On Tuesday 18 February London College of Communication welcomed some of the leading magazine editors in the country to a wide-ranging and insightful talk on the state of the industry. First-year BA (Hons) Journalism student Sam Skinner reports.
Sally Eyden, editor of Now, deputy editor of Cosmopolitan UK, Suzy Cox, and Sinead McIntyre, acting editor of The Sun’s magazine Fabulous, discussed the demands that faced their respective titles in what has become a difficult economic climate for magazines, as well as opening up the floor for a Q&A session afterwards.
Whilst initially college friends, the three women pursued highly varied routes to their current positions, from becoming news and staff reporters as well as editing the Smash Hits website to eventual showbiz reporting, which, we were told, is how the transition into magazines works for many people.
Sally Eyden discussed the volatility of the celebrity glossy market, explaining how wavering loyalty to titles leads to unpredictability on a weekly basis. Whilst there was an assumption that the internet has decimated circulation in the magazine industry, Sally explained how digital editions of the magazine now allow in-depth analysis of readers’ habits, including where viewers have lingered on a page. This, combined with examination of the most popular pages on the magazine’s website, has led to an unforeseen level of insight into what people are interested in, though also the added pressure of how to ‘monetise’ it.
Suzy Cox expanded on this, stating that the industry was now increasingly reliant on events such as career masterclasses and award shows. She also explained how such a reactive and competitive market needs “arresting images” for its front covers, and the difficulty that comes in competing with magazines that offer cover mounts such as beauty products.
As the editor of The Sun’s magazine, Sinead noted that she has much more freedom when it comes to the cover. She explained the ins and outs of a working day, with group conferences and focus groups a day-to-day occurrence, and said that editing was only the tip of the iceberg.
Sinead also had some sage advice for aspiring PRs, saying that it was imperative that they got to the point, with Suzy adding that it always helps when they have actually read the magazine and figured out where they feel their pitch would fit in.
The Q&A session led to a frank discussion of the merits of the magazine compared to the internet. Sally stated that “spending time in front of a computer screen is associated with work”, which led to the general consensus that a magazine is more of a luxury. Sinead added that there would always be a market for “big, beautiful, glossy photos”.
Topics such as connecting with your audience were discussed, with Suzy saying that “One of the worst mistakes is thinking that the reader is you. Remember who your reader is.” Sally stressed the importance of anticipating what your competition is going to do, and that “If you can’t compete, do something completely different.” She added that people “understand their world through celebrities,” and that the reader makes an emotional connection to celebrity through stories that involve universal themes such as cheating or giving birth.
So the question on everyone’s lips: what does the future hold and how do we get involved?
“Ideas. Ideas are the lifeblood of what we do.”
Many thanks to Simon Hinde and LCC for putting on an insightful and gratefully received lecture, and to Sally Eyden, Suzy Cox and Sinead McIntyre for their time and wisdom.
Words by first-year student Sam Skinner.
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