Brown's trials breathe life into Statesman

The New Statesman scored an impressive exclusive last week with a different sort of Gordon Brown interview. The current affairs magazine managed to get the usually dour Scot to jokingly compare himself to Heathcliff, the dark, brooding character in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

The blanket coverage the New Statesman achieved on the back of the interview was on a par with Piers Morgan's infamous Q&A with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in GQ earlier this year. All of the broadsheets and tabloids jumped on the literary bandwagon, with The Guardian going as far as to compare Brown's political peers to other famous heroes of fiction (David Miliband is Macbeth, it seems, while Boris is of course a PG Wodehouse stereotype).

But as the editorial team at the weekly title enjoys the media attention the Heathcliff interview has provoked, PROs and lobbyists still debate the magazine's significance compared with rival titles on the other side of the political spectrum.

'The New Statesman has lost out to The Spectator over the past few years, as competing views and ideas tend to be more in evidence for opposition parties,' says Mark Hanson, a partner at northern agency Staniforth and a well-known left-of-centre blogger. 'However, that is starting to change as more people on the left become disillusioned with the Government and sense a power vacuum opening up.'

The title has just announced the hiring of new editor Jason Cowley following John Kampfner's decision to step down earlier this year. Hanson bel-ieves the magazine's management team is strong enough to see it through a rocky patch.

'The businessman Mike Danson becoming part-owner this past April is a positive development, as he has an impressive track record,' he says.

Fleishman-Hillard director Nick Williams sees the title as an invaluable partner for lobbyists and public affairs specialists seeking to target its influential readership.

'From a public affairs perspective, the New Statesman is an extremely useful method to communicate with decision-makers,' he says. 'I've used it extensively in the past, for instance, for organising and publicising fringe meetings at the various party political conferences.'

According to Williams, the team at the current affairs title is always open to ideas for collaborations, whether on editorial tie-ins or events.

'There are many ways to work with it, whether it is through sponsorship of supplements on specific policy issues, round-table discussions or events at all the party political conferences,' he says.

'Not many media organisations are so open to these sorts of partnerships.'

 

A MINUTE WITH... SPENCER NEAL, PUBLISHER, NEW STATESMAN

How has the New Statesman changed since you took over management in 1997?

The strength of the New Statesman brand is in its ability to change with the times - we are, after all, focused on current affairs. A key part of our development has been our website, which attracts the best part of a million hits a month.

Do you welcome PR pitches?

Of course: we value their ideas and suggestions. The key point is that our readership is intellectually robust - discerning, influential and very literate. They expect us to be ahead of the game whether in politics, business or the arts, so any pitches will need to live up to that brief.

Any plans for the year ahead?

As our new editor, Jason Cowley, said when we announced his appointment: this is an exciting time for the New Statesman. We are investing in the brand both online and offline, strengthening our unique inside coverage of the UK's political scene.

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