Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Simon Keane, deputy editor at Shares magazine, on a typical week's deadlines, how PRs can help with content and why reporting the news has little value.
Tell us a bit about Shares and your role as Deputy Editor
Shares is a weekly consumer magazine which seeks to educate and empower the private investor with its intelligent, informed and independent research. My role is very much hands on as an editor/writer. I help the editor on a weekly basis commissioning articles and reading and subbing copy and deputise in his absence when he is out of the office. Like the magazine’s reporters, I have my own sectors, namely media, financial services, and construction, and regularly contribute to the magazine’s content. I will frequently take a lead role in structuring and commissioning copy for cover stories and our special series which this year have included The Perfect Portfolio (5-26 Jan) and Britain’s Got More Talent (5 Jul– 6 Sept). My role also involves commissioning third-party content and attending events representing not just Shares but MSM Media’s whole stable of publications, investor events and awards, among them our sister website www.moneyam.com, Mining and Resources Quarterly and November's Shares Awards black-tie dinner. Like reporters I also contribute copy to MSM’s regular educational publications including our bookazines, recent examples of which are the How to Invest title and World Investment Outlook 2012. I also contribute to copy MSM supplies clients on a third-party basis.
What does a typical week look like?
The week begins with the Wednesday morning editorial meeting when the editors and reporters discuss the line-up for the forthcoming magazine. This is followed by a production meeting at which the flat plan is finalised and initial concepts for the cover design are discussed, along with ideas for headlines. Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays are good to get out and meet contacts. The magazine’s four main articles – the Cover Story, Sector Report, Griller and features and our one-page pieces such as The Oracle – have deadlines of close of play Thursday and, when I am not deputising, I will be often be writing one of these myself, in addition to helping the editor read and sub the reporters’ copy. The Thursday evening deadline is the first in a series of staggered targets, the next of which is Friday at 4pm when many of the sections in the middle of the book are due including Commodities, Funds and Small Caps plus our third-party piece Mr Market. The companies editor will also commission the key front-of-the-book Plays section on a Friday. Monday is mainly an ideas day when copy for the two other key early-stage sections, Agenda and Databank, are commissioned. Monday is also when the second third-party piece, The Chartist, is filed and there are close-of-play deadlines for the Director Deals and Forex sections. Tuesday 1pm is the deadline for the Agenda, Databank and Plays sections. The editor will receive the last of the final proofs on a Tuesday afternoon and the magazine is sent to press at 5.30pm.
Who are your readers?
According to our latest readers’ survey about two thirds (63.5%) of our readers fall between the age of 35 and 65 years old, although we do have a strong contingent of those 34 years of age and under (16.7%). It just so happens that the people with the capital tend to be in the older age bracket and therefore they are the ones with the investment portfolios and most in need of educational material and ideas from our magazine.
Who are your competitors and how do you differ from them?
Our main competitors are the Investors Chronicle and MoneyWeek. Everything we write is based around the premise the stock market is forward-looking and for this reason purely reporting the news has very little value. We are always looking ahead and giving informed comment about future events to help give our readers the edge. We do not report on today’s or yesterday’s company results since any market intelligence contained within them will already be factored into prices, we comment on what tomorrow’s company results are likely to contain. By meeting companies, building up specialised knowledge about their business models, their competitors and the industries in which they operate we are in a position to make such informed comment. The market cannot be entirely efficient as it would be impossible to make money but if you believe a stock is over or undervalued, you are effectively saying the market has it wrong, and that is still a big call, given how many shrewd operators are working out there. The key for us is therefore to spend time getting to know companies, building up specialised knowledge about their business models, their competitors and the areas in which they operate so we are in a position to make such informed comment. We do also make sure we watch the signals the market is giving because Mr Market is pretty smart, even if he occasionally gets too bullish or bearish. We pay particular attention to trends in sector performance and spend lots of time looking for inflection points here. Shares also benefits from being part of its parent, MSM Media. The group provides raw data through its websites and white-label services, research and education on how to interpret that data through Shares and the bookazines, access to leading brokers and companies through our events and then acknowledges service and corporate excellent with its awards dinners.
Does online content differ from the magazine?
Subscribers of Shares can also access an online version of the magazine at www.sharesmagazine.co.uk and they are also able to download it on iTunes to the iPad and iPhone. All Shares journalists are on Twitter, updating daily on the breaking news, views and events. We are currently running our Britain’s Got More Talent (BGMT) series, where the team is visiting companies across the country and reporting back in a series of features running over the next two months. While out the road Twitter has allowed us to give real-time commentary on how our BGMT meetings have gone and a taster for what will be coming up in the magazine. In addition to our sister website www.moneyam.com, MSM has its own newswire, www.stockmarketwire.com, and proprietary databases www.brokerforecasts.com and www.directorholdings.com. Data from the latter quite often informs our comment in the magazine. In the same way we believe it is possible to get an edge by listening to the market we also believe director buying often contains useful market intelligence.
How can PRs help with content?
The best PRs are the ones who react well to requests and respond positively to feedback. I can recall at least a couple of occasions this year when I have sent back a piece of contributor copy to the PR with suggestions on how their client might like to increase the article’s impact, and they have delivered the goods. Nine times out of ten if I am trying to contact a bigger FTSE 350 company the PR will get back to me before the internal investor relations contact and so they come into their own when dealing with requests for information from such companies. While occasionally I am interested in meeting a company on results day, nine out of ten times, for the reasons discussed above, I will decline. Ringing journalists on results day asking if they want a conversation with the chief executive or finance director might work for a newswire but we are really not about reporting the news. It does frustrate me when PRs ring me about a results story on our busy Monday and Tuesday press days.
How and when is the best way for PRs to contact you and the team?
PRs are unlikely to get the best response from either the editors or reporters on Mondays or and Tuesdays as these are our press days. I get over 100 emails a day and with the best will in the world I am unable to respond to every one. A phone call from Wednesday afternoon to Friday is probably the best approach. I do not generally have time for long telephone discussions but often just flagging a future event or an idea to me will serve a purpose, I may not follow up immediately but it will be in the back of my mind. Barring a short phone call if PRs wish to send emails to email@example.com it goes to a group email box which all the team can view.
Do you have time to meet PRs?
Any one PR will only tend to represent a handful of the 180 and more companies which are spread across my three sectors. Any one of these firms might be interesting at any one time, depending on what is going on with their competitors and the industry. As a busy writer/editor it makes more sense to keep focused on the forward events relating to my companies where informed comment is much more likely to add value.
Do you have any essential reading?
I read the Financial Times in detail every morning and keep an eye on the two main newswires, Bloomberg and Reuters, during the course of the day, alongside the feeds we get from our in-house services, such as stockmarketwire.com. I will read the Evening Standard's business section on the way home and find its columnists quite thought provoking. I skim the competition to keep abreast of its style and am always interested in reading an analyst note with a strong contrarian view (but never one with ‘hold’ at the top). When it comes to assessing the validity of corporate strategy or research on business models and accounting issues the book Making the Right Investment Decisions: How to Analyse Companies and Value Shares by Michael Cahill a very valuable reference point.
What is the best thing about doing your job? Working in collaboration with other journalists – they are generally interesting, free-thinking people.
Simon was speaking to Gorkana's Dejla Kadhim