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Focus on Blokely with editor James York

“If we ran with the herd, we wouldn’t be blokely”, according to Blokely editor James York. So, what is Blokely? Find out in today’s Focus interview.

About the website:

Who reads it and how many of them are there?
Blokely is aimed at men in their 20’s 30’s and 40’s, we’re delighted that our online readership is growing by the thousands each month. If you build it, they will come (to visit of course, no innuendo intended there…it’s not our thing).

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We’re interested in broad base lifestyle, so we focus on content in the entertainment, grooming, and fashion categories, all wrapped neatly around our star columnists. That said, it’s like music, anything that’s good – gets covered.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
These kinds of questions always confuse me. People that talk about being different, rarely are, because they try to be. Grudgingly, if I had to pick though, I would say tone, attitude and branding.

We’re independent and not saddled with the dilemma of “offline or online”. As an online magazine (with an eye on offline opportunity), we’ve evolved from a quasi-blog really. You could call us a “blag”. How many other brands have that kind of honest evolution, putting truth and wit in the same bracket as aspiration?

How do you decide the content?
I have a series of coins, on the blokely “manshelf” in the office, right next to the grooming samples and our statue of David Beckham, there’s one for each section. When we get an idea, well, you get the idea…

Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
I heard an anecdote about dating once. A guy fancies this lovely young lady. He approaches her friend to find out if she’s single and interested. The friend relays this delightful compliment. Great news! She is and is. Her reply? She tells the friend to relay back; “if he wants to ask me out, he’ll have to do it directly.” And there’s a sage lesson.

We have a features list in house. Right now though, we don’t publicise it. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit unpredictable. It’s one of the advantages of who we are and want to continue to be. If we ran with the herd, we wouldn’t be blokely. Phone us up and ask if you’re curious…

About you and freelance journalists:

Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
We have staff writers and marquee columnists producing the bulk of our content. We are really focused on breaking new talent though, we’d encourage any freelancer in our category that’s looking for a new direction or a fresh dose of creative control to visit our contributor’s page and send in their details.

As we grow, we’ll be working with more and more freelancers – it’s inevitable and a rich resource opportunity for content for us. There’s a lot of raw material out there to be nicely refined in the blokely lab.

Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how? (What should the pitch include and any specifics about how they should send that information to you)
Absolutely, see above. Pitch away people. Despite the enormous amount of rubbish that flows from my mind, I am aware that I do not know everyone or everything. It deeply upsets me actually, I’d like to.

We’re still on a journey – so why not join the ride Mr & Mrs Writer?

Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
We covet congruent personality, tone and originality. The pretentious should not apply – there are plenty of opportunities for them elsewhere. It just isn’t for us to dictate, we discuss. That’s the destination of the web right now.

If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
We like it when people come to us with fresh and well thought out ideas that match our tone and targets. We don’t like people that cause aggravation and are not constructive. It’s pretty simple. No innovation and spirit, no chance.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
PR’s are a vital component to our philosophy and we embrace our relationships with them. It would be foolhardy to be “purist” and ignore their influence and connections. Some of our most fruitful developments and favourite colleagues are from PR agencies. We’ll never be an open door to coverage; you have to earn our love with good professional procedure, decent planning and complete assets. We prefer symbiotic relationships.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Sometimes we aren’t given enough time to plan – it would be great to know where you figure in someone’s pecking order. If you want coverage, make sure you ask early. No one likes being the last person to find out “that secret” or being the last invitee to the party. Whilst the realities do exist – open, honest transparency works best. Elephants never forget…right?

How should a PR approach you about their client?
With the complete holistic approach, engage with our brand. Follow us on twitter, start a conversation, get in touch through our contact channels. Send us a little but not lots of information and we’ll be in touch if we like it.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Access to talent and samples. We’re also big fans of PR’s that can see the bigger picture in terms of traffic generation. Twitter competitions, unique features and white space content all give us big smiles.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
Think of our day in terms of tea breaks. During or around them is perfect (9am, 11am, 3pm). We have to write lots of copy and tweets, amongst other things, give us some space to breathe. Email any time, calls welcome as stated.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I do blokely things. My subs tell me what to do; I’m just here for the ride. Seriously though, I stalk brands and partners to work with. I cold call agents to generate interviews with talent. I write copy and I oversee everything that gets tweeted, commissioned and published.

What interests you most about your job?
I am intrigued about how far I can take the brand. I have a hunch it’s a good one. Seeing that seed grow is like a fission reactor for my enthusiasm.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I did insurance. Anyone that has worked in that industry will know that almost no one wants to work in that industry. So I wrote down my “top 5 all time jobs” (yes, I love High Fidelity) and picked the top one to open up into. I‘d also have to thank a colleague, Louise Clarke, for letting me prattle on about grooming on her blog – it opened the door. Then Blokely’s evolution is your standard story. I hadn’t found a men’s lifestyle brand that I felt fully reflected my values, honesty and a positive, fun tone. So I made one. Why not?

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
It’s a fantastic, and key, channel for us. Since we energized the site, it’s been growing above our planned rate. We’re @blokely, why don’t you swing by and follow us to see how we use it? Otherwise we’d have to charge, social media “gurus” don’t come cheap.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Learn to say “No”.

What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
The New York Times- simply because of the way it reports and breaks stories. No disrespect to the British papers but their reporting styles are very similar to each other.

The NY Times gives me a different perspective. I suppose you could say that it breaks the mould, similar to what we are trying to achieve with our platform so I can relate to it more. It also has great ancillary content like books and columns.

If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I would go back to 1960. Place a number of large bets, I knew I would win, and buy all the vinyl I could carry (presuming it wasn’t a one way trip). Then I would hunt down Keith Richards, make friends with him before he formed that amazing band and live happily ever after. If I had anything left over, I would buy every property I could get my hands on. Is that answering the question, or daydreaming?

[img|jpg|James York, editor of Blokely]