Peter Houston

Peter Houston: Thanks for actually talking to us, now that you’re famous and have been on Loose Women. As far as I know, you’re the first Media Voices guest that’s been on Loose Women.

Terri White: Oh,my God, I can’t believe you haven’t been on Loose Women. Surely it’s only a matter of time.

I’m not sure. I don’t know if that I’d want to be exposed like that. I think it might be quite difficult. Anyway, I’m talking to you as the former editor-in-chief of EMPIRE magazine, which is weird. Your last day was Friday the 3rd of September, is that right?

No. So my official last day of employment was Wednesday the 1st and then I actually left the Friday before. I took some actual holiday at the end of my tenure.

To go camping.

To go camping. Yes, everybody. Apparently a lot has changed since I left EMPIRE including I am now a camper.
So it’s not the changes with Empire, the change is with you.

Apparently. Because human beings, we always evolve and now I just feel like I’ve evolved a lot in 10 days.

Although you did tell me that you went hiking and what was your outfit?

I wore proper walking boots, I wore lowkey promotional socks that Disney had sent me, and an original 60s silk shift dresses.

So how does it feel to be the former editor-in-chief of EMPIRE magazine.

It does feel weird. I think definitely what helped was the three-month notice period, which I worked every single minute and more than. There was a bit when I was working till midnight, two days before my last day. My boyfriend said to me, “you know, you’re technically working your notice and most people dial it back at that point”.

That three months, it was almost like grieving, to be honest. I was pretty much brokenhearted initially, really quite upset about it. And then, I went through other feelings about it and so actually, by the time it came to say goodbye, I felt like it was done. I felt like it was time for me to go.

The new editor is my old deputy, who is a brilliant, brilliant journalist, and I’m so thrilled he got the gig. So it kind of feels like everything’s worked out as it should have done and I’ve always said about EMPIRE, when you edit it, you don’t own it, you’re a guardian of it. Your job is to try and improve it if possible, but essentially just don’t fuck it up. That was always the message to me, I think every other Empire editor, and it’s an honour, and it’s a privilege.

Quite frankly, six years, I think, is a good run. But I think any magazine, especially a magazine like Empire that has to stay relevant, of the moment, has to be part of cultural conversation – that needs constant new ideas. I think an editor of 10 years, 20 years is the wrong approach for a magazine like Empire. It needs a new voice, a new spirit, a new direction, within the parameters of what it is, every several years or so. In retrospect, it’s all worked out as it should.

In your final editor’s letter, you called yourself, or anyone actually who’s an editor of EMPIRE, a lucky guardian. What do you mean by that guardian idea? What is it you’re actually looking after?

Well, it’s interesting because I think that guardianship used to mean something else. Especially with legacy brands, and by legacy brands, I mean, just a magazine brand that’s been going for years and has a lot of love attached to it, is that can be used as gatekeeping almost.

When I took over EMPIRE, there was a lot of ‘EMPIRE doesn’t do it like that, EMPIRE would never interview that person, EMPIRE would never have that kind of person in its pages’. Or they wouldn’t let that person write for them. There was a lot of belief around what EMPIRE stood for and the rules around it.

I have to point out, not with the team I ended up building and going forward with and the old team I took with me, but there was a definite bit of that. I found that incredibly unhelpful. I think it’s part of keeping people out of a brand.

So I think being a guardian, I viewed it as it being my job to protect the best bits of EMPIRE: the access, the incredible relationships with filmmakers and studios, the quality of the journalism, the quality of the team, and the talent, the ambitious ideas. All of the things that makes EMPIRE great, I felt like it was my job to protect. That could be anything from fighting budget cuts with management to fighting with the studio, because I felt like access they gave us wasn’t good enough to get in the pages of EMPIRE.

All of those things were part of protecting EMPIRE, but then more so, your job as a guardian is to see the future, and to anticipate what the brand should be in five years, and also what the audience wants from it in five years. Because truly, you can only protect the long-term survival of the brand if you are future-looking.

I think too often you can get bogged down in the past, the days when it had double budgets, the days when it had 25 people working on a magazine, when we’ve now got 11 people working on a cross-platform brand. The kind of halcyon days I think hamstring you as an editor. I think you constantly have to see the opportunity, not even really in today, but in tomorrow and five years from now.

Sure. If I was to ask you what you think is your biggest achievement in those six years or the thing that you are most proud of in those six years at EMPIRE, what would it be?

I think it would be opening up the brand, which was always my ambition. I wrote about this in my editor’s letter and I will also just say that I still don’t think it’s perfect and I still think there’s work to be done. But I was very conscious when I came into EMPIRE, that it was primarily a magazine built by a certain group of journalists.

Often, the audience was thought about in very reduced terms. The audience were often 30-something to 40-something men. Women weren’t really part of the conversation and that manifested itself in terms of the people we featured in the pages, so the films we focused on, the filmmakers we focused on, and how we represented actors.

There were little things, like I brought in a role that when it came to picturing women in the magazine, we would no longer feature them in gowns, which were incredibly revealing or more to the point in lingerie and underwear. There was a time when EMPIRE would feature a woman with very little words and just a massive picture of her, sometimes in not very many clothes. I put a stop to that immediately, but also the kind of language.

We had a very robust conversation, which not everybody I think got on board with but a lot of people did, which was around calling women feisty. We would call women sassy if they had an opinion, we would talk about what they looked like when we walked into a room to interview them, about how their hair was about, whether they were wearing makeup. We never did that with a man, we didn’t walk in and say such and such director is wearing a creased shirt and has a bit of a paunch because that wasn’t something we did. We showed them more respect.

And so we made changes in terms of language, because I think those changes have to be wrought. They can’t just be philosophical changes, they have to be literal changes in the way you craft the title. So visual changes, language changes.

Then we drew up a new roster of the kind of people we were interested in, because I thought we had a very narrow focus. The other part of that was really about the people who made the magazine. The reality is a magazine like EMPIRE massively relies on its incredible freelance family because the staff team is so small. We had a brilliant, brilliant crew of critics, but it was not diverse in any way, both in terms of gender or race.

Again, I felt like we were just presenting one point of view, and that often films need a completely different perspective. But it just helps, even if it’s not film-specific, it still benefits everybody to have a writing team who are reflective of the brilliant world that we’re talking about. And so we made lots of strides in those areas, especially over the last three or four years.

But I think there’s still work to be done in film generally. I think there’s still a lot of gatekeeping in film, I still think there needs to be work done to bring through certain critics. I think we still have a problem, especially in the UK, in terms of Black critics specifically, I think it’s a massively underrepresented area and I’ve always thought that EMPIRE should be part of trying to help any group through but especially an underrepresented group who will not be given the same opportunities as their peers. Those are things I still feel really passionately about.

And as I say, while I feel like we made big strides at EMPIRE, I don’t think we got all the way there. But I have to say, if you saw our British New Wave issue, which was the issue on stands when I handed in my resignation, that was this group of brilliant breakthrough British stars who’d really erupted onto the global stage and the covers were Emerald Fennell, Kingsley, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Riz Ahmed, and Bukky Ba. Those covers would never have existed six years ago, or five years ago, or maybe even four, three years ago.

I think we really pushed the magazine. I think it was about taking the existing audience with you, telling them we love you, we respect you, we really value your loyalty. But we believe and my fundamental belief has always been that as a brand. Empire should be the home for anyone and everyone who loves the moving image, whether that’s film, whether that’s TV. That doesn’t mean everybody buys the magazine, because the five-pound price point makes that a specialist product which has to go narrower and has to go deeper.

But if somebody loves Line of Duty, they should be able to listen to a podcast that EMPIRE has produced. If somebody loves rom-coms, they should be able to have a chat with us on social, or if somebody is massively into fantasy, they should be able to buy the magazine.

And the trick is not expecting everybody to go to every product on every platform, it’s working out who we can talk to where, and ultimately, as a brand, being a home for all of those people. That was the vision initially.

I don’t know how much we actually got there. I still think we could have got more women, possibly younger women. But I think we were working often with very limited resources, the smallest team EMPIRE had ever had with the most amount of products and most amount of platforms.I feel like we did what we could and hopefully became a much more welcoming place than the place I arrived at in September 2015.

You’ve talked before about the audience as a gang, that the success of a magazine comes from that feeling that you’re a member of a gang. Do you think that also applies to the staff?

Yeah, I do. I think brands have to move from being a broadcast situation to a conversation. And to have a conversation, you will need to be on the same level. So there definitely used to be a thing with EMPIRE which is we are the elders, we are the most knowledgeable, and we are going to impart some of this knowledge on you. I hated that, to be honest, I wanted it to be: we are like you, apart from we are lucky enough to get to do this for a job.

So you know Chris Hewitt, if he didn’t work on EMPIRE, he would be a long-time EMPIRE reader. Same with a lot of them. I mean, in its negatives, I suppose it can be quite cliquey and quite insular. But at its best, you are a gang.

I don’t think this applies to all magazines, I’ve worked on magazines that had nothing to do with my personal interests, and I think we’ve discussed this before, which is your job as a magazine editor and a journalist is to get to know your audience so well that you can anticipate all of their needs. So you don’t have to love what they love.

But in the case of a specialist magazine like EMPIRE, to build a team who have the exact same passions as your audience, that is where the magic comes. And that, in a way, almost runs counter to what we are told about magazine publishing, which is it’s all about the audience. And actually, it can cause lazy assumptions. I remember telling journalists I was training 10 years ago, never presume you’re the reader. That’s just a lazy assumption. Work hard to understand them and then make decisions from that premise.

Empire is not like that, specialist titles aren’t like that. Obviously, you still have to have a level of discipline because you can’t assume you’re going to be aligned on everything. But let me tell you, it makes those journalists in the gangs that you’re describing in the team, which to me is the centre of the wider gang, it makes those people incredibly valuable.

If you speak to any editor, they’ll say that these days, it feels like journalists are replaceable, that anybody can be replaced at any point, probably for less money. There’s a sense that we’re just numbers and we just create magazines, and there are 10 people behind us waiting to do it.

On EMPIRE, that talent is everything. So there were a handful of people, if not more on that brand, who if they left it would have a demonstrable, negative effect on the brand. So Chris Hewitt, for example, James Dyer. Chris, because of the pod, that pod has been going for several years and has a huge loyal audience who engage with other parts of the brand. Some of them buy the mag, some of them pay for the special podcasts.

These are people who have a relationship with Chris, beyond him just being somebody who happens to work for Empire. And I think that puts those people in a very strong position, but it really needs other people, I think to understand that they are that valuable, because without that gang, EMPIRE doesn’t have a heart.

A magazine and a brand like EMPIRE has to be about authenticity. It has to be about heart. You couldn’t just have any old journalists, you have to have film obsessives and TV obsessives. People who will argue about whether giving Attack of the Clones five stars was the worst decision ever made in EMPIRE history, about which is the best Lord of the Rings film. These are all arguments that our readers take very seriously and nowhere are they taken more seriously than in the EMPIRE office.

I think the biggest asset EMPIRE has in 2021, quite honestly, is that incredible group of 11 people who work across the magazine, podcasts, the website, social events. They live and breathe EMPIRE and their passion is the fuel for what keeps that gang together, but keeps that gang vibrant and alive.

So your passion for the brand is very obvious in the way you’re talking. The news of your departure came pretty much out of the blue, certainly from my point of view. The Bauer statement that accompanied it was brief, is a polite way of putting it, terse is maybe another way of saying, Can you tell us what actually happened?

Yeah. I haven’t tried to keep this a secret, but people are wary of asking directly because they also read the statement. The reality was that the EMPIRE job is like the quote from Jerry Maguire, up all night, something all day, like bloodsucking. It’s a massive commitment, the EMPIRE job.

As I’ve said, the team is 11 people. As all publishing companies have done, it’s had cuts over the years. As magazine publishing has gotten a trickier and trickier spot, our ambitions haven’t stopped, so the brand has continued to get bigger, but the resources continue to get smaller.

The reality of it was that I was working very, very, very long hours, the longest of my career actually. That was kind of fine when I didn’t have a baby, although obviously it’s really notm because I think magazine publishing often is filled with a lot of single people who give up essentially their private lives and give everything to their job. And I certainly did that. I’ve been very open about that in the past.

But when I got pregnant, I had some health conditions, I was high risk. I had gestational diabetes, I was already at risk. So I was an older mom. And he had some struggles towards the end of my pregnancy and I flagged that when I come back from maternity leave, I’m really going to have to look at this situation because it’s probably not going to be feasible and the reality is it continued to be unworkable and unfeasible.

There was a week before I resigned where I worked a few 19-hour days. I just ended up in a spot that I think a lot of women end up in, which is, I loved my job, more than any job I’ve ever had. It was everything I’ve always wanted to do. But after nine months of being back from that leave, I was completely exhausted, I was not seeing my son. There was that 19-hour day week, I saw him awake for 20 minutes in total.

When I was with him, I did that weird thing they do in films where you go in and watch your baby sleep in the dark. And I was like, this isn’t working. And unfortunately, myself and Bauer weren’t able to come to an agreement on how we fix it from a resource perspective.

I put an offer across of what was needed, they made a counter, and unfortunately, this is in terms of resource for the team obviously, I’m not talking about anything for myself, unfortunately, we just couldn’t. I basically had to look at what I wanted my life to be.

I’ve never had a problem working full time, I’m a grafter, I believe in the power of hard work. I also think for me, it was becoming a problem of how you morally and ethically lead a team under that much pressure with resources becoming smaller and smaller and whether I felt I was doing the best thing for the team’s mental health and physical health and emotional health.

I had some real dark nights of the soul to be honest, where I was thinking ‘can I keep doing this as the editor?’ These people, I lead these people, I need to be putting in, if things are going wrong, I need to be identifying that and fixing it. And if I can’t fix it, then I don’t feel like I can do this job anymore. That’s where I got to, and it was a very painful decision. I was in tears when I told the team, some of the team were in tears.

The reality is, if I hadn’t have had my baby, I would still be editing Empire now. And that’s a hard pill for me to swallow because I think you don’t imagine that you would have to make that choice in this day and age. But the reality is, in this day and age, magazine publishing is in the tightest spot it’s ever been. So I don’t think my company is particularly any different to any other company in terms of the challenges that they have.

And so, especially for somebody like me, who is very outspoken, would very much fight for what she believes is her rights, and for the support that I need to be able to do my job, I lost the will a little bit and just thought I need to make the best, most positive, most healthy choice for my family. This is the only choice I can make in this scenario.

What do you think a solution to that problem would look like? I don’t really want to call Bauer on the specifics, but if someone else is in your situation, and doesn’t want to give it up, what would a solution to that issue be?

Yeah, because I have to say, this is what I’ve thought about a lot, because I should just say that I realise I’m immensely privileged to be able to walk away from a full-time job. I have some other things going on. The other reason that the statements seem quite terse, is that an original statement said that I was leaving to pursue other projects, including a book and a TV adaptation, both of which are true.

So I’m not leaving for nothing, there is a TV adaptation of my memoir in the works. and I am working on a second book. So I should make that clear that that gives me a certain sense of safety. But the reason I didn’t want to include that in the statement is I did not want to be dishonest about why I was leaving.

Obviously, it wasn’t appropriate to say why but I certainly didn’t want anything that would be misleading. Because although this is awkward to talk about, and I’m sure it’s awkward for Bauer for me to talk about it, but the reality is that we have to start having these conversations about women in employment because people are talking about why we hemorrhage women after they have kids.

And it isn’t the way it’s presented that we make a choice and go ‘oh, I’ve had a baby now, I don’t need a job’. That isn’t what happens, it’s that life becomes too difficult. And the reality is I don’t want other women to listen to this and think ‘oh God, I don’t want to have a baby because I’ll lose my career’.

I’ll tell you when I found out I was pregnant, I cried to my boyfriend and said I’m really worried that this is going to mean the end of my career and he said what are you talking about, don’t be daft. And it’s because I was very aware that there are a lot of women I know who couldn’t make it work either. I think employers, instead of just saying they want to keep women in employment, they have to make practical tangible differences to allow us to stay there.

But what I would say, some practical advice, I had a thought in my head where I thought I could scale back, not just to make my workload more manageable, but for the whole team, we could scale back the ambitions for Empire. There is a less ambitious version of it that is still great. We were putting out, I think, world-class magazines every issue with just incredible access, incredible guests and we were always pushing and pushing.

I had to sit and look at was there a model where we did less stuff. I think audio is a massive area of potential for Empire, but do we scale right back on the podcasts? Those are the kind of decisions that I think editors will probably have to make going forward. That isn’t the way I like to edit. I think the ambition is what gets you up in the morning and gets your belly going. That’s what always drove me and the team who are incredible and can get pretty much anybody they want to do anything they want.

And so my advice would be, if you can, if you think it’s practical, work out a way to make your job and your team’s jobs easier, take out what can you take out on a daily basis that will allow things to be easier. And then keep pushing, because as I say, we didn’t get to a place we could agree on, but they did come back offering something.

What I discovered in that process was – I actually thought they were going to offer nothing, but because I’d been quite plain about the issues and what I thought we needed to fix it, they engaged with that. So I wouldn’t assume you know how a management team is going to respond. I wrote a very business-like document. It wasn’t in any way emotional, just very clearly stating the facts.

That’s all I can really say, because obviously, it didn’t really work out for me. And I just would also say if you feel it’s unworkable, and you have to make a difficult decision, it isn’t your fault, and not to feel embarrassed, or ashamed, or any of those things. Because what I’ve learned since having a kid is that we have to make difficult decisions sometimes. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope you’re making the right one, and that’s what I’ve done. We will see if it turns out to be a massive fucking error.

Having a kid is always a compromise, isn’t it?

Yeah.

One of the things that I think would be nice if it didn’t always involve women compromising on their careers. I think that as a big part of it

It is. I am lucky, in a sense that I had a kid late, because I’d already been an editor several times over. If I had been in that position, where I maybe had a kid 10 years earlier, then I probably wouldn’t have gone on to edit any of the things I did, I probably wouldn’t have gotten lived in New York.

I’m very conscious that my career decisions were enabled by my single life and by my lack of kids. I knew when I got pregnant, that things would be different from now on. I’ve been offered jobs in LA, since I had the baby that I couldn’t take, because I wanted my kid to be near his grandparents who are quite elderly now, and I didn’t want to go and live in Los Angeles and put thousands of miles between them.

So it does force you into making decisions. But what you can’t have is an industry predominantly filled with the people not being asked to make that sacrifice. I will say there are other women within Bauer who absolutely make it work, who have certain arrangements and maybe bigger teams and who do things differently and are very much able to juggle it. They work part time, etc, etc. Mine was very much a specific situation.

I think it’s the same on specialist titles to be honest, because they’ve predominantly been stuffed by men. So I think it’s very rare when these issues come to light because Empire’s mainly a childfree staff, has predominantly been staffed by men, especially editorially. There was one woman editor before me briefly. And so I think it often can see, more pronounced on specialist titles because they’re not set up with lots of women in key positions.

So how should the industry, not Bauer, specifically, be taking this conversation forward?

Well, I think there has to be a reality check specifically around talent. I don’t think it’s just about the kid thing, I think we are in this really difficult situation where magazine publishing is so with its back against a wall, let’s be honest, it really is. That isn’t to say that I think magazines are dying or dead. I’ve said this many times before and I wasn’t just saying it because I was employed by one, magazines will always live.

But the reality is that profitability is getting more difficult. Everybody talks about diversification, but never truly does it. Because people think that diversify means producing a podcast, or doing a new vertical on your website. That isn’t diversifying, I think that the industry needs to invest in two things, one of which is the tech to build new products, and the second of which is talent.

Those are the two things and those are the two things that have been squeezed the most. And one of the knock-ons of that is staff overwork, underresourced, etc, etc. If you look at brands that are doing it successfully, there aren’t that many, but you’ve got People Magazine in the US, which is edited by my very good friend Dan Wakeford. When they say diversify, they don’t mean do a People’s TV show, although they do have one. That’s essentially like a telly version of what they do on the website and in the print magazine.

They have developed this entire broadcast strategy, which is People Magazine Investigates, and they are these incredible true crime episodes of an hour, which are worked on by TV experts. There’s lots of investment in staff, but then people from the magazine as well, who know the brand and storytelling intricately. They’ve developed an entirely new part of their business, which has, in turn, become a new revenue stream.

Now, I think the problem on the kind of scale we’re talking about in this country is that the risk of any real, meaningful investments feels too risky to all the publishing companies. So when they say diversify, they go, let’s launch a new Instagram brand. Or they go, let’s launch a new podcast which basically does the same as the magazine does.

But what they don’t do is say, let’s invest in a whole new part of the business or really build out a successful part of the business. For example, you could imagine a brand like Empire could have a whole audio arm. It currently has three podcasts, the Empire film podcast, the Spoiler Special podcast, and the pilot TV podcasts. The pilot TV and the Empire are in the top five Bauer podcasts across the business.

The Spoiler Specials is the first one that went behind a paywall, which the editorial team pushed for. We thought that could be a great new revenue stream, and we lobbied the business to put that behind a paywall. I kept thinking about how there are so many parts of film, so many parts of TV that you could go much narrower on and launch an entire suite of podcasts. You could buy podcasts, you could create essentially Empire as a home for a massive amount of entertainment podcasts, led by Chris Hewitt, for example, who is a genius broadcaster, he could do this in his sleep.

But you need the initial investment, in the tech, in the resources. As it stands, Chris works with the mag, on the website, and the podcasts, and he does it all. But that’s a lot of his own time in there, but brings in specialists and uses the massive amount of knowledge in the middle of the brand to make this happen. Because I just think, if I was at another publisher, when I saw somebody like Chris sat there with all of that knowledge and all of that genius, I’d be like, he’s the guy, he’s the guy who could do something really exciting in the audio space for us.

But I think everybody’s so scared of investment because it needs to see an immediate return because of the squeeze on profitability these days. that none of those big ideas which will transform brands and will make them enjoy for decades. Everybody’s a bit too fearful to do that. So they’d rather do a one shop or they’d rather do something where the stakes are much lower.

And I understand why. But my worry is that without those big ideas, what we’re going to see increasingly is the same brands just managing decline and managing reductions in headcount and budget and all of that, and just becoming smaller and smaller and smaller over a period of time.

Whereas I think you don’t have to think there is growth necessarily in print media. But you can see that there is growth in all of these other parts and you can incubate your existing audience in that print media, keep them with you for as long as possible, but use that kind of jewel in your crown to launch lots of incredible other stuff into the brand.

And that kind of isn’t answering your question, but it is, because I think that way, you start to build out property teams for a cross-platform brand, because I think one of the problems everybody is having is that we are getting people across multiple platforms and products, people who were only probably ever hired to work on the print mag 15 years ago. You’re spreading them, spreading them, and spreading them, so your expertise isn’t necessarily in the place where you want it to be. But also you physically don’t have enough people to do what you need to do.

Everybody’s doing what they can in the time they’ve got, and really not doing the very best work they could do. I see that everywhere, that isn’t an EMPIRE thing, that’s a problem with smaller and smaller and smaller editorial teams, but obviously, demand for growth digitally and in social and in audio and all of these things. Those will be the things that allow teams to be properly staffed.

And therefore, for people like me and other women who have kids or people who have caring responsibilities or just a fucking single person who wants a life and deserves some time out of work, will allow those people to have a healthier work-life balance.

And that sense of resourcing properly for everything, whether that’s women in the workplace or new projects or new product development, it’s just resourcing things properly.

Yeah, and from the get go, we have a habit in British publishing of saying let’s launch it on nothing and then see if it’s a success. Then if it’s a success, you can ask for budget. That’s ludicrous.

Obviously, they were different times but I worked on the launch of Nuts and I worked on on the launch of Pick Me Ep and I worked on the launch of Luck Magazine. These were things that have millions of pounds in the launch budget which went across TV marketing. Even Outdoor, when they were launching it properly, it was like okay, we will see a return in year three but we’re then confident it’s going to make a shit ton of profit.

At the moment, you go we need to launch it on literally zero using in-house inventory etc etc, our own channels, and then if it’s an extraordinary success, we’ll give you budget. But that cannot be the way because as soon as you have zero resource baked in from the beginning, to then get resources you have to fight for it because it’s seen as new resources.

And to your point, baking that stuff into the start of the picture, accepting that people will have to work on it, and people will be have to paid to work on it, sounds like such a fundamental thing, but I think that has to be the shift.

It’s almost like magazine publishing is taken on a DIY sort of thing that you used to see in music. Okay, so back to you, what do you want to do next?

God, I don’t know. This is the thing, I thought, I’ve got three months, I’m going to work it out. I think that’s probably me and magazines done. I always wanted to edit EMPIRE, it was the last one on my list. Apart from Guardian weekend, I always thought Guardian weekend would be fun to do but…

You heard it here first, Guardian.

The problems I struggled with at EMPIRE, I don’t think will be any different anywhere else. What I could never do is to have left that job to then go to another job like it. That would be the worst thing in the world. I’ve been in magazines for 21 years this year.

And I’ve had a bloody good time, it makes me sad a little bit what a roller coaster just in my career, from those halcyon days of what I was talking about, with multimillion-pound launch budgets and parties and massive teams, to the tougher times we find ourselves in now.

But I still firmly believe in the power of magazine media. I firmly, firmly believe magazines will always exist. I’ve always thought the potential for Empire to be the biggest entertainment brand in the world is right there, absolutely right there. It’s the same with lots of brands, lots of brands have so much potential and so much power, that sometimes I feel the people who own them don’t necessarily realise the power they carry.

So I am now an Empire reader, I always was, but I’m back to being just a reader, which I’m very happy about. I’m still staying in the film world, doing some writing, doing some hosting of premieres and events and what have you. I’m doing my first novel, my second book, and my third book, which is my second nonfiction.

My first book, Coming Undone, a memoir, is out in the United States of America tomorrow. It’s in Canada 10 days after that, and that was bought by Bad Wolf, the production company behind I Hate Suzie and His Dark Materials. Fingers crossed, touchwood, I can’t say anything yet. But there should be some very exciting news about that very, very, very soon.

Esther will be absolutely gutted if Billie Piper doesn’t have a role in that. The one thing I want to say is thanks. Thanks for being so generous with your time with us. I think you actually become the single most interviewed person on Media Voices. You’ve been at our events and all sorts, so thank you so much for your support. But also from a broader industry perspective, thanks for always sharing your advice and for the mentoring that you did with the Empire Pilot way back, and those Zoom sessions. You’ve been amazing. So if you’re not back in magazines, then you’ve got all sorts to be unbelievably Pluto. So thank you so much.

For everything I’ve said today, which I think the industry is grappling with, it still gave me a wonderful career and, most importantly, I met some incredible people. Some of the most talented people in any industry work in our industry, and the passion and the love that people show, it’s part of the reason we often end up in the band that we do work in it nowadays, but it’s also what keeps our industry so, so vital and so relevant. It breaks my heart a bit to have to leave but it’s still just the greatest job in the world. It really is.

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