Toronto Life’s 50th Anniversary: Ken Hunt’s Vision for the Future
St. Joseph’s Toronto Life celebrates its 50th birthday this month with an anniversary issue set to hit newsstands October 20th. The cover story focuses on what Toronto will look like 50 years from now, how our demographics and economy will change, and how we will deal with a doubling population. Other stories include a round-table debate with Mayor John Tory and five former Toronto mayors, and a profile of the magazine’s previous long-time owner Michael de Pencier that serves as a history of the magazine itself.
In a year that has seen prominent magazine titles close, reduce their frequency, or move exclusively to digital, Toronto Life‘s story is much different. In almost every measurable way, the magazine has never been stronger. According to Vividata, an independent audience measurement body, Toronto Life is read in-print by 890,000 people monthly – the magazine’s highest measured audience since 2005. Within Toronto, no other magazine comes close to Toronto Life‘s reach, given it has the largest measured audience.
Notable recent features included a cover story by Desmond Cole about his experience as a young black man stopped, questioned and carded by police over fifty times. Mr. Cole’s story and activism is credited with helping overturn the controversial policing tactic. Also notable are an exclusive feature by Leah McLaren about Jian Ghomeshi’s life as an outcast that became a best-selling issue, and a heart-breaking memoir by assisted suicide activist John Hofsess that revealed his role in the death of Canadian poet Al Purdy.
Ken Hunt, Toronto Life publisher, compares the magazine’s success to the story in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball. “We’ve become much smarter about how we measure the effectiveness of the content we produce,” Hunt says. “The data has shown that quick, cheap stories, online quizzes and other click bait doesn’t sustain audience attention; feature-length stories, particularly stories that have a strong point-of-view or unusual access to its subject, have the greatest impact, produce the most engagement, and get shared on social media. This is how we keep readers coming back.”
Toronto Life‘s commitment to quality has been reflected in continuing success during magazine award season. At last year’s National Magazine Awards, Toronto Life received more nominations and took home more awards than any other Canadian magazine. At the inaugural Digital Publishing Awards, Toronto Life received the award for the Best Digital Design, beating out other high-profile finalists including Maclean’s and the Toronto Star Star Touch tablet edition.
“We are proud of the web innovations we’ve been able to affect with a small, dedicated team,” adds Hunt. “Growing and engaging our digital audience while maintaining our commitment to print is core to our long-term success. Print is incredible in holding a reader’s attention – if we can get a magazine into someone’s hands, they will happily spend an hour or more with us. That kind of engagement is difficult to achieve online. There are just too many distractions.”
Toronto Life will celebrate it’s 50th birthday later this month with a private party at Casa Loma. Sponsors include Glenfiddich, The Liberty Group, Amsterdam Brewery, Mizrahi Developments, Manulife Centre, Cumberland Private Wealth Management and Lindt Canada.
Sarah Fulford has been the editor of Toronto Life since 2008. She has won several National Magazine Awards for her writing (and many more for articles she has edited). Over the years, she has contributed to publications such as The Globe and Mail, the National Post,and The Walrus. Fulford is a graduate of The University of King’s College in Halifax and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies inJerusalem. She sits on the board of the Toronto Public Library Foundation.
Ken Hunt has been the publisher of Toronto Life since February 2015. He previously served as the Vice President, Digital for St. Joseph Media overseeing all of the digital operations for the company’s titles including torontolife.com, fashionmagazine.com,canadianfamily.ca and many others. Hunt came to St. Joseph in 2011 after the acquisition of his blogging company, Ink Truck Media, which published the popular Torontoist blog.
St. Joseph Media publishes many of Canada’s best known magazines and web properties, including Toronto Life, FASHION Magazine, Ottawa Magazine, WeddingBells, Mariage Québec, WHERE and Quill & Quire.