Monday, October 23, 2006

The end of an era

The arrival of TV Guide in my mailbox is always anticipated. I read the glossy sections from cover-to-cover, and place it on my coffee table for reference. Mare can always been seen picking it up and reading it when she comes over to visit. It's a staple item in my house.

I've been a subcriber since I moved out from home in 1999, and before that we purchased off the newsstand for years. The print edition has been my right-hand mag for most of my life (which means I may watch too much TV, but let's not throw stones). To this day, my mother will still sometimes call me to ask when a particular show is on.

Last Wednesday, I noticed I had still not received next week's issue. Usually it arrives Monday or Tuesday, or later if it is post-long weekend. A bell went off in my head that this is usually the time of year when my subscription runs out, but I hadn't remembered seeing a renewal notice. It was highly likely that I let the renewal get buried on my desk, so I flipped through the papers to find it... not there. I grabbed the last issue I had and looked at the date. Yes, it had indeed expired with that issue. I wondered what happened to my renewal notice, and the fact that I am a "preferred subscriber" meant I should have been auto-renewed, so I decided to give them a call.

I reached the call centre and the agent told me they "were having trouble with the renewal notices the past 2-3 months" but that I could renew by phone, so I went ahead. My next issue will be the one dated Nov. 11. I'll have to purchase the few weeks in between, but no big deal.

The next day, I received an email from John. He remembered our conversation from the previous day and had forwarded me a news item that said TV Guide [Canada] is ending its print publication next month. I was shocked, but after the news sank in, I wasn't surprised. I guess the writing has been on the wall for some time now, and it does make sense that a print edition is unable to keep up with the frequently changing schedules of the networks.

TV Guide has made a few changes over the years; some good, some bad. I didn't mind when it physcially expanded into a larger format, though some say that spelled its death. It was just a larger size, the listings were the same, and that is the most important part of the magazine. The change made about a year ago was one that almost caused me to cancel my subscription. They decided to combine the Ontario and Atlantic Canada editions into one issue, and list everything exclusively in Eastern time zones. Way to piss off anyone in the Atlantic time zone... the whole point of buying it was to have listings in our own zone. I was just about to write my complaint letter when they made some concessions and put the times in "10am/11amAT" format. I wasn't crazy about it, but at least I didn't have to add an hour every time I read the listings. This combination of regions also meant that I received information on plenty of channels only received in Ontario, and those were the stations that took precedence on the grid. It became cluttered with information that was useless to me, but the good still outweighed the bad. I will miss not having the magazine sitting on my coffee table.

What I discovered later was that TV Guide also announced that it will become a web edition. I found that quite interesting. They actually tried that route a few years back, but suspended the service for some unknown reason. I used their website very often, and was actually starting to consider using it instead of my print issue when they decided to cancel the online edition. I will be interested to see how they design it, how user-friendly it will be, and how region-specific it can get.

In a world of competition, it may indeed have a tough time competing. There are plenty of online listings services out there, even those that cater to the combination of my city and TV provider to give my exact channel lineup. At minimum, they will have to provide that same functionality. Where I think they can find their niche is to focus on items specific to Canada. For instance, did you know that Anne Heche's love interest on Men In Trees (Jack) is an actor originally from Dartmouth, NS? If the new online site can keep me informed of TV schedules as well as provide that Canadian aspect, I'll gladly switch to an online version. I wish them luck.

But please, no more articles written by Ben Mulroney.


mare said...

but... what will i read?

*single tear*

Lisa said...

Maybe Liz can print of the listings when she knows you are coming over. ~_^

I lived upstairs from my grandmother until I was 13 and Nanny *always* had TV Guide delivered. Mom never cared either way (We have satelite Lisa! It has a guide!) so she never bothered to get it. It took a long time to get used to not having it there to flip through.

In a world of online information, hopefully they'll be able to keep up.

Colin said...

I am amazed that they did a renewal when you called TVGuide (unless I misunderstood).
In a previous life here in SJ I worked with all the data suppliers that gather all the tv info for print, tv, and online guides. One that I always use, Liz, is
it is done by the largest data gatherer in the US and it is a great website. Check it out!