Focus on Primary Times Midlands & Derbyshire with editor Mike Davies

Primary Times Midlands & Black Country and Primary Times Derbyshire are part of a nationally franchised publication, with 58 editions in total. They are aimed at primary school children as well as parents and teachers and include information on what to do and where to go in their respective areas.

This week, FeaturesExec caught up with editor Mike Davies to discuss the magazine and its associated website, how PRs can contact him with relevant listings information and what he’d do if he had a day off.

About the outlet:

Tell us a bit about Primary Times:
It’s a nationally franchised publication (there’s 58 magazines) targeted at primary school children aged 4-11 years, their parents, and teachers. It’s published prior to each school holiday and includes events and theatre listings, features for both kids and adults, holiday tips, book reviews, details of movies and dvds suitable for families, local news and useful information. I edit the Midlands & Black Country and Derbyshire editions.

How do you differ from other media outlets in your sector?
The magazine is distributed direct through primary schools, given to each child in every class.

What are the aims of the site
To supplement and expand on the content of the magazine by offering the chance for updated information as well as material not included in the physical publication.

The Primary Times Web Site features home pages for each of the publications where extra information and editorial can be posted with up to date news, reviews etc. Competitions are also posted on line for the specific magazine’s web pages.

The Primary Times home web site features competitions specific to the site, film, dvd, games and book reviews (including contributions from children), school holiday dates, a parents chatroom, useful holidays links (booking, travel book reviews, etc), out of school activities and free classified ads

It creates a Primary Times network to give the franchise operation both an individual and a unified approach.

Describe a typical reader for us:
Active-minded children and parents/carers looking to find fun and/or educationally friendly things to do out of school.

What stories are you most interested in covering?
Anything within the distribution region that is family, fun or educationally driven. Nothing too heavy, the prime factor is to provide an entertaining/informative read that will appeal to children and/or their parents/carers. Pagination is a factor in deciding what items take priority, but if there is limited space in the print version we try and feature material on line on the relevant sections.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Covers are generally paid for so that dictates the image. But if not then it would relate to a major event during the magazine’s publication dates. Content is date sensitive so would involve any events/activities within the publication period along with any items of topical relevant interest to the readership; eg caring for new pets, ideas for the school holidays, self-esteem tips, returning to/starting school, educational advances.

Seasonal features for example would look at Easter, Halloween, Christmas (new toys etc) and so forth.

How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the magazine, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
As I handle this freelance I tend to start gathering information in the 2-3 weeks in the run up to editorial deadline, looking to see what is happening in theatres or at local attractions, seeing what features may be generated from events or new movies.

Do you produce a features list?
There are generic features that tie in with school holiday dates, such as things to do over summer, Christmas ideas, Back to School but the nature of the magazine means that new ideas for features are generated by information as it is received.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
No, as freelance editor I tend to write most of the material but do sometimes use relevant supplied features from PR agencies, retooled to suit the magazine.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes, I rely on being sent information and ideas in advance, but I also spend a lot of time surfing the relevant internet sites to gather information on theatres and activities.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Any child/family friendly information on events and/or products with all details of times, prices, event information and images. As much in advance as possible.

What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Send me an email with press release information that indicates why it would be relevant to the Primary Times readership and what feature ideas might be attached to it.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
Those who never get round to replying for information requests until too late and then bombard you with details of events after the editorial has been set. PRs who, despite having dealt with you previously, ask who the feature is aimed at when you request information such as syndicated interview or synopsis. Those who take forever to respond when you’re offering to run a feature or competition and never send the urgent information you require.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
I’m available by email at any stage and as I work from home the phone is usually next to me. Listings are usually the first to be put together as they take the longest, so information should be sent as soon as it becomes available. A week before print deadline may still be time to add things, but it’s more likely to go online than in the magazine at that point.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work:
Get up turn on pc. Get emails. Surf websites for theatres/attractions etc for relevant information. Compile information in raw form ready to be worked up as editorial. Go to bed!

What do you love about your work?
That it’s always offering something different to write about even if the areas remain the same. It’s a challenge condensing information into available space. I like to think we might lead a child or their family to try something or visit somewhere new, to read a book they might not have thought about to learn something that will assist their life in and out of school or make it more enjoyable.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I was editor and writer for What’s On In Birmingham for 20 years, film critic (and occasional TV/music) critic for Birmingham Post for 25 years. Freelance work has also included multiple music/film publication and, more recently, websites as well as stints in a TV press office, freelance PR and teaching.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Sleep is overrated. It’s better to try and do the job you love than try and love the job you do. If you can get paid more for the one than the other, all the better.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
Be very bored.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Day off? If it happens, then catching up on the pile of DVDs or CDs I’ve accrued, having friends over for a meal or just finding somewhere rustic to chill. But usually thinking about what I’m going to do when I get back on the PC.
[lnk||_self|Primary Times Midlands & Black Country]
[lnk||_self|Primary Times Derbyshire]

[img|jpg|Mike Davies]

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