Diane Hall and her husband Gerry Brown had a busy February. So busy in fact, they could only spare a few minutes for an interview about their new project. As the publisher and founder of one of Canada’s newest magazines, they’ve spent countless hours at the office getting the publication ready for its March launch.
It seems fitting that a couple is behind this publication. The magazine’s title is short – just the number “2” – but it gets to the point. It’s a magazine for those with a significant other.
Hall came up the idea over a year ago while working at Wedding Bells, the popular magazine for couples getting hitched. “I was thinking, marriage no longer defines a relationship, but there’s no media to address the issue,” she says. And she’s right. The first magazine of its kind, 2 targets the 2.4 million couples in the 25 to 34 age category, which also happens to be an attractive demographic for advertisers. “This age group likes to spend their money,” says Hall, “but they’re smart consumers.” Many make major purchases like homes and cars, and advertisers are well aware of this. In its inaugural issue, 2 landed over 22 pages of advertising, a not insignificant feat for a start-up magazine.
Not everyone is convinced about 2’s instant success, though. Fraser Sutherland, author of The Monthly Epic: A History of Canadian Magazines, is dubious about the magazine’s target audience. It seems hazy, as readers may not consider themselves to be part of the demographic. “It’s hard to define yourself within a 10-year age bracket and being in a relationship,” he says.
Hall and Brown hope the magazine will take an irreverent look at coupledom, with fun service pieces about sex, money, décor and travel. However, the first issue’s humour is forced. At the front-of-book, writer Michele Sponagle makes unsuccessful cracks about everything from “dog doodie” to “wedgies.” Despite this, features about home buying and going into business as a couple speak directly to the twenty- and thirty-something crowd.
Although 2 magazine has a broad mandate to cover everything that concerns couples, one thing it won’t emphasize is children – except for the occasional column like Holy Shit, I’m a Parent! This, says Becky Melski, a 22-year-old newlywed, appeals to her. “Not everyone in a relationship is looking to have kids,” she says. “I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ll definitely take a look at it, out of curiosity.”
Planned circulation is close to 100,000 for the 84-page quarterly. Of this number, 36,000 will be sold on newsstands and through subscriptions. The remainder will be distributed by controlled circulation through the Hudson’s Bay Company gift registry. Sutherland worries that giving away 60,000 copies this way might undermine the magazine’s credibility. He says controlled circulation “is like a giveaway. It feels fluffy and frothy, like a glorified flyer.”
Editor Neil Morton disagrees. “We’re directly targeting our audience,” he says. The former editor of the now-defunct Shift magazine, Morton is ecstatic over the reaction to the first issue, saying it has exceeded his wildest expectations. “Readers are buying it already and our peers are digging it too.”
“There was really a void,” says founder Hall. “Lots of companies are now marketing to both sexes, and I thought, why not magazines?”
Well, one reason might be that guys and girls aren’t necessarily interested in the same topics. Melski says she’s not convinced her husband would take to 2. “I know Eddie wouldn’t pick up a magazine with décor and travel features in it,” she says. “He might be interested in the sex, but even then I don’t know.”
Forget circulation and blurry demographics. The magazine’s biggest challenge will be to win the war of the sexes.