Grab a rapid 60 Seconds with Custom PC Editor Ben Hardwidge and find out about the changing face of magazine editorial and why Charlie Brooker stuck a knife and fork into his bare bum.
Favourite magazine growing up?
Kerrang!, PC Format, PC Zone and White Dwarf.
Your most interesting interview?
My most interesting interview was with Al Lowe - the creator of the Leisure Suit Larry games. He used to work for Sierra, which was a big game developer in the heyday of PC adventure games, but he no longer works for them and pretty much does his own thing now. He had loads of interesting anecdotes and stories to tell me about early PC development, and he was even happy to fill in the blanks in my transcript when the battery in my voice recorder ran out.
Definitely Charlie Brooker, although it's probably difficult to spot that in a feature about PC hardware. Brooker used to write for PC Zone a long time ago, and I always found his writing to be brilliantly observed, original and just plain funny. Sadly, tech journalism is often littered with dry, matter-of-fact writing that lacks personality, and Brooker really bucked this trend. He was still freelancing for PC Zone when I started my first PC journalism job at PC Pro in 1999, and I remember him doing a photo shoot where he stuck a knife and fork into his bare bum because he said he'd 'eat his own arse' if Carmageddon II didn't win Game of the Year. Of course, he's now moved his unique flavour of snark to the telly, while I'm still working on PC mags. I can hardly compare myself to Charlie Brooker in terms of talent or career success, but he's always been an influence on the writing style in my columns and opinion pieces.
I can hardly compare myself to Charlie Brooker in terms of talent or career success, but he's always been an influence on the writing style in my columns and opinion pieces
What’s your career highlight?
Becoming the editor of Custom PC. I've always had a soft spot for the magazine, and I've worked on it from the very beginning. It's great to finally be in a position to decide what goes in and what doesn't. Despite the massive workload, my new job still generally puts a big smile on my face.
How is your title adapting to new innovations in delivering content?
We've just revamped Custom PC for the latest issue (103), which in some ways is a bit of a return to a traditional magazine format. There's been a big push over the last few years for magazines to put all their content online. This had its benefits in terms of ad revenue, but it also has the knock-on effect of giving your readers fewer reasons to buy your magazine. When I took over, I had to think about the role of a magazine today. Is there really any point in filling your magazine with news and product reviews that people will have already read online, and which are already out of date by the time the magazine's on sale? I don't think there is. As such, with the revamp I decided to shrink the reviews section, remove the news section altogether and instead hire several new writers and columnists to provide analysis that our readers couldn't get elsewhere.
Reasons readers are so engaged with your title?
I think it's because we're one of the only PC hardware magazines that doesn't assume you're either clueless about computers, or that you're an IT manager. Custom PC is for people who love PCs, and want to fiddle about with them, but not necessarily because they want to know which servers to buy. They want to know how fast the latest processors and graphics cards are, and how to tweak them, whether it's for playing games, video encoding or sheer bragging rights among your mates. I like to think that Custom PC is also entertaining, informative and well-written - we have a very loyal reader base.