British Columbia

Local newspaper, magazines forced to make cuts in light of pandemic

Local publishers are being forced to make difficult decisions as the COVID-19 pandemic forces businesses to close and cancel print advertisements.

Vancouver Courier closes, Vancouver Magazine cuts jobs, hours and pay as advertising dollars drop off

A Vancouver Courier newspaper box is pictured in Vancouver, British Columbia on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Local publishers are being forced to make difficult decisions as the COVID-19 pandemic forces businesses to close and cancel print advertisements. 

The Magazine Association of B.C. estimates local publications could lose up to $10 million in advertising revenue in six months if things continue the way they are. 

And so most have made cuts or suspended operation altogether.

On the Vancouver Courier's website, the publisher announced publication would be suspended until further notice.

"The small, independent businesses in our community that are under economic pressure to shut their doors or reduce services are the same ones that have supported our coverage and made it possible to deliver free, local news to you," it explained on its website. "Their significant drop in advertising revenue for our publication and lack of quick, available government funding means that we have been forced to make the difficult decision to cease both print and online coverage."

Canada Wide Media publishes Western Living Magazine and Vancouver Magazine. Samantha Legge is the president and publisher. She says she laid off 30 per cent of her staff. The remaining workers are taking a cut in pay and hours.

"For our business, what will be challenging no matter how long this lasts, there's a recovery time we need," explained Legge. "We're not Starbucks. We can't open the door and have people order lattes then the cash flows in. Because we're advertising based we have to sell advertising, produce the magazine, distribute it, then revenue flows in."

Every May, Vancouver Magazine features local restaurants and awards the best in the business. It's something the culinary community looks forward to and it offers exposure for lesser known restaurants.

Loss of exposure

Scott Jaeger is a chef at Pear Tree Restaurant (Martin Diotte)

Chef Scott Jaeger of Pear Tree Restaurant says winning best new restaurant back in 1997 made all the difference for his business. He says it's the kind of attention restaurants need.

"With what's happening right now, everybody's being very adaptive. They'll be missing something without Vancouver Magazine shining a light on them," said Jaeger. 

Arts impact

The local arts community is concerned, too, over the lack of exposure from the smaller publications impacted by the virus. The Vancouver Fringe Festival is still slated to go ahead in September, but the possibility of not having the Vancouver Courier write about the event is concerning for organizers.

"Leading up to the festival ... they often will do a feature article or publish photos from our feature artists on what's coming up," said Debby Reis, the communications director for Vancouver Fringe. "That's important to present our emerging artist and help people know what Fringe is."

She also said they'll be meeting in the coming weeks to decide on contingency plans for the festival given the ever-changing restrictions.