Editor's Desk: Jheni Osman, BBC Focus

BBC's flagship science title Focus has just launched an augmented reality cover, in which a spider scuttles across the cover. PRWeek catches up with editor Jheni Osman to ask why she wanted to scare her readers.

Jheni Osman: editor, BBC Focus
Jheni Osman: editor, BBC Focus
Describe the magazine and your readers
Focus is BBC Worldwide’s science and technology monthly. Our readers don’t need a PhD in physics, just a healthy interest in life and the universe. We cover science, technology, gadgets and the future. Each issue has a Q&A section where readers can ask experts quirky questions like ‘Why do clouds float?’ or ‘How does Viagra work?’. All ages read Focus, but its audience is predominantly male.

Who are your competitors and what makes you different?
We’re often grouped together with titles such as New Scientist, but the reality is that Focus doesn’t really have any direct competitors. No other mag covers the breadth of topics that we do. Our accessible content and editorial voice make us unique.

You have just launched an augmented reality cover. Why?
Publishers try to bring pages to life with pop-up or fold-out sections, fluorescing fifth colours and lenticular covers. AR is the next step, where readers can get an immersive 3D experience. It’s great that we can interact with our readers in this way and it makes absolute sense for us to put into practice some of the technology that they are so used to reading about.

What makes a good story for you?
Three types: An exclusive behind-the-scenes – eg we’ve just done a feature on the making of the UK’s new nuclear submarine. Or a science-take on something the average person experiences every day – eg the science of fear, and how to beat your phobia. Or a new science story that’s not been heard of before – eg a freelance writer in the US tipped us off that there was a doctor saving people’s lives by operating on them when they were technically dead. He cooled them down until their heart stopped and then had 30 mins to operate before literally bringing them back to life.

Of which story are you most proud?
The Science of Sin. We looked into the science behind the seven deadly sins, explaining why we’re born to be bad. We also did extensive research to find out the most sinful country in the world; Australia came out top. The Aussie PR machine went wild and the story hit breakfast news, prompting comments from the Archbishop of Melbourne and Australia’s PM’s official spokeswoman.

What tips can you give PROs to get coverage?
My best tip would be to write a short, catchy email subject line, something that hooks us in. But also know the subject matter, tone and reader of the magazine that you’re pitching to.

PR pet peeves
Following up an email with a phone call saying ‘Did you get my email’. We get thousands of emails a day. Whether you call or not won’t influence our decision, as we base coverage on our editorial judgement.

What are your own personal media must-haves?
Every morning over breakfast I read The Economist and scan BBCNews on my netbook. Throughout the day I keep up to date with news, social network sites etc on my iPhone.

Circulation: 71,783 (ABC,Jul-Dec 2009)
Contact:
News: andyridgway@bbcmagazines.com,
Features: jheniosman@bbcmagazines.com

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