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REM and the impact of COVID-19

Last month we printed and distributed the first issue of REM since April.

Like so many small businesses in Canada, over the summer we had to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We decided to put our monthly magazine on “hiatus” while we waited, optimistically, for things to return to normal. After all, it would not make much sense to print and distribute a magazine if all the real estate offices we deliver our magazine to across the country were closed.

Instead, we decided to use this time away as an opportunity to redesign and relaunch the magazine. This was a project I have wanted REM to embark on for years – though, I never could have imagined the circumstances which would finally make it possible.

I am immensely proud of the result, and REM’s new, glossy cover format. Much of the credit belongs to our art director Eilidh Harding, who joined our team over the summer, as well Eddie Parkes and the team at Metroland here in Toronto, who have been with us since our second issue. Of course, without the hard work of our founding and long-time editor Jim Adair, there would not be anything to fill the pages of REM with in the first place, no matter how nice the presentation.

While our new and improved October issue turned out better than I could have dreamed it would, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an utter nightmare.

We hoped – perhaps a little too optimistically – that, by now, the worst of the pandemic would have passed, businesses would be reopening and life would be returning to normal. Due to the nature of publishing, these things need to be decided well in advance – a daunting prospect when dealing with something so unpredictable.

Sadly, the second wave has arrived, and just as we thought the coast might be clear. Despite new confirmed cases in Toronto at one point dipping below an average of 10 per day, they have since skyrocketed back up into the hundreds. It is much the same across the country.

Amid the ongoing economic uncertainty, our advertising revenue – which we depend on to produce REM – has dropped significantly. And many of the offices we would normally deliver to remain closed.

As such, we find ourselves with no other choice but to suspend production of our publication once again, this time indefinitely. There will be no more print issues of REM in 2020 and, most likely, well into 2021.

I believe our October issue is a wonderful example of what could be for a new, modern REM in the future. I do hope that in the new year we will once again be able to relaunch REM as a print publication.

We can take some small comfort in knowing we are not alone. From what I have heard, it is the same story for small businesses everywhere – many of whom are your clients or are signed to a lease with your clients.

For many publications like ours, times were tough even before the pandemic. Magazines and newspapers were already on the ropes. REM is no exception, and we are certainly not the only publication to have felt the crunch.

So, is it all doom and gloom from here on out?

I choose to believe it is not. There is hope on the horizon.

2020 has been an awakening for so many people to so many extremely important issues: the structural and institutional racism that endures and continues to hold so many non-white Canadians from achieving their dreams; soaring income inequality that has evaporated the middle class; and the fact that so many of our neighbours live on the knife’s edge of poverty, one missed paycheque from losing everything.

There is no going back. For everything it has taken away, 2020 gave us a fresh perspective on the status quo, which has the potential to drive us towards real, beneficial change in the years to come.

In our own humble way, that is the spirit that will drive us at REM: Change, renewal and progress.

To complement our October issue’s new design and format, we will be rolling out a fresh new design for our website, which we’ve been hard at work on over these past few months. This newly redesigned website will also have a new domain: will still direct you to this website, and links to old articles should continue to work normally.

Even if the relaunch of REM didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, just as 2020 didn’t for all of us, I continue to believe that we will all come out of this crisis stronger for having gone through it.

We will emerge from 2020 into a world of renewed possibility. Do not let that potential go to waste.