At the CMPA Conference in the Old Mill

I’m typing this in a conference room at the Old Mill in Toronto’s west end. I’m attending the Canadian Magazine Publishers’ Association conference and trade show and it has been, as promised, an eye opening experience. No complaints about the seminars so far; they’ve been instructive and interesting, and should look good on my resume as I push further into a career in publishing.

The Old Mill, however, has to be one of the most bizarre hotels I’ve ever been inside. This is a new building made to look old, I believe, and the corridors twist and turn, all with a dearth of signage, so that I constantly get turned around. I’m in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.

Worse still, Old Mill’s WiFi access is a joke. This little missive won’t appear on my website until later tonight, when I get home. The Old Mill has WiFi, but the company that operates it charges $39.95.

An hour.

I don’t think so.

I had to get online to check messages and send off some e-mails, and the hunt for free Wi-Fi ate up my entire lunch hour. I think business improvement associations would do well to invest in free Wi-Fi for their neighbourhoods. Plenty of people will thank them for it. As it was, I struggled to find Wi-Fi throughout the Kingsway. The Second Cup at Royal York and Bloor? Nope. The mall/office complex at Islington station? Nope.

Finally found a spot at the Second Cup near Jane station, operated by Rogers Wireless. It was free and gave good service, but for some reason, though I could receive e-mail and surf, I couldn’t access my SMTP server. Mozilla would just hang until I cancelled send on my e-mails. Thank goodness for G-mail. Have any of you encountered this problem on certain Wi-Fi hotspots? Anybody know what’s up with this?

I get to play a little bit of “I told you so” to the good folks at my office. I suggested, to be here at 8:30 (a half hour before the first seminar to clear registration) that we should leave Kitchener at 6:25. We were entering Toronto during rush hour, after all. But I was told, no. We didn’t need to get up that early. So I agreed to pick up my colleague at 6:50. We then proceeded to encounter two accidents on the 401, and only managed to get through by diverting onto Derry Road and then the 410. We arrived right at 9. Fortunately, registration was dead simple and not crowded. I got into my first seminar at 9:05. It lasted until 11:45 and it was on marketing techniques. I don’t think I missed much.

The trade show was fun. They always are, if it’s a publications trade show and you’re into publications (which, fortunately, I am). Lots of print and paper companies, lots of magazine distributors, and Canada Post. You can tell the rich companies by the goodies they give away. Quark XPress handed me pens, paper and a calculator/combination lock combo. Adobe Creative Suite offered me some nice pens. Canada Post had a Canadian flag pin. I suppose taxpayers can rest easy that their money isn’t being spent frivolously…

I’m now typing this during a coffee break in the middle of a presentation on the new media and magazines. Tim Doyle of CanWest is one of the presenters, speaking on the need for a web strategy. This discussion is obviously aimed for magazines far larger than The New Quarterly, but it’s still interesting.

Oh, and this one’s for you, Jay Currie: when Mr. Doyle started talking about blogs, I decided to ask him about the National Post’s subscriber firewall, and the fact that pulling the news articles behind the firewall reduced the Post’s presence as a “newspaper of record” within the blogosphere. Doyle had no problem answering the question (I didn’t expect him to) and said that it amounted to a business decision, with pluses and minuses. Of course, the move reduced the Post’s exposure, but there are costs to just giving away content for free. No real revelations there. I thought I’d post it because Mr. Doyle asked if his name would appear on my blog. So, hat tip to Mr. Doyle. Thanks for a good presentation.

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