Independent Viewpoint: Sophie Ryan, The Art Newspaper
Sophie Ryan joined The Art Newspaper a year ago having previously worked in the arts sector. Here she talks about grasping the challenges facing the world of publishing, going for digital growth, and optimism for the future of print.
How did you first get into publishing?
I started at The Art Newspaper a year ago after I heard about the opportunity through a friend - before then, I predominantly worked in the arts sector. Most recently I was at the Whitechapel Gallery – so it was step into a completely new industry.
Gallery life sounds interesting. Tell us some of your highlights.
Exhibition installation time at the Whitechapel Gallery was always very exciting. For example, when British contemporary artist Sarah Lucas was installing her solo exhibition, SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble, seeing her around the gallery and witnessing the show come together was incredibly special. Also, having the opportunity to speak in-depth with the gallery’s director, curators and artists about the exhibitions and art works to help shape our marketing approach was endlessly fascinating.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far?
When I first started in arts marketing, the Head of Communications at the agency was a huge influence on me. She is sharp, conscientious, gregarious and can be incredibly challenging, but always generous with her time and knowledge. We’ve now been close friends for ten years.
What attracted you to work in publishing?
I’ve always collected art books and magazines and of course was a huge fan of The Art Newspaper, though publishing is a new industry for me - I was keen to learn something new in a totally different environment.
What specific achievements have you been particularly proud of over the past 12-18 months?
Getting my head around a totally new industry. Publishing is like nothing else I’ve done before, but I feel like I’m getting into the rhythm now.
What are the main areas of focus of The Art Newspaper and which channels present the biggest opportunities?
As I think everyone is right now, we’re focusing on digital. We have a strong following across all our social channels, which we’re continuing to build, and we’ll be launching a new website over the summer to allow us to make the most of ever-evolving opportunities online.
What social channels are important for you, and what are the key metrics?
Facebook is the primary social tool for us and we’re working hard to increase engagement (rather than just reach) across all of our channels. Our Instagram following is growing very quickly, it helps that we’re never short of beautiful, interesting images to post.
How do you see The Art Newspaper changing over the next few years?
Although our monthly paper will still be the jewel in the crown, we’ll be working to constantly improve our digital presence. We also want to create a much deeper engagement with our consumers, understanding their wants and needs and then reflecting this in our product portfolio.
How will you evolve with your community?
I still have a lot to learn about publishing in general. I think along with everyone else, I think I will be trying to discover the true dynamics of cultural consumption and how best to monetise it.
Is there anything in particular that keeps you awake at night?
At a time when so much content is available for free, how can we make sure that people will continue to pay for our unique, high-quality content?
What are your top tips for other marketers?
Talk. Keep talking to your peers in the industry and colleagues in other areas. Always helps to improve your ideas and makes you more effective. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but be conscientious about the basics.
What are you optimistic about?
People will always find joy in the physical product and people will always be interested in art.
What gives you a kick about working in this industry?
It is so inspiring to work alongside our editorial team who create world-class content every day and there is a feeling of immense satisfaction in creating a physical product of such quality.
What’s your favourite magazine?
Hmmmmm… tough one. I think it has to be The New Yorker. I’m also really into their podcasts at the moment – essential for my daily commutes.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
It’s not work-related (although I do have a lot of exciting media-partner meetings this week!), but I have a friend’s wedding party at the weekend. She got married in Nigeria earlier in the year and this’ll be their UK celebration.
Tell us something about yourself that we might find surprising?
I can flip a stack of 30 pub coasters and catch them one-handed. A misspent youth.