Focus on Mrs Magpie with editor Charlotte Laing

Mrs Magpie is a recently launched website for online shopping. This week editor, Charlotte Laing tells us more about the fresh, witty website and her motivation behind the launch.

About Mrs Magpie:

It’s an online magazine totally devoted to online shopping. It’s upbeat, bright, fun, witty and fresh. We update the site daily with interesting news and features on fashion, beauty, homes, lifestyle, weddings and food & drink. You’ll find interviews with celebs about their favourite online stores, our pick of the very best independent online shops and the most gorgeous stuff to put in your shopping cart. We also send out a weekly email summarising some of the best bits on the site. This is called Magpie Mail and goes out on Friday lunchtimes, just when office workers are looking to waste a bit of time browsing the net.

What was your motivation behind the launch?
As online shopping continues to buck the recession and more and more people are opening their eyes to the convenience of shopping without leaving their desks, we thought it was about time for a magazine that would help them sort the good from the bad – Mrs Magpie is like an online best friend to go shopping with.

How do you differ from other media outlets in your sector?
The major advantage over print magazines is that our readers can simply click on the links in our features and they’re taken straight to the site where they can shop. Other online consumer magazines tend to be either focusing entirely on the luxury end of the market, or very down-market and not that well written. We hope we have an enticing combination of quality journalism (I’m a former glossy magazine editor) and features on items that most women will want to buy and will be able to afford.

Describe a typical reader for us:
She’s 25 to 45 and stylish. She loves shopping and is just starting to embrace online shopping. She’s interested in knowing about the odd bargain or two but is aspirational and won’t sacrifice her style.

What stories are you most interested in covering?
Stories about anything that you can buy online and that will appeal to our typical reader (see above). Also, interviews with people who sell online or who are super-stylish and who like to shop online.

How do you decide the content and headlines?
It’ll depend what I come across on a day-to-day basis, but I also like to make sure there’s a good variety on Mrs Magpie. In the fashion section, for example, at any one time I may be looking to have: a feature on the six best skirts (to buy online, of course); an interview with a celeb about her favourite online clothes shops; a news story about a new online fashion retailer; a couple of nibs on this season’s hot jewellery / shoes; a story about an exclusive voucher code for my readers and a feature on getting the best from online vintage shops with links to the best sites.

How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
It’s ad hoc. As I am the founder of the magazine I’m looking after the editorial content, the marketing and even some of the advertising, so I’m wearing lots of different hats each day.

Do you produce a features list? (If not, why not)
We don’t have one at the moment, as there are just so many fresh things going on the site all the time and I like to be able to react to things as they happen – that’s the beauty of having a website. However some things are obviously very predictable. Christmas, Easter, Valentines…

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
I have several unpaid freelancers who work across the site, but I am the main editorial contact.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes. Often ideas from PRs will spark an idea that will become a feature on Mrs Magpie. As we’re a consumer publication, I’m keen to promote the companies they represent, so we can often help each other out.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
It’s really useful to be provided with links to specific website pages when they are telling me about their products. General press releases can be tricky for me to use because if the item is not for sale on their website immediately, then I can’t feature it.

What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
An email with a summary of what the client does and a selection of low res images, with prices and links to the web pages where those products can be bought.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
I suppose it’s getting releases about sensible boring things like ovens or cleaning products. That’s just not a fit with my site.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
Anytime – although if you want a chance to be featured in that week’s Magpie Mail then by midday Wednesday probably.

About you:

What do you love about your work?
Being able to choose lovely things to feature is a bit like going shopping every day, only you don’t have the credit card bill to deal with at the end of the month.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I was editor of WM magazine, an up-market glossy based in Wales. I decided to leave in May 09 to set up Mrs Magpie.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A phrase I use too often is….
I feel a bit ill. A common sentence for most hypochondriacs.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I started working as an economic consultant straight after university, so if I hadn’t had the sense to get out and do something more enjoyable, I may have still been working in that field.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Wake up at 10. Read the papers and have almond croissants and tea for brunch. Go for a long walk in the sunshine with my husband and dog (I don’t have a dog, but this is fantasy, right?). Meet up with some friends for drinks. Home by 10pm to catch up on some reality TV before bed.

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