Not with a bang…

The April issue of MONiTOR magazine, a regional computer and Internet monthly serving Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, Canada, will be its last.

Proprietor Performance Printing Ltd. announced yesterday it was pulling the plug following several quarters of declining advertising revenues.

It was a sad end to the epic story of how a small group of naive but energetic graphic artists, writers and long-suffering significant others created and built a publishing institution that ran for over 15 years, fending off all competition in what’s widely regarded as one of the toughest media markets in the country.

Sounds like the trailer for a new Hollywood movie, I know. But I can vouch for every word of it. Because I was there, in one capacity or another, from the very beginning almost to the end.

A stormy start

MONiTOR was born, back in August, 1993, as a hedge against the early-90s recession. GRL Communications Inc. wanted an in-house project to help smooth out the bumps in the revenue roller coaster it had been riding for the past couple of years.

MONiTOR was actually ‘Plan B’ in that program. GRL President Glenn Lisle, his staff and a partner were originally planning to launch a lifestyle-oriented tabloid weekly with a downtown focus. But, just days before they planned to make their maiden pitch to advertisers, not one but two other, larger publishers announced that they would be ‘on the street’ with premiere issues of their own lifestyle papers within a couple of weeks.

“We were devastated,” Lisle recalls. “We never saw it coming. We took some comfort in the fact that we had read the trends and the market right and it was time for a new lifestyle weekly in the Nation’s Capital. It just wasn’t going to be ours.”

Leveraging GRL’s experience as a pioneer in screen-based graphic design in the Ottawa market, Lisle opted to explore another, less crowded niche. He knew that ‘computer papers’ were doing well in other markets. And he saw how quickly the few copies of those tabloids that made it into Ottawa computer stores were grabbed up by information-starved readers.

Teething pains

MONiTOR’s first year was a struggle. There weren’t that many retail computer stores around, yet, in 1993, and the Internet was still ‘waiting to happen’ for consumers and small businesses.

But Lisle’s elastic business model was designed to let the magazine grow with the growing market. The magazine averaged just 24 pages per month over its first year. Prospective advertisers were skeptical and there weren’t all that many potential readers outside of the regular customers — mainly hobbyists and technicians — who kept the stores afloat.

Then, in July, 1994, Lisle’s original partner left the project and a new sales manager was recruited, straight off of the floor of a major computer retailer. It was risky proposition but it paid off.

The new sales guy might not have known a lot about selling advertising, but he knew his customers’ business inside and out. MONiTOR’s average Monthly page count more than doubled in the next year and the MONiTOR team never looked back.


Tomorrow, in Part II, we’ll chronicle MONiTOR‘s meteoric rise to the top of the market.

9 Responses to RIP MONiTOR magazine…

  1. Evolving Squid
    Mar 24, 2009

    *** pedantry follows ***

    Meteors fall.

    Was never a Monitor fan. Only read articles from that Jacksch guy, and only occasionally.

  2. Maggie James
    Mar 24, 2009

    Well… A lot of folks *were* MONiTOR fans. A circulation of 36,000 in a market like Ottawa, for a specialty monthly, is considered *awesome* in the industry. Sorry we didn’t cater to your particular tastes.

    As Ricky Nelson said in “The Garden Party”. You can’t please everyone so you’ve gotta please yourself. And it’s alright, now. 🙂

  3. Evolving Squid
    Mar 24, 2009

    True enough. 36k is certainly respectable.

  4. Kenneth Selin
    Jan 18, 2010

    For me the Monitor was a FIRST CLASS PC mag. It was of particular help to PC groups like mine, HUGO (Helpful User Group of Ottawa)and TOMUG (The Ottawa Microsoft User Group). I was an executive member of both. We could announce our upcoming PC club meetings for FREE in the Monitor. GRL President, Glenn Lisle, and his staff were A CLASS ACT. What GREAT! PEOPLE. What a FANTASTIC! PC mag whose issues were 120+ pages of FREE! INFO. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! I have FABULOUS! MEMORIES dealing with the Monitor on a weekly basis for serveral years. It’s most unfortunate that the economy killed this magazine. :0( THANK YOU! Glenn Lisle.

  5. Ron Dogg
    May 29, 2012

    I was a loyal reader from the first issue. I used to grab as many issues as i could and bring them to my college for everyone to read/take. Had list of BBS numbers, etc. I often referred to Monitor as my computer guru and I am totally appreciative of having had a printed walkthru in hand as the industry evolved. Cheers

  6. Jeff
    Oct 19, 2015

    I used to love the Monitor magazine, lots of great articles and information but more important was that list of BBS numbers, I remember when our BBS “Twisted Images” was first advertised in the Monitor magazine, kind of wish I would have kept an issue which had it in there but oh well..

  7. FidoCOP
    Jan 20, 2017

    Thanks for a great article and for the kind mention. It really was an amazing project.

  8. Francis Fillion
    Apr 16, 2019

    I truly enjoyed the magazine. I may still have all the copies I picked up. I was keenly interested in the MIDI music section.
    Great memories.

  9. Terry
    Jun 30, 2020

    Next to Compute!, Monitor magazine was my ‘go to’ computer magazine for years. It’s where all the tech deals could be found, and the latest information on up-and-coming technology.

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