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Professional Publisher’s Association – Laura Dunlop

October 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Professional Publisher’s Association – Laura Dunlop

On Thursday October 19th, visiting speaker Laura Dunlop, Business Manager at Professional Publisher’s Association (PPA), injected our class with a new enthusiasm for the magazine industry. Admittedly, magazine publishing is not an area that I myself had considered greatly prior to this presentation. To my shame, I found that I had been completely unaware of the industry’s magnitude and significance in the UK, an ignorance which Laura certainly has remedied.

The magazine industry in Scotland is far bigger than I had anticipated, with PPA representing over 700 magazines. This industry, valued at a whopping £154 million, employs approximately 1300 full time staff, 560 part time staff and 4400 freelancers. PPA does an immense amount of work within the industry, such as promoting members, organizing events (such as the PPA Awards), lobbying the government on issues which affect the magazine industry, giving advice to people both working in the industry and those looking to break into it, as well as supporting new magazines. One area which PPA works in which particularly caught my interest was environmental regulations. As part of their services PPA do green audits for companies and show them how they can be more environmentally friendly and efficient in their business. Bearing this in mind, one would be forgiven for thinking that PPA had large offices, filled with workers who were all run off their feet. Laura informed us however that this is not the case at all, and that she does the bulk of this work, impressively claiming “I am PPA”.

Along with her, Laura had brought a box filled with an array of magazines, from The Skinny to Hot Rum Cow. From looking through these, we were able to see how differently each magazine is designed, in terms of both layout and materials. For example, while The Skinny very much resembled a newspaper, Hot Cow Rum seemed far more highbrow, like a luxury buy for the reader. These were quite different to the classic idea I had of magazines, with glossy covers and celebrities on the cover page. Many of these magazines had varying types of paper, beautiful photography, humorous satirical articles and interesting typefaces. A magazine which stuck out for me was Controlled Demolition, which featured very little text coupled with interesting modern art and photography. Each of the magazines Laura showed us fell into one of the three areas of periodical publishing, these being consumer, business to business (B2B) and contract. However, we were primarily looking at consumer publications.

We were shown a list of the top twenty selling magazine publications in Scotland, and I will admit I was surprised by the top-dogs in the industry. The top three, in order, are ADSA, Tesco and TV Choice. Laura explained to us that often magazines which do not charge their readers, such as ASDA or Tesco, have the biggest readership, as people can idly pick up the publication without considering whether or not they wish to purchase it. These magazines would be subsidized by companies advertising in the magazines or sometimes by content marketing, which is when journalists are paid by external bodies, such as the government, to write an article. I found it interesting to learn that print magazines are making a come-back in a big way against the tide of online magazine publishing. Laura explained that this was a reaction to the unreliability of the context in which your magazine might appear on someone’s newsfeed, it could be alongside inappropriate material, which might affect someone’s inclination to click on it.

The presentation ended with a lively discussion, where Laura gave us a chance to come up with our own idea for a magazine as a class, and consider how we might go about publishing it. We came up with an idea for a magazine aimed at the Polish community in the UK, wittily named ‘Pol-ish’. We considered our target audience, the contents, where it would be sold, how it might be designed, what the price might be, and how it would be distributed. In doing this, we covered some of the major components of magazine publishing, giving us an enthusiasm for the work. Certainly, I found that after Laura’s invigorating talk I was considering working in the magazine industry for the first time, and I am sure I was not alone in this. On behalf of the class, I would like to thank her for sharing her enthusiasm, knowledge and creativity with us all.