Event summary: Top tips for pitching to The Times Weekend
On the 13th of April 2021, we held a webinar event with Harriet Addison, Deputy Editor at The Times Weekend to discuss how a long year of lockdowns and restrictions are finally drawing to an end, and how titles on the newsstand are planning to approach coverage once we’re faced with the new normal.
You can register to watch the full webinar back here, or read on for the meeting notes.
The Weekend section goes to press on a Thursday afternoon.
Harriet is going to start going into the office on a Thursday as soon as possible, so she can see the pages on a big screen which will speed the process up.
Weekend is the only news reactive features section within the Times at the weekend.
Times Magazine goes to press on a Monday evening (for that coming weekend) so this means they can’t react to press in the same way as The Times Weekend.
The Times Weekend is a slightly older demographic than the magazine, generally they are trying to make most things to late thirties to mid sixties. The magazine has a slightly younger audience, especially their online reach. 60-40 female male split. It is different online and slightly younger.
Regular sections inside The Times Weekend include:
- A Walk
- A Sex column
- A spread of food – used to be recipes but now features and trends
- Always an interview slot
- Body and Soul – this covers health and mental health
At the front of the book there are generally features that are reacting to that week, e.g. not feeling prepared to go back into the world or it could be a news story about lacking magnesium which in turn is making us tired.
There can be some cross over with first person stories, which also appear in the Times Magazine. Weekend differs from the Mag as they always try and have a take home – some sort of practical advice.
News reactive and some sort of take home from features is the biggest difference between The Times Mag and The Times Weekend.
All The Times magazines talk to each other about features and what they are running. Often there are fascinating people they want to interview but there isn’t always space, in this case it might be given to The Times Magazine or T2. It is a huge benefit having one editor, Nicola Jeal oversees Weekend and Times Magazine.
Harriet says they definitely share less content with Sunday Times, there is little cross over there. Pitching to Harriet and then The Times Magazine isn’t a worry, just make sure you are really upfront about it – especially with interviews etc so there is no crossover.
The Times Weekend and Saturday Travel used to all sit together and they were a very collaborative team. It has now changed – travel is still under the Weekend umbrella, but the travel editor of the Sunday Times now also edits the travel content on a Saturday, so it’s less collaborative. Harriet doesn’t want travel pitches, go straight to the travel team.
There are now an extra two spreads a week which consists of a four page pull out every week, eg great british pubs, great pasta recipes, great budget wines under a tenner. The only travel they would be doing for these spreads is British.
With celebrity interviews, it is always someone who is British, a household name, someone who is quite cosy (as opposed to hard-hitting or corporate). It is a general lifestyle interview, they talk about the current project but also hobbies, parenting or something that is passionate for them. They would have to be well known.
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Harriet Addison: Deputy Editor. Best person to pitch to.
Sidonie Wilson: Editorial Assistant. Keeping an eye on trends. Also good to pitch to.
Bridget Harrison: does two days on the Mag and two days on Weekend.
Fiona MacDonald Smith: copy editing. Not good for pitching.
Most ideas should go to Harriet or Sidonie. They do very little product placement, so it’s rarely worth sending in products.
Lead times vary hugely – everything changes so quickly. Especially at the moment. In a normal world they would be working a lot further in advance – the way they are feeling one week from the next differs hugely, it could be they are doing half the issue from scratch depending on the mood.
All the regulars are done 10 days – two weeks in advance but are planned further ahead.
You can pitch close to a deadline and it could still be included. If someone comes in with a great pitch last minute they move things around – they can react very quickly and can be close to the wire.
Body and soul: pitch to Harriet
Food and drink: Tony Turnbull (the Times food editor) and Harriet work very closely together. There is now a clear boundary in terms of what magazine covers what. They used to do mainly recipes in the section. Now they do more features, it could be a trend piece, or a weather reactive piece. The magazine does recipes.
Outside: this always features a walk and then three pages of gardens. There are three regular columnists who cover gardening. They would sometimes do another big feature on gardening, it is very popular. Chelsea gardening, spring garden specials are all in this section. Pitch to the columnists unless it’s a bit feature.
They do run specials – cover features and then a bigger special alongside it. They build things up around one idea. Specials are sparked by pitches from PRs.
- Harriet’s favourite pitches are when she is presented with someone great with personality and an idea, eg a famous chef with their favourite mothers recipes, in time for mothers day.
- Images are so important and are make or break. Follow our guide to what makes a good image and make sure you’re nailing them!
- The best time to pitch is Thursday, despite it being press day. Friday and Monday are also good. Tuesday-Thursday are really manic.
- Email is the best way to get in touch. Put your mobile on the email as Harriet will give you a call if the idea is of interest, because it is very fast paced they don’t have the benefit of time.
- Keep it short and snappy and include the images in the email, a couple of brilliant pics in the pitch is the best way to send them over.
- Put big names at the top of the email as well so they stand out.
- They don’t review books. That is all for the review section – Review and Culture. They love parenting, sex, relationships, mental health, health, fitness and food. Anything with a lifestyle slant works well.
- They are very into surveys and stats that accompany a pitch.
- Harriet says it is a big help when PRs identify a hook.
- A new brand / emerging brands are always popular. They have to look at things impartially and look at things from an objective point of view so it doesn’t look like an advert.
- At the moment is it hard enough to get a phone call in with PRs, let alone a coffee. In a couple of months she will be looking to meet people again.
- “If you have time let’s go for a coffee, but in the meantime here is everything I want to pitch” is the best way to do it at the moment!
- Harriet prefers PRs to email before calling. If it is of interest she will call back – put your number in your email and the hours you work. Cold calls are never at the right moment.
- Harriet likes a sensitive chase. Often things have been buried. Wait a couple of days before you chase though.
- They are doing more sustainable and eco-friendly pages. They make sure that every week there is something in that world somewhere within the section.
- It is never too early to pitch!