After years of complaints from some of Canada's largest magazine publishers that the industry's annual awards program was a bloated affair that honoured too many recipients, the sector's primary trade group announced Wednesday that it will launch an additional set of awards.
But the Magazine Grands Prix, as the new laurels are to be called, will compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the 39-year-old National Magazine Awards, whose administrators insist have a "bright and confident future."
The schism comes after representatives of Rogers Media, TVA, St. Joseph Media, Reader's Digest and Walrus Magazine sent a letter to the National Magazine Awards Foundation last November suggesting the not-for-profit was resistant to slimming down its legacy program because "more awards, more categories and more nominations mean more money to support the program and the Foundation."
The companies said the letter would serve as notice that they would no longer participate in the NMAs.
This year, the NMAs handed out 303 honours – gold, silver, and honourable mentions – across 39 categories. Magazines published by Rogers, TVA, Walrus and St. Joseph Media picked up more than 100 of those honours, including 18 golds.
"Our view was, if we're going to do the top magazine awards program in the country, let's make it really, really focused, and let's have those awards really mean something," said Douglas Knight, the chair of the national trade association, Magazines Canada, and president of St. Joseph Communications Media Group, whose Toronto Life magazine picked up 26 NMAs at last June's gala. "To win a Magazine Grands Prix, you're going to feel: Okay, this is a serious award."
The new Magazine Grands Prix will hand out awards in 26 categories: 11 to individual writers or visual artists, and 15 to magazine titles. Mr. Knight suggested that honouring the publications would shine a spotlight on the editors and art directors who are the industry's unsung heroes. "Our feeling was, we need to recognize the creativity of that group of people, because they're the core of what we do, creatively."
The move echoes the approach taken by the periodical industry in other countries, including the U.S., where the Association of Magazine Media hands out fewer than two dozen Ellie Awards at an annual gala dinner.
Work nominated for the new Canadian award may have appeared on any platform – print or digital – but must have been published by an outlet with at least two print editions a year. That rule would bar such digital-based outlets as Hazlitt, which picked up 15 National Magazine Awards this year, and BuzzFeed Canada, which won two.
Those outlets could still find plenty to celebrate in the NMAs, which are intending to expand their nascent Digital Publishing Awards program even as they finally move to trim the number of categories in the legacy awards, whose large size led to the industry split. "There's an enormous amount of content created online," said Nino Di Cara, the board president of the National Magazine Awards Foundation, in an interview. "We want to help celebrate the achievement of that."
He also noted that individual writers and photographers will be encouraged to submit their own work for consideration, even if the magazine in which the piece was published has withdrawn from the NMAs and decamped to the Magazine Grands Prix.
Freelance writers and visual artists may find the price of entry to the NMAs steep: Submissions, which are traditionally paid for by publications, cost $95 each.