Media Interview with Steven Wilson-Beales, managing editor at MSN Entertainment
About MSN Entertainment
How would you sum up MSN Entertainment and what makes you different from other media outlets in your industry?
I think we occupy quite a unique space in the entertainment market – we offer a comprehensive sweep of the best in entertainment each week; we're a fun place to find out about what’s going on but I think you’ll be quite surprised at our more challenging and provocative features. Of course there is gloss, but we also want to stir debate and challenge the norm. I don’t think you’ll find that kind of gravitas typical of other entertainment websites.
Who are your target audience and how many unique users are there?
As managing editor on Entertainment I look after five channels – Music, Movies, Celebrity, TV and Games. We drive six million users to the entertainment channels each month and, broadly speaking, we target 16-34 – skewing more female in our Celebrity and TV sections.
What stories are you most interested in covering?
The MSN editorial strategy is all about delivering the 'best of now' across each of its five hero channels: News, Sport, Entertainment, Lifestyle and Cars. Along with delivering brilliant exclusives every day, it also means helping our users understand the significance of the latest trending topic, stirring debate through our provocative Social Voices series and covering events in real-time.
In Entertainment it's all about delivering exclusive trailers, music videos, interviews with BIG name celebrities, web chats, movie set visits, live coverage from the red carpet and ,of course, top recommendations every day across music, TV, movies and games.
We’re looking for stories that are timely and relevant to our users. We try to avoid niche interests unless it is generating a wider buzz.
How do you decide the content and headlines?
As with any portal, it’s my job as managing editor to make sure the content my team produce gets on the MSN Homepage. We have over 25 million unique users hitting that page monthly and it’s the UK’s most popular homepage for a reason – it does a brilliant job at serving a wide audience with what they need to know about – top recommendations, timely news reaction, fantastic exclusives. I’ve got to ensure the content (and the headlines) captivate as wide an audience as possible without losing its relevance.
In short, if no one has ever heard of your product it’s unlikely to get support – unless our editors believe passionately that it’s something our readers need to know about.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities?
Everything kicks off with our news meeting at 8.30am where we discuss the main headlines of the day and features we are planning. That will set the agenda for the day – my team will be briefed and freelancers commissioned. After that, the majority of my day will be filled with speaking with PRs and partners to secure exclusives, presenting to agencies with the sales team and working with the international MSN team on global opportunities.
What interests you most about your job?
There’s always something happening and you’re always learning something new in the vast world of entertainment!
You have a personal Twitter account. Do you also tweet on @msnents?
I do, and social media is absolutely crucial in everything we do. We drive a lot of new audience via Twitter and Facebook; it’s a fantastic way of monitoring conversations and delivering our top recommendations really fast. It’s helped us to shape our content proposition. As for myself, you’ll always find me tweeting madly whenever X Factor or Strictly is on!
I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you were previously head of internet at Ministry of Sound. How did you end up in your current position?
I started at Ministry of Sound as a copywriter, but I also had a keen interest in video so eventually became ‘the content guy’ on the MoS website. I was fortunate to work with a great team and ended up looking after the global digital portfolio before I left. It was a great place to work – such an interesting brand that is dearly loved by the dance community. I had a lot of fun there!
I believe you have an Xbox gamer ID. Are you an avid gamer?
Yes, when I get the chance. I have two kids now so my time is limited. I’ll play the big releases and got totally hooked on Skyrim. I’m really looking forward to the release of Halo 4 this year and, yes, I will be playing Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty over the Xmas period – if my wife allows me!
Which celebrity would you most like to meet and why?
Pudsey the dog from Britain’s Got Talent. Obvs. Have you heard he’s already released a book? It’s called ‘My Autobidography’.
Do you work closely with PRs?
PRs are our lifeblood – it’s through those relationships that we can better serve our audience with brilliant content. Of course, if the opportunity is not really relevant to our users then we’ll let them know – but we’ll always respond to an email.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
Although we’re a very busy team, we always aim to get back to PRs. With limited time and big targets to hit, we really do need to see the value of the opportunity clearly. The more audience we think we can drive to the feature, the more time we can spend brainstorming ideas with you.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you and what is your deadline for contributions?
Anytime, although please appreciate that 8-10am is pretty hectic for us…
About you and freelance journalists
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Yes we do.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? If so, how?
We will never turn away a brilliant idea for a feature if it is timely and relevant for our users. That said, we need to have a contract in place with the freelancer first and then we can get the ball rolling. The email addresses above are a great way to start – send the idea over before 8.30am and it could be approved and published by 11am!
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
I’m looking for passion and relevancy. I’m not looking for polemics – I want a strong angle presenting clear value to the reader. If you can’t get that across in the headline or abstract then why should the reader read the rest?