Deal could see Cosmopolitan and Esquire magazines launch new Canadian editions

Marc Weisblott
·National Affairs Reporter

It took 114 years for the media company founded by William Randolph Hearst to establish a foothold north of the 49th parallel.

Speculation about its future plans mostly surround the new form which the popular magazines published by the Hearst Corporation have already started to take.

Elle Canada, and its equivalent in Quebec, were part of an international deal this week that gave the U.S. company a 49 per cent share of a division of Toronto-based Transcontinental Media.

Yet, with a shrinking share of attention for print media, Hearst's focus has increasingly shifted to digital, along with a growing international expansion for its most popular titles.

Cosmopolitan, for example, recently introduced editions in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Dubai and Mongolia.

The billion-dollar acquisition of the French publisher Lagardère Group, which exported its popular women's magazine Elle to other countries, has resulted in a Canadian presence for Hearst.

What remains to be seen is whether other magazines follow the precedent of creating separate editions for Canada. Hearst Corporation's brand names also include Esquire, Good Housekeeping and O: The Oprah Magazine.

Such familiar media brands have started to target paid online subscribers through the iPad and other tablet devices. Hearst's chief executive Frank Bennack, however, said he didn't expect newsstands to vanish entirely anytime soon.

"We will move further in the international space further in one day than we had in 30 years," proclaimed Bennack, although it was assumed he was thinking of Asia and Russia more than the upper part of North America.

Nonetheless, the CosmopolitanTV channel inspired by the magazine has proven popular in Canada since its launch in 2008, which means a domestic edition of Cosmo could follow.

And other U.S. magazines published by Lagardère, including Car and Driver and Road & Track, could easily expand their reach to Canadian gearheads.

Digital media would provide the most cost-effective platform for any expansion. But print can't necessarily be counted out, either. Maxim was the most recent magazine to launch a spin-off that catered to Canada.

Regardless, the arrival of the corporation with the name of the newspaper mogul whose notoriety inspired the film "Citizen Kane" could stir up the industry, online and off.

Kenneth Whyte, who wrote "The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst" in addition to his role at the helm of Rogers Publishing with magazines like Chatelaine and Flare, might have also learned enough lessons to successfully compete.

(DJ Pauly D: Getty Images)