When the Canadian magazine industry was thriving

The Canadian magazine industry was on the upswing in the early '80s, and women's titles were leading the way.

There were about 420 homegrown titles by 1983

New titles in the Canadian magazine market are aimed squarely at a female readership. 3:08

In 1980, Canadian magazines aimed at women weren't what they used to be.   

Musician Sylvia Tyson, spotted browsing magazines, said she preferred American titles for fashion and Canadian titles for news. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"Instead of trying to reach everybody, they now aim to reach the woman who has money — hers or her husband's," said CBC reporter Marilyn Mazurek in a survey of the market.

In the previous year alone, the venerable Chatelaine, founded in 1928, had earned $14 million in ad revenues. 

Still, Canadian women spent more money on American magazines than Canadian titles.

Folksinger Sylvia Tyson, browsing the shelves in a Toronto bookstore, was one of them.

"I occasionally get Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, just to see what the clothing trends are," she told Mazurek, adding that she did read Canadian titles Maclean's and Saturday Night.

'Couldn't be healthier'

A look at Canada's magazine industry in 1983. 2:48

By 1983, the Canadian magazine business was robust, as evidenced by that year's industry "awards night and back-patting session."

"Canada's magazine industry couldn't be happier, or healthier," said reporter Dan Bjarnason for The National.

He pointed out that since the mid-1970s, when Canadian tax laws were changed to stop giving an advantage to American magazines that published in Canada, the number of homegrown magazine titles on newsstands grew from 270 to 420.  

"The advertising support is there for Canadian magazine industry today as it was not 10 or 15 years ago," said John MacFarlane, publisher of the now-defunct Saturday Night magazine.

"It's worthwhile taking the risk to start a magazine."

Women: a 'very special interest' 

There were lots of niche options for advertisers, said Toronto Life publisher Michael de Pencier.  

"Magazines allow advertisers to get through to special audiences," he said. "There's magazines for architects and there's magazines for women and there's magazines about horses and there's magazines for people who live in Toronto."

That year, Saturday Night took home eight National Magazine Awards, a record. It stopped publishing in 2005 after being sold to St. Joseph Media.