Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First you get your MA, then you get the job

A lovely coincidence today.

At 10.30am GMT Ganesh Ananthasubramanian became the first ever recipient of a Masters in Journalism from Cardiff University (his friend Naimul Karim was awarded the second ever, just seconds later ...)

The Bute Building, home to Cardiff University's School of Journalism

Ganesh gained a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, and came to Cardiff to write up his dissertation project, which was about Cardiff City FC (the Bluebirds). During his time here he took in several of Arsenal's matches at the Emirates and, most memorably for him, bumped into Rahul Dravid making his way across Bute Park, from the Swalec Stadium to his hotel. This was an encounter that would never happen in India, so Ganesh came halfway round the world to meet one of his country's best cricketers. (The following day he saw his national team lose yet again to England.)

Former Indian captain Rahul Dravid at play.Image via Wikipedia
Dravid in action

At 7.15pm GMT I got an email from Ganesh saying he had been offered a job as a reporter-cum-subeditor on Sportal, an Indian sports website.

Job done!
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Monday, November 28, 2011

More on how to make money from a magazine

Fascinating interview with Andrew Rashbass, chief executive of The Economist.

Lots of good stuff about print, the web and apps, but set in this very revealing context:

[Rashbass] is also convinced, on the basis of the rise in digital subscribers having had a relatively minor effect thus far on print sales, that there is little migration. The magazine is enlarging its audience.
He sees this as evidence of a phenomenon that he terms "the mega-trend of mass intelligence". People are "smarting up" rather than "dumbing down". 
There are no longer elite media and mass media because more and more people are mixing and matching, "going to art-house movies and Spiderman". People are no longer easily categorised.
Read the whole interview on the Guardian website.

How to make money from adverts and digital subscribers

Publishers, are you seeking the formula for a successful magazine?

One that will achieve "double-digit ad revenue increase" in the worst recession for decades AND "grow print subscriber numbers ... by 3% year on year to 1,486,838 in the first half" AND be able to say "We are discovering great opportunities in digital ... For us, as for many publishers, digital is not a zero-sum game."


The bare facts can be ascertained in this Guardian report but the underlying format is this:

1) Be about something people need or want to know
2) Invest in good journalists who can research thoroughly and write clearly
3) Have a plan and execute it well
4) Sell the information you have gathered for what it is worth

A SIMPLE IDEA! Yet all too often overlooked.

For more information, send £12 here and read everything that comes your way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Content and intention in magazines

Roger McGuinnCover of Roger McGuinn
McGuinn in his Byrds phase

At a Roger McGuinn gig in Aberdare recently I picked up a free magazine called Properganda, the strapline of which reads Shouting About Specialist Music.

After a quick flick through it, the magazine snob in me turned up his nose and made me put it down – it was all over the place designwise.

A few days later I picked it up again and started reading. The snob kicked in again, telling me what I’d say to students who started a feature that way or brought themselves into the story so egregiously.

But after a while the snob’s voice faded away and I became engrossed in the material. This was a magazine made by people who loved music and knew a lot about it. My magazine snob had given way to the tyro mandolin player who wanted to get hold of – no, make that had to have – the two Bill Monroe tribute cds put out by Rebel. Mike Scott’s project putting the words of WB Yeats to music sounded interesting too … could his version of The Song of Wandering Aengus possibly be as good as Donovan’s?

DonovanCover of Donovan
I went out to the hazel grove ...

The experience made me realize all over again that the absolute focus of magazine journalism must be on content and intention –
• the intention must be a clear and driving force;

• the content must be compelling.

But what do we mean by compelling in this context?

Here’s a microthesaurus: authentic, raw, devoted, knowledgeable, passionate, committed, well crafted, skillful story telling.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Woman’s Weekly: 100 not out

To celebrate the centenary of Woman’s Weekly, Radio Wales invited me to contribute to a breakfast show slot discussing the magazine. Naturally I said yes even though I know next to nothing about the title. My first reaction was to rush out and buy a copy (good move – the 1911 launch issue is replicated inside) and my second was to email Diane Kenwood, the editor, to ask her what the secret is.

Diane was kind enough to refer me to the editor’s letter in that first issue. At considerable length the editor had set out a manifesto for the magazine, which was to be a practical publication for ordinary women, not the lady in the mansion. Down the years, the editors had stuck to that mission until the line reached Diane, who was clearly doing the same – Woman’s Weekly was one of two titles in the sector to increase its ABC figure in the most recent audit (the other being Hello, which is interesting).

But sticking to the last does not mean turning out the same style of shoes – clearly editors had adapted the magazine to reflect the changing needs of its readers. Open the centenary issue and the first thing you see is a QR code that takes you to a mini-documentary charting the development of the publication you have in your hands – these readers are not stuck in the past.

That was two useful reminders of the principles I posited in my last post:
1) a kiss-me-quick pitch (“A practical magazine for ordinary women”)
2) having a clear mission and fulfilling it.

An even more useful reminder came in the Swansea studio I shared with a lady who had been featured on the cover in 1941, when she was three years old. She looked like a “typical” white-haired granny; it was easy to imagine her staying at home and making jam. However, while we were talking off air I learned that she and her husband had, after retiring, gone to Albania to run an orphanage. They had been there all through the Balkan war and through the Kosovan uprising. Out of their pensions they were still supporting two of their former charges through university.

Listening to her story made my life seem about as purposeful as something from an obsolete Innovations catalogue but I took a third great magazine precept from it:

3) never underestimate your readers.

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