Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Ed Bearryman, features Editor at Match of the Day Magazine, on cranking out 64 pages of content each week, catering to the football-obsessed and the ferocious battle to be the UK's number one football magazine.
Firstly tell us a bit about your remit and what you will and won't cover.
Primarily we exist to arm our readers with all the stats, facts and fixtures they need to be playground experts on the weekend’s fixtures. We also want to give juicy, behind-the-scenes gossip so they can show off to their mates. Recreating the humour of the classroom is also extremely important - it's amazing how much fun you can have with a fart gag or a funny picture of an eastern European footballer with a bushy moustache. We aim to ignore the sleaze and sex scandals that often envelope our nation’s finest, and that was no easy task while John Terry was England captain!
Who is the typical reader?
11-year-olds who wake up thinking about playing football in the playground and go to bed dreaming of becoming the next Wayne Rooney. That used to be mostly boys but in the last few years we have, very encouragingly, seen a real increase in girls reading and interacting with the magazine, which we’re really pleased about. Essentially we cater to the football-obsessed and they can be a demanding audience because they really know their stuff.
What makes the perfect MOTD feature?
It should include the kind of bitesize, memorable facts that readers can use as ammunition in a my-team's-better-than-your-team dust-up in the dinner queue, some never-before-seen pictures of their favourite players, at least three big gags and some real, authoritative insight. It's not always easy to combine the lot!
What are the most PRable sections of the magazine?
Interviews. Our team of writers constantly pull in amazing exclusives with the world's very best players. In the past few months we've sat down with Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney and, the man himself, Lionel Messi, with quotes being picked up by all of the national papers. That Messi interview appeared on the BBC Sport website and attracted more than 900,000 hits in one day.
What sort of content can PRs help with?
New products are important for our readers. They have to know the latest news about the newest gear before anyone else, so they can brag about it to their pals. So early heads-ups about new kit, boots and computer game launches are priceless. Our readers also love to look at new and interesting images of stars they know and love, so if you’ve got a press shot of a famous footballer that you think we can spin a story out of, send it over!
Competitions are important for the magazine. What are you looking for and what is the prize value?
Young readers are becoming harder and harder to impress - they seem to all have the very latest smartphones, consoles and gadgets - so it's the money-can't-buy prizes that really draw them in. Tickets to the biggest matches, FA Cup final, Champions League final, generate a huge amount of interest as do signed shirts and the chance to meet a Premier League star. Besides that the iPad seems to be this year's must-have.
What is the best way for PRs to approach you?
E-mails do have a habit of getting lost in the ether of congested inboxes so a short, sharp phone call is always welcome. I know our writers appreciate a human touch, although it's worth doing a bit of research - we’ve lost count of the number of times we've had to explain that, no, we probably can't plug booze and betting to schoolboys!
How do you work with the online team?
We are the online team. As well as cranking out 64 pages of content a week, our features department creates a steady stream of content for motdmag.com on a daily basis. It’s a challenge, but it’s been a great opportunity for all of us to learn new skills and try new things with the brand. Three years ago my colleague Mark Parry and I launched and presented MOTD Xtra, a podcast fusing slapstick comedy with the latest football news and gossip, which enjoyed a lengthy spell in the iTunes Top 10 and helped us to attract more readers online.
Is everything that appears in the magazine automatically replicated online?
No. In fact, it's almost the opposite. Most of our readers get their copy of the magazine on Tuesday, then take it wherever they go for the rest of the week, draining it of every last drop of football goodness. For that reason we want to give them something different online, so we try to focus on things we can't do in the mag - podcasts, videos, live votes and debates - and make sure they get all of their recommended daily football allowance from us.
Immediate Media bought the magazine last year – what impact has that had on the way you work?
It’s still early days but the vision and day-to-day practices of the magazine have remained pretty much the same. After all, we still have all our obligations as a BBC brand with a history of nearly 50 years. Having said that there have already been a range of exciting new launches and products announced elsewhere in the business, so we're hopeful there will be the chance to try some exciting new things with MOTD later in 2012.
How much content do you get from the Match of the Day and Match of the Day 2 programmes?
Because of our lead times it’s difficult to cover the show from week-to-week. Instead we’ve worked hard to develop a relationship with the presenters and we’ll often feature interviews with them on the hottest topics of the week, or pit them against our readers in a challenge to predict the weekend’s results. We’re also in close contact with Dan Walker at Football Focus who is usually our eyes and ears on the ground when it comes to international tournaments.
Who do you consider your competitors and what do you do differently to them?
Match are our main competitors and we’re locked in a ferocious battle for the right to call ourselves the UK’s No. 1 football magazine. Thankfully we're now in possession of the crown after the last set of ABC results, but there’s not a huge difference between the two offerings. We’re probably giving our readers a bit more in the way of digital content, but the guys at Match also have a fantastic product with a rich heritage - I was once an 11-year-old Match reader myself!
You’re also a reporter on 'MOTD Kickabout' – what’s that all about?
Kickabout is the younger, cooler brother of the grown-up show. That’s what we tell ourselves anyway! It all came about from the MOTD Xtra podcast I was talking about earlier. My publisher Jaynie Bye took Mark and I to meet the controller of CBBC and talk about the show and he subsequently decided he wanted to launch something similar on TV. After weeks of brainstorming with a mysterious team of developers (who I've never seen since) in a darkened cupboard at Television Centre, the show was born and Mark and I were drafted in as star interviewers. The basic remit for us is to track down the best footballers we can and interview them. More often than not we’re also required to make fools of ourselves, but it’s all good fun.
Do you use social media to engage with MOTD readers?
It’s very difficult because age restrictions on Facebook and Twitter (you have to be 13 to have an account) mean we can’t direct our readers to become a fan or follow us online. We do think it’s really important to engage directly with our readers though and that comes in the form of emails and, perhaps surprisingly, good, old-fashioned letter writing!
Ed was speaking to Gorkana's James Brown