In an exclusive breakfast briefing with Wireless Group’s Sport magazine and talkSPORT this week, Gorkana catches up with Tony Hodson, editor of the print weekly, and Liam Fisher, national radio controller at the station and recently launched talkSPORT 2, to talk about relaunches, the new station and the opportunities they present for PRs.
Sport is a pioneer. The title launched in 2006 as one of the first major free weeklies magazine in London. Ten years on, with the market more crowded according to editor Tony Hodson, 2016 will be about establishing the title at the heart of an increasingly competitive arena.
So, the magazine has gone through a major re-launch. Hodson believes print titles can get very tired very quickly and turning ten was a good opportunity for it to create something new.
It’s content is still mostly about football, which can take up anything from a third to half of the weekly magazine. “But being free means that we don’t have to follow the money all the time,” says Hodson.
Having a variety of sports included in the magazine is key. Diversity is also important. For instance, in 2014, only two of its covers, out of 49 issues, featured women. Last year the team seven covers featured women sports stars, and Hodson wants to ensure they feature even more this year.
In an exclusive Gorkana breakfast briefing this week, hosted by Philip Smith, head of news and content at Gorkana, Hodson offered up four key things he thinks PR should know about Sport:
The Sport reader – Its target audience consists of ABC1 males aged 18 to 40. The average Sport magazine reader has a pre-tax gross income of £60,061, reflecting the affluent, urbanite nature of its readership. While research historically suggests that the team is writing for “blokes”, content including the lifestyle section, has been broadened to accommodate both genders.
Sport’s cover stories – While the team tends to source cover stories and ideas themselves, they are happy to be pitched ideas. This week, the team heard from the PR team for Tour de Yorkshire (starts end of April), who identified some potential people to feature in an upcoming cover.
Access is important – Good access to the hard-to-reach always makes for the strongest content. It’s something that has shone through the magazine since it launched – Thierry Henry was one of the first sports stars on the magazine’s cover in September 2006. The recent re-launch saw Garry Lineker feature on the front. Hodson says brands, PRs and agents seem to understand Sport is forward thinking and not looking for scandal. It’s why access is usually not a problem.
Pitches need to have added value – “We understand that we need to give something back to brands”, says Hodson. Offering a story with good access and added value will always spark good interest – this could be an interview with a big football star and offering a competition to readers to go and meet the team. Please don’t email Hodson saying: “This could be a big story for you”. As he says, in most of these cases, it usually isn’t.
talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2
The launch of talkSPORT 2 this month, along with other new stations from Wireless Group, has been the biggest thing to happen to the station in 20 years, says national radio controller Liam Fisher.
Described as the prodigal son of talkSPORT, which first launched back in 1995 and currently has 3.1 million listeners, Fisher believes its new station will “bring sports fans across the UK a much wider choice of sports coverage than they have ever had before”.
With talkSPORT dominated by football, the team wants to provide coverage across a range of other popular sports including cricket, rugby union and league, golf, tennis, horseracing and football, with some sports coming onto British commercial radio for the very first time.
It’s a 24/7 channel, and while sport doesn’t exist 24/7, the extra time the team is left is filled with magazine content, including weekly rugby, golf or tennis shows. A week into launch, thanks to the tournament at Indian Wells, tennis is proving to be one of the most popular sports.
Sitting alongside Sport editor Tony Hodson at the Gorkana breakfast briefing this week, Fisher also offered up four key things he thinks PR need to know about talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2:
Upmarket listeners – While talkSPORT is often seen as attracting “lowgrade” listeners, its ABC1 figures are strong says Fisher. “We’re up there with Telegraph, Times and Sky Sports fans.”
Breakfast is big; So is Drive Time – talkSPORT’s Breakfast show currently gets around 1.6 million listeners a week. Drive Time also outperforms the market. While the morning show would usually outperform the evening content, it takes a massive share of talkSPORT listeners. The single most listened to moment of the week is the football results at 4:30pm to 5pm on Saturdays.
PRs are vital for content – There’s 24 hours of content to fill each day and talkSPORT is a small team, says Fisher. The team is after good content ideas and high profile guests.
Understand the station’s remit before pitching – Don’t send generic or irrelevant press releases to the team. It’s a sport station with an 80% male audience – your press release about National Menopause Awareness Day isn’t going to be of interest.
Attending the breakfast briefing, Andrew Mickel, media officer at Diabetes UK, said: “This was a great session for getting a feel for the inner workings of the talkSPORT brand and on Sport magazine’s next moves.
“With both looking to broaden their offerings I have come away with a to-do list of follow-up ideas, from contributing conversations on the radio, to slots we can hit up in print, so it was well worth the time.”
Emily Jones, account manager at Kazoo PR, agreed: This was a really useful breakfast for us. It’s always brilliant to hear firsthand what media are looking for from PRs and how we can best work with them. We have a wide range of consumer lifestyle clients so hearing that there’s likely to be more scope for that sort of content in Sport magazine, in particular, has already got us excited about what we might be able to do.”