• By: Dan Donovan

Twenty Years Ago We Launched – Today We Are Re-Launching

2017 is the 20th Anniversary of Ottawa Life Magazine, and to coincide with this special occasion we are pleased to announce and launch our new and updated website ottawalife.com which brings more original content and articles to our large readership.

Things have changed so much since 1997.

There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or smart phones and tablets. The majority of companies did not have websites, and faxes were how you sent things to others. The pre-amalgamation City of Ottawa had a new Mayor named Jim Watson. The Confederation Bridge to PEI opened. Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version won the Giller Prize for Canadian fiction. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien won his second straight majority election. On January 13, 1997 a future hockey star named Connor McDavid was born. Titanic won eleven Oscars. Princess Diana was killed in a speeding motorcade crash in Paris, France. Steve Jobs regained control of Apple and began a fifteen year technology revolution that would change the world forever. Seinfeld, E.R, Friends, and Frasier were the most popular television shows. Netflix didn’t exist.

When we published the first issue in 1997, we were confident it would succeed. In hindsight, we were overconfident. To this day I can’t fathom why. We weren’t sure about most of the things we were doing. We had limited funds and lots of competition who were more than willing to criticize us on every occasion. When we launched, Toronto Life immediately filed a legal action against us over the name Ottawa Life Magazine. (They lost). As I review our early issues now, I can see why many thought we would fail. Most of them were really bad, and very amateurish. Poor design, weak writing and storylines and an overall lack of direction. However, what we lacked in experience, we made up for in passion, and a desire to succeed. In some ways, I am thankful we were so naïve when we started.

Our focus was to publish stories about Canada’s capital region that provided insight into the people living and working here, or that were unique and interesting. A year in, we realized that our take on Ottawa would have to include writing about work-related issues that were of concern to the hundreds of thousands of public servants working here. We called it, looking at things from the federal perspective. We began publishing in-depth articles and series on health care, the environment, defence, labour and numerous other issues. Soon, we realized people enjoyed reading the magazine because it provided an understanding and perspective on the capital and on the mindset and priorities of the federal civil servants and politicians who were running the federal government.

I recall being at an ad agency meeting in 2014 in Toronto when one of the partners asked me, “why do you have all this Aboriginal stuff in your magazine when you promote Ottawa Life to us as a mainstream consumer general interest and lifestyles publication.” At the time, we were halfway through an eight-part feature titled, The Métis, which was a companion series to a previously published Aboriginal Pathways series. I replied that our articles on Aboriginal and Métis issues provided historical context and facts for our readers regarding Canada’s First Nations. At that time, the Harper government was implementing significant legislative changes that would adversely affect hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people, without their support or consent. The agency partner replied that he felt most people would find that topic “boring”. I told him that our readers love our content and noted that many Aboriginal people are part of the mainstream consumer readership too. Besides, we also offered a variety of other content whether it is our popular travel section or, health, fashion, art, music, wine and food or sports sections.

So here we are twenty years later, still at it and loving every minute of it. We still believe our audience will always give a good story a chance.