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Maclean's and Macleans is developing a profitable online community

By Rebekah Williams

MacLean's website, one of the first Canadian magazines to go online, wants to do more than just mimic its print counterpart, although emulating the print magazine is vital to the website’s success says Sheldon Sawchuk, general manager. He wants the website to attract a different kind of reader.
The site will focus on user-generated content, and subject matter will reflect readers’ interests.

“We’ll be implementing some community features including commenting on articles, and enhanced forums and tools that will allow them to actually get involved on a content level,” Sawchuk says. “It’s all about getting readers’ voices involved with the site.”
Another key element is making blog content more accessible and user friendly.

Shanda Deziel, recently named managing editor of, was an entertainment writer for Maclean’s magazine. “I went from writing to editing and worrying about my own stories to worrying about a whole staff of stories,” she says.

Deziel says she spends most of her time just getting the stories online because people want to see updated news, whereas when she was working for the magazine she could research a story for weeks and have it edited by several people before it was printed.

John Intini, a writer and editor, says young people who visit the website might end up buying the magazine as a result. “If they like what they find on the website, it might get them thinking that the next time they’re at the magazine stand they might pick it up because they really liked that story they read on the online site.”

He wants the website to be the national hub for news and features, leaving out the “quick and dirty approach” newspapers tend to thrive on.

“We have a whole team of writers that create stuff just for the website that’s more than reacting to the day-to-day news,” Deziel says.

The team consists of two Toronto writers, two full-time Ottawa writers/bloggers and three Maclean’s interns who primarily work for the website.

Columnists Paul Wells and Mark Steyn both have their own blogs, enabling the writers to interact with their audience.

Sawchuk says print subscriptions haven’t suffered because of the online magazine. “They don’t seem to be competing because they’re two specific kinds of readers.” Print readers tend to be older and enjoy having something tangible in their hands, while online readers like quick, up-to-date hits and are generally younger.

The online version has multiple subscription links to remind readers Maclean’s has a print magazine as well.

Sawchuk adds that it’s an advantage to have magazine subscriptions online because mailing promotional information is costly and time consuming.

Over the last five years subscriptions to Maclean’s via the Internet have increased 235 per cent, according to Sawchuk.

“The nice thing about websites is you can always make improvements,” says Deziel. “Everyone’s used to websites updating and changing and trying new things.”

“Generating the story ideas is a key thing, be it at the magazine or with the website,” Intini says. “That, to me, is sort of the main focus. It’s very important to generate good story ideas and that’s what brings people and gets people reading.”

Sawchuk says the number of people visiting the site and continuing to subscribe show they are succeeding. Since the redesign of the website im 2007, has seen an increase of 30 per cent in its daily visits and page views.