Today we’re bringing you part two of our fantastic Q&A with Duncan MacRae, Founder and Chief Editor, Marketing Gazette. In part one, Duncan talked about how he got into journalism and how Marketing Gazette came to be. Here in part two, he talks about his ambitions for Marketing Gazette, charity work and his writing routine.
You’ve had some interesting positions globally – what’s the best job you’ve had? And the worst?!
I’ve worked in quite a few different places and travelled to many more for conferences and exhibitions. For example, I worked in Dubai as a technology editor and in Cyprus editing travel magazines. The rest of my time has mainly been spent working in London and Edinburgh.
People might think that living in Cyprus and writing about the travel industry was a dream job and may have been my best. I did get to travel around the Middle East, staying in 5-star hotels, so you really can’t knock it. But, from a journalistic point of view, I would say my favourite job was working as news editor at the weekly magazine, Cage & Aviary Birds.
It doesn’t sound quite so glamorous but, as it was a niche title, I was never inundated with press releases, invitations to attend events or offers to interview PR agencies’ clients. In fact, there was really none of that.
I had to write about 30 news stories per week and every new story had to be sourced, researched and written by myself from scratch. That could only be done by building and maintaining great contacts and by proactively going in search of stories that would be of interest to our readers. I loved the fact that nothing was handed to us on a plate and that we had to work as proper journalists. Strangely, that doesn’t seem to happen very much in journalism.
Before I had joined the Cage & Aviary Birds team, IPC Media, the company that owned it, had actually wanted to close the magazine down. The publication had been running since 1902, but it had been losing readers week on week for years, and readership was down to around 13,000 per week. Through focusing on improving the quality of the news, and a redesign of the publication, our team managed to grow the readership to more than 19,000 before the publication was sold to Kelsey Publishing three years later.
What are your ambitions for Marketing Gazette?
As with any publication I work on, the number one priority is to continue to improve the quality of the content we offer our readers – content that is informative, educational and hopefully entertaining.
Marketing Gazette is purely a website at the moment but plans are in place to launch a digital magazine, podcast and video channel in the not too distant future. Of course, with this publication there is also a large focus on offering opportunities to would-be journalists, so we’re really looking forward to continuing with that in the coming months and years ahead.
You’ve talked about getting charity involvement in a future publication, which is a great idea. Could you tell us more about this?
When I was a student at university and I decided that at some point in the future I wanted to create my own media company, the focus was very much on helping people and making a positive difference. Offering training to students is a big part of that but potentially donating profits to charity also seemed like a simple way to do some good.
We have ideas for other publications we would like to launch in the future – one of which is a food and drinks publication that focuses on the experience of eating and drinking. The concept is still in its infancy so I can’t say too much about it, but the hope is for the profits from the publication to go to charities that support food banks and help feed people who are struggling to put food on the table.
Do you have a writing routine/ritual?
Not really. I would usually be out and about, attending conferences, interviewing people etc so it’s usually a case of simply finding a quiet enough corner somewhere to sit down, transcribe, sort through notes and get an article written. And that’s usually easier said than done. Once I’ve got any transcribing out of the way I’ll usually stick my headphones on and listen to a bit of Biffy Clyro, mainly to try to block out surrounding noise and limit distractions.
I like to write up any interviews as soon as I’ve conducted them, if possible, so it’s all fresh in my mind. People generally add non-verbal communication to their conversations, such as hand gestures and facial expressions. Those obviously don’t get picked up in audio recordings, and my note-taking focuses on what’s being said, so I like to write up interviews while I still have those little details in my mind. They can potentially add a lot to the story.
What one bit of advice would you give 18-year-old Duncan?
I wish someone had told me just how important gaining work experience is, and also gaining National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) accreditation. I graduated from university with a degree in Journalism and Media Technology and, although the course was great, it wasn’t NCTJ accredited, primarily because we didn’t get taught shorthand. And I did get some work experience during my time at university – three weeks at a local newspaper and one week at a regional one, but it wasn’t really substantial enough.
After I graduated, I got work experience at a radio station. I co-hosted the breakfast show and did the travel news. I ended up also doing the proper news. I would work there for a few hours early in the morning, then head straight to a medical centre at 9am where I worked as a receptionist, then go home at 6pm, have dinner, get changed and go to another job working in a pub until about 1am or 2am.
I did that for two years, which was exhausting. In those two years, I applied for a massive amount of journalism jobs but I only got invited to attend one job interview at The Oban Times. The interviewers said they really liked me and wanted to give me a job but they couldn’t hire me until I had gained NCTJ accreditation.
I decided to go back to university and study for a Masters in Magazine Journalism. The course was NCTJ accredited and the course leader encouraged me to gain work work experience, which I was able to do at Bmibaby’s in-flight magazine, Esquire, Men’s Health, the Manchester Evening News and various music websites.
One week after I finished the course I got a call from an editor in Dubai. One week after that I was living in Dubai, working as a staff writer on a tech magazine. I became the editor a few weeks later so it was a bit of a whirlwind experience. The work experience and NCTJ accreditation was crucial in getting my foot in the door.
Another big thank you to Duncan for such fantastic insights. Don’t forget to go back and read part one of the interview if you haven’t already. We’re very grateful to have had Duncan feature in our ‘In conversation with series’. To read our last ‘In conversation with’ where we talk to South West Business Insider Deputy Editor, Mike Ribbeck, follow the link.
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