Eye Weekly becomes The Grid

The transformation of Torstar’s weekly magazine hits readers the Toronto Star doesn’t reach, says the paper's publisher Laas Turnbull.

This Thursday, Torstar is launching a new weekly magazine for city residents in their 20s and 30s in Toronto, a “younger, edgier version of Toronto Life” called The Grid, publisher and editor-in-chief Laas Turnbull tells MiC.

“The new design will be very image-heavy. I think it’s going to be very powerful and will have a coffee-table book feel,” he says. “The photography isn’t going to accompany the stories in the magazine, they are going to tell stories.”

The new title is a transformation of Eye Weekly, the Torstar-published weekly. It will be two inches taller in size, making it rectangular to allow for bigger photography, but will remain printed on its traditional newsprint paper stock.

“We are taking a pretty big risk with the changes we are making to the magazine. Eye Weekly would have been turning 20 this fall but the direction we are moving in is so highly differentiated from the other Toronto weekly, Now, that it doesn’t make sense to have this legacy which is so highly linked to that paper,” Turnbull says of the newspaper’s transformation.

“Even when I first started [here], I would mistakenly say Now when I meant Eye Weekly. If I’m having that struggle, I can only imagine what readers must think. The Grid is not going to be an alternative news weekly – it’s not Now and it doesn’t want to be. We are going to be a city magazine.”

The Grid’s launch will be promoted with personalized transit shelter ads for Toronto neighbourhoods, including Leslieville and Roncesvalles, as well as an experiential stunt to draw attention to the new magazine to be executed in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Creative and media on the launch campaign were handled by Rethink in Toronto and digital was handled by Dashboard, also in Toronto.

Goals of the redesign include doubling The Grid’s readers-per-copy to four and increasing its female readership, says Turnbull.

“When I got here in August our readership was about 70 percent male and 30 percent female, which wasn’t surprising,” he says. “Over time we want it to be close to 50-50. We are doing some internal research to see who is reading the magazine and will do that again a few months after the launch of The Grid. We need media planners to see people reading the new magazine on the subway and talking about it at parties.”

The Grid is changing the kind of advertising it pursues and accepts in one key way, by dumping the sex ads, says Turnbull. This allows the title to focus its circulation on its downtown target market rather than the outlying areas of the GTA, which have supported that kind of advertising.

“We are adding 400 to 500 racks in downtown restaurants and bars,” he says. “If we are going to be a magazine for people in their 20s and 30s who live south of Bloor, then obviously our distribution needs to reflect that. There needs to be a sense in cool neighbourhoods that we are absolutely everywhere.”

In addition to its traditional belly bands, pop ups and fold downs The Grid is launching with a new advertising opportunity of a QR code on the cover of its launch issue from Virgin Mobile.

New opportunities for advertisers can also be found on the weekly’s redesigned site which will be designed like a blog and categorized into 40 Toronto neighbourhoods, which allows for geo-targeting by advertisers, says Turnbull.

“That is going to be one of the really great features of the site for advertisers, particularly at the retail level,” he says. “We will be taking what we are doing in the paper and making it even more local. Clients will be able to target a combination of neighborhoods.”