By Brian Hartz
Unlike many of Canada’s trade magazines that have been swallowed up by
large corporate media juggernauts, Bakers Journal has been in the hands
of a series of independent owners or small companies that have kept the
magazine true to its roots and ideals.
|Mike and Sue Fredericks.|
Unlike many of Canada’s trade magazines that have been swallowed up by large corporate media juggernauts, Bakers Journal has been in the hands of a series of independent owners or small companies that have kept the magazine true to its roots and ideals.
From its first publisher, W.E. Floody in the 1930s, to Ernest Naef in the 1980s, the magazine was solely owned and operated by individuals. During that time, many changes occurred, including relocation from Toronto to Beaconsfield, Que., then back to the Toronto area. It wasn’t until 1989, when Naef sold Bakers Journal to Newfoundland Capital Corp. (NCC), that it was published by a corporation.
Today, Bakers Journal is part of a stable of trade journals published by a family-owned business, Annex Publishing & Printing Inc., in Simcoe, Ont. Owners Mike and Sue Fredericks acquired the magazine in 1997 when they bought the assets of NCC, and they recently took time to reflect on the magazine that laid the groundwork for their successful foray into trade magazine publishing.
“It was a real learning experience for me,” Mike says. “At the time (1989), I was the director of development [at NCC], and this file was kicking around the office, and I thought it looked good. The conversation went well with Ernest and Louise Naef, and after the sale we hired Ernest back in for a few things. When we buy things we try to keep the founders, the incumbents involved. It was very easy with Ernest. He was a great guy to work with.”
As the official publisher of Bakers Journal after she and her husband bought NCC in 1997, Sue Fredericks was more involved in the day-to-day operations of the magazine.
“What I thought was really neat [about the baking business] was that so many people in the industry were European immigrants,” she recalls. “And they were leaders, but the industry was facing the fact that many were in their mid to later years and so they were searching for the next generation of Canadian bakers.”
This time of transition created a perfect opportunity to make a mark in the industry by becoming an outlet for the needs and concerns of independent retail bakers, Sue says.
“There was this huge concern about who was going to educate our bakers,” she recalls. “It’s always interesting to be involved in an industry that is in a state of flux or change. And baking has been in that state since I’ve been following it.”
In his role as president of Annex Publishing, Mike Fredericks takes a more big-picture approach to the 26 magazines he and Sue own, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t noticed the resilience of the baking industry and how it copes with economic challenges.
“It’s been a nice, steady market for us. You don’t see fluky highs and lows,” he says. “Even when the recessions come, there might be a bit of a slowdown, but not much. [Bakers Journal] is a good, solid piece in a group of publications. Occasionally the Bakery Showcase takes a dip and then advertising falls off, but other than that it’s a solid performer.”
Despite this steady performance, the Frederickses have seen some upheaval in the industry in the past 20 years, most notably the amalgamation of the various trade associations into one national group.
“The most exciting thing going on when I first got involved was the formation of the Baking Association of Canada,” Sue says. “For some people in Ontario it wasn’t a positive experience because it meant the end of their Bakery Showcase, and they had to become part of a national entity instead of provincial. But in forming a partnership with Paul [Hetherington] and Rosemary [Dexter] at the BAC, it was an exciting time for the magazine to help forge a national voice for the industry.”
As for the future of Bakers Journal, Mike and Sue say that despite the upheaval and uncertainty facing the print media as more advertising dollars move online, no major changes are on the horizon, apart from the occasional redesign of the magazine’s look.
“For years we tried to keep a traditional style to the magazine,” Sue says. “We recognized that its average reader was in their 50s and, knowing that where they might be reading the magazine, they might have flour or sticky fingers, we tried to keep a larger type size even as publishers all around us were shrinking their type size. Finally, in 2008, we said, ‘OK, it’s time to tweak the magazine and give it a more modern look’ – and that turned out to be very successful.
“We’ll continue to have a printed product,” Sue adds, “but we’ll find that more and more people are going online and viewing it digitally. We’ll look forward to more web-based interactivity with our readers.”
Looking back – and forward – Mike sums up by saying: “Bakers was the stimulus for our business; it made sense and it worked for us and the seller. It’s a good, steady market to be in, and we’re happy to support it with our coverage of the industry.”