Business Leader Interview: Jenni Middleton of Nursing Times
On June 30, Jenni Middleton won the coveted PPA Award for Business Media Editor of the Year. The accolade was the culmination of six years' hard work on the Nursing Times brand where she has made a huge impact, introducing new products and keeping the interests of the audience at the heart of everything. Here, Jenni speaks about the rewards of working with nurses and the approach that has brought the title such success in 2016.
Nursing Times has won a lot of awards in recent years – why do you think that is?
We’ve made a lot of changes to Nursing Times in the last six years. I’ve been at Plexus (nee EMAP) for 15 years, working across some of the monthly titles like Retail Jeweller, but I’d always looked at the Nursing Times title with interest. When I started, its success was almost entirely based on recruitment revenue but when I took over as Editor in 2010, the world had changed and so we really needed to create a new reason to subscribe to Nursing Times.
What has been your strategy?
Improving nurses’ practice is the heartbeat of the brand, so we decided to create a product that gives nurses the ability to do their CPD (which they have to do to stay on the register) in a cost-effective way. This is called Nursing Times Learning. The nearly 700,000 nurses in the UK are required to clock up a minimum of 35 hours of CPD every three years, so this is a system that will save them time and money, and helps them record the CPD they do with us or others so they can prove they have done it.
Of course, we had to retain our core features such as our clinical archive (with over 5,000 peer-reviewed articles) and strong news pieces, so we created individual and organisational-wide subscription packages that allow access to everything. Of our 15,000 individual subs, 70% of them are digital only and that trend is set to continue so it’s important that we continue to develop this area.
How did this focus on digital products affect the workflows of your team?
Our content team (which is essentially our editorial team) are completely entrenched in the digital element of the business. They are digital-first, in the truest sense of the word. The print product is created at the end of every week of course, but the majority of their time is spent working on digital content. Ann (Shuttleworth) and Kathryn (Godfrey), who also won a PPA Award this year (The Great Leap Forward Award), have led the development of Nursing Times Learning. Kathryn is a nurse and Ann has worked in nurse publishing for a great deal of her career.
You told us earlier that there are just shy of 700,000 nurses in the UK. How do you ensure you’re reaching this very expansive and diverse audience?
We’ve segmented the market into niches, and deliver content accordingly. A good example would be with our live events – the Student Nursing Times Awards is very specific and caters for an audience that experience different challenges to registered nurses. As a result of these niche audiences, we don’t struggle with attendance at our awards events. It helps that nurses don’t often get the chance to attend these types of events, so they regard it as an unmissable treat.
We introduced an event three years ago for Deputy Chief Nurses, and we have doubled our audience number of this particular sector of nurses, because before us, they didn’t have anything specifically serving their needs. We have also just launched our event for Team Leaders, and people wanted to come to that because it linked directly back to individuals and their career development.
The way I see it, proper journalism is knowing that you’ve improved the value of the lives of your audience
As an Editor, how entrenched are you in the live events connected to the Nursing Times brand?
I love the opportunity to get face-to-face with my audience. I once had a national journalist ask me when I was going to get a ‘proper’ journalist job. The way I see it, proper journalism is knowing that you’ve improved the value of the lives of your audience, and you can do that by informing them about things that interest them or they need to know in the nationals, but in B2B you can also do it by telling them about things that affect their jobs and their businesses – their livelihoods. In the case of nurses, that’s their ability to care safely for patients. And there’s no better way to experience the impact that you make, than attending an event and meeting your customers.
Is it a collaborative process?
Our brilliant conference producing team tend to liaise with me and the rest of the content team, and together we develop the programme. It’s important for the digital/print content team to be involved in the content of the events too, for seamless engagement. I even present all three of our awards events, to give the whole brand consistency. Nurses are not a cynical audience either, so it’s a delight to see their faces when they win, or even when they don’t; they’re just proud to see any of their peers rewarded.
Jenni on stage at Grosvenor House on June 30 to accept her PPA Award for Business Media Editor of the Year from host Fearne Cotton and Shez Iqbal of category sponsor Sublime Skinz.
What's been the highlight of your career so far?
This might sound contrived (!) but it really is winning Editor of the Year this year at the PPA Awards. I’ve entered that particular category a few times in the past, because it’s one that is particularly coveted internally, and respected industry-wide – but I’d never won until this year!
It feels like the work my team and I have done really means something. After I won, I had so many nurses contact me to congratulate me – my win, in some way, felt like their win, which is so lovely. When I started working on Nursing Times, I knew that I wanted to do something that changed the brand for the better, and I’m just thrilled that my peers in the industry think I have. But this is a team effort, and everyone on my team has worked hard to get Nursing Times the success it’s enjoying. I am really proud of my team and everything we’ve achieved.
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