SPOTLIGHT 

Regional magazines

Regional magazines celebrating people and places around the UK are big business for publishers large and small. Alan Geere tours the newsstands for local flavour.

By Alan Geere

Regional magazines
High Peak on the Jurassic Coast, Devon. Photograph: Red Zeppelin on Unsplash

Devon Life

What’s it about: ‘Devon's Number 1 county magazine, celebrating all that is great about our fabulous county’ – telling it like it is on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: October 2019 issue: 244 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.50 cover price. Publisher reports sales of 12,500. Published monthly by Archant in Exeter.

Cover: Dramatic full-bleed photograph of ‘sunset over coastal cliffs’ allowing for no less than 12 white type coverlines, which are artfully crafted to avoid any crammed feeling. Plenty of places (Exmoor, Plymouth etc) and names (Adam Henson, Will Young) to entice the casual buyer.

Content: With 244 pages to navigate, the contents spread offers a thankfully clear guide to inside. Flicking through, it’s impossible not to find something to stop and read: people features like a flying doctor, food and drink with those ubiquitous pumpkins, a delicious ‘Through the Keyhole’ featuring a country cottage, no less than eleven columnists including the ‘Grumpy Grockle’ David Gledhill, known to some readers as the previous grumpy editor of the Bath Chronicle. All beautifully designed and sumptuously illustrated.

Digital: Lots going on at the busy website both with content and advertising. Options to sign up for a newsletter and download companion publications, like A+ education magazine. Links to Twitter with a whopping 78.8k followers and 20.2k likes on Facebook.

What they say: “Sun's out, so more bloody tourists blocking up Devon's roads” – columnist Grumpy Grockle doing his reputation no harm on Twitter.

Verdict: So much space and so much to like in the mammoth 244-page offering. All the content is prepared with care and affection and extra touches like ‘The Big Picture’ (a night sky in this issue) and ‘Devon Portrait’, which has the feel of those celebrated Country Life portraits, only enhance the package. Part of Archant’s 18-strong ‘Life’ stable which covers the country with similar style and panache.

Four Shires

What’s it about: ‘Representing the best of the heart of England for over twenty years’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: September 2019 issue: 100 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, card cover, perfect bound. £2.95 cover price. Average monthly sale of 4,800 according to publisher. Published monthly by Four Shires in Banbury.

Cover: Striking head and shoulders pic of a horse on a black background. Four clearly displayed coverlines and the tagline that actually lists five shires. Well, who’s counting…

Plus an enigmatic quote making good use of the spine.

Content: First three editorial pages are From the Editor, Meet the Team and What’s Inside before sort-of letters, books and out and about. Equestrian feature has some delightful pictures from specialist photographers. Education, business, food & drink, homes & interiors all get a good show as do nostalgic pictures in an all too brief Looking Back section.

Digital: Website is bustling with content from recent issues of the magazine plus opportunities to subscribe, advertise and order back issues. Just 766 likes on Facebook but 2,600 followers on Twitter.

What they say: “If you were an animal which animal would you be and why? Of course, I would like to be a lion, a cheetah and an eagle – in reality I would be a sloth, a budgie and a saddleback! Because I’m lazy, colourful and a bit of a boar!” – editor Jeremy Wilton bares all in Meet the Team on the website.

Verdict: A triumph to see a truly independent magazine, and one not tied to a newspaper publisher, making a go of it. It’s now in its 23rd year so they know what goes down well and deliver it with style and confidence.

Lincolnshire Life

What’s it about: ‘The county’s favourite magazine’ – bold claim on magazine spine.

Vital statistics: October 2019 issue: 156 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £3.50 cover price. Print run of 10,000 copies per issue, according to publisher. Published monthly by County Life Ltd in Lincoln.

Cover: Big picture of a pumpkin patch hosting eleven coverlines of varying size and style. A ‘win tickets’ sticker and the decorous masthead stark against a white background.

Content: Contents contained on one page, heralding the ‘Features’ and ‘Regulars’ inside plus some picture cross-refs to, er, advertising. Some neat insights like a guided tour of a £2.25m grade II listed house for sale and a piece on a charity improving hospital grounds. The cover stories are comprehensive and well-illustrated while ‘Come with us to…’ does the destinations proud, in this issue Grantham and Horncastle.

Digital: Follow the promoted website to a straightforward page with tons of content behind headings like culture, cuisine and lifestyle. Back issues can be downloaded for £2.49 and the Lincolnshire Shop has everything from tea bags to t-shirts. Click through to Twitter (9,800 followers) and Facebook with 6,600 likes.

What they say: “Interestingly, she has more contributors than she can handle. The worst ones are those from out of the county who never really studied Lincolnshire or the publication. The other nightmare, of course, is people who can’t write!” – report of a talk by publisher Caroline Bingham given to the Fosseway Writers group.

Verdict: Names and faces galore throughout, plus enough ‘local’ advertising to keep readers in the county for their new home, kitchen, fence or posh meal out. Works hard to keep the reader moving through the pages and has a real affinity and affection for its target audience.

Monmouthshire Living

What’s it about: ‘An inspirational and stylish celebration of Monmouthshire living’ – explainer in media pack.

Vital statistics: October 2019 issue: 116 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. ‘Complimentary’ (aka free). Circulation of 8,000, according to media pack. Published monthly by Newsquest in Newport.

Cover: Rather dark picture of a kitchen (in ‘Baltic green and brushed brass’ we learn inside) with seven well-constructed coverlines leaping out in white type. Stylish masthead neatly incorporating the mouthful that is ‘Monmouthshire Brecon and Forest of Dean’.

Content: Ads before contents on pages 11 and 12 divided by topics (Homes, Style, Arts etc) and the editor’s welcome – “Have a fabulous month!” says editor Emma. Lots of sophisticated and expensive homes and interiors, both in features and advertising, and a change of pace with fashion, beauty and food. A spread of faces at an awards do (lost count at 100), a recipe and arts diary provide complementary content.

Digital: No dedicated website although Monmouthshire does have a section on the Living Magazines portfolio site and on the South Wales Argus website, where a digital version of the magazine is available. 62 posts on the listed Instagram page. No Facebook or Twitter, although confusingly there is an account called @MonmouthLiving, no relation.

What they say: “Our distribution strategy is uncomplicated and highly effective as all magazines are complimentary” – publisher explaining the tricky concept of ‘free’ in the media pack.

Verdict: Difficult to believe you can pick up such an enjoyable and informative magazine for free. With 26 titles in the Newsquest stable, the regional publisher clearly knows what it’s doing, and this title serving a particular, and some may say peculiar, corner of the UK does everyone proud.

The Scots Magazine

What’s it about: ‘We've celebrated Scotland's rich heritage and promoted its bright future since 1739’ – historical perspective on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: September 2019 issue: 132 pages of 257mm x 188mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4 cover price. Combined ABC of 25,081 with 1,033 from digital (Jan-Dec 2018). Published monthly by DC Thomson in Dundee.

Cover: Atmospheric picture of Stirling heralding a crime writing festival, four more coverlines and three small pictures including Glasgow artist Peter Howson. Title and website on the spine.

Content: Well-illustrated contents spread, helpfully set out in page order, has names and faces galore. That Bloody Scotland crime writing festival is suitably illustrated with splodges of blood while a wildlife feature does not include anything cute and cuddly. Breathtaking photographs from Shetland to Galloway. Walking, history, gardening and cooking are all catered for and #OutAndAboutScotland celebrates social media interaction

Digital: Simple, yet effective, website helpfully starts with ‘What’s New on our Online Pages’ and scroll down for added extras that don’t feature in the magazine. Links to Twitter with 29.4k followers and 13.2k likes on Facebook along with a healthy Instagram and YouTube that has one video, from five years ago.

What they say: “Happy 280th birthday @ScotsMagazine! First published in 1739, making it the oldest magazine in the world still in publication – and still looking pretty good!” – amazing historical fact from editor Robert Wright on Twitter.

Verdict: With its natty size and colourful display, this is a celebration that Scotland should be rightly proud of. It may be 280 years old but this magazine has moved with the times, embracing social media, and harnessing some of the best photography Scotland has to offer. Next stop 300 years in 2039.

Velvet*

What’s it about: ‘Cambridge and Suffolk's go-to monthly magazine’ – description on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: September 2019 issue: 188 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. ‘Take me I’m free’. Distribution of 15,000. Published monthly by Iliffe Media in Cambridge.

Cover: Big picture of a lady and a dog, both in autumn colours, under the one coverline ‘The golden glow issue’. Six topics in a strapline, partly obscured masthead and confident assertion on the spine: ‘Quite possibly the best local magazine’.

Content: Classy design starts on the contents spread, divided into The…Word, Diary, Kitchen, Wardrobe, Gym and Nest. Some enigmatic pictures with page numbers complete the look. Lots of short items to dip into, a comprehensive diary, and foodie bites plus longer reads like the real-life story of a mum battling cancer. Some celebs – Rosemary Shrager, Rory McGrath, Bradley Wiggins – and, throughout, attention to detail from both a journalistic and design perspective.

Digital: Tons to explore on the companion website including the opportunity to read a digital version of the magazine. Also subscribe to a newsletter and enter some worthwhile competitions. Just under 3,000 likes on Facebook and 6,065 Twitter followers.

What they say: “Rest assured – I’ve not put in a bid: ‘Media outlets in 'bidding war' for Jennifer Arcuri scoop’.” – group editor Barry Peters reveals on Twitter that he’s being careful with Iliffe’s money.

Verdict: Modern and sophisticated, this magazine is a credit to its small production team. Sumptuous advertising complements the features, which zing along with flair and precision. Enough to make you want to move to Cambridge or Bury St Edmunds…

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.