An insight into The Evening Standard
The Evening Standard has a circulation of 900,000 generating 2 million audited readers. It is read by more people in the City than the Times Telegraph and FT together. Even on a national scale it has the fourth highest print run after the Metro, Daily Mail and The Sun.
At the time of moving to the freesheet model in 2009, the decision was made to triple circulation in order to double the advertising yield. This resulted in a more diverse, younger – average age 36 - and less business orientated readership so business coverage has to reflect this and has a direct impact on some picture and story selection.
With the arrival of George Osborne as editor last year the paper launched on 12 March its first redesign for years.
The business pages have returned to pink paper. They were last on pink pages in 2005 and Jim has been campaigning for their restoration ever since he became City Editor in 2015. “I am delighted to be back on pink. It helps us stand out more and gives us more kudos and gravitas.” The pagination and position towards the back of the paper is still the same although the classifieds that separated them from the Sports has now gone.
The front page of the business section has been redesigned to look a lot more ‘newsy’, largely because the City Editor’s column is not taking up a big slab of the bottom of the page. It now runs on a strip which bleeds over to the next page.
Jim explained that the strategy behind the redesign was to make the whole paper feel a bit less ‘tabloidy’ in tone and more thoughtful. “When we’re fighting against fake news we have decided to make the Standard a bearer of truth and reliability. That’s what the designers were trying to get across with this slightly more serious tone.”
The business section’s DNA is broadly pro-business, pro the City of London and proud of London’s heritage and future. “Following the financial crash the media generally swung to be being hyper-critical and I think we’re getting back to an equilibrium again. We’re cheerleaders again for the City and it needs it with Brexit.”
A day in the life of Evening Standard Business
Jim’s working day starts when he wakes at 5.30am and he catches the Today Programme on his way in to Kensington. The team starts assembling from 6am onwards and everybody is at their desks by 7.30am.
The RNS alerts starts kicking in at 7am and it is somebody’s job to go through them with a fine toothcomb. “Many of the big stories – both good and bad – are buried in the releases and it is a real skill teasing these out.”
By 7.20am the basis of news list with the top 20 or so stories will be largely complete. Journalists add their own exclusives to the news list and the discussion starts on the leads and columnists consider what they’re going to focus on.
News Editor Alex Lawson goes to the main news conference with the editor and other section heads at 8am. Senior staff Simon English, Alex Lawson and Russell Lynch meet with Jim to “to have an informal powwow to thrash out the approach to the big stories.”
The news list is largely crystalised by 8am and usually they will cover 10-15 stories. Jim prefers the list to be dictated as much as possible by breaking news minute by minute rather than pre-plan. If big stories break later in the morning then they rip everything up and start again up to 10am or beyond.
Pages start leaving the team to go to printer from 10am, the same time as all copy deadlines. The last pages for the first edition go at 11am. If anything needs to be changed for the second edition the chance for amends is up to midday. They often re-do the whole front page if big news breaks after 11am and Jim will occasionally re-do his column accordingly.
Jim’s column is aimed at being a rapid take on the biggest breaking news of the day: the first opinionated critic out of the traps. He has to file it by 9.30am, so any attempts to lobby from PRs must be as early as possible. Other columnists inside the section usually file the day before and are more reflective analysis.
The first print run is 800k with the second adding further 200k more. Printing and distributing nearly a million copies a day takes time and necessitates the early deadlines.
Key daily elements of the business section
(* New columns)
Monday – the business section has a small business area,
• Entrepreneurs - A regular feature on a London entrepreneur.
• * Market minnows – an AIM tipping column started at Christmas partly as a result of feedback from the fund management community that none of the media covers AIM adequately.
• * Small Cap Spotlight – Market minnows is backed up online by this daily blog on AIM stocks. The idea is to cover lots of companies and its tone is fun, irreverent and will focus on both the good and bad aspects of AIM stocks. Markets reporter Mark Shapland overseas this.
• * Fund Stars - a fund manager profile by Michael Bow on what they’re buying, what they’re selling and worldview. Has to be an individual manager, not a firm.
• On the money – a weekly personal finance section by Simon Read. One or two pages depending on that day’s size of the overall paper.
• * Tech Tracker is a magaziney-feeling monthly double page spread (700 words) based around a good infographic. Every issue explores one big topic but has other regular features too – a comment, a list of top tech fundraisers, advice on pitching for funding. The first edition looked at homehubs and voice recognition. The second focused on how graduates are choosing tech over banking careers
• * Tech Tracker live – a daily blog on tech news: irreverent and gossipy in the style of FT Alphaville. Runs roughly between 9.30am–12.30pm. Similar to Small Cap spotlight and also run by Mark Shapland.
• * Diary of a Day Trader - once a week column where a day trader chats over how they have been trading over the past seven days. Jim believes continuity of voice is important so you can see how trading strategy changes over time so will not be changing the author often. However, an occasional shift in author has seen a bitcoin trader and FX trader write the column
• Focus – a long read feature given over to an issue or investigation.
• Secrets of my success. A lighter human interest column which features a Q&A with a corporate high flyer about their journey to the top and tips on building a career. The column is very popular and generates great feedback not least because it is a great opportunity to profile women in business. The gender balance of the subjects is 50/50. Jim is keen to increase the diversity of the business pages. It is a good opportunity for him to go to big companies and ask to interview the most senior female executive. (Alex Lawson heads it)
• Personality profile – Full page interview with a FTSE 100 chief executive or equivalent for a feature profile. Pitches should be made to Jim’s team or to him, Alex or Russell Lynch (deputy business editor) directly.
Unless the feature has a regular author Jim or Alex are the best entry points for suggestions.
Jim prefers to run a regular stable of columnists but Tony Hilton has been off sick this year and so filling in for him Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays has been: Margareta Pagano, Karl Mortished, Mike Harrison and Simon English. Simon also has his own weekly column as does Russell Lynch who focuses on economics.
The City Spy column runs every day. It has been beefed up in the relaunch as a special request from the Editor
Advice to PRs
Don’t call to follow up emails, don’t call on deadlines, don’t pitch inappropriate stories, think who you are pitching to and read the paper. Jim is concerned that PRs are not conversant with the printed product as they once were.
With the early deadlines and frenetic focus on public announcements every morning, “PRs are better off giving us something that is not time sensitive the day before as on the morning too busy to look at it.”
Thank you to those on our panel and those that joined us.
About Alex Northcott
Alex Northcott is the CEO at Roxhill Media. Alex founded Gorkana in 2003 and sold the business to Durrants in 2010, which became the Gorkana Group. In 2015 he set up Roxhill Media, the next generation media database. He has over 18 years’ experience in the PR industry having worked at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan.
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