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.


Vagabond Voices: An Author’s Perspective

During my placement with Vagabond Voices, I had the fortune of attending two of their launches:  Allan Massie’s Surviving (to conclude a memorable first day) and The Lost Art of Losing by Gregory Norminton, the second book of aphorisms to be published by Vagabond Voices.

After the latter event, I approached Gregory to ask about the unusual form of the aphorism, and why we haven’t seen more of them in print, to which he replied, “I suppose the perception that no one would purchase a book of aphorisms is the main reason we don’t see more in print.” Among those who had arrived to pick up a copy of Gregory’s “little book” were Alasdair Gray, Bernard MacLaverty, and another of Vagabond Voices’ writers, Chris Dolan.

The seemingly irresistible little volume is perfectly proportioned to be picked up and dipped into for moments at a time; as Gregory summarized, with his characteristic concision and style,  “After all, when should the book be read if not in snatches: on the Tube between proximate stations, or for a moment while brushing your teeth?”

When asked about his experiences with Vagabond Voices, Gregory lauded the creative support and personal touch which developed through working with a small publisher, and described the benefits of the intimate author-publisher collaboration which could be achieved in this setting: “Working with a small publisher, specifically Vagabond Voices, I find an attention to detail, a care and a commitment to each book, which can be missing from bigger publishing houses. The former has to nurture, within its limited means, every hatchling” – a statement with which, as an intern of Vagabond Voices, I can readily identify.

Men assert, women know.

Toleration should not be confused with respect. Of course you are entitled to your opinion – as am I to treat it with contempt.

Fearless” is an epithet which bigots apply to themselves. An open mind grapples constantly with dread.



Congratulations to this year’s students who have secured employment before even graduating!

The MSc Publishing team are delighted to wish the following students every success in their new roles …

ANGELA ROBB who has now started her new job with Oxford University Press! Earlier this month Angela started as Production Editor in their English language teaching division, working on OUP’s series of graded readers.

GEMMA GREIG who fought off over 80 applicants to secure a long-term Editorial Internship at Edinburgh University Press.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON who was snapped up by global media giants Haymarket publishers in London at the beginning of the summer. Chris is working on their recruitment brands.

KATY SHIELDS who was appointed Publishing Manager at Editions as early as June this year!

Congratulations also to all our other students who are now in publishing – do keep in touch and let us know how you are getting on!

Best wishes,
MSc Publishing team
Edinburgh Napier University

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MSc Publishing Welcomes Head of Publishing Scotland

This year’s new arrivals to MSc Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University were welcomed to the industry by one of the most important figures in Scottish, if not British, publishing.

Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland, opened the door on the exciting world of publishing and provided a taste of the calibre of speakers who regularly give of their time to talk to our students.

Photo shows Marion Sinclair (left) and Prof. Alistair McCleery speaking to MSc Publishing students in our Castle Room, Craighouse Campus.

A couple of Spring 2011 highlights

The Spring trimester is a busy one for Edinburgh Napier Publishing students, but also offers some fun opportunities.

On 21 February 2011, several students from Edinburgh Napier attended Publishing Scotland’s annual conference.

This year’s theme was “Publish Locally, Sell Globally”.

It was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet professionals in the Scottish publishing industry.

We heard speeches from Anne MacColl, CEO of Scottish Development International, on how to market the Scottish publishing industry to the world market. Anne suggested that Scottish publishers need to embrace new digital content and publish in foreign languages to increase their international market. Continue reading “A couple of Spring 2011 highlights”