PPA Scottish Magazine Awards
Winners of the first Scottish Magazine Awards.Judging one’s peers is never easy, says Pat Roberts Cairns, chair of the judging panel of the PPA Scotland’s first Magazine Awards. “When you know the constraints and complexities of the publishing industry, it’s tempting to award all of us for whatever success we have had in this current competitive climate.”
However, the panel of judges assembled for the tough job of judging Scotland’s magazines knew that their brief was to select the best in order to recognise the drive, determination, talent and success stories of the last year.
The judging panel for the first PPA Scotland Magazine Awards – chaired by Roberts Cairns – consisted of Ray Barker, former chairman of Macmillan Publishers; Mervyn Edgecombe, director of MEA Public Relations; Euan Jarvie, MD of Mediacom; Alex Pagett, corporate affairs director at Hilton Group and non-executive board member of VisitScotland; Ally Palmer, former group art director for Scotsman Publications, now a consultant; Mike Soutar, IPC’s editorial director; Christopher Ward, co-founder and vice-chairman of Europe’s largest publishing agency, Redwood; and John Ward, sales and marketing director of Menzies Distribution.
Roberts Cairns herself is an award-winning editor, having worked on a range of national newspapers as well as leading consumer magazines. She launched House Beautiful Magazine at the National Magazine Company and then joined Good Housekeeping as editor-in-chief. She has chaired the Periodical Training Council Editorial Committee and served as the magazine industry representative on the Press Complaints Commission. She was also awarded an OBE for services to journalism.
The esteemed panel took a great deal of time trawling through the preliminary round of judging, as every publication and individual’s work had to be duly considered and the criteria adhered to. Particular attention had to be paid to the evidence of success and specific outstanding achievements outlined.
The final judging depended heavily on the expertise and experience of the nine judges. But after hours of deliberation the winners were identified.
Even in these challenging economic times, magazine publishing in Scotland is continuing to thrive. As well as new launches, there are specialist titles catering for a wide range of sports from diving to hockey. There are important publications serving leading professions and businesses. There are children’s comics, including the timeless classic that is the Beano. There are customer and membership magazines for major organisations, and there are many general interest titles devoted to almost everything you can think of – from interior design to Scottish politics, from fishing to weddings, gardening to clubbing. All were represented.
The first award category tackled by the panel illustrated straight away the closeness of the competition and the challenge facing the judges in choosing between a number of very fine entries. To ease their dilemma, they decided to recognise the differences in style and discipline required of writers serving specialist audiences. So it was decided that two awards – one for Writer of the Year and the second for Business and Professional Writer of the Year – would be made. In both cases, the judges were looking for work that demonstrates outstanding versatility in covering a wide range of topics. They looked in particular for style and readability. Nominated were Muriel Armstrong of Life and Work, published for the Church of Scotland, for her “provocative and insightful views”; Paul Dale of The List for his direct, informative and engaging style; and Mark Robertson, also of The List, with the judges remarking on his “articulate enthusiasm for off-beat music interviews”. With his “genuinely original style setting him apart from others. He’s not afraid to challenge or upset”, Robertson won the title.
For the second award in this hotly contested category – the specially created award for Business and Professional Writer of the Year – the judges were looking not just for versatility but also, critically, for evidence of specialist knowledge. But, above all, an ability to make frequently technical information accessible and entertaining.
Those shortlisted for this award were John Hatfield of the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland, Bill Millar of CA Magazine and Alasdair Northrop of Scottish Business Insider.
Bill Millar was praised for his lateral thinking for a traditionally conservative readership and his ability to produce a clear message – always with a wry twist. Millar scooped the award.
The judges were looking for evidence of outstanding imagination and style in maintaining the highest standards of design, in the category of Designer of The Year. They considered a number of factors, including overall magazine design, internal layout and the cover, the relevance to the market and how the designer had moved the publication during the year. Again, the judges whittled down a shortlist of three: Krista Kegel-Dixon of The List, Iain McEwan of Homes & Interiors Scotland and Andy McGregor of Product.
The judges labelled the title “groundbreaking”. And, speaking of the designer responsible for its look, they said: “Its creative covers and its sense of fun mean there’s always a surprise in its pages. It’s innovative and fresh. It breaks rules.” The magazine was Product and Andy McGregor was rewarded.
When the judging arrived at the contest for Editor of The Year, they looked for evidence of the editor’s individual enterprise and performance in achieving outstanding success for the publication during the last year.
Mark Bowler of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, Alison Forrest & Penny Lewis of Prospect and Alasdair Northrop of Scottish Business Insider were all nominated for the coveted award.
Speaking of the editing team at architecture publication Prospect, the judges commented: “These are incisive co-editors who demonstrate that readers appreciate a critical stance and controversial debate from a specialist journal.”
Alasdair Northrop also came in for praise: “He’s enterprising and far-sighted,” observe the judges, “and produces an authoritative magazine. He’s extended the brand into added value editorial and has enhanced the magazine’s profile via TV and radio.”
But it was Bowler of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying who was awarded the title of Editor of the Year, with the judges saying of his work: “He’s an editor with passion. He displays a mixture of journalistic skill, angling experience, instinct – and sheer enthusiasm.”
Publisher of the Year was also a highly contested battle. Here again the judges wanted to see evidence of individual enterprise and performance. But they were also looking for demonstration of brand extension and proof of commercial advance during the year.
Paul Grant of Bunkered Magazine was short-listed for his entrepreneurialism, his risk-taking and quality of product – which could match any in the UK, as too was David McMurray of CA Magazine for his strong strategy of diversification and brand extension, new income streams and cost-reduction.
But it was Gordon Young, publisher of Adline, sister title to The Drum, who was chosen from the shortlist as Publisher of the Year for presiding over a highly effective magazine merger which the judges thought showed incisive rationalisation and good use of resources. “His is an individual and distinctive style,” said the judges.
The next award was for the best Online Presence in 2003. The judges examined both online publications and the effective use of the web to support or enhance printed publications. The key criteria were ease of use, speed, design and site functionality. Shortlisted this time was ACNR Online, operated by Whitehouse Publishing; Adline-Online, operated by the Carnyx Group; and List.co.uk.
Commenting on the winning site, the judges said: “This is an interactive site that puts itself at the centre of the readers’ lives. It extends the magazine’s brands – and it’s quirky and fun to visit! It delivers what it says.” The comments were aimed at List.co.uk – winner of the Best Online Presence award.
Next the judges came to the award for Customer Magazine of the Year – that’s to say magazines (as opposed to newsletters, brochures and catalogues) that are published at least twice a year by, or on behalf of, an organisation to communicate with its customers. The judges paid particular attention to the way the magazines match their clients’ customer profile and whether they add value and so increase customer loyalty, satisfaction – and sales.
Scotland In Trust, published by the National Trust for Scotland, edged out First Link 4 Parents and Historic Scotland publications. Justifying their choice, the panel said: “It delivers the client’s brief to be a membership benefit. The judges think it exerts a key, readable influence on which properties to visit. Every article, they comment, is clear and relevant.”
In the award for the Business & Professional Magazine of the Year, the judges’ objective was to find consistent all-round excellence – taking account of content, presentation and achievement within the magazine’s own defined marketplace.
The Drum’s parent company was again nominated for Prospect, as was Scottish Business Insider.
The judges found Prospect an authoritative and prestigious showcase for Scotland’s architectural community, while Scottish Business Insider clearly identifies the relevant regional and global business issues of the day with incisive reporting and analysis. However, the award went to Scottish Local Retailer. The panel said: “It’s incredibly lively and has made a vigorous start, meeting targets in only seven issues.” The judges particularly admired its use of an editorial committee to determine policy.
The penultimate task for the judges was to decide on Consumer Magazine of the Year. Here, too, the judges wanted to see evidence of consistent, all-round excellence and took into account content, presentation and achievement within the market in which the magazine operates.
Bunkered Magazine, along with Scottish Field and Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, was nominated.
“It’s a true cottage industry with global reach,” said the judges, awarding Fly Fishing and Fly Tying the accolade.
And, finally, the judges arrived at their last decision of the awards. Last, but by no means least, for the top accolade – the award for the Magazine of the Year. Not surprisingly, there were a mass of entries specifically for this award and, as well as considering those, the judges included in their shortlist those titles that have so deservingly carried off the awards for the individual categories.
After much deliberation, it was Fly Fishing and Fly Tying, published by Rolling River Publications, that that scooped the top honour. “It has found and sustained lucrative markets with specialised editorial and relevant advertising,” commented the judging panel. “It’s compulsive reading, published with energy and passion.”
The unanimous verdict of the judges was that the standards and achievements of people in publishing here in Scotland are exemplary, and well worth celebrating. But the last word goes to Robin Hodge, chairman of the PPA Scotland.
“While some of us may compete with one another for readers, advertisers and sometimes even for shelf space or printing slots, we are all members of the PPA simply because we realise that we can achieve more by working together.” Never a truer word spoken.