The New Statesman's lighter side

Last month, the New Statesman made headlines when it published an article detailing how Hugh Grant bugged a former News of the World reporter while discussing the phone hacking scandal. The story exploded, with Grant trending on Twitter and demand crashing the left-leaning weekly magazine's website.

Modern minds: The New Statesman campaign
Modern minds: The New Statesman campaign

Editor Jason Cowley is keen to entertain readers with more of these type of pieces, admitting the New Statesman can be seen as too serious: 'I want a level of integrity and surprise. I'd like to do more of the Hugh Grant-style scoops. We've had more than 250,000 page views on that so far.'

Since Cowley took over as editor in 2008, he has introduced changes that make the magazine more PR-friendly, including introducing guest editors and bloggers to make the title less traditional.

The ideal story for the New Statesman continues to be one that challenges power, preconceptions and prejudices and informs, enlightens and entertains.

But despite being best known for its political voice, it also delves into the arts, books, religion, philosophy, science and even features guest columnists such as Russell Brand.

'I've tried to make it more plural and unpredictable. A British title with the style of a high quality American magazine, that positions itself somewhere between the FT magazine and The New Yorker. I'm very keen to change the brand perception and give a sense of excitement,' says Cowley.

The New Statesman is becoming increasingly open to PR professionals, especially after the introduction of the NS Interview - a question and answer column, which has featured stars such as Sienna Miller. Sponsored supplements that accompany the title also present opportunities. Cowley says he is also keen to do more branded events.

Alongside changes to the magazine, Cowley has overhauled the brand's online capacity. He relaunched the website and introduced a handful of bloggers including Mehdi Hasan, Laurie Penny and Dan Hodges. Staggering the magazine content ensures it is not published online before the print copy reaches subscribers. He says: 'It's premium content and I don't see why I should give it away.'

TLG director Jonathan Oliver says this type of magazine can be a powerful choice for PROs: 'Some of the most memorable journalism - and the smartest PR - involves the juxtaposition of the lowbrow with the highbrow.

'Political weeklies such as the New Statesman can be used in this way to challenge negative perceptions. For example, the recent Hugh Grant scoop cleverly suggested he was more than an airhead rom-com actor.'

Edelman associate director Dominic Pendry adds: 'It is a specialist magazine, so you aren't going to reach a wide audience, but if you are trying to garner support from the left wing of British politics, there is no better place to go.'

QUICK FACTS

Circulation: 26,000 (ABCs July-Dec 2010)

Frequency: Every Thursday

Publisher: Progressive Media

Contact: firstname @newstatesman.co.uk

Editorial assistant: Duncan Robinson: pressoffice@newstatesman.co.uk

Assistant editors: Sophie Elmhirst, Helen Lewis-Hasteley

Culture editor: Jonathan Derbyshire

A MINUTE WITH ... JASON COWLEY, EDITOR, NEW STATESMAN

- How open are you to approaches from PROs?

Increasingly open, because with the redesign we introduced the NS Interview. PROs pitch for slots like that. We also have sponsored supplements and policy reports that go with the magazine, so we have corporate people who want to associate themselves with us.

- What are your deadlines?

Press day is every Wednesday and we go to press at 2pm. We're a weekly magazine, with a 24-7 website. Thursdays and Fridays are when I have time to take phone calls and meet people. If I don't recognise a number, I don't answer the phone, but I do listen to my voicemail.

- What opportunities are there for PR professionals to gain coverage?

A lot of our stories are self-generated. We are reporters so we are not looking for product placement - we prefer to dig for our own stories. On the cultural side of things, we're very receptive to event and exhibition openings. Ideally I'd like to do the Buckingham Palace reception for Barack Obama. Other than that we're very close to political power so can get into most things we want to attend and cover.

- How PR-friendly are you?

We're not the kind of publication that is PR-dependent.

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