertisers include Tiffany jewellers, Audi, Tacori jewellers, Porter airlines, and a plethora of plastic surgery clinics. I agree with Marco Ursi that TL speaks to the wealthy, professional market.