Focus on UK Parents Lounge with editor Steve Masters

UK Parents Lounge is an online publication for parenting and families. It focuses on parents as adults, rather than just their role as parents. While the publication features articles on pregnancy, birth and parenting, it also includes general interest and lifestyle features.

The site is edited by Portugal-based Steve Masters. This week, FeaturesExec caught up with Steve to discuss UK Parents Lounge, how he works with PRs, and
what he loves about his work.

About the publication:

Tell us a bit about UK Parents Lounge:
The aim is not to be a parenting site so much as a site for adults who are parents. So, while we have articles and discussions about trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth and parenting, we also cover general interest articles and discussions.

Where did the idea for the site come from?
The website was started in 1998 by Helen Humphrey as UK Mums, later renamed UK Parents. In 2005 I set up Parents Lounge and in 2007 we decided to merge the sites to form UK Parents Lounge.

Initially, Helen was pregnant and she thought it would be a good idea to build a website where pregnant mums could chat.

How do you differ from other media outlets in your sector?
Most websites aimed at parents are either baby focused or pregnancy focused. Our approach is to focus on the parent, who is an adult in their own right, who doesn’t just think about feeding their kids and getting nappies changed. Parents are just like normal people – yes, it’s true. We like 24, Big Brother, games, drinking, going to nice places… And we aren’t all mums either. UK Parents Lounge is not gender specific, although the majority of our users are women.

Describe a typical reader for us:
A typical reader likes some form of reality TV, likes a bit of wine, likes Green & Black’s chocolate, likes to have a rant occasionally to relieve the frustrations of running the home or dealing with bills, or having to cope with a horrible boss. They may live on the Isle of Wight or the middle of Glasgow, and they may be 50+ with grown up kids or 19 and wanting advice on dealing with their first pregnancy.

What stories are you most interested in covering?
Anything informative and entertaining.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Sometimes this is dictated by advertising campaigns but often by special events or when there is a specific feature that deserves to be promoted.

How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the magazine, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
The editorial process is fluid. We are short staffed and therefore work on reviews, features, competitions, news articles etc all the time as and when we can. We send out a fortnightly newsletter where we highlight new articles on the website, but we don’t work to a specific schedule.

Do you produce a features list? (If not, why not)
We have not as yet but we plan to start producing one soon.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We don’t buy features but we do use contributions from PRs and from other companies looking for promotion – but the editorial must be valid and entertaining or informative reading.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes, some frequently.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
The best PR stuff is ready made copy with pictures. If a press release is written as well as we might write an article ourselves, we often run it as it is with few modifications. Bad press releases tend to be those with no substance that are full of sales hyperbole such as “It’s the first of its kind”, “how can you afford to be without it”, or “Mums will be going mad for this product”. We want to print information, not sales pitches.

What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Email. A phone call to ask me if I am interested in receiving an email from you will elicit the response “Send me the email so I can see it,” So send the email anyway and save money and time on the phone call. Always feel free to send a follow up or follow up on the phone though. A lack of response is usually because there’s so much coming in that things get missed or I don’t get round to them quickly.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
See above re sales speak. A good press release shouldn’t sound like a door to door salesman. My other pet hate is being asked to include trademark and registered mark symbols in copy. You may need them in your press release but they don’t belong in prose. The same goes for spellings of brand names. It may be all in caps in the logo but as far as I’m concerned a proper noun has a capital letter at the beginning of the word and that’s it. Call me old fashioned and grumpy.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
No real deadline. I can turn things around quickly when it’s time sensitive, but email is the best contact and any time is good.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work:
I spend time on the discussion forums, contributing occasionally, but generally checking everything is OK and no one needs any help with anything. I also have to keep an eye out for spammers – you may be surprised how much time is taken up on a forum just keeping troublemakers out. I could spend a day working on features, competitions or reviews, or adding new content to the site, creating the newsletter or designing a new section. I also spend a lot of time corresponding with members, PRs, advertisers and dealing with technical issues.

What do you love about your work?
I love the ability to think of something and do it, and then change it quickly if it doesn’t work. More than that I love interaction with an audience. One of the things I loved about working on magazines (pop magazines and women’s weeklies) was the amount of feedback you would get and the fun you could have with your audience. Many journalists hate actually having to deal with their readers but I think it’s great.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
Music magazines as a sub-editor, writer, editor, designer. I worked either full time or part time for magazines like The Voice, Pop Shop, Rage, Top 40 and Jive magazines in South Africa, Record Mirror. I migrated to women’s mags as a sub-editor, on Bella, Eva and a few others. I moved to the web in 1997 as editor of Computing newspaper’s website and then moved from there to MSN UK as IT Editor. I was invited to join a new ISP start-up from there and worked for several Internet and offline businesses as a kind of consultant until I went solo in 2001. I’ve been running UK Parents/Parents Lounge since 2004.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t ask people what they think about you doing something – it’ll never get done. Do it anyway and then ask them what they think.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I’ve always loved the idea of owning a book shop just so I could treat it like a private library. I never will though.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
I like window shopping and wandering, so I enjoy just ambling around socialising. I work alone at home so it’s very enjoyable for me to just wander around where there are people.
[lnk||_self|UK Parents Lounge]
[img|jpg|Steve Masters]

Check out our Media Jobs board for PR and Journalism vacancies Learn more