PPA IPN

Jon Bickley | CEO and co-founder | Anthem Publishing Ltd

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

18 Sep 2019

As we close the entries for this years Independent Publisher Awards, we spoke to the CEO of one of our IPN members, Anthem Publishing. 

Since it's launch in 2002, Anthem has developed a body of magazines from music, to baking, to well-being and has picked up a number of PPA IPN Awards. From mohawks to millionaire shortbread, Jon Bickley speaks to us about his profession and his past times.

What made you want to work in the magazine industry?

I love the printed word, whether it’s books, ‘papers or magazines. The pace and variety of magazines excited me.

Chart your journey from the start to your current position

I had two great years at COMAG before heading west to the brash upstarts of Future in Bath. I moved from circulation into publishing there, having fun with brands like Computer Arts and PC Format. We didn’t know quite how lucky we were with the market back then! In 2002 I left Future and launched Anthem with Simon Lewis and former director Paul Pettengale, and it’s been an adventure ever since.

How has Anthem Publishing evolved overtime and why have you chosen to pivot to health and wellbeing?

Anthem has grown in clusters like most publishers, with music and food titles coming to pre-eminence over the past half dozen years. But in the last 18 months we’ve sought to move the business to where we can make the biggest impact and actually do something good in areas we care about. Selling the music-making titles was a difficult decision, but it’s unleashed funds to properly invest in building a health and wellbeing media company that’s much more than just print magazines. We’ve made big strides with the purchase of Women’s Running and Healthy Diet, the growth of our vegan and colouring titles and the rollout of video training courses and exciting live events. And there’s much more to come.

How do you handle your deadlines?

I’ve got a great team around me, so deadlines aren’t quite the headache they could be, but I’m quite good at ignoring emails when the time comes to focus.

Walk me through your typical day

I enjoy breakfast time with the ‘paper and 6 Music before cycling the few miles to our office on the other side of Bath. I make a point of talking to Simon and all our senior managers in person as it’s so much more enjoyable, creative and effective than endless rounds of emails. Then there will be more formal meetings with a lot of focus on our digital development and direct revenues at the moment. I’ll invariably take lunch away from my desk either with a meeting in the King William or a sandwich in the park. Then it’s more heads down work in the afternoon or catching up with our distributor, Marketforce.

Whose phone number do you wish you had?

Gareth Southgate, so I could thank him for helping me forget the Roy Hodgson years.

What is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?

Put flour, water and dye in my hair to make a Mohican for a teenage party. Wrong. It looked like a lump of green dough had been smacked on my head and still haunts me 35 years later.

*What’s the last photo you took on your phone? *

I was just in LA on holiday – this one from the Warners backlot was fun!

What would be in your Room 101?

Email.

Introvert or Extrovert?

Part Jekyll part Hyde.

Optimist or Pessimist?

Optimist – I never leave the match early and always believe Bath City can get those two late goals or Jack Leach can block out the last twenty minutes.

Film or TV?

Films last with you for ever, it’s only truly exceptional TV that justifies your time (unless it’s sport).

Sweet or savoury?

My daughter Amy’s millionaire shortbread.

What magazine would be your Sunday afternoon or long train journey read?

Classic Pop. We still do brilliant Rock and Pop magazines that are perfect for the middle-aged male....

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