Last Friday: The mobile goes while I’m on the M4 without a hands free set (please don’t tell). It’s Press Gazette. I nearly drive across three lanes to the Next Life exit. “But you died,” I say. “I wrote a sad farewell with TS Eliot and everything. I saw the hearse. A voice from beyond the grave, this can’t be so?”
But it was. Tony Loynes and the publishing company called Wilmington started banging on the coffin lid as PG was lowered into the ground and out it lurched. (Best I put us all out of the misery of this death analogy). OK. This company has bought the magazine and plan to publish this week. It is wonderful news, but talk about drama and leaving it all a bit late. I don’t understand. The editor and all the staff have collected their P45s and many of the key contributors have been, well, hacked off, but let’s not go over old ground. It is almost as if Mr Loynes and his team are having to re-launch the magazine from a standing start. Such a scenario seems crazy and unnecessarily difficult.
Mr Loynes wants me to continue the “Press Conference” interviews and we are going to talk again. Who knows how it can pan out for Press Gazette. A ruthless reduction in staffing and costs will help the accounts in the short term, but it will need decent news and features if it is to grow and continue to appeal to the most discerning readership you can imagine. However, it is the very nature of this readership that, in my brilliant opinion, is PG’s greatest asset and hope.
I only managed to blag all those big names to talk to PG because I believed in the unique demographic of the readership. I billed it in various mutations of breathless hyperbole along the lines of “the most powerful magazine readership in the whole world”. Seriously. A stream of PRs, managers and agents, from Tom Cruise’s people down, got the hairdryer treatment from me as to why their client MUST appear in one of the smallest circulation magazines on Earth. I have to laugh when I think of some of the people I tried to get to. The Dalai Lama anyone?! But you can sell something if you genuinely believe in it. And a similar belief is what the new owners need to have.
Press Gazette has something special in its readership, but that readership is disappearing. So, there is a tough task ahead. Now that Wilmington has bought the magazine, they need to SELL it to the media world, so that in turn it will be bought. Only then can it have a healthy and prosperous new life. Welcome back.