PR Newswire’s Meet the Media event
An evening with Ruth Lewy and Abigail Radnor of Guardian Weekend
The first UK Meet the Media of 2016 was hosted at One Whitehall, the home of the National Liberal Club, and featured Ruth Lewy, Features Editor, and Abigail Radnor, Commissioning Editor, addressing a packed audience with a talk on how Guardian Weekend magazine works and insight into their preferred content.
Ruth has been Features Editor on Guardian Weekend for two and a half years. Before that, she worked at the Times, where she was a commissioning editor on Times Weekend. She joined that paper in 2009 as assistant to the Saturday Editor while studying for a master's in journalism at City University. Abigail has been Commissioning Editor on Guardian Weekend for nearly two years. Before that, she worked at The Times Magazine for four years and prior to that she worked on the features teams at both InStyle and ELLE.
The Guardian newspaper has existed for nearly 200 years. It started life as the Manchester Guardian and moved from Manchester to London in 1964, soon becoming the ninth largest British paper. Today it is one of the world’s most influential news brands with two thirds of readers outside the U.K and is the U.K’s most trusted news brand according to Ofcom. theguardian.com consistently attracts over 130 million monthly unique browsers.
Guardian Weekend Magazine is the flagship section of the Saturday Guardian, the paper’s bestselling day in print. It was started by former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in 1988 and is known for its in depth writing with the most ambitious features in the paper. Readers look to the magazine for a combination of agenda setting pieces with a sense of fun. The magazine has much loved regulars like the columnist Tim Dowling, the infamous Blind Date column and regular coverage of fashion, food, interiors and gardens; everything that you could want from a weekend read. Guardian Weekend reaches over 850,000 readers every week, with a 50/50 split between male and female readers and over a third of readers from the South East area.
As well as talking in depth about the different sections of the magazine and some of the most exciting features they have worked on, such as the exclusive excerpts from the new Harper Lee book launch and groundbreaking pieces like the profile of Tyler Ford, Ruth and Abigail gave an insight into the type of content that will catch their attention:
Ruth - “We’re imagining what people want to read on a Saturday with their brunch and hopefully we’re giving them great stories that people are going to talk about all weekend.”
Abigail – “We have something called the ‘croissant test’ where we just think ‘would somebody like to read this while eating a croissant’… is it going to work on a weekend? We like to think we deliver you a little bit of joy in your weekend”.
Ruth – “There always has to be a reason why a piece is in the magazine and not in any other section of the paper, because obviously there are many areas where the story could run. It might be because it’s really exclusive, because it’s beautiful or because it offers unparalleled access to something.”
They were asked about how controversial the magazine can we be with content and whether they’re open to ideas that push the boundaries. Ruth explained that they’re very keen on stories that get people talking, for example a cover story about ‘your friend breastfeeding your baby’. Abigail added that they’re not afraid to talk about sex in the magazine: ”You know we like to think that Guardian Weekend does have that slightly edgier feel than some of the supplements and that’s perhaps because we’re catering to a slightly younger demographic. I want to hear everything and then we can figure out how it will work within the magazine”.
They’re just as keen to hear from smaller organisations as well as PRs, brands and agencies. Ruth said ‘We love hearing from smaller companies’ and Abigail added “If the story is good enough we’re happy to hear from anyone”.
They also gave some guidance on the way they work in terms of scheduling. For really big pieces they sometimes work six months ahead but they also work and finalise pieces two weeks ahead of them appearing and they will go to press the Monday before the Saturday. This means they can be news reactive.
Additionally they stressed the importance of PRs being open and honest with them:
Abigail – “I think what is key is just being straight up with us and it’s really important for us to know the other parts of your campaign”.
Finally they reminded the audience that although they understand PRs work to ridiculous deadlines and there is pressure on them to deliver for clients, there is simply no point in chasing them fifteen minutes after sending an email about a pitch. They just won’t have had time to look at the email!
Following the talk there was a lively Q&A with the audience followed by drinks, nibbles and networking.
The goal of Meet the Media is to enable communications professionals to hear from leading media organisations on how their respective companies work, providing insight into their specialist areas, giving advice on achieving coverage and informing them on effective targeting of journalists within their sector and how to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
The next Meet the Media will be held in London, details to be announced soon.