Recently, Rogers Media in Canada released its newest offering – Sportsnet Magazine. According to Rogers, the aim of this new offering is to take on Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine, but with a decidedly Canadian perspective. I recently got my hands on the inaugural issue of Sportsnet Magazine, and below are some of my initial thoughts.
The Good. Content-wise, this magazine is a homerun. Pretty much from front to back all of the writing is engaging, relevant, and well informed. One of my favorite aspects of all the writing is the trademark Canadian sense of humour that has found its way onto the pages of this magazine. Not only from Bob McCown, from whom such is to be expected, but pretty much from front to back, there is a sense of humour found within the pages that is just not to be found in any other publications of this kind.
The Bad. I understand that the release of this magazine came as a fresh NHL season was about to start. I also understand that hockey is about as Canadian an institution as the Mounties’ red coats. But I put this magazine down feeling as though I’d just finished a copy of The Hockey News. It would be a real tragedy if this magazine simply reverted to the cliché of the hockey obsessed Canadian to promote itself as “Canadian.” There is so much more to the athletic landscape of Canada than hockey. Earlier in September and the first half of October the Rugby World Cup was being contested in New Zealand, and Canada was represented by a fine squad. Yet there was only a single photo of this event, with no related content. The President’s cup is around the corner, with several Canadian golfers set to be included. Again, nothing. The upcoming NLL season? Nope. Build up to the Pan Am games? Nada. Canadian College sports preview? Nothing. Only future issues will reveal if this magazine can truly give a Canadian perspective on sports, rather than simply falling back on old clichés to fill its pages.
The Ugly. For all that the publishers did right with regards to quality content, they dropped the ball horribly from a graphical point of view. One of the things that sets Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine apart is that they are visually spectacular. From the covers to the photos that each publishes, each brings a unique, stylish, and ultimately engaging graphical element to their magazines that draw the reader in. Sportsnet Magazine simple lacks any kind of “pop” from a visual standpoint. Had I not been looking for it specifically, it would have simply melted into the newsstand like so many other publications.
If they really want to promote sports from a Canadian point of view, they have a great opportunity not just to promote Canadian athletes, but also to foster the next generation of Canadian sport photographers. Admittedly this is a subject of which I am horribly ignorant – for all I know they are already doing this – but my ignorance may be due to their neglect. I would love to see a short piece each month about the work of specific Canadian sports photographers. After all, sports magazines are as much about the photos as they are about the articles. They are the images that young athletes insert themselves into, imagining future glories.
Overall I did enjoy the initial offering of Sportnet Magazine, but obviously feel they have some work to do if they are to be successful in taking on the Sports Illustrated’s of the world.