'The Beaver', Canada's History Magazine, to change name in order to avoid porn filters





The plan to change the title of The Beaver after 90 years to avoid online porn blockers has made Canada's top history magazine an international media sensation — first as joke fodder for Jay Leno and now as the subject of an editorial printed Thursday in another venerable publication: the British-based newsweekly The Economist.

"The Beaver website was attracting (albeit briefly) readers who had little interest in Samuel de Champlain's astrolabe or what Prairie settlers ate for breakfast," the editorial dryly observed, before concluding that the "dull" new name — "Canada's History" — was necessary to help storytelling about this country's past escape "Internet obscenity filters" and crude references to "female pubic hair."

The Economist, not above a naughty pun itself, ran a picture of the tree-chomping rodent alongside its editorial, with the caption: "No, it's not a pussy."

Late-night TV host Leno also cracked wise earlier this week about The Beaver, suggesting the magazine has been a hot seller among young Canadian men who were, however, very "disappointed when they got it home."

It's a publicity blitz that any company rebranding itself would crave, but the attention generated by the Winnipeg magazine's makeover has also prompted criticism from some subscribers about the banality of the new name, and made the country's bucktoothed national symbol a global laughingstock — or, perhaps, even more of a global laughing stock.

"It definitely has drawn a whole lot of international attention that we didn't anticipate," said Deborah Morrison, president of Canada's National History Society and publisher of The Beaver. "As one person who tweeted us said: 'I just saw you on Jay Leno. The bad news is that he told a joke about you; the good news is that I'd never heard of you before and I'm really interested.' That kind of sums it up."

The reason behind the magazine's name change, first reported last week by Canwest News Service, has generated headlines across Canada and in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

Morrison said the media frenzy has "tripled our traffic" to the history society's website.

The organization, which also publishes a children's magazine called Kayak and runs a host of educational programs, is working at "capitalizing on the opportunity" the renaming has generated, said Morrison.

History-minded communities in countries where the story has made a splash are being targeted for an online subscription campaign, and the media attention in the U.S. has coincided with an expansion of the magazine's newsstand distribution south of the border.

The challenge, she added, is "getting beyond the humour of it" to attract new readers while reassuring traditional subscribers that "we are not fundamentally changing the nature of the magazine."

Morrison said the publication's new name — despite complaints from some commentators and society members that it's too boring — is not negotiable.

"It's obviously a good name for a Canadian history magazine — it says what it is. I know that is, perhaps, anticlimactic after all of this international attention to the name we had, but it will make it a lot clearer for people to know what we are."

She added: "It's the logical, best alternative if we couldn't be The Beaver anymore."

The Beaver, Canada's second-oldest magazine, was launched in October 1920 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hudson's Bay Company, which sponsored the publication until it was transferred to the history society in 1994.

After decades of devoting almost all of its content to the history of the fur trade, the Arctic and Canada's northwest frontier, The Beaver's focus was revamped and broadened over the past 15 years to make it a pan-national clearing house for news and feature articles covering all aspects of Canadian history.

Only Maclean's, the popular weekly Canadian newsmagazine founded in 1905, is older than The Beaver.

One of its bloggers, Colby Cosh, suggested this week that The Beaver's forced renaming to "Canada's History" is symptomatic of a broader, web-driven cultural trend toward stultifying literalness.

"The brand could perhaps have stood up to any amount of silent snickering," Cosh writes, "but no media organ can afford to offer confusion to search engines and spam filters now. Google is a powerful, underestimated force for prosaicness: just ask any sub-editor who's been ordered to re-do a charmingly cryptic headline and get rid of the cute irony."

The Economist made waves earlier this month by injecting its opinion into Canadian politics, calling the Conservative government's proroguing of Parliament a democracy-damaging "prime-ministerial whim."




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