Chronicling COVID: Lance Chung, Bay Street Bull

How to re-brand a magazine and take it digital — during a pandemic

Lance Chung, Editor in Chief of Bay Street Bull, joins us this week for our Q&A series exploring COVID-19’s effects on journalism. Lance and his team were putting together their ‘30 under 30’ spring issue when social distancing measures came into place. He chats with Argyle’s Alex Kucharski about how they pivoted to deliver the issue and what he learned from launching the magazine’s re-brand during the pandemic.

Argyle: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome from both an editorial and operational aspect in preparing your spring issue?

Lance Chung: Like most businesses, we faced challenges in almost every aspect of our operations. Our cover shoot was scheduled the same week that people started to work from home, so we canceled it and came up with an alternative solution. Our distribution channels and suppliers were affected, forcing us to present our spring issue (which is one of our biggest of the year) in a digital format.

We still wanted to create a magazine-like experience that was self-contained and curated. We created a microsite from scratch in about four weeks that emulated the special experience you get from print, but with the added layer of user functionality and multimedia components. We had planned a behind-the-scenes video series from our photoshoots and pivoted to Zoom to do that. The result was an intimate Q&A with our 30×30 subjects that we’re now rolling out in an editorialized video series.

COVID-19 has forced us to think outside of the box and do things that we normally wouldn’t have pursued. It tested our ability to be nimble and innovative. I’m very happy with the work my team was able to execute in such a short time.

Argyle: Bay Street Bull launched a re-brand in the midst of the pandemic, something a lot of brands would be hesitant to do. What did you learn from that experience?

LC: We wanted to start 2020 with a fresh new look that represented our voice and audience. Obviously, we had not planned on launching it in a pandemic. We had to be thoughtful and sensitive to the climate around us, and ultimately felt that we had to create more reasons to celebrate good things. The new brand is grounded in community, deriving inspiration from Toronto’s vibrant transit systems that help bring people together. In many ways, this was the perfect time to drive home that messaging. For us, there are only certain times we can roll out initiatives like this. It was important for us to debut our new branding with the first issue of the year to start strong. Doing so in the middle of our editorial calendar just wouldn’t have made sense.

Argyle: What’s been your best moment as a journalist during COVID-19? What’s been your worst?

LC: Hands-down, the best moments are in the acts of kindness, generosity, and support we see in the community. Being a title that focuses on the entrepreneurial community, we’ve really seen people rally to lift each other up. On the same side of that coin, the number of businesses that have shut down and jobs lost has been hard to see every day.

Argyle: How has the way you work with communications professionals changed?

LC: For the most part, the way we work with communications professionals has largely gone unchanged. Much of that relationship has been through the digital space anyway, so there hasn’t been much disruption. If anything, there is more communication around supporting small business and being a resource for our readers.

Argyle: What is helping you get through this strange time?

LC: A lot of carbohydrates and coffee. Establishing a regular home routine has been important. I’ve found it more difficult to define work-life balance because they seem to merge into each other. Ensuring that I carve out enough time for fitness and spending time off my devices has been important. Our internal communication has really been bolstered through COVID-19 as we have daily staff meetings in the morning and a sprinkling of editorial chats throughout the week. Not seeing my colleagues every day has required more effort to be in touch regularly, so that everyone is on the same page and mission.

Stay tuned for next week’s interview with Adam Radwanski, climate change and features writer at the Globe and Mail.

About Argyle’s ‘Chornicling COVID’ series
Journalism is essential during a crisis – and harder than ever during a pandemic when a reporter can’t get close to their sources. That’s why Argyle is turning the tables by interviewing prominent Canadian journalists. We aim to learn how they are coping, staying on top of the 24/7 news cycle, delivering fresh angles and insight, and engaging with communicators.

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