Media Interview with Andy Wasley, editor-in-chief of So So Gay
So So Gay is a website for the ‘tech savvy, politically aware, fashion-conscious, and well-educated’ among you; but what is its editor-in-chief Andy Wasley like? Find out in today’s Media Interview, where we find out about his work on the website…
About the publication:
What was the inspiration for starting So So Gay?
So So Gay started life as a personal blog, but in 2010 it started to attract more writers. We started to develop the site into a magazine late last year, including a full editorial structure and regular forward features planning. Now we have a team of nearly 30 brilliant writers, and we cover everything from opinion and comment through to exclusive interviews and reviews.
Who reads it and how many of them are there?
A typical So So Gay reader is a London-based gay man aged between 18 and 34 who is tech-savvy, politically aware, fashion-conscious and well-educated. That said, I’d like to think that there’s no really typical reader; we try to cater for all tastes, and we aim to attract readers from all over the UK. We currently reach nearly 40,000 readers per month.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We’re keen to break the idea that gay men are only really interested in hot boys and celebrity stories. There’s a place for those subjects, of course, but as well as those we cover politics, health, current events and features, and we have a thriving arts and culture section.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We want to make sure that So So Gay is an intelligent, interesting and fun magazine, so we try not to be limited to one dominant theme. Some publications are fantastic for fashion shoots, celebrity gossip and pop culture, for example, but we want to be much more diverse than that. We make sure that our lighter content is always set alongside some of the more serious journalism that we’ve become known for. I think we’re also lucky to have grown from being a blog into being something much more credible and accessible. Blogs are great, but I think our readers respond well to So So Gay’s more professional style of reportage.
How do you decide the features, news stories and interview subjects?
As editor-in-chief my main concern is that the magazine has a distinctive voice, so I respond well to pitches that are a little quirky or take a different angle on a subject than you might expect. My editorial team and I discuss potential news and calendar hooks well before we need to run articles about them so that we have a chance to seek volunteers from within the writing team.
Do you plan any features far in advance?
Absolutely. We operate like any other magazine, planning out our forward features months in advance. In a sense, we’re trying to make a link between being an online magazine and a print one; print publications will often take a theme for each issue. We do that each month, and start looking out for potential interviews and features very early. Our current theme is health and fitness. In July we look at families and coming out, August is arts and culture, and in September we’ll be concentrating on youth and university.
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
As a new publication we don’t have enough funds to pay freelancers at the moment. What we can offer, though, is space for talented writers to pick up bylines in the most popular and fastest-growing online LGBT lifestyle magazine in the UK. And I’m no Arianna Huffington; when we can afford to pay for contributions, we’ll do just that.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so,how?
I’m always happy to hear distinctive, quirky and original pitches. I prefer a short paragraph outlining the story, any unique or exclusive angles, how many words the writer can produce, if there are any stills available, and when he or she can submit copy. Pitches should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t read whole articles that are sent to me speculatively as my inbox is already overflowing!
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Originality, reliability and enthusiasm.
If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
Nothing too quirky here, I’m afraid; the worst approaches are invariably those where people haven’t proof-read their own copy, or where poor spelling, punctuation and grammar render it unusable. We did have one guy who used to file an awful lot copy that appeared to have been copied from other publications, but we have a very effective sub-editorial team who spotted it and that writer no longer writes for us.
I’ve seen lots of really great approaches, though, and they usually outnumber the lower-quality submissions. One recent approach led to a freelancer joining our writing team to produce a weekly diary about his efforts to achieve ‘the body beautiful’. He’s a great writer and we’re very excited to have him on board.
Do you work closely with PRs or do you keep them at arm’s length?
I work on the basis that if a PR has been helpful, I’m likely to be helpful in return. We’ve built some close links with a particular music agency who have delivered some great interviews for us, and we’re also in contact with some fantastic press teams at charities and other organisations.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I’m realistic; PRs are very, very useful people, especially those that don’t spam my email with pointless promotional press releases! So So Gay never runs unedited press release copy, unlike some of the smaller and newer gay blogs or magazines, so a badly-written or florid press release will never see the light of day on our site. It would also be great if PRs sent low-res, 72dpi stills instead of 300dpi behemoths, because I find too much of my and the subs’ time being spent in Photoshop getting pictures down to a useable size for a website.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
I’m usually just interested in the facts – most importantly, why should my readers be interested in the client? What makes the client stand out? Can we have an interview and, if so, can we have exclusivity for a time? A lot of press releases read like over-excited fan-mail; that’s a big turn-off because it makes it harder to spot unique angles. Every music PR thinks his or her new client is the most amazing musician in the country. Tell me something original and I’m more likely to look at the client in the same way.
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Just the facts, really. Our writers will take the factual content and write up an original article, which should be something a good PR is interested in if they want their product or client to stand out. If there’s a hint of purple prose or a template email, I’m probably not going to read much beyond the first sentence. We also need press-quality stills, reduced to 72dpi for web.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
I keep some very odd hours! I’m happy to receive emails all day, but might not be able to reply within working hours. As an online magazine we can be extremely flexible with deadlines, but if someone has promised something to us we do expect them to deliver.
Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I have three jobs, so typical is an odd concept! My main day job takes my focus from nine to five, but I usually start thinking about So So Gay’s content first thing in the morning and immediately after my day job. As the Editor-in-Chief I plan out the monthly themes, assist with sub-editing, plan the weekly editorial grid, liaise with writers who are looking for help or advice and make sure copy looks right on the site. I’m also responsible for the magazine’s sales strategy, which is going to take up more of my time soon.
I don’t get to write as much as I’d like to, but I try to make sure that I submit a feature or major interview each month.
What interests you most about your job?
The main thing is working with some incredibly talented writers who are looking for an opportunity to show off their work. I find it incredibly gratifying to see So So Gay’s theatre and DVD reviews quoted on posters and DVD covers; what a fantastic accolade for an aspiring writer. Other than that, of course, I love writing. It’s my first passion and I try to make sure I have a chance to flex my creative muscles regularly.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I was a Royal Air Force officer for seven years and left to work in PR back in 2008. I still do PR as an RAF reservist and have been to Afghanistan twice since 2009. I started writing for So So Gay as a blogger in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in January this year, when we started our real push to professionalise the magazine.
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
I certainly do – @andywasley. I’m quite an opinionated guy and Twitter provides me with an outlet for airing points of view and engaging in debate. It’s also great for interacting with friends and keeping people up to date with things; I’ve just returned from playing rugby in Amsterdam, for example, and was able to keep my team’s followers up to date with the scores while I was over there. And this is a bit sad, perhaps, but I have a weakness for ‘lolcats’. Twitter is full of them.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
‘Start every day by eating a frog’. The idea is that if you get the most ghastly part of your working day out of the way first thing, nothing worse can follow. Hopefully that means you can enjoy the rest of the day. (I have never actually eaten a frog.)
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
I’m a news junkie. Before I’m even out of bed I’ve usually caught up with the headlines on the BBC News website. I listen to Today on Radio 4 before heading to work, and usually read the New York Times, the Guardian or Wired on my iPad when I commute.
If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I’d like to revisit my graduation from the Royal Air Force College on 30 May 2002; the best fireworks display and the most amazing party of my life.