Proof from Nikki Simpson that there is more to a magazine than meets the eye

By Katy Sheen

Sub-editor: Claire Cunningham

Magazines are so much more than celebrity style guides and the exploitation of women. Nikki Simpson, Business Manager of the Professional Periodicals Association (PPA) Scotland, began her talk with this crucial point. The magazine industry is diverse and exciting; there’s a publication for every topic imaginable, and magazine publishers are generating revenue in a wider range of ways than ever before.

But magazines can still be tarnished with the size 6-obsessed brush. That’s why the PPA exists: to promote, protect and advance the magazine industry. The magazine industry within the UK is worth £4.1bn, £154m of which is based in Scotland. The 700 magazines based here cover the three main categories of publication: consumer, trade and contract.

Reaching target audiences

In the contract publishing sector, which is better known as content marketing, Nikki highlighted White Light Media, who produce the quirky and beautifully designed Hot Rum Cow. The publication has a dual role as an alcohol enthusiast’s magazine and an advertising tool for White Light Media’s high quality services. Realising that Hot Rum Cow may not appeal to their more ‘serious’ clients, White Light Media recently launched a second magazine called Poppy, which is aimed at marketeers in the financial industry.

Contract vs consumer magazines: advantages+disadvantages

The advantage of working for a contract publishing company is that you can be involved with a number of different projects, across a plethora of subjects. In a consumer magazine, you are likely to be focused on one topic at all times. However, as Nikki pointed out, you don’t necessarily need to be a magazine’s target market in order to work on it. A great example of this is People’s Friend, which has a massive circulation of 230,000 copies a week. DC Thomson, one of the largest publishing companies in the UK, wouldn’t exist without it. The magazine is, almost exclusively, read by women over 60, but you won’t find a team of old age pensioners producing the magazine in DC Thomson’s Dundee office.

Top quality Indies

In contrast to the long-running People’s Friend, Nikki showcased some of the large number of independent magazines that have launched recently in Scotland, the UK and beyond. Many of these magazines feature top quality illustration, photography and design, as well as approaching the concept of a ‘magazine’ in innovative ways, from fold-out to glow-in-the dark pages.

The future is in our hands

Nikki pointed out that this class of Publishing students could soon be adding to this pretty pile of publications – all we need is an idea for something a bit different. There’s no problem with focusing on a very specific topic, as long as you have readers; to paraphrase Nikki, there is a market for niche magazines as long as there is a market within that niche.

Eleanor Collins of Floris books talks about the role of the editor

Eleanor Collins, Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books, Edinburgh
Eleanor Collins, Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books, Edinburgh

Eleanor Collins strikes you as someone who knows exactly what she is talking about. When she tells us that we’ll make more money selling tinned tomatoes than publishing books, we believe her. So why is the Senior Commissioning Editor of Floris Books, an independent, niche Scottish publisher?

Well, because she – like many of the other publishing professionals we have had the privilege to meet on our MSc programme – is passionate about publishing. Having made the final decision to pursue a career in publishing and leaving behind opportunities that definitely would have made her richer than a tinned-tomatoes manufacturer, Eleanor has not looked back. Her obvious high standards and attention to detail are qualities that all aspiring editors should take note of.

Floris Books is the biggest children’s publisher in Scotland Continue reading “Eleanor Collins of Floris books talks about the role of the editor”

Encouraging talk by Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland

We were very pleased to attend our guest lecture last week by Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland.

Her opening comment was that she believed that we were doing the right thing in taking a publishing degree because publishers get more applicants for a job than they can interview. Having a publishing degree can increase your chances significantly when it comes to landing a job.  That was certainly the case for Marion, who has over 20 years of editorial experience within the publishing industry.  She received her lucky break soon after graduating with a publishing degree from Stirling University. Because of her own and others’ experiences, she encouraged us to think about working for small publishers as that is often a good way to get hands-on experience from day one.

Moving onto the bigger picture, Marion gave us the specifics of the size of the Scottish publishing industry and then summarised the facts and figures by saying that it is equivalent in size to the salmon industry and the cashmere industry. A student remarked afterwards that it sounded like her perfect night in, reading a book, wearing a cashmere jumper whilst enjoying smoked salmon. All that was missing was the whisky but that industry is far larger than any of the aforementioned put together!

Marion went on to talk of the role and function of Publishing Scotland Continue reading “Encouraging talk by Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland”

Publishing insights from Adrian Searle of Freight Books

Adrian Searle
Adrian Searle

Publisher at Freight Books, Managing Director of Freight Design and Editor of the leading Scottish literary magazine Gutter, Adrian Searle is a busy and successful man. He is also a very knowledgeable and entertaining speaker, as Edinburgh Napier Publishing, Magazine Publishing and Creative Writing students found out last week, when he was our guest lecturer.

It is easy to find out about the companies by visiting the various websites; what is more interesting are the insights shared by Adrian.

Gutter magazine: The design of the first issues are still striking 12 years on
Gutter magazine: The design of the first issues are still striking 12 years on

For example, Adrian started Gutter magazine with his friend Colin Beck after a comment by someone at the Wigtown Book Festival. Adrian said that they saw the comment as a challenge and – as there was a gap in the market at that time for a platform for new writers in Scotland – Gutter created an instant community. Adrian stressed that it was a community and not a clique. 

The Gutter team set the bar of quality very high, as we saw Continue reading “Publishing insights from Adrian Searle of Freight Books”

Wester Hailes Education Centre receives Merchiston Publishing donation of library books

From left to right: Msc Publishing students Alessia De Gaspari, Susan Kemp, Rhiannon Tate and Keigh-Lee Paroz with Wester Hailes Education Centre Librarian, Anne Brownlee. Anne is holding her favourite title, Sunset Song. She was very pleased to see this Scottish classic revived in such a beautiful way.
From left to right: MSc Publishing students Alessia De Gaspari, Susan Kemp, Rhiannon Tate and Keigh-Lee Paroz with Wester Hailes Education Centre Librarian, Anne Brownlee. Anne is holding her favourite title, Sunset Song. She was very pleased to see this Scottish classic revived in such a beautiful way.

Wester Hailes Education Centre’s library is an example of how passion can overcome financial difficulties.

Despite budget cuts that have resulted in a lack of funding for the past two years, the Library has been transformed into a bright, open space entirely by in-house staff. Library stocks have been replenished through donations and borrowing from the area’s school library services warehouse.

A sign of good things to come - poster outside Wester Hailes Education Centre's library.
A sign of good things to come – poster outside Wester Hailes Education Centre’s library.

The school’s commitment to improving literacy and encouraging reading for pleasure is apparent in the numerous literacy initiatives they put in place. An exciting example is Continue reading “Wester Hailes Education Centre receives Merchiston Publishing donation of library books”