Media Interview with Gemma Billington, editor of Absolutely Chiswick
About Absolutely Chiswick
Who reads it and how many of them are there?
There are 13 'Absolutely' magazines in total, covering different, affluent areas of London including Chelsea, Notting Hill, Islington and Wimbledon. I'm the editor of Absolutely Chiswick, Absolutely West and Absolutely Richmond. They're free magazines and distributed to estate agents, bars/restaurants and people's homes.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
For a free publication, we do cover a variety of subjects, but always with a local angle. Fashion, health and fitness, culture, kids, interiors, travel, food and drink, etc… My favourite subjects areas are arts and culture, interiors and the interviews. Before I joined Zest, I always assumed I'd love to work on one of the major fashion publications, but I quickly realised that it's not my area of interest at all. Food and travel are fun but, of course, everyone loves those topics. It's a challenge to be both innovative and original in those areas.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
It's quite a competitive business but we do stand out in the sense that the magazines are very high-end and luxe (people judge books by their covers, I hate to say it!) but we're not style over substance. There's an awful lot of editorial and it's not just rehashed press releases. It's very important to keep the local angle and support the small independent businesses and people too.
What type of PR agencies do you work with?
We work with an assortment of PRs as the editorial is so varied – from the large and very established to the smaller, more independent agencies.
Do you tend to work with the same PRs or do you receive contributions from a wide range of sources?
There are a few that I tend to rely on on a regular basis, but I'm often surprised at the variety of PRs who make contact with me and some of the obscure press releases that make their way to my inbox. The more the merrier!
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet?
Apologies for using such a tired cliché, but there isn't a typical day in the office. I do a lot of the interviews and writing myself which often involves going out and meeting the weird and wonderful people of West London. I commission some pieces and have to plan what we're doing for the coming months, as well as working alongside the designers and advertising managers.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I was lucky enough to land a position at Zest Media with very little experience – an Arts & Media degree and dogged enthusiasm – and I've been able to work my way to a top position very quickly. I've always loved to write, but before this I worked at an architecture practice in Brighton as the world's worst secretary.
What's your idea of a relaxing day off?
We're all now unfortunately slaves to email, so I make a real effort on the weekends or on days off to switch off my computer and not be sedentary. Maybe it's a female thing, but there's an inherent joy in buying a new magazine and settling down to read it with a cup of tea. It's also nice to have time to cook – a fry-up on a Saturday is a must!
If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I love the decadence (and fashion) of the 1920s. However, I think the 60s must have been an incredibly exciting time of social change and revolution. Perhaps I'm looking at it with those rose-tinted specs, but the onset of Beatlemania must have been amazing!