With a paid circulation of 715,000 and a readership estimated at 4.3 million, Chatelaine, Rogers Media's flagship women's magazine, seems to have found the recipe for success. Yet once again it is changing chefs.
Early this year, Beth Hitchcock departed after less than five months handling the duties of acting editor-in-chief. Hitchcock, who continued to function as executive editor as well, had taken on the duties of editor-in-chief Kim Pittaway.Pittaway resigned at the beginning of September after just 11 months at the top, citing disputes over editorial independence with the magazine's publisher, Kerry Mitchell. Last month, Chatelaine also lost Kim Zagar, who had served as the magazine's senior designer only since last summer. "These people were solid contributors and we'll miss them," says Mitchell.
The hunt for a new editor-in-chief for the magazine is once more under way, prompting a wry joke in Canadian magazine circles: "Why is Chatelaine like the Liberal Party of Canada? Because nobody wants to be leader."
But that surely cannot last for long: The Canadian magazine industry, which usually makes Chicken Little noises, is now almost purring, thanks to robust ad revenues for the past couple of years in the areas of women's and consumer magazines. There's money to be made and articles to be commissioned, if only to wrap around cosmetics, food and fashion ads. Next year, Chatelaine plans to boost the frequency of its publication from 12 issues a year to 13, the extra issue in the fall season.
The good times are also heating up the competition. Commenting on the job shifts in the industry, Donna Clark, president of St. Joseph Media, says, "There's churn because there are so many opportunities." Clark herself left her job as Chatelaine's publisher in 2004 and moved to St. Joseph. Other Chatelaine staff have followed, including Pittaway (now consulting to St. Joseph on "special projects," says Clark).
"There's certainly a competition between the two companies," says magazine consultant D. B. Scott. St. Joseph's Fashion magazine is challenging Rogers's Flare; Wish, targeting young shoppers, is up against Rogers's LouLou; and St. Joseph's Canadian Family magazine, re-launching in March, will take on Rogers's lucrative Today's Parent.
Clark says St. Joseph has no plans to take on Chatelaine. Nonetheless, Chatelaine is ramping up, having just hired Craig Offman as executive editor, to be responsible for its Web articles and health content. Offman has returned to his native Canada from New York where he was a contributor to Real Simple and Vanity Fair. Rhonda Rovan has been hired on contract to work as Chatelaine's style editor.
As for announcing a new editor-in-chief, Mitchell says, "There's no date on that." One aspect of the job that may daunt prospective applicants is that the editor will report both to the publisher and (in what Mitchell describes as a "dotted line" structure) to Lise Ravary, editorial director for Rogers's entire women's group of magazines.
The Montreal-based editor-publisher of French Chatelaine, Ravary has a marketing rather than a journalism background. She was behind the 2004 launch of LouLou, is preparing a new decor magazine and, says Mitchell, is "spending time with the [Chatelaine]team here in Toronto."