Gorkana meets...Square Up Media
Square Mile is fast approaching its 10th anniversary - how much has the magazine changed over the years?
When we launched Square Mile, it was during the bull years. Bankers weren't the social pariahs they are made out to be now. Then, in 2008, Lehman’s collapsed and we all know what happened next. The content had to reflect that; it became not just about how to spend your money, but how to spend it wisely.
Personal image has also become much more important in the City - and the content of the magazine has shifted to reflect this. When Square Mile started it hardly had any style content, whereas that’s now one of our core areas.
This April, it’s the 100th issue of Square Mile, so it’s an exciting time for the brand. It’s definitely going to be our biggest and best issue yet.
As well as being Editorial Director of Square Up Media, you also edit Square Mile and Hedge magazines. What does a typical day hold for you?
It generally starts with a headache and ends with backache. In between, it’s a real mix and will depend on where we’re at with each magazine’s production cycle. There’s a lot of planning, commissioning, budgeting and, fortunately, still some writing, too. The most difficult thing is managing to escape the office; when there’s so much to do, it’s hard to justify time away from the desk. Of course, I can occasionally be convinced - vintage claret helps. And that’s where the headache usually comes from.
As Square Mile readers have a high level of disposable income, what sort of products do you focus on?
If you can drive it, wear it, consume it, live in it, or hang it on your wall, we’re interested. But we are highly selective about what makes the cut within these categories. It’s not just about the price tag - as the great sage of our time Jessie J once said. It has to have a good story, too. As a proudly British magazine, we particularly like to support homegrown talent and craftsmanship.
Similarly, Hedge is aimed at London's fund management community. Is it a challenge catering to such a discerning readership?
What’s nice about Hedge is that the people we interview for the magazine are often also readers of the magazine. We get to know their personal likes and dislikes on a one-to-one basis. If one of them tells us they’ve just put a deposit down on a new Wally power boat, then don’t be surprised if you see a feature on Wally power boats in the next issue.
Square Up Media has also begun focusing on travel, food and festivals by launching Escapism, Foodism and Festival Baby. What plans have you got in store for these brands?
Over the last two years, Escapism has established itself as the UK’s largest independent travel magazine and we’re keen to make sure we keep it growing. We have some exciting partnerships lined up this year that should help extend its reach. Foodism just launched its print title, with more than 105,000 copies going out at the beginning of December. We’re now rolling this out as a bimonthly with the aim of going monthly by the second half of the year. And Festival Baby has its first full year ahead of it - we can’t wait for the British festival season to kick off to let the site off its leash!
Does the content on your websites differ much from what goes into the magazines?
Well, Festival Baby is its own entity - our first purely digital offering. And that’s leading the way for us from a website perspective. All the other sites are closely tied with the magazines, and our e-newsletters. But we’ll certainly be originating more web-specific content this year - there are some exciting plans.
You have recently moved further into the fashion world, focusing much more of your content on style. What drove this shift and how can fashion PRs help?
There was a time when a baggy pinstripe suit was practically uniform in the City, but those days are long gone. If you’re trusting millions of pounds of your own - or someone else’s - money to someone, that someone better be able to at least invest in a suit that fits well. There’s no doubt the City has become more fashion and style conscious, and we’re following suit (if you’ll forgive the pun).
Although we shoot a lot of style content ourselves, I’m always interested in seeing great fashion photography, especially if a brand has gone beyond the usual catwalk or brochure shots to do something more creative. Vicomte A did a really cool studio shoot with loads of exotic wild animals. Send me something like that, and I’ll give it a DPS.
Do you ever do brand partnerships?
Absolutely, and they take various forms. We run reader events alongside commercial partners: for example, we held a luxury evening at One Hyde Park where Rolex launched a new collection, Richard Anderson were there to measure up for suits, and Glenmorangie came along to keep everyone well lubricated.
We are also media partners for many different events. For example, Square Mile has partnered with Movember; Hedge with the Investor Choice Awards; Foodism with Taste of London.
What is your relationship with PRs like generally?
I'd say we are very receptive given the constraints on time and team. I do feel guilty about not getting back to everyone. We have so many incoming emails, it's impossible to respond to them all. Although, we will always get back in touch if the story is right for us.
What are your top tips for PRs and is there anything they should avoid doing?
I guess it's an obvious one, but ‘know your audience’. Don't pitch a piece on potato peelers to Square Mile or an article on stairlifts to Festival Baby.
If you can come to us with a readymade story that fits into a specific slot in a magazine and has great images, it will be much harder to say no to.
Please don't phone up to check if we've received an email. If we haven't responded it's either because it's not the right fit or we're snowed under with deadlines. Usually, both.
Also, don't underestimate the importance of high resolution images. And no, 300dpi doesn't guarantee that something fits that category - it can be 300dpi, but only the size of a postage stamp.
And finally, you're also a keen photographer. If you had the opportunity to shoot anyone/anything, who or what would it be?
My adolescent self would say Mila Kunis. Or a Ferrari 250 GTO. Or both, together. Of course, I've grown up now (ahem) and I tend to shoot landscapes more than anything else. So I'd love to go to Patagonia - the scenery there just looks mindblowing. In fact, I'll have to have a word with the editor of Escapism about that one…
Mark was speaking to Gorkana's Jason Moore.