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Focus with Bill Thomson of The Motorship

In this week’s editor focus The Motorship’s Bill Thomson keeps it technical and topical in the world of ships. Find out how to get your press release noticed and what he does with his days off…

About the publication:

Who reads it and how many of then are there?
It’s a trade publication about ships and ship machinery, which has just (April 2010) passed its 90th anniversary.
We have a circulation of 8,000-9,000, mostly senior technical personnel in shipping and ship operating companies. Studies which we have commissioned show that each issue is passed on, read by four people or more, and kept for reference.

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We concentrate mainly on developments in shipbuilding, ship equipment and ship machinery. We like to include detailed technical descriptions, case studies and articles about how our readers can improve the efficiency and safety of the ships for which they are responsible – quantified by operational experience when possible.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We concentrate on technical aspects, written in clear and concise English for an international readership. We are a small maritime publisher, totally independent from professional institutions and advertising agencies.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?

We produce a features list, because it is what advertisers and PRs in our industry expect. However, we prefer to sell against the publication’s reputation and readership rather than the fact that a particular subject might be covered. For that reason we try to remain flexible and topical in the subjects covered rather than following a rigid plan.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
The vast majority of the content is original material written or edited by me and my deputy. We do have a couple of reliable freelance contributors who are able to produce copy to our standards.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
We get on well with some PRs who understand our industry and our publication and like to work closely with them.

Do you have any advice for PRs?
Learn about the markets covered by the publications – for instance we are not interested in pleasure boating, cruising itineraries etc.

How should a PR approach you about their client?
Email is the best method for us, and please give a clear indication about what you would like to do for or with us.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
We like topical, up to date press releases relevant to our readership, with good quality images readily available.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
As well as PRs who have not done their homework about the market, I also hate receiving large emails headed only ‘press release’, that have to be downloaded and attachments opened in order to know what they are about, or even which company they are for. All too often these turn out to be totally irrelevant, and at busy times such releases risk being sent straight to the trash without being opened. Also I seem to spend a lot of time dealing with corrections to press releases sent previously…

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
Because we have an international readership and client base then time differences are important, so e-mail works best. Our deadline for contributions is the beginning of the month preceding the cover date (we go to press in the middle of the month before).

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
Editors at Mercator Media work remotely, so we tend to keep odd hours. Surprisingly little of our time is taken up with writing news and features, we have to keep the websites up to date and deal with hundreds of other routine tasks as well as editing the printed product. Because we are a small company our responsibilities encompass conferences, exhibitions, and other events, and I do spend a lot of time on the phone and email to my colleagues in sales. We are totally independent in terms of deciding what editorial is included or not, but we work together in many other respects, mostly concerned with maintaining and improving our magazine’s market position and looking to the future.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
The first 15 years or so of my working life was spent in general engineering. I began in journalism on a well-known pleasure boating title before moving into B2B with a spell as a staff writer on The Motor Ship in the early 1990s. I then got the call to the editor’s chair on a couple of small maritime titles, which expanded to a whole mini-group of transport titles. When the company was put up for sale I went freelance, working mostly for a professional institution, and returned to The Motorship as editor when it was acquired by Mercator Media in 2007. In between I have worked for titles in the power generation industry, which has many parallels with marine engineering.

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
We have an automatic twitter feed from our web news, otherwise I don’t really have the time for social media unless it drives more readers to our website (our company’s figures suggest Twitter, LinkedIn etc are not very productive in this respect).

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
We get very few – in fact I haven’t had a proper holiday for over four years. Instead I spend time at our ‘other’ home in north west France, but still have to work there. Any day when the phone stays silent and no urgent emails arrive is probably ‘relaxing’.

[img|jpg|Bill Thomson]