Magazine veteran Louise Lague joined the 17-month-old Portland Monthly in March, bringing experience that has included work for The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Self, and 18 years as
Lague spoke about why she moved to Portland, OR, after years on the East Coast, and the importance of city and regional publications.
PRWeek: What attracted you to this position?
Louise Lague: I'd never [worked for a city magazine] before. I had worked for DC papers. Working at a city magazine is like working within a community. Working in Washington, DC, is like working within a community, too, because it's really a small town. Everybody knows everybody. At a national title, you don't have the same contact with readership.
PRWeek: What is the role of the city monthly magazine?
Lague: It's about providing a service to the community. It's providing ideas about where to eat, where to go, things to do and see. But we're also focusing on developing stronger news content. Our "Urban Brawl" section looks at both sides of an issue impacting the community. We are looking at the controversy over foie gras in an upcoming issue. We want to focus on stories that will interest the community and provide it with real news.
PRWeek: What distinguishes city magazines' approach from that of daily or weekly publications?
Lague: I think we tend to be more fun and colorful. Regional and city magazines tend to be lively. But we're also trying to present a balanced view of the issues. This is a town full of political action committees and strong opinions. So we really strive to take a balanced view that helps you understand life in Portland and what people are thinking. It has to be very connected to local issues.
PRWeek: What has the reaction been to the magazine?
Lague: Fantastic. We went into the black just after 12 months.
PRWeek: The magazine is a finalist for awards for civic journalism, excellence in writing, and general excellence (from The City & Regional Magazine Association). Do people expect that from regional and city magazines? Or do they anticipate puff pieces?
Lague: I think people do expect [puff pieces]. But if you just do that, it's a little negligible. You must do a good job writing about the city itself and its people. It's not just about ways to spend money. We want people to think they can't live without the magazine. And we're getting 1,000 new subscribers each month. We're the seventh-best-selling city magazine in the US, and the bestselling magazine in Portland. Sixty-eight percent of our readers don't read The Oregonian [the state's leading daily paper] on a regular basis.
PRWeek: So who is reading it?
Lague: The average age is 42. We have a good chunk under 35 and under 55, too. Readers' average household income is $113,000, and 58% of readers are female.
PRWeek: How do you want people to regard the publication?
Lague: I want people to think of it as their New Yorker. We're not interested in exposing problems. We're interested in helping solve them. We want to profile people, but not be sycophantic. We want to be boosters for Portland, without being overly reverential.
Name: Louise Lague
Publication: Portland Monthly
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