What’s life like as the tastemaker of the UK’s biggest magazine publisher? And how does the Bauer Head of Content see the future of digital journalism?
Speaking to Journo Resources, Bauer’s Head of Content Amy Cooper shares her love of spreadsheets and women’s magazines, her subscription fatigue, and why you should ditch your long-term career plan…
What’s your job title?
My current job title is Head of Content. I look after the women’s lifestyle brands, and a few of the digital content editors report to me. I also look after the Audience Development Executive and a video producer in lifestyle.
What did you always dream of being?
I always wanted to work in magazines. Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, I was an avid reader of Dolly and Girlfriend, two magazines marketed at teenage girls that consumed a large portion of my pocket money. I then graduated onto Cosmo and Cleo, which are sadly not published in Australia anymore.
There’s not much of a women’s publishing market in Adelaide, so I was always cognisant that it would be a hard industry to crack.
In my last year at school, I pivoted and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I actually ended up at law school before thinking that I might give media a go.
I was a strong reader of a number of women’s websites that had broken out around that time in Australia, and I knew I wanted to end up in digital.
I started my career at Mamamia in 2014 and ended up as the editorial strategy manager, before I left to work in audience development for Bauer Australia. I relocated to London in 2018 where I’ve worked across many of Bauer’s lifestyle and radio brands.
What triggered the switch to digital?
As a consumer, I found myself gravitating more towards the immediacy of online media. I enjoyed the feedback loop. I liked being able to follow a story and see how the conversation went. I fell in love with digital as a user first, and that spurred me to decide that this was where I wanted to work.
During my first internship I fell in love with the fast pace, and the data side which has become a big part of my career now. I wanted to see how people engaged with the story.
What’s a typical day?
I’d like to say that I’m one of those people who’s up at 6am and off to the gym, but I’m more one for setting 10 alarms and reluctantly look at my emails from my phone.
The first thing I do – pretty much the only consistent structure I have – is to look at how we performed the previous day. I’ll look at all of the brands I work across and whether we’re on track to hit our monthly targets, and I’ll check the line-up for the day.
The brands are pretty different. I’ll structure my day around which needs the most attention. For example, we’ve just re-platformed one of our sites, so I’m working a little more closely with that brand at the moment.
Want an insight into the daily lives of more journalists? We’ve got you covered. Check out our interviews with Jess Brammar, Executive Editor of HuffPost UK, Megha Mohan, the BBC’s first Gender and Identity Correspondent, and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Head of Editorial at gal-dem.
Our editorial targets for the last year were quite aggressive; we’ve managed to scale our lifestyle brands significantly. I’ll split my time between reactive pieces and what’s going on in the news cycle, and more longer-term planning for each title. I look holistically at major entry points to the sites, on- and off-platform engagement, upcoming events and then video and social.
If people were looking at your role, what do you think would surprise them about what you do?
How many spreadsheets are involved – I have learned to love Excel, and probably couldn’t do my job without it. When I started my career, I would never have expected to end up as someone who lives or dies by her spreadsheets. To be honest, I probably would have found that prospect very off-putting.
What do you look for in job applications?
When I’ve been recruiting, particularly for entry-level positions, I think back to advice that my dad gave me when I was finishing uni and entering a very rough job market. He said that employers are only interested in two things: are you able to do the job, and are you going to be a good fit for the business?
This is at the front of my mind when I’m recruiting, particularly when I’ve met candidates who might not have a load of experience. I want to see people who have engaged with the content on our website, who get what the brand is about and are eager to learn more about what makes that audience tick.
📢 We are the UK’s biggest magazine publisher- huge congratulations to all our magazine teams for their hard work 👏🥇👏
— Bauer Media Group UK (@bauermedia) August 15, 2019
It surprises me when I find a few people will come to a job interview and not be able to tell you what’s on the website that day, or pull a good story out of the news cycle that would work for a particular brand. I look for people who are really engaged with what we do.
What do you look for in future superstars?
People who are super enthusiastic, particularly if they’re not constrained by the job description. I love people that are bursting with ideas.
We work across different brands and there are a lot of different departments. Anyone that is keen to get their head around every aspect of the business and wants to learn more, is attractive.
What about bad habits for young journalists to avoid?
The one thing that I probably would not do again is have a long-term plan – being strict on where I thought I’d end up.
I would never discourage ambition, but I feel that you should be open to every opportunity that comes your way. So for example, I started out as an editorial assistant and thought that the natural progression from that role would be a staff writing role.
Instead, I was offered a role in social media for a publication that I worked for in Australia, which wasn’t where I had seen myself going but it ended up opening up a lot of doors, particularly in audience development and digital content.
Anyone who vehemently disagrees with me on this (I know you’re out there!) will be pleased to know my email stopped working this morning and I’m now painfully behind. https://t.co/8Q77ceSVo2
— Amy Cooper (@amylouisecooper) April 16, 2019
When I was graduating, there were people who said they knew exactly where they’d end up – editor of such and such – whereas now I think it’s OK to move the goalposts and to embrace new aspects of the job.
I’ve been in roles that didn’t exist when I was studying or at school, so I don’t think you can map out a career in an industry that’s constantly changing – especially if you’re building a career in digital.
What happens to journalism in the next three to five years?
I wish I knew. I think there will always be a place for great journalism. We know that Google and Facebook are hoovering up a lot of ad dollars, and there are some interesting times ahead for how we as a society deal with that.
My pipe dream – and I am very open to investment if someone wants to give me a lot of money to go and do it – I’d love to see a viable Spotify-type subscription model for journalism.
As a consumer, I would love to be able to pay for a product where I can read a certain number of pieces from a variety of publications. There is a lot of amazing content that exists behind a pay wall – I would love it if there was a way to pay for good content without multiple subscription fees.
There’s a lot of people willing to pay for great content, but there’s also a very clear cap on how many subscriptions that people want to take out.
I pay for content online and in print on a regular basis, but I have subscription fatigue. I would love a way to support great journalism and consume content from a range of publications in a way that benefits both the audience and the content creators.