Michael Hollett is the co-owner of NOW Magazine and Now Communications. Michael has been involved with NOW since 1981 and continues to work with the magazine, website and book publishing areas of the business. For the latest on Michael follow him on Twitter @m_hollett
What was the impetus for starting NOW Magazine?
An entire political and artistic scene was going unreported in Toronto in 1981 and we were launched to cover it and the businesses that grew up around it. It was this scene that turned into the progressive political movements that spawned John Sewell, Olivia Chow, Jack Layton and David Miller and the indie cultural scene highly identified with Queen West. Papers like this existed in the US but not in Canada and we were inspired by New York’s Village Voice, Chicago’s Reader, Boston’s Phoenix and others.
We decided to go free so that we could reach non-traditional newspaper magazine readers where they hung out since they weren’t going to newsstands and were abandoning daily papers.
NOW Magazine was one of the first free newsweekly’s to hit the Toronto streets, why did you decide to make it free?
We initially had a cover price, like the Voice and the majority of US alt weeklies. We decided to go free so that we could reach non-traditional newspaper magazine readers where they hung out since they weren’t going to newsstands and were abandoning daily papers. It helped us grow quickly because we were easy to find and the retailers that distributed us saw how popular NOW was and bought ads in it.
What percentage of your readers consume NOW in print vs online? And how has the shift to digital devices influenced how you run NOW?
We have 411,000 readers weekly in print and 339,000 unique Canadian visitors online per month. The digital world has turned us into a seven day a week, 24 hours a day content generating organization. Our news cycle has changed because we report news when it breaks not just when we print. We have slightly different voices online and in print and both are fun to operate in. We are obliged to be pioneers in terms of always striving to be part of what’s next in the digital world and I’m happy to say we usually are part of the ‘Next’ here at NOW.
Running a weekly publication must require you to manage your time effectively. What is your approach to productivity and do you use any systems or technology to help you with this?
I am immersed in digital technologies because NOW is a leader in this area, we were on the ipad the day it launched in Canada, for example and so my various devices allow me to be productive and produce wherever I am, whatever time of day. I am rarely without my ipad.
What does your typical day look like? Are you an early riser or a night owl?
Sounds like cop out but I really never have a typical day. The weekly paper has its routines but depending on what time of year it is, I might be more immersed in the NXNE music film and interactive festival and conference that we run. We produce many live events under our NOW Talks banner and we even have a restaurant and bar in our building that I am involved with. All of these other elements of the NOW World ebb and flow while the magazine and digital enterprises make constant time demands.
The hardest challenge was starting NOW and surviving, the hardest ongoing challenge is to stay on top and stay fresh and compelling for 30 years and counting.
Do you have a good work-life balance?
To begin with I truly love my work, it enriches me and, even when I was a little kid I made newspapers for fun so I rarely experience my job as well, a job. That said I make significant time for my family. I am active in sports which has its own timetable and is great for forgetting about job stress, you can’t be stewing about work when a speeding centerman is steaming down your path. I also travel a lot and my wife and my oldest son works at NOW.
Can you share a personal or business challenge that was hard to deal with and how you overcame it and what you learned from it?
The hardest challenge was starting NOW and surviving, the hardest ongoing challenge is to stay on top and stay fresh and compelling for 30 years and counting. I learned to never give up, gather the learning wherever you can find it, wear your beliefs on your sleeve and always be true to your readers and the rest falls into place.
What is one thing that your coworkers, clients or friends may not know about you?
That I’m in the process of finishing a novel.
Lastly, you’re a big hockey fan from what I hear, any tips for the Maple Leafs?
Let the young draft picks mature on the minors, don’t rush them up, stop trading away picks and do not trade for Robert Luongo. And stop fighting Ryerson University about uses for Maple Leaf Gardens that thee school has so admirably restored.