Who reads Golf World and how many of them are there?
We are a magazine for golfers who want a deeper relationship with the sport than simply playing at the weekend. Our readers are golfers who want to immerse themselves in the game, embrace the history and heritage of golf and the legends of past and present. They are also those who want to experience the finest in golf – from the best courses to the latest equipment and technology. We have a circulation of approximately 30,000, a readership of almost 270,000, and about 26,000 Twitter followers.
What subjects do you cover? What stories/events are you most interested in covering?
We aim to be the closest golf magazine to the Tour and the pro game. We also aim to be the most authoritative title in all areas of golf – instruction, Tour, equipment, courses/travel.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
Our affinity to the Tour and also the level of authority and insight we deliver to readers. Our main competitors are Today’s Golfer (a Bauer sister title) which has much more of a value and practical approach to the subject, and Golf Monthly, which traditionally is a very conservative magazine that embraces golf club life.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Golf magazine sales are heavily driven by instruction and game improvement benefits, so around three-quarters of our covers are instruction based. The key differentiator for us is that lessons and tips are delivered by Tour Pros and high-calibre golf coaches. With coverlines, we have to strike a balance between eye-catching and big benefit while remaining sophisticated and upscale. We certainly don’t want to come across as too “shouty” or “tabloidy” in our approach. More than anything else, we want our covers to convey the message to the reader that we have access to the most high-profile names in the game.
Is social media important to what you do?
It is certainly growing in importance and I believe it will continue to do so. Many Tour pros are now on Twitter and our readership naturally follows them there. I really love that Facebook and Twitter give us opportunities to engage with our audience and readers more frequently than once a month. All of the Golf World team is active on Twitter, getting involved in conversations and answering questions. We still need to identify a more robust strategy for how we really leverage the platforms to drive subs and grow sales, though.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
We create a features list but primarily to keep ourselves organised and to ensure that our workflow is fluid. I’m not sure it holds any value to people outside of our team, though, because it is very much dependent on what is happening in the pro game.
What does the future hold for Golf World?
Although the magazine industry in general is having a tough time, I firmly believe there’s a strong future for magazines that can demonstrate authority and provide an exceptional curated content experience. We all lead increasingly busy lives so what can be better than having 140 or so pages of content specially prepared for your viewing pleasure! I’m also excited by the opportunities in iPad and tablet magazine publishing. There are minimal geographical boundaries and the game of golf is growing rapidly in many areas around the world.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Like most magazines these days, we run a very tight ship and our time is precious. Having a steady flow of incoming ideas is crucial for us. One of the first things I did when I joined the magazine as editor was to encourage our pool of freelancers to start submitting ideas. Some were great in their original format; some have evolved into different ideas; and some were downright awful and never saw the light of day – but that’s to be expected. I am always happy to talk to freelancers as long as they come prepared. See below.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
1. A constant stream of top quality ideas accompanied by a brief and structure.
2. An over-communicator who never leaves me in doubt about what stage a piece is at or whether it’s coming in at all.
3. An under-promiser and over-deliverer.
4. First class writing and research skills. Sorry, that’s four attributes!
If you can, tell us about the best approach you've seen from a freelance… and the worst…
I would rather stay away from examples, but it’s always good to receive well-thought-out colourful and engaging ideas accompanied by a brief and a structure. The worst pitches I receive from freelancers are along the lines of… ”Would you be interested in something on Tiger Woods next issue?” I need specifics.
What types of PR agencies do you work with?
Usually industry-specific PRs. Golf is very much a cottage industry and many of the PR agencies are run by ex-golf journalists who know the key titles very well.
Do you tend to work with the same PRs or do you receive contributions from a wide range of sources?
Both. However, we tend to work with many of the PR companies that represent equipment manufacturers and resorts on a fairly regular basis.
Of all the press releases you receive on a daily basis, what percentage of them make it to publication?
I would say a very, very small percentage. I hit the delete button way more times in a day than the save button! The main reason being that many releases are still very news orientated and time sensitive. Of those that aren’t, most aren’t relevant to our content proposition. Therefore, only a few well-considered pieces make it into print.
Do you find that your idea of what makes a story and a PR's tends to differ? How?
Yes – because the PR is often looking to promote its client’s interests while I’m looking to serve my readers’ interests.
How do you think the PR/journo dynamic will change in the future?
PRs will have to evolve to match the changing face of print journalism and publishing. We will hopefully see more companies coming to us with great ideas on how to work with their clients in ways that add value to our readership. Unfortunately, many PRs still lead with the line… ”Any chance you can get this release into the next issue?” If the only way you can justify value to your client as a PR agency is to show tear sheets of product/company mentions, you won’t be in business within five years.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
All of the above… and more. My role is to shape the magazine and ensure it delivers on our value proposition each and every month. I collaborate with our team of writers and designers to plan the features for each issue and give direction on the editorial and design treatments, plus review the publication throughout the production process.
What interests you most about your job?
I love golf and so for me it’s the opportunity to immerse myself in my passion and spend time with like-minded people. I also relish the challenge of continually trying to improve the content experience for readers.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I started my golf journalism career at Golf World in 1991, working under a very charismatic editor – Robert Green. He had an amazing insight into the game and he was the perfect example of an editor exerting his will and knowledge on a title. I moved to Golf Monthly in 1993 where I was features editor and instruction editor for eight years. I then launched my own magazine, Play Better Golf, in 2002, which I ended up selling to a larger company in 2006. I then moved to Atlanta, USA, to launch and publish Callaway Golf’s loyalty magazine. I moved back to the UK in 2012 and was asked to apply for the Golf World job in November of that year. It is great to come back to the magazine where it all started for me.
Do you tweet?
If you could time travel what time would you go to?
From a general curiosity perspective, I’d love to see what society will look like several hundred years in the future. I have no interest in going back in time, although it would be pretty cool to see a dinosaur! From a golf perspective, I would love to have watched Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones in their prime, as well as some of the early Scottish pros who managed to shoot scores in the 70s around great golf courses with primitive equipment.
What is your favourite golfing moment?
Faldo’s wedge shot to the 18th hole at Oak Hill in 1995 to defeat Curtis Strange and close out the Ryder Cup. Tiger’s chip in for birdie on the 16th hole of the final round of the 2005 Masters at Augusta National still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
Nick and the Golf World team can be found tweeting @GolfWorld1.