August 29, 2017 Last Updated 10:45 am

Jazz magazine dig! shutters print edition

The challenges of continuing to publish local interest magazines are high as costs for printing and distribution often exceed what local businesses will pay to advertise in print

The news that the Village Voice would end its print edition sort of swamp the news that another print magazine would stop printing, as well. Yes, I suppose the news that the Winnipeg jazz bimonthly dig! would be stop appearing in print would have been a small story under most circumstances, but it’s still an important story for us publishers anyways.

Not every magazines is a 3 million rate base Goliath such as Cosmo or Vogue. At the heart of our industry are the publications people publish for the love of the subject, love of the people featured in the magazine, for the love of publishing. Few make much money, most struggle to continue to print. But each issue is a revelation, a joy.

dig! was launched by New York native Steve Kirby, after he and his wife arrive in Winnipeg to become the director of jazz studies at the University of Manitoba in 2003. Its first issue appeared in October of 2004.

Kirby is a bassist who plays locally and who saw his magazine as contributing to the grow of jazz in Winnipeg.

“It used to be quite nice, but now it’s wonderful. And I give the credit to dig! magazine,” Kirby told the Winnipeg Sun in late 2014. “We’re generating a bit of a buzz right here, and dig! magazine is crucial to that.”

Like most local magazines that are not lifestyle books designed to be read by the affluent, dig! had a small circulation: 8,000 per issue, according to the magazine’s website. It was distributed where you would expect it — Starbucks, music venues, the university.

Ad rates were low, $525 to $625 for a full page depending on whether the ad is B&W or color. That makes it hard to meet the costs of printing and distribution, but I am sure the advertisers were not those you’d see in Covet, one of the local lifestyle publications.

“We’re all incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished with dig!, said Lynne Stefanchuk, executive director of Jazz Winnipeg, which hosts a summer jazz festival each year. “The growth of Winnipeg’s jazz community over the past 14 years has been incredible and the magazine has been there to chronicle it all. It’s been a rewarding project but the team has made the difficult decision to cease production.”

As tough as it is for a local jazz magazine to survive, it is equally a challenge for national magazines. In Canada, for instance, Coda covered the jazz scene beginning in 1958, but its last issue appeared in 2009 (the magazine’s founder, John Norris died in January 2010, though he had handed over the editing role to saxophonist Bill Smith in 1976).

In the US, the jazz magazines DownBeat and JazzTimes continue to publish, and look healthy enough. But if you compare ad pages today with those of a few years ago one notices fewer full page ads from big record labels, and more modular ads from small labels, artists and music venues and events.

These magazines are labors of love. I know, because I have tried to work with some of them, trying to convince them to expand their digital publishing efforts, but they are a stubborn bunch that want to continue doing what they been doing for years. One worries about their future, but they aren’t eager to compromise their values, which is why readers love them so much.

Note: You can find Steve Kirby’s music website here, and his LP All Over The Map on iTunes here.

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