This week FeaturesExec catches up with Stewart Andersen, editor of Homesandtravel.co.uk.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
www.homesandtravel.co.uk grew out of a blog I started in 2009 called Property and Travel with Stewart Andersen. The aim of the site is to provide the public with independent information about buying property and travel, both in the UK and abroad. I’m interested in stories that help the public to make informed decisions.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
I’ve been a magazine editor and journalist for many years and I wanted Homes & Travel to have the feel of a magazine. I wanted the features to reflect that style.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
I think that more than 20 years experience has taught me what people want to read and how a feature should be put together. Titles, crossheads and content all come from what I feel is interesting and hopefully it all interests the public.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
Originally I was going to produce a features list but given the nature of property and travel industries and the way things change so rapidly, I wouldn’t want to be bound to a rigid structure.
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
I would love to use freelance contributions but budgetary restrictions mean that until revenue picks up, I prefer not to promise anything. At present, I’m a one-man band, I’m afraid.
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so,how?
Please see the previous answer. On the other hand, I love talking to other journalists and I definitely prefer a phone call.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Accuracy, inspiration and the ability to adhere to deadlines.
If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
I used to have American interns working with me for three months at a time when they were in the UK and they amazed me by having such detailed background for features. They really researched each idea before talking to me. The worst was being asked if I could provide a freelancer with ideas for a feature(s) that they could pitch to me!
Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
I’m married to an ex-director of a major PR company! I love PRs, they have saved my life on several occasions when deadlines have been looming and I have gone completely blank for ideas, material, pictures etc. I feel that any journalist who doesn’t like or get on with PRs is missing a major resource in their work.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
It’s become the fashion for some PRs to either call and ask if they can send you an e-mail or simply to send an e-mail and hope for the best. I really appreciate the PRs who phone me up, tell me about the client or the story and leave it up to me whether I want o go any further with it. I won’t waste people’s time and I’ll always say a) if it interests me and b) whether I then want to receive an e-mail
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
I long for PRs to tell me whether there are images to illustrate the story and I’m always happy to discuss an idea with a PR. Stories with a slightly different angle always catch my interest. Take a look at homesandtravel.co.uk to get some idea what I mean.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
Because I own the site and because I work freelance, I don’t really have set hours. Equally that applies to features, except where they are time sensitive.
Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
All of the above!! A typical day means I start early and end late. I write for other publications/sites so there’s always something to do.
What interests you most about your job?
Variety. I’m a Gemini and that, according to my wife means that I can get bored. But I’m incredibly lucky to do my job, I talk to really interesting people and when homesandtravel.co.uk starts to pay its way, I’ll be the happiest person around.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
Oh dear, can I have an extra week or two to answer this one. I was an actor many years ago, I worked in Spain for a press agency, I had my own radio programme (I speak fluent Spanish), I’ve edited everything from Boardroom to Homes Overseas and the Berkeley Magazine to Overseas Property Professional. I’ve also contributed to national newspapers, Showhouse and easyJet magazine among others. I ended up launching homesandtravel.co.uk because I wanted to produce something that would reflect what I want in a ‘publication’.
Do you Twitter?
Yes, I Twitter – and I LinkedIn and from time to time, I Facebook. I appreciate how they can get the word out about my site. But I also worry about the time needed to check on each one. A largish part of the morning could be spent on them.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
When I was a very young actor, a very old actor said to me: “If you want to get on, never discuss three things with friends – religion, politics and sex.” He was right – it’s a quick way to lose friends.
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
www.news.bbc.co.uk – the best on-line news plus I listen to Radios 4 and 5. But sadly I think the new layout for news.bbc.co.uk is awful. They’ve really got it wrong – it’s uncomfortable. I now work with a designer called Gabriel deKadt who is based in Spain – I’d love to see what he could with the BBC site.
If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I play piano and sound matters a great deal so I would love to have been in New York when George Gershwin was playing piano at parties after curtain down each evening. Apart from a few personal things that I long to go back to (1940 and 1950) I really regret I was born too soon to see what happens with space travel in the next 50 to 100 years. I want to know whether there is life elsewhere – there has to be – it would be arrogant to think otherwise.