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Focus on Senior Selections with editor Hannah Light

Editor Hannah Light ‘advises and entertains’ in today’s Focus interview on Senior Selections, the online magazine aimed at the over 60s…

About the publication:

Who reads it and how many of them are there?
Senior Selections is aimed at the over 60s age group, men and women alike, and currently we have about 4,000-5,000 users a month. The site is still very young so we’re currently working on ways of attracting users to us and providing good reasons for them to stay.

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
The magazine has Gardening, Home &Lifestyle, Travel & Leisure, Motoring, For The Family, Finance, Health and Fun & Games sections, and all of these sections are split in to sub-sections such as Nostalgia, Food & Drink, In The News…, Genealogy, Competitions, Online Shopping and ‘Soapbox’. Readers can comment on all of the articles and may also submit articles of their own to be featured on the site.

All of the articles on the site are tailored to the over 60s age group, offering advice on the subjects that become issues in later life, but we are not remotely ‘preachy’. We do not tell people what to do – we advise and entertain.

We recently have implemented an ‘In The News…’ sub-section in the Home & Lifestyle section which will be full of articles reporting current events. For example, today, Thursday 6th of January 2011, there is a copy of the Prime Minister’s New Year speech on economics for our users to read, with an opportunity for them to have their say and leave comments.

We also have our own online store, courtesy of Amazon, where users may purchase whatever they need; it also includes a grocery section for those readers who cannot get out to the shops to buy their essentials.

Anything that is interesting to our readers, we write about it.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
Senior Selections is very aware of the other websites aimed at similar age groups, but we genuinely feel that those others have not approached things from the right point of view. So many of these sites have become walking advertisements for sponsors and the articles are incredibly generalised. The advertising we have is tailored to be interesting to of users, such as companies offering useful services. We are very selective about what advertising is featured on our site and have a top advertising and marketing company on board to provide that for us.

What is special about Senior Selections is that we are constantly on the lookout for things that we know our readers genuinely worry about. Some sites aimed at older people are patronising and address the readers as though they do not know how to look after themselves. At Senior Selections we do not have any delusions of authority – we provide information and if it proves useful to somebody then we have done our job.

Unlike the majority of websites focussing on the same age group as Senior Selections, we do not limit our readers to one subject, such as health or finance, but rather we have several sections for users to enjoy. Supplying expert information for more than one section obviously creates more work for us, but we believe that giving our readers all the information on all subjects is the best way of being useful, rather than limiting them to one subject.

Also, as our site is technically a magazine we update on a fortnightly basis, which means that there will be at least two new articles in each section every two weeks. There is nothing more annoying than going on to a website and seeing that it has not been updated for six months, so when it comes to Senior Selections, we update very regularly.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
The homepage stays the same throughout the year, displaying all sections held on the website so that users can see immediately what is available for them to read. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and on the left-hand side is a list of the most recent articles to be published. The ‘In The News…’ sub-section features very strongly in displaying the most up to date pieces for our users to read.

We decide what content to feature in a few ways. If a holiday is approaching such as Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day or Easter, then part of our content will be tailored around these events, but we do not bludgeon our users with this information as we are aware that not everybody celebrates some, or even all of these occasions. Likewise, certain dates such as the 11th of November will be recognised with an article, and whenever a particularly notable event occurs in the country, such as the decommissioning of the Ark Royal, we will have a piece on it.

The main way we decide what content to feature is to research the main concerns of those people belonging to the age group we are aimed at and produce articles offering advice and attempting to answer problems. Throughout all of the magazine’s sections this theme continues; all articles are tailored to the 60+ age group, addressing their major worries, but also providing fun and entertaining pieces to make them smile, such as the Competitions Soapbox sub-section.

Readers’ emails go on the site as well and other users can create a forum-style atmosphere by commenting on these emails. We want them to really feel part of something. This leads in to another way we decide what content goes on the site – readers can submit their own articles and suggest to us what they would like to see on there. Ultimately, Senior Selections is for the 60+ public, so whatever they would like to read will be on the site, whether we thought of it or they have suggested it.

Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
Currently we plan a month in advance what content will be on the site. This gives our contributors time to write articles for us and allows the advertising and marketing team enough time to compile appropriate campaigns.

As Senior Selections is a fortnightly issued online magazine we also plan every two weeks what will go in each of the two issues per month. This enables us to have more control over what goes in each edition in case of writers missing deadlines and such like.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We have a number of freelance contributors who write articles for us. Some are specialised and write for a specific section and some write about anything they are asked to.

About you and freelance journalists:

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)
If a freelance journalist has an idea they feel fits with the tone of Senior Selections and contacts us then that is, of course, brilliant. A pitch should demonstrate that the writer understands the tone and aim of the website, and perhaps may touch on a subject that we may not have covered before – anything original and topical is obviously going to be popular.

At the bottom of the homepage is an option to fill out an article submission form and send it to me; I will then decide if the content is suitable for our site, and if so will contact the writer via the information given.

Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Similar to the previous answer, if a freelance journalist proposes their own ideas for an article with a spark of originality, while demonstrating that that person understands what Senior Selections aims to do, then this will obviously leave an impression.

If a freelance writer is given a brief for an article and does not stick to the requirements then this understandably creates several problems. We have a strict set of deadlines so that we may keep to our fortnightly model, and so if an article does not conform to what was asked for we have to either alter the plan for the section, or have the writer amend it, which with tight deadlines is not exactly ideal.

We have a specific style also, both informative and entertaining, so if a freelance journalist can emulate that then this is always positive.

About PRs:

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
The best thing that PRs can do for us is put us in contact with companies who are suitable for our online magazine, who understand what we are aiming to do and who would provide appropriate additions to our site.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
We may be contacted at any time via email. As the magazine is fortnightly it is constantly changing, so in terms of deadlines any PR information provided would be useful and interesting, providing it adhered to the style and aims of Senior Selections.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
My editorial duties include commissioning articles, deciding on content for the next two weeks, editing articles sent to me, contacting companies, writing short, snappy opinion pieces for the ‘In The News…’ section, and many other things. I also have control over the look and design of Senior Selections, so I may add and remove sub-sections to coincide with new articles, for example the ‘Genealogy’ and ‘Nostalgia’ sections are two of the more recent additions to the site.

What interests you most about your job?
Everything about my job interests me. One of my favourite aspects is researching articles to commission, whether this is deciding on a general interest article or coming across a current news story that I think our readers would like to discuss. Researching things also greatly stimulates my interest in particular news stories, as well as writing articles about hobbies – I sometimes find myself wanting to pursue potential hobbies I have suggested for our readers myself.

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
I have a personal Twitter account and a company Twitter account, where I constantly update the Senior Selections page with new articles, offers and competitions that our readers may be interested in. Twitter is a brilliant way of connecting with consumers and like-minded companies, and is also invaluable for giving ideas as to what to write about when it comes to small pieces about current news stories. The ‘Trending’ option on Twitter indicates the most popular news stories being circulated on the site, and so consequently is a good research tool.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Know the reader. This is the best and most simple piece of advice I have been given. Knowing the reader is paramount when it comes to understanding what people of the 60+ age group are concerned about, enjoy, and look forward to. Senior Selections is totally concerned with providing information and entertainment, and so constant research is key to knowing everything that people in their senior years would like to read about and have offered to them.

What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
One of the first things I do when I sit down at my laptop is log on to the BBC News website to get up to speed on what is happening in the world. This is obviously invaluable for deciding on content for the site. In addition I also log on to Twitter to check for any developments in all of the ‘60+ friendly’ companies and sites that we follow.

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[img|jpg|Hannah Light]