March 4, 2009
Despite the growth of online news sites, “good” printed magazines will continue to flourish, according to a panel of media professionals.
At the New Media Knowledge (NMK) event, Mike Soutar, the founder and Managing Director of Shortlist, a free men’s lifestyle magazine said: “Magazines do a number of things other media can’t do. The experience can’t be replicated.”
Simon Wear, chief operating officer of Future UK, a company that publishes over 150 specialist titles agrees. “I think the future is glorious,” he said. “Good magazines will always have a place.”
He thinks the current downturn will even have a positive effect on the magazine industry.
“Consumers have been given too much choice and the quality has dropped,” he said.
When the PlayStation II was launched, 13 PlayStation magazines appeared on the market.
But with the credit crunch Simon believes only the ‘quality’ magazines that know their audience will survive.
“It’s all about remembering who you are. Stop being a software company and start being a content company.”
The problem with publishing magazines online is that they do not make money. Ashley Norris, Director of Shiny Media, says that consumers do not want to pay to view articles online.
John Menzies Digital sells online versions of the top 100 magazines, but only manage to sell 80-100 of each magazine per week.
Ashley Norris also points out that advertisers are often disinclined to pay large sums for adverts that are not really looked at.
He realises this is an issue but remains positive. “People are ad blind to a degree but it’s about working with the brands to create ads that are interesting to look at and grab the imagination of the reader”, he says.
Andrew Davies, co-founder and Managing Director of Idiomag, thinks online advertisements can play a huge part in helping magazines to get to know their audience. Software can track which adverts users click on and how long they look at them, thus helping to determine what the audience is interested in.
“You have to meet the user where they are. You might be publishing to the mass but you have to involve the individual. You have to know your audience,” he said.
So while publishing magazines online might not be overly profitable, it is extremely useful.
Story by Alexandra Murphy
February 25, 2009
To a bunch of journalism students, Ariel Leve embodies success. She writes for iconic titles like The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Vogue and has interviewed big names and big egos from Arthur Miller to Simon Cowell and Joan Rivers. Her book The Cassandra Chronicles, a collection of the humorous weekly columns she writes for The Sunday Times, is due for release later this year in Britain, Canada and the US.
Yet when Leve spoke to students at the University of Westminster, if she mentioned the r-word once – rejection not recession – she mentioned it 20 times. Amongst the debris on the road to where she is now is a novel, years in the making and “massively rejected” by a whole raft of publishers. This dismissal left Leve “devastated”.
So why, after such sombre news about life as a writer, did a fellow student turn to me the moment Leve finished speaking and say: “Isn’t she fantastic? She really makes you feel like writing.”
Despite the warnings about rejection and the frustration of seeing that crucial sentence cut by an editor, Leve obviously loves being a journalist. For her this is not just a job but a vocation which allows her to express the most basic elements of her personality. “I’ve always written,” she said. “I’ve always been an observer, interested in asking questions. Why? That’s the most important question.”
It is this curiosity, along with the tenacity to stick at a story, which has produced some of Leve’s most remarkable writing - like the story of Andrew Smith. Smith was one of the many people who died alone in Britain, apparently without friends or family. His body lay undiscovered in his flat ‘at the end of the row’ for two months.
From the very first sentence Leve pulls the reader into Smith’s life, showing how an engaging boy who “looked on the bright side” became a withdrawn man with no apparent connections to another human being. It is a compelling story which took Leve six months and a lot of detective work to complete.
This desire to tell stories which might otherwise remain unknown was what propelled Leve into the world of British journalism. A friend mentioned that, as a New Yorker blessed with a sense of irony, Leve might do rather well on the other side of the Atlantic. It was not long after 9/11 that Leve became aware of the difficulties faced by New York’s Muslim community. So she got on a bus and went to places she would never normally go, speaking to people she had never met before.
“I was ready for this story,” she said. “I do really believe that when you are ready to do the work there will be someone there to accept it. I wanted to tell this story about New York’s Muslims and The Sunday Times had a hole for it.”
Talking to people, preferably in the flesh, in real time, not via phone or email, is essential to Leve. She sees these encounters as one of the privileges of journalism, the chance to enter into “different worlds”.
Leve also gave a fascinating insight into the way she writes, drawing on an analogy made by the author E.L. Doctorow. “I actually can’t plan an article too much. Writing is like a night journey where you can’t see the end of the road, only as far as the next street light. And you develop a hunch for when you’ve reached the end of a story.”
Perhaps it is this ability to live - even thrive - with the unknown that helped Leve to keep going through her toughest years as a freelance, those times when she was always “a writer who was waitressing”, not “a waitress who did a bit of writing”. That, and a steely core of self-belief which told her she had talent and one day would know exactly how to express it.
According to Leve writers need to feel they are, or at least can be, good because “writing isn’t like athletics, you don’t know you’ve won”. However, this statement is not really true of Leve, who was nominated Feature Writer of the Year in 2008 by the British Magazine Design & Journalism Awards. But when she sets out on her next story she won’t be motivated by the thought of awards. Instead, driving her on will be the return of that old ‘why’ question.
Story by Brigitte Istim
Sunday Times writer on campus