Focus interview on London Mums with editor at large and founder Monica Costa
London Mums is a daily website and supporting monthly newsletter for mums in London. It’s also a peer support group organising day trips for mums and dads in the area.
This week, FeaturesExec caught up with founder and editor-at-large Monica Costa to discuss the group, plans for a print magazine in 2009, and working at the BBC.
About the publication:
Tell us a bit about London Mums:
London Mums is the only free and independent peer support group for mums based in London. London Mums currently has over 2500 members based in London who support each other through the joys and challenges women face with raising their children. In addition to sharing views and tips online, London Mums strongly believe in face-to-face interaction and organise on a weekly basis a number of activities for mums (and dads) and children – trips to view exhibitions at the National Gallery, parties, seminars, nature walks, etc. The website has over 12,000 page impressions per month/5000 unique users (March 2009).
How do you differ from other websites in your area?
London Mums is a peer support group rather than just an online forum. We believe in ‘going back to basics’, i.e. in face-to-face interaction versus online chatting etc. There are a lot of websites claiming to have thousands of subscribers, but most of the time these are only emails. We are a relatively small group of people and we certainly aim to grow but without compromising the original concept. We provide lots of opportunities for the mums to meet, interact and exchange views and things. The internet technology is there to improve the real networking and the communication but does not replace the real face-to-face interaction between mums.
Describe a typical reader for us:
London mums’ members can be categorised under the middle to upper class group/age group ranging from 28 to 45 with up to 3 children in the age group 0-5 years old (babies to pre-schoolers) living in London. 60% mums of our group are actually based in SW London in areas such as Chelsea, Fulham, Putney, Richmond – 30% in North London (Hampstead, Islington) and 10% in South or SE London (Greenwich, Dulwich and Streatham). These figures relate to March 2009 and are subject to change.
What stories are you most interested in covering?
We cover stories about pregnancy, mums and experts’ tips, babies, breastfeeding, weaning, toddlers, travelling with children, pre-schoolers, special children (i.e. premature babies, special needs, etc), family nutrition, baby and mum’s sleep, mumpreneurs’ issues and advice, business mums’ testimonials, celebrity mums and mumpreneurs’ testimonials, product reviews (any product relevant to young families), competitions, London specific events and news stories relating to families etc.
How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the website, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
Deadline for finalising the monthly newsletter is the 20th of each month. Stories have to reach the editorial team a week before the 20th of every month. Product reviews have to be agreed in advance by emailing email@example.com. London Mums have testers who try the products and provide feedback that is then included in the editorial (newsletter and ad-hoc product pages). We don’t include reviews without testing the products. According to a recent survey, London Mums value very highly our testing process and their peers’ opinions when looking to buy a new product. Pitches and ideas for reviews are welcome. We try to respond to all emails but sometimes it is very difficult due to the volume of requests received on a daily basis. We apologise in advance if we can’t reply to all your emails, but we want to reassure you that we read them all and value all your feedback and pitches.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
The content of the London Mums’ website is mainly driven by our members’ requests for support and advice and of course by news stories.
Do you produce a features list? (If not, why not)
Sometimes we produce features lists but they are subject to change as our content is driven by our members’ requests for advice and specific support.
How do you see London Mums developing in the months to come?
London Mums is mainly an ‘offline’ organisation and we will continue to organise events, parties, mumpreneurs’ fairs and other platforms and opportunities to allow mums and mumpreneurs to meet with their peers. We are currently planning the publication of a print publication, London Mums magazine, initially twice per year with the first issue to be distributed across London in October/November 2009 and the second one in the spring 2010. The content will be produced by London Mums Limited and its editorial team and will focus on topics and issues of interest to mums based in London. It will feature real mums’ testimonials, high profile family experts and celebrity mums. It will be an offline version of the website www.londonmums.org.uk but richer in content, pictures, images and drawings. The initial circulation will be 15,000 to 30,000 and will be free to selected audiences. The magazine will be delivered for free to antenatal / postnatal clinics and hospital local libraries, edutainment and leisure centres, nurseries and schools, child-related shops and businesses across London. On top of the editorial opportunities we will offer advertorials and advertising to selected partners.
Do you work closely with PRs?
We consider PR consultants essential partners in the production of our content as well as product reviews and events. Thanks to brilliant PR people we have managed to put together excellent competitions, goodie bags at our popular parties and events. Your contribution is key to our work.
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
If there are new ‘kids in town’, new PR clients with interesting products or services we are interested in finding out more about them.
What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Do you have a PR pet hate?
Personally I don’t like press releases sent to the masses. I know you have to do it but I am more likely to read those emails starting with ‘Hi Monica’…
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
Email is the preferred method to contact us and we try to respond to everybody. Our deadline for inclusion in the monthly newsletter is the 20th of each month. The newsletter is sent to our members on the 1st day of each month. Products need to be sent (upon agreement) at least a week earlier provided that the testing is straightforward. Deadline to submit pitches (products, competitions, editorial and celebrity mums) for our first London Mums magazine issue is 10th June 2009. Advertising deadline for the magazine is 10th August 2009. Deadlines for the website editorials / sponsorships are more flexible.
What are your editorial duties?
Editing the website content, producing monthly newsletters, content for the print magazine, organising events, coordinating mumpreneurs’ networking events.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Interviews at the BBC breakfast show and BBC News 24 in December 2008.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
Celebrity mums interviews .
What do you love about your work?
Being able to constantly interact to mums and mumpreneurs full of creative entrepreneurial ideas.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Less is more (applicable to many aspects of life, from cooking, writing, etc)
I’d love to have a go at…
Those who are responsible for the current school system in the UK!!!!
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag or blogs on your screen?
Elizabeth Pantley ‘The no-cry solution to discipline’, Luigi Barzini ‘Italians’, Growing Business Magazine, www.londonmums.org.uk, www.bbc.co.uk, etc.