Interviewer: Peter Houston

Sarah: So In The Moment is a beautiful women’s lifestyle magazine, if you see it in the shops, it always has a lovely illustrated cover, which really jumps out on the newsstand.

Our primary focus is mindfulness and well being, and we do that in a number of ways. So we cover actually quite a range of topics in the magazine, we have a section which is wellness, which is in every issue.

We have creating, we have living, which is a lifestyle section, and we also have escaping, which is travel, but we also cover everything from basically nutrition to yoga.

Peter: That lifestyle idea…lifestyle, in some ways can be more fashion or decorating your home, so it can mean whatever, but you’ve got a very specific take on that, haven’t you?

Yeah, so part of our approach is the idea that you can bring mindfulness and wellbeing ideas into every area of your life. So when for example, we have a travel feature, it’s not just a straightforward ‘I went there, and I did that,’ it’s what you’ve gained from the experience. And that allows us to cover a really wide range of stuff.

How do you define mindfulness in that context?

So I’d say mindfulness is really about focusing on the present moment. And I mean, as the name suggests, ‘in the moment’, have to get that in!

So mindfulness is basically related to meditation. It comes from originally Buddhist ideas. And so what we try to focus on in the magazine is practical ways that you can bring that into your life.

I mean, there’s always these things on mindfulness, it’s a fad or whatever, it’s one of these trendy things that hygge. But you guys have actually been going for what, since 2017? 20 issues in?

We’re a bit further than that now, we’ve just published issue 35, so we are going strong, which is good. Yeah, it is a growing market.

So when we launched there were really only a handful of mindfulness magazines out there. But now if you go into Smiths or somewhere like that, you’ll see that there’s a whole selection. And it really is a growing area.

But it’s not just mindfulness, it’s also mental health, which we know is a really big topic for our readers, it’s what they’re really interested in.

Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a lot of magazines that are focused on that aspect, whatever magazines, and whatever topic they cover, there’s always a mental health angle on it, I think, which is interesting.

Yeah, it’s certainly something we see reflected in our digital content as well. So for example, one of the most popular articles that we have on the website is about loneliness, which seems quite sad, but there was a BBC study in 2018, which said actually, it’s something that particularly affects young people, 16 to 24 year olds are the most lonely.

So we’re really tapping into all these needs that people have and trying to provide practical and expert solutions to them.

Interestingly, in your introduction to the magazine, you talked about it being a beautiful magazine. And it is a beautiful magazine, you see on the shelf and it looks great, and it actually feels great, the production quality is really high. Is that a big part of it, it’s obviously deliberate because there’s money being spent on it…how do readers respond to that?

Yeah, they really do. And I think for a lot of our readers buying the magazine, it is a special treat, and it’s something that they will use to give themselves time. So for example, on a weekend quite often we’ll get people sharing pictures of where they’re reading the magazine, where they’re enjoying it, it’s about taking time for themselves.

And as well as being beautiful, we do really pack it with articles as well, so you’re getting quite good value for your money, and something that’s also really beautiful.

And I think the appeal of print as well is just that it’s so tactile. And I think that is part of the appeal.

So as Digital Editor though, you’re not supposed to be saying that! You’re not supposed to be talking about how great print is!

Well, I’m very attached to In The Moment! For me and Kirstie Duhig the print editor, we both worked on the magazine from launch. So it is kind of my baby a little bit.

But I see the way our different touchpoints we have for In The Moment, they really work together. So the magazine is part of it, social media is part of it, the website, of course, the podcast. And basically these all feed into the brand.

So the brand is overarching, and print, podcast, social media, they are just all parts of that.

Do you get any sense that people move between the different elements, so they will read the magazine, but then they’ll also go to the website and they’ll listen to the podcast…because I remember years ago, people used to talk about Time magazine, and was seen as very separate from the print.

Yeah, I think there definitely is some overlap between print and online. We do cross promote, as well, so we do promote the podcast in the magazine and vice versa. So there’s definitely some overlap, and we get people who are really engaged, enthusiastic magazine readers.

And actually, I’ve worked on other magazines, and I don’t think any of them have been quite as engaged as our In The Moment readers. It’s not just that they like the magazine, it’s that they really love it.

But equally we do have, I would say, a separate social media and website audience, and we certainly do get people for example, who only listen to the podcast, which is quite interesting.

But does that mean you have to do different things in different places, or does it mean you can get away with doing everything everywhere?

We try not to spread ourselves too thinly. So for example, with the podcast, we kind of make it work as much as possible, we get as much from it as possible. When we do an interview with an expert guest, quite often that will form part of a feature in the magazine, or even will be a whole feature in the magazine. And then we’ll also be directing people back to the podcast to say, look, you’ve got part of it here, but actually you can listen to even more if you happen to go online.

I think that’s one of the beauties of podcasting is that idea that, it’s almost like, well, if we were doing just a feature we’d be doing this interview anyway, but you can expand on that, and you can take it back to the feature. And you end up with two separate things, where before it was just all, ‘here’s my notes for a feature.’

Absolutely. And I know some people they take it a step further and they video their podcasts as well. I think for me, that’s a little bit too much! But certainly you can tie all these things together, and if I’m meeting with a guest in person, then maybe I’ll try and do a little bit of video as well if there’s time.

But it is as well really just extra value for our audience that they’re getting a feature and they’re getting this wonderful thing where they can listen to the whole interview as well.

Yeah, absolutely. I listened to is it wabi sabi? [Yes, wabi sabi!] I listened to the wabi sabi episode. It was brilliant! I loved it.

Part of what I love about the podcast actually is I get to speak to these really interesting, really well-informed people. And we can cover just such a range of topics.

So for the benefit of the listeners, in 30 seconds, explain wabi sabi.

Oh, okay. Well, if you listen to the episode, she basically starts by saying that even Japanese people find this very hard to describe, and they don’t even have really a word for it in their dictionary, but they all have this intuitive understanding of what it means! And I would say it’s essentially about accepting life as it is in the moment, so very mindful, but also accepting life’s imperfections. So accepting its flaws alongside things that are positive. There’s a lot of nature and seasonality tied into that as well. So they have all these little micro seasons that the Japanese people appreciate, which I found really fascinating.

I love that whole idea of accepting imperfection, that is perfect for my life. So I’m on board. Absolutely!

Yeah, absolutely. And it is something that I think we quite often try to express as well through our editorial is that, your life doesn’t have to be perfect. I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to be perfect and to have everything. But it’s kind of about making the most of what you have. And maybe making changes to your habits that can help you to be happier.

So talk a little bit about the podcast, because you’ve been doing it for what two years?

Yeah, so we started in, I think it’s October in 2017. So it was not too long after we launched the print edition. For a very long time, we did it monthly. But we found that that wasn’t really quite helping to build momentum in terms of listeners. So back in July, we switched to fortnightly, which has helped our following start to grow.

So basically, when we started the podcast, it felt like a really natural continuation of our brand. So we’ve always tried to be with the magazine really engaging and really informal. And so for us actually moving into podcasting felt like a natural progression, because as a format, what I really love about it is that it can be so intimate and so personal.

And it does also make our audience feel like they’re getting to know us a bit as well, the people behind the magazine. And everybody on the team is also really enthusiastic. So it’s great to have that come across in podcast form.

When you’re doing a production of the podcast, who does it? Is it always you, or is it just whoever happens to be talking to the most interesting person that month or week?

Well, mostly it’s me. That’s mainly just because it’s something I’m very enthusiastic about. I’m always keen to do it. And Kirstie is often very busy on the print edition, but certainly I want to encourage other members of the team to do it as well.

But in terms of production, initially, I was doing all of it. So I had to source the interviews, do all the research, I was editing it, everything.

We now do have a really great audio team at Immediate who thankfully have taken the editing side off me, so that actually has made things a lot easier and much more efficient, which means I can do more interviews, which is great. I think eventually I probably would like it to be weekly, but at the moment I don’t really have the resources for that to happen.

So that’s interesting. Immediate has set up a team of people, however many that is, two or three people that will take care of the edits for other magazines?

Yeah, there’s a central audio team here. And they have launched some very successful podcasts. So they’ve got BBC Good Food with Tom Kerridge they’ve launched recently, which has been really successful. And there’s existing podcasts that we have, like History Extra, which is really successful.

But it’s also allowing teams to launch new ones as well, which perhaps they wouldn’t have had the capacity to do it before. But now that we have an audio team, that’s opening up a lot more possibilities.

I mean, obviously, we’re big fans, we love podcasts. We’ve got the Podcast Awards, which you guys are in! The idea there that magazine publishers like Immediate, Immediate’s what, 1500 people? It’s a big company, actually taking it seriously enough to put a team together, I think is absolutely brilliant.

Well, if you look at the figures for podcasting, I don’t have any to hand, unfortunately, but audiences are growing just at such a phenomenal rate. I think it’s really actually important for brands now to think about podcasting if they haven’t done so.

So do you get central management encouraging the podcast, talking about it, are they saying you should be doing this or you could be doing that?

Yeah, so I think some of it is driven by the brands themselves, who are coming up with their own ideas for podcasts. And certainly the podcast teams that have here are very proactive in trying to get brands to start podcasts as well.

But increasingly, we’re also seeing interest from advertisers. So we’re now getting people approaching us, with an interest in our audience, because it is so targeted and so niche, and you know that you’re reaching really engaged people.

So what are the objectives for In The Moment’s podcast? Is it a reader objective, or is it a revenue objective, or is it both?

It’s kind of a bit of both. I think initially it was to engage more with our existing audience. But there’s always the hope that we’re going to reach a wider audience as well. And certainly, that’s something we’ve been working on and we’re looking at doing more marketing as well to reach a larger audience.

But in the terms of getting sponsorships, that’s definitely something we’re looking to do more of, and to collaborate with other brands as well. So we have, for example, done a bit of collaboration even within Immediate itself.

So we’ve done a bit of an episode swap with BBC Countryfile who have a really lovely podcast if you haven’t listened to it, it’s the ‘plodcast,’ which is where the editor Fergus goes out for a walk. It’s very relaxing, very mindful, he’s got very soothing voice, I recommend listening to that one if you’re a bit stressed! So we did do for example, a guest episode with them where we went for a nice mindful walk in the Forest of Dean which was lovely.

The mindfulness or wellbeing portfolio at Immediate is significant. You’ve got 12 magazines that can be considered sat in that sort of space. Do you work together quite a lot?

I would say within Immediate, there is quite a collaborative atmosphere just overall. And so for example, in the past, we’ve done things like, we’ve worked with BBC Good Food, we’ve had a wellness week last year, which was very successful. We do collaborate, actually quite a lot with BBC Countryfile because there is this lovely overlap of mindfulness and nature.

We’re certainly looking at doing other collaborations within the business as well, because I think the really great thing about mindfulness and mental health is a it does really cover everything. It relates to everything. So for us, we can really work with anybody, which is great.

Yeah, I guess it’s about the attitude you bring isn’t it, it’s not necessarily what you’re doing.

Yeah. And we’ve been quite proactive and going out there and going to other brands and saying, ‘Can we do things together.’ Since we only launched in 2017, we’re still fairly new. So brand awareness has always been part of our strategy.

One of the things that I find interesting, because you talk about In The Moment as a women’s lifestyle magazine, and then I look at the broader women’s magazine market and it’s taken a bit of a beating. Magazines like Marie Claire closing down last year. But you guys and magazines like you and the craft sector, the specialist women’s magazine market if you like, it’s actually doing better. Why do you think that as?

That’s an interesting question. I think perhaps people’s interests are shifting, as I said, towards more mental health, awareness in particular. I mean, the figure is one in four adults experience mental illness in their lives. As well, people are starting to be more open about mental health, and I think that it has really helped our sector to grow.

But one thing that has helped us is is just focusing on reaching our audience where they are. So for example, if you’re a print reader, that’s something you’re enjoying at the weekend. Hopefully, you’re picking up on our podcast when you’re on your commute, you’re reading the website when you’re out and about.

So I think brands have to think creatively about how they reach their audience where they are. And that’s something that we’ve really tried to focus on.

Also, I think having an angle, you’re approaching lifestyle from a very specific point of view. And I think one of the things that’s going on in the woman’s magazine market, what’s killed the magazine market is actually that idea, the point of view as ‘being a woman’ or ‘being a man,’ which isn’t enough.

I’d certainly say I mean, our audience is almost overwhelmingly female, even online. But actually, it’s quite interesting looking at our podcast stats recently, I was having a quick look on Spotify before this interview, and actually we’re getting a surprisingly growing number of men, which is quite interesting who are listening to the podcast. And certainly, with our website, maybe a third of our readers are men because I think the topics that we’re covering are so universal.

So for example, we we see sleep topics do really well. And the World Health Organisation has said that there is a sleeplessness epidemic. So sleep always really performs well, and obviously men are reading that as well as women.

Stress as well is another big topic. For quite a long time one of the most popular things on our website was a quiz, which was ‘Am I stressed?’ And I think if you need to take the quiz, you probably already are! But I found that quite interesting.

That’s brilliant, if you need to take the quiz, you’re stressed! Go back to this sleep thing. I know you’ve got a new project coming up. Go on, talk about that, the sleep podcast!

Yes. I’m very excited about this. So basically, we were talking to one of our sister websites at Immediate, Made For Mums, which is a parenting website. And we recognised that there was a gap in the market basically for mindfulness in their sector. And one of the key problems that parents have – I think most parents have this – is getting their children to go to sleep.

So we had a little bit of a look online, and while there’s quite a few sleep meditation or bedtime story kind of podcasts out there at the moment, there wasn’t really anything that specifically related to children and getting children to go to sleep.

So we decided we would launch this podcast called Sleepytime, which is going to be coming out on 16th February. And for that one we’ve worked with our experts from In The Moment that we work with all the time and we know really well. So we’ve got Suzy Reading, who’s an author, and she’s a psychologist, and she’s actually written books on mindfulness for children. So she’s got real expertise in that area, and she has created these really lovely scripts for us.

And then we’ve worked with a local mindfulness and meditation teacher called Gemma David. She has narrated them for us. And she actually has a really lovely soothing voice actually, when we were recording them, I was trying not to not off in the studio!

Does it work for adults as well?!

Oh, absolutely, it will work for adults, it worked on me! She just has the most perfect voice for it. So I think that’s a really great example of the kind of creative collaboration that we do a lot with an Immediate, and I’m really excited about it.

As a digital editor, do you still put content out on social platforms or on digital magazine platforms, do you actually distribute your content through third parties?

Yes. So actually, one app that we do work with quite a lot is Flipboard, which I think you’ve had on your podcast before. And so we quite often pitch to their editorial team, we pitch features that they might want to feature, sometimes ‘magazines,’ which are essentially collections of articles. So for example, we’ve got one coming up this month with them, which is all about positive thinking, which I think everybody needs in February. So that is one that we work with particularly closely. Yeah, of course, as well we do have our digital editions, we’re on Apple News as well. So we do cover our bases really.

The Flipboard one’s interesting, because it’s kind of under the radar. You know, no one really talks about it that much.

We’re very proactive with with Flipboard. And it has been really great for us because a lot of our content actually is really evergreen. And it’s things that people really relate to. So one we had recently that did really well was how to stop comparing yourself to others, which I think is something a lot of people struggle with! And of course, sleep articles perform really well.

So a lot of the stuff that I pitched to them would be the more universal kind of topics.

And does it drive traffic back to your websites?

Yes, it does. So it is quite a good source for us of referral traffic. Because I’m sure you know, with Apple News, we don’t really get a lot of referral traffic from them because they literally pull in the whole article. And then there’s no reason for people to come back to our website, whereas with Flipboard, when people click on an article, it’s taking them straight to our website, which is a really great way to get more referral traffic.

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