Duncan Wood, Risk.net‘s editor-in-chief, talks to Gorkana‘s Niall Davies about structural changes within the title, his new role and how PRs can pitch to him and the Risk.net “desks”.
Can you talk us through the new structure at Risk.net and what brought it about?
Risk.net used to be the product of the work that went into publishing seven different print titles every month; now, it’s the other way round.
The magazines no longer have their own editors and journalists. Everyone writes for Risk.net, and covers the core topics that are the biggest draw for the site’s readers – risk management, derivatives and regulation. The newsroom consists of one desk for each of those topics, with two more desks dedicated to the same topics, but with a specific focus on our buy-side and commodities sector audiences. Each desk has its own editor and a team of four to six journalists.
We still see strong demand for print, but the magazines are now put together – primarily by our production team – using the material written for the Risk.net audience.
Tell us about your new role
We needed someone to focus on the direction, coherence and quality of our output. I’m supported by a managing editor, and bureau chiefs in Hong Kong, London and New York – all of us work across the five desks.
What are the advantages of the editorial changes?
Our journalists are now writing more articles about the topics that matter most to our audience.
The desks are fewer and bigger, meaning each editor has more journalists and more flexibility. That’s helpful when you’re trying to cover complex topics that are under-reported elsewhere – reporting and writing stories in this space eats up a lot of time.
How does this affect PRs pitching to you?
It might be a bit bewildering. They can’t call up and speak to the editor of Risk or Structured Products anymore. They’re pitching to one of the Risk.net desks, instead.
Once you get past that, it may be easier for PRs, too. Rather than having a risk management story – for example – and wondering which of seven risk-related titles to contact, they can get in touch with the editor of the Risk Management desk. Alternatively, if a PR believes a story has strong regional relevance, they can talk to the bureau chief in their area – New York for North and South America; London for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Hong Kong for Asia.
What’s the most common mistake made when PRs pitch in to you?
I’d guess this is a common complaint among journalists who write for specialist titles – but just failing to understand what we cover. Yes, ‘risk’ is our thing; it doesn’t mean we’re interested in security, manufacturing supply chains, healthcare or P&C insurance. And it really doesn’t mean we’re interested in general business stories.
Other than that, there’s often an assumption that we’ll be willing to overlook the fact that a prospective contributor has an obvious commercial interest in the topic of the article pitched to us. If you’re after marketing services, we’ll be delighted to help – but we’ll point you towards our commercial teams.
With so many titles under one brand, how do you differentiate content and decide what to publish where?
Everything we write appears first on Risk.net. That requires a judgement, sometimes, on where a given article should sit – a big, ambitious story might touch two or more of our desks. We make those calls by thinking about which slice of our audience is likely to get most value from the article: who does this matter most to?
In print, it’s pretty straightforward, given most of the print titles are far narrower in terms of their appeal: it’s not hard to know that an article about structured note hedging will run in Structured Products, or that a piece about the G-Sii regime will run in Insurance Risk.
There’s more of a question about what to include in Risk itself – the flagship magazine – which has the same breadth of readership that characterises Risk.net. But it’s a nice problem to have. And because the quality of the articles is now more consistent, we have a deeper pool of content to pick from. As a result, the mag has been getting weightier.
How closely do your teams around the world in London, New York and Hong Kong work together?
Each of our desks has staff in more than one office, so there’s a lot of contact at that level. But most stories are still the work of one or two journalists in the same office.
How do the Risk Journals fit in with the rest of the titles?
The Risk Journals are peer-reviewed publications in which academics and financial practitioners can publish papers on the technical side of risk management, derivatives and regulation. The Cutting Edge section of Risk.net also publishes technical papers – again peer-reviewed – which are shorter and have a strong, practical focus.
What can you tell us about your readership?
It’s growing. We’ve seen successive years of double-digit growth. And it’s more diverse than in the past.
Since 2009, we’ve focused pretty intensely on regulatory change and the successive waves of adaptation and evolution it has unleashed – in markets, products and services, and organisations. That has brought us into much closer contact with the official sector, different functions within the banks, and with asset managers and corporates. Having access to all of the stakeholders in risk transfer markets has been powerful, and self-reinforcing: the better you get to know them, the deeper the coverage becomes; and the deeper the coverage, the more doors open.
What are going to be the biggest risk management stories in 2016?
Depending on which way the UK public votes, the year’s biggest risk management story will be Brexit. Or it won’t.
For our readers, there are so many other themes, though: endogenous risks created by crowded trades and herding; the regulation of liquidity risk among buy-side firms; valuation risks in the derivatives market; potential leaps in risk management capabilities unlocked by high-performance computing and distributed ledgers; cyber risks, of course; the death of arbitrage trading strategies; constraints on regulatory capital modelling; clearing house default management and resolution frameworks.