Independent Viewpoint: Mark Riddaway, Market Life (LSC)
LSC Publishing took home the Customer Magazine of the Year trophy at the PPA Independent Publisher Awards 2016 for Market Life, the voice of the Borough Market community. Editor Mark Riddaway tells us about the title's role in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack, and why magazines can be the engine for an entire content strategy.
Tell us about Market Life – what is it about, who reads it, what is its ethos/philosophy?
It is a bi-monthly customer magazine, produced for people who shop at Borough Market or who care about food and where it comes from. Its ethos reflects that of the Market: that good food matters on many different levels, and that the best food is produced and sold in ways that are ethical, sustainable, and human-scale. It’s not too worthy though – the Market is a really fun place, full of characters, and we aim to capture that too.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone associated with Borough Market. Donald Hyslop, Chair of Borough Market trustees, said after the terrorist attack on June 3 that “Now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves that what we do here matters”. Market Life will no doubt have a role to play in supporting the community?
Very much so. As a team, we’ve been doing anything we can to help our colleagues at the Market, writing statements, letters, and news stories, and trying to keep their spirits up. The next issue of the magazine will commemorate those who were killed or injured, and will hopefully reflect the remarkable strength and vitality of the place. It’s been a pretty horrific period for everyone involved with the Market, but the way that the whole community has pulled together has been remarkable to watch.
Looking back to 2016, Market Life won Customer Magazine of the Year 2016 at the PPA Independent Publisher Awards. What do you put the win down to? What did it mean to you and the team?
It was great. It was a lovely accolade, and it helped cement our very positive relationship with our client. This particular award is one that has particular relevance to us – customer publishing is at the heart of what we do – but previously it had always eluded us, despite regularly being shortlisted. In 2015, we published three of the five magazines on the shortlist and we still didn’t win! I think that while we have always produced beautiful magazines, we haven’t always been quite so good at proving their impact. Last year, Borough Market worked really hard – through surveys and data tracking – to find out who was reading Market Life and how it affected their decisions. The results, which showed considerable impact, were really useful for our client and were probably decisive in us picking up the award.
How has Market Life evolved as a magazine in recent years? What have been some of the highlights?
It has changed a lot. The Borough Market comms team are a restlessly energetic bunch, so they want us to review the magazine at the start of every year. As a result, it has evolved a lot, becoming much more adventurous and outward-looking in its content. This year we have given it quite a dramatic change in format and design, which looks great. As it has grown in profile, we’ve been able to secure really high-profile interviewees and contributors, real stars of the food world, which is always exciting.
Market Life is one of a number of magazines produced by LSC. How important are magazines as part of your content offering?
They are fundamental. Web content, which we produce in significant quantities, offers a great source of regular revenue, but all of us here love the beauty, tactility, and permanence of magazines and having that level of creative satisfaction is what gets us out of bed in the morning. As well as inspiring us, and acting as a form of marketing for our business – every month, tens of thousands of beautiful products go out into the world with our name on them – they also allow our clients to stand apart from the crowd and engage with people in a really tangible way.
"The client doesn’t just get a magazine, they get a whole ecosystem of content."
In which areas do you currently see the biggest opportunities?
My biggest hopes lie with the growing understanding among businesses that content can be made to work hard in many different ways. Producing a customer magazine used to be seen as an expensive one-off cost, but I think we’re able to show that it can, in fact, sit comfortably at the heart of an entire comms strategy, with the articles being used online, the images working hard on Instagram, the magazine being used to plug events and competitions, or drive up email subscriptions, and the whole thing feeding into Twitter activity. The client doesn’t just get a magazine, they get a whole ecosystem of content. And rather than just being paid for the mag, we get to help out in lots of different ways.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a business?
Our main challenge is finding the time to create new opportunities while also being incredibly busy serving our existing clients. I think it’s the eternal problem of companies our size. Advertising revenues have dipped a little since last June, and we don’t see that changing any time soon, so we’re having to work harder just to stand still, which doesn’t help matters. Nor does the fact that London office rents and rates are increasing a lot more quickly than our prices can!
|LSC produces the Marylebone Journal every two months on behalf of The Howard de Walden Estate in partnership with The Portman Estate.|
What gives you a kick about working in this industry?
This might sound shallow, but the fact that it’s a job that other people are genuinely interested in! I can talk about what I do for a living and people don’t instantly glaze over, which is a blessing. Also, running an independent publishing company means that on any given day I could be interviewing, writing, sub-editing, brainstorming ideas, commissioning, browsing through photos, meeting existing clients, pitching to potential new ones or (thanks to Market Life) just eating a load of really good cheese and pretending that it’s work. I’m never bored, and I get to work with a small team of genuinely talented eccentrics who make me laugh all the time.
What’s your favourite magazine or magazine brand?
I love The New Yorker for its diverse and fascinating long-form features; I love reading the Guardian Weekend magazine in the bath after crippling myself playing football on a Saturday; I love looking at IL magazine even though it’s all in Italian and I can’t understand it, as it is essentially pornography for people who love magazine design.
What are your top tips for other independent publishers?
I don’t think my advice should ever be sought by anyone looking to get rich quickly, but my main tip is to never take your existing clients for granted. Shower them with effort and attention and make sure that the work you do for them never dips in quality – because finding new clients is a hell of a lot more work than keeping old ones happy. It’s the same with advertisers and suppliers: play the long game rather than chasing a quick buck or a small saving. Maintaining those relationships pays dividends in the long run.
Tell us something about yourself that we might find surprising?
A photograph of me was used to illustrate a big feature in the New York Times about how London has become the world capital of cocktails. I don’t really drink cocktails. I’d far rather have a beer.
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