When Victoria White, editor of Company magazine offered to come to the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, to talk to journalism students about the future of the industry it was clear to all that this would be an excellent opportunity to hear from someone at the head of a thriving publication.
Before heading the Company team, Victoria worked for TV Hits magazine and Inside Soap, as well as taking on positions in Australia and Los Angeles. Although initially starting her career with no links to London or the media industry, Victoria has shown that anyone can succeed with the right attitude and a wealth of good ideas.On October 28 the immaculately dressed editor arrived in Preston to lead a features workshop as well as give a lecture on the future of journalism.
During the workshop, Victoria gave everyone the chance to pitch an original idea to her suitable for 18-28 year old women. This was a daunting task considering some of the fantastic features that Company have covered recently such as coping with HIV, legal highs, most powerful women in TV under 30 and depression. She added that “ideas are the hardest thing about putting a magazine together” and we should all be striving to show that we are ahead of the curve with fresh, exciting and thought-provoking stories.
Victoria demonstrated an ability to outline some of the harsh realities of the magazine industry without promoting it as a lost cause. Although she admitted that budgets have got smaller for magazines, she refuses to accept this as a reason for lacklustre magazine content. After listening to each pitch and giving detailed, helpful and honest feedback, she embarked on a lecture on the future of journalism. To open the lecture she first said hello to all her Twitter followers who were in the room. This highlighted her first major point about the crucial role that social networking plays in the industry as it exists today. Victoria has a strong online presence and stressed to students that they should follow suit and make themselves known online. Although delivered in jest, her warning about there being a fine line between talking and stalking is one that all enthusiastic young journalists should consider. Harassing your favourite editor will make them see you as an annoyance rather than a friendly and supportive Twitter follower.
Her second major point about the future of magazines focused on brand power and brand extension. In order to inject a “heavy jolt of realism” into the lecture hall Victoria emphasised that with declining budgets throughout the industry more innovative ideas are needed to expand the brand and make it feel like a luxury members-only club. Company has certainly succeeded in this sense, with an active website, a bi-annual high street fashion bible called the Company High Street Edit and a recent contract with the Brit Awards 2011.
With this expansion taking off throughout the women’s lifestyle sector it is understandable that what Victoria White looks for most in a new recruit are great ideas for developing her brand. As it might be said, ask not what your magazine can do for you, but what you can do for your magazine.
The new challenges facing editors in 2010 are different to those facing editors just a few years ago. As Victoria pointed out, Company is not facing the old competition of its newsstand rivals such as Glamour, Look and Cosmopolitan, but the new rivals of Perez Hilton, Digital Spy, Twitter and free media. As shops such as Asos, River Island, Topshop and New Look create free magazines the readers perception of value changes and we begin to see a cover price as low as £2 as an added expense. As Victoria suggests “there are no easy wins and no guarantees”.
This is not to suggest that Victoria spent the lecture prophesising the demise of her industry, on the contrary she is still convinced of the power of print for grabbing the attention of the reader. With a strong editorial backbone a magazine can innovate to push the brand to new heights. To conclude the lecture Victoria confirms what most of us have already been thinking, that the future of the consumer publishing industry is going to be different but not necessarily worse. She finished on a suitably optimistic and encouraging note which aptly summarised her visit, “there is still a world of potential out there in terms of consumer magazines”.
Victoria recently wrote a diary for Press Gazette outlining her daily roles and responsibilities as editor.