Magazine journalism: What the experts say
BBCGoodFood.com, Time Out, Woman’s Weekly, Classic Rock . . . what do they have in common?
Apart from the fact that they are established, top-notch digital and print brands, their bosses have all spoken to MA/PGdip Magazine students at CBJ this academic year.
You can read all about it at First Last Everything, the CBJ Magazine website. Meanwhile, here’s a flavour of what they told us about their magazines, their jobs and how they got started in journalism:
Hannah Williams, editor of the BBC Good Food website, never pictured herself doing anything other than writing when she began as a journalist over a decade ago.
Today she manages a website, branded apps and all things technological.
“I started off as a print journalist but this is where the industry has taken me. My job now is at the heart of everything we do, it’s not passively putting out content for people to read, we’re in constant dialogue with our readers and learning how and where they use our content. It’s so creative and exciting.”
The website is a huge social hub.
“We get about 18 million users on the website per week, that’s more than the population of Sweden. Our team of five are much more than just writers. All of them are capable of using analytics, SEO, creating videos and images as well as producing written content.
All of my team are capable of using analytics, SEO, creating videos and images
“Photos for example are essential for us, it’s what sets us apart from other food resources that don’t utilise them. It’s the most expensive part of the process, but people eat with their eyes! Eighty five per cent of people base their decision of what they’re going to cook based on the photos, so they need to be good.”
Diane Kenwood edits Woman’s Weekly, a best-seller within the lifestyle and mature sector and a brand that’s endured for 104 years, but “this does not symbolise our readers, it just shows that this is a magazine that has been in families for decades,” she said.
With over 17.2 million people over 50 owning a desktop PC, laptop or tablet computer, it is no surprise that the magazine has a big Facebook community. “That age group use the internet for practical use, and Facebook is a method of keeping in contact with those that are geographically spread.”
As a brand, Woman’s Weekly is very tenacious. It has grown tremendously in recent years with five supplements a month, the Woman’s Weekly live show and the newly-launched Woman’s Weekly shop.
Comparing her magazine to a house Diane said: “ It is critical that the foundation of the house stays the same but it needs to be current and move with the times.”
He said that research was one of the most important things when publishing a free magazine, along with quality and distribution.
With the help of focus groups he realised that the layout of the magazine was alienating readers. To solve this problem the content was presented differently with pages becoming simpler and cleaner.
This and a raft of other changes have seen the circulation soar to more than 300,000.
Work experience: be the first one there and the last one out
Asked about work experience, Tim said he looks for someone who is nice, will be the first one there and the last one out and who “attempts to make the editor’s life easier”.
Ciaran O’Toole, digital innovation director of Classic Rock publisher TeamRock, stressed the need to provide quality content but said that what needs to change in the industry is how that content is delivered to the reader.
“You need to give people what they want, when they want it.”
But, most significantly for CBJ students, Ciaran said that while the delivery and marketing of magazine content will continue to change, great writing and strong editing skills will always remain at the core of the media.
“We are right in the middle of a changing of the guard,” he says, “but what will not change is the requirement for talent and the ability to entertain.”
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