Around a year ago, ad sales of the print edition of the six issues/year EDGE YK magazine had plateaued. Running the numbers, we found no way a monthly or weekly mag would work, so we started the daily experiment EDGE Online.
After much discussion, we hired Mark Rendell as a full-time reporter. Boldly (foolishly?), given our small market and need for varied streams of money to survive, we ignored industry wisdom and charged for full access to our online offering.
The print magazine usually featured a softer, sunnier side of YK, with first-person stories often told by first-time writers. We knew we wanted the website to be a completely separate product, more focused on the issues with a newsier feel, but what exactly would we publish on it?
A year in, we still debate this. Technically, the fact we aren’t a newspaper or magazine lets us do just about anything within the bounds of strong and accurate storytelling. As I like to say, we try to provide a mix of heavier “broccoli” stories and lighter “ice cream” pieces to balance our competing priorities of informing and entertaining.
This freedom can be paradoxically paralyzing. After two long weeks of intense political coverage, we heatedly discussed the value of conducting a Mr. Yellowknife contest. The tongue-in-cheek idea was to pull together a panel of half-a-dozen Yellowknife women to narrow down a 40-dude short list. The Top 10 would be published on EDGE Online with a Top Three chosen by readers through an online poll.
The panelists eagerly accepted their invite to be anonymous judges, so we set a date.
To be clear, we understood every reason not to do this, but also wondered if we could use a lighter touch to carve into a more serious discussion. After all, objectifying men, without their permission, while an interesting social experiment, did not make it right.
On the other side of the debate was the pure entertainment and massive amount of traffic the piece would generate. Then, after another solid hour of lively debate, on the cusp of execution, we spiked the piece.
Through EDGE Online, we regularly, and carefully, test the boundaries of what’s accepted as good journalism. The same freedom that allowed the rise and fall of a ridiculous idea like Mr. Yellowknife has allowed site editor Matthew Mallon (a vehement opponent of the Mr. Yellowknife idea, he wants me to point out) the breathing space to execute projects that force conversations, filled with strong opinions, on important topics.
The most notable example of this is Mark and photographer Angela Gzowski’s series on the city’s street community. The best piece of journalism I’ve seen in my 11 years in town, their work was recently nominated for a Canadian Online Publishing Award alongside projects by a who’s who of the Canadian media industry, such as the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, National Post and Toronto Star.
A year in, I’m proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished. I’m also thankful for the hundreds of people who’ve subscribed to the site and contributed to the conversation, especially when the offerings didn’t conform to their world view. And if you’re one of the many people who’ve had issues accessing the site, fear not, we’re building a solution that will improve everyone’s login life and a whole lot more. Like so many online publications, we’re trying to find a sustainable business model to provide something of value to a community that deserves it.