Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Why we now want to work in Publishing

Last Wednesday, Media Society was thrilled to welcome Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief at Bloomsbury Publishing. As this was our first Publishing-related event for years, we were so pleased that such a large and enthusiastic audience came to Queen’s to hear about Alexandra’s career.

Alexandra began by explaining that academia was never really her thing; she preferred novels to schoolwork and read many of the classics in her early teens. Aged 18, Alexandra went to teach English in Italy, and took a secretary course which enabled her to get temp jobs in many offices. Eventually, Alexandra starting working at Virago Press, a company whose aim was to publish more books by women writers. After a few years at Virago, Alexandra was offered the job of Editorial Director at Hamish Hamilton, where she worked for four years on the corporate side of Publishing. Although she enjoyed the many glamorous parties, she needed a change of scene and switched over to the agenting side of the business, which she did for just over four years and thoroughly enjoyed. However, in 1999, Liz Calder took Alexandra out for lunch and managed to persuade her to take over as Publishing Director at Bloosmbury. She has now worked there for fourteen years, publishing many brilliant writers and significantly improving the company’s turnover.

Alexandra then gave us an overview of the publication process, which can take up to four or five years for each book. Although we may like the sound of a fast-paced, energetic industry like journalism or publicity, Alexandra highlighted the advantages of a slightly slower industry. She stressed her fondness of the relationships that are established between the writers and their publishers, naming many firm friendships which she has gained from this process.

We also learnt a bit about Bloomsbury itself, and how it differs from other Publishing companies. At Bloomsbury, the goal is to deliver high quality, literary books to the mass market, rather than churning out fast sellers to make money. With the success of Harry Potter, Bloomsbury was able to expand, a necessary movement since the company became a PLC, and they began buying small backlist companies in order to expand the business.

Alexandra’s role is now Global Editor in Chief; Bloomsbury has offices in London, New York, Sydney and New Delhi, and she spends a lot of her time flying around the world. She talked passionately about the Indian market, which is constantly changing and is really flourishing at the moment. With the upsurge of a middle class, there is a sudden thirst for culture which is similar to the situation in nineteenth century England.

Alexandra concluded the talk by speaking about Bloomsbury’s newest star, Samantha Shannon, who published her first novel just after finishing her finals in Oxford. The Bone Season, which is the first novel in a seven-book series, is destined for success, and the film rights have been sold to Imaginarium and to 20th Century Fox. How Samantha managed to write two novels and still leave Oxford with a 2:1 is beyond us!

Our enthusiastic audience had many interesting questions for Alexandra, on subjects ranging from ebooks, piracy and the demise of the high street, to Alexandra’s own reading habits. Her optimistic attitude convinced us that physical books still have their place and that the Publishing Industry will continue to thrive in the future: “as far as the Publisher is concerned, a book is a book”.

Overall, the talk was captivating and inspiring. In spite of all her success, Alexandra talked to us honestly, revealing some of the more touching moments of her career and offering a real insight into the life of a successful publisher. We thoroughly enjoyed Alexandra’s talk, and are looking forward to reading the many books she recommended to us when we finally have some free time!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Buzz around Buzzfeed

Last Thursday, Oxford Media Society was fortunate enough to welcome Luke Lewis, the UK editor of BuzzFeed to speak. Luke gave a fantastically visual presentation, reflecting the nature of BuzzFeed’s picture based reporting. It became evident over the duration of the talk just how much we have all come to love and rely on BuzzFeed, as, with each new slide showing another BuzzFeed article there was a knowing murmur as we remembered reading, laughing at, sharing or tweeting the piece.

Luke’s description of how he got the job was particularly impressive. Luke, a huge fan of the site himself, which at the time only existed in America, took it upon himself to make a mock-up of what a UK site would look like and email it to them. He joked that his mock up looked almost exactly like the American one but with ‘a little more One Direction and Doctor Who’. Two weeks later, after a meeting in New York, Luke was commissioned to launch the site in the UK. The London office now has a team of 16 and they are, rather uniquely in journalism, looking to expand.

Luke also explained the ‘social lift’ that BuzzFeed strives to achieve for each article. A particular article’s success is measured partly by how many hits it gets from people accessing it via the homepage, but what they really care about are the hits the article receives via social media. So when you tweet an article or share it on Facebook and a friend then sees and reads it, that hit contributes to the ‘social lift’ of an article. This way of measuring success emphasises the company’s desire for their articles not only to inform, but also to stimulate conversation. Luke’s obvious delight when he spoke about seeing his articles being shared between friends with accompanying messages like ‘Number 5 is so you!’ or ‘I remember all of these things!’ showed his personal investment in the site.

Luke also illustrated the power of headlines. Without meaning to, two BuzzFeed reporters wrote an almost identical article about a man who was sent a pair of hamburger shaped headphones by Amazon by accident. One had the headline, ‘Here Is A Very Good Way To Deal With Amazon Accidentally Shipping You The Wrong Thing’ and the other was called ‘How An Amazon Mix-Up Led To The Greatest Twitter Rant Ever’. The second article received about 10 times more hits than the first showing the immense effect of headlines.

Luke also touched upon the business model of the site, explaining their choice not to use display advertisements to enhance the user experience. He also spoke about BuzzFeed’s versatility. It’s quite incredible that a site that delivers scoops, breaking news and detailed features on current world affairs can also make you cry with laughter. This distinct humorous and satiric quality that the site possesses is unique and, thankfully, Luke promised would not disappear even as BuzzFeed starts to evolve into more of a News outlet.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Media Society's Second Week Hotlist

Unfortunately our Luke Lewis talk has been rescheduled for the 13th February, but there are still many great events going on in 2nd week that you can go to instead…

‘Exit Through the Grapevine’, which will be presented on Tuesday 28th by The Oxford Documentary Society, is a film about the famous Graffiti artist, Banksy. The film has received some impressive reviews and is definitely not to be missed.


With three great events being held on Thursday 30th, it’s going to be hard to decide what to do before Bridge!

The Oxford International Relations Society will be welcoming Lindsey Hilsum, the award-winning International Editor for Channel 4 News.


The Oxford Broadcasting Association will be holding a talk by Documentary- maker and journalist, Eamon Matthews.


Additionally, the legendary photographer, Harry Benson, will be talking to The Tim Hetherington Society about his experiences.


Finally, on Friday, there will be a screening of ‘Roger’, a Documentary produced by Media Society’s Anna Ssemuyaba. It is about a blind social and political activist from Brixton, and Roger will be present at the talk to answer questions.

It’s going to be a busy week!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Media Society Events, Hilary Term

We are very excited about the talks we will be holding this term!

First up, on Thursday 30th January (2nd Week), Luke Lewis will be talking to us about his job as Editor of Buzzfeed UK. Definitely one to put in your diary if you spend hours searching the internet when you should be writing an essay (coincidentally, I actually have a Buzzfeed tab open at the moment...)

Fancy spending your time writing posts like these?

Another good way to waste time - http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/the-great-english-dialect-quiz



A week later, on Thursday 6th February (3rd Week), we will be welcoming Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief of Bloomsbury UK. The Publishing House behind Harry Potter, this talk promises to be extremely interesting.

On Wednsday 11th February (4th Week), Helen Placito, Managing Editor of Glamour, will tell us about her experience as a journalist and editor. If you're interested in a career in journalism or fashion, this talk's for you!

We are also extremely excited to welcome two big names from Sky: Sophie Turner-Laing and Stuart Murphy. Sophie is Managing Director of content and is in charge of the entertainment and news channels, while Ben is Director of Sky Entertainment. Sophie's talk will be on Friday 20th February (5th Week) and Ben's on Wednesday 5th March (7th Week).

Finally, we have two big names from Spotify Europe coming in 8th Week: Chris Maples and Tim Garner. They will certainly have a lot to say about their experiences working for the company that has revolutionised the music industry.

So put the dates in your diary and prepare your questions!

As always, talks are free for members and £2 for non-members. Please email oxfordmediasoc@gmail.com if you would like to become a member this term - definitely worth it, considering how many great talks we have lined up this term!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Media Soc is recruiting for Hilary Term 2014


Do you want to join our committee and help us to invite interesting speakers from all areas of the media? 

We are recruiting for Hilary Term 2014 for the roles of Treasurer, Secretary, Social Media Manager and a Resident Blogger to help transform our website into a blog filled with lively debate about current affairs in the media. 

If you are interested in any of these roles please send an email to oxfordmediasoc@gmail.com telling us your preferred role, details of any relevant experience you have, and why you would be the best person for the job. DEADLINE IS THIS FRIDAY (22nd) at Midnight. Apply now!