It wasn’t much fun working in the magazine industry at the start of
September. Very few of the titles had anything to shout about in the
last round of ABCs. But far away from medialand in the Elephant and
Castle, the staff of Ministry of Sound magazine Ministry were, to steal
a phrase, mad for it.
Ministry, which was lagging in the doldrums less than a year ago with a
circulation of just over 20,000, displayed yet another ABC increase,
this time of 31.1 per cent, bringing it’s readership to 80,476 and
making it the UK’s third largest music title after Q and the NME. At the
same time, Emap dance music rival Mixmag fell 17 per cent and IPC’s
trainspotter title Muzik rose a paltry 3.5 per cent.
In publishing, it is fashionable to talk about the complex factors that
make up a magazine’s success. In Ministry’s case, there is ultimately
just one - in September 1998, Scott Manson took over as editor.
’We haven’t done any focus groups or any of the traditional Soho media
things,’ Manson says as he recovers from an injury sustained while
attempting some stunts on a BMX. ’We don’t get cash chucked at us by the
club and we haven’t had much of a marketing budget. That’s why I love it
The media industry slags Ministry off, saying a club can’t publish a
successful magazine and we’ve proved them wrong.’
Manson puts the magazine’s success down to a redesign, a new direction
and a new attitude, but he underlines two things above all. First, he
and his youthful team go clubbing as much as the readers and try to
include their own messy nonsense in the title to prove it - ’I’d prefer
my 22-year-old music editor to be on the podium dancing like a
frightened chimp than to be some grey-haired thirty-something music
hack.’ Second, the magazine stopped putting free CDs on the cover as an
occasional promotion and started putting them on every issue.
Manson’s own clubbing antics stem from his time as a work experience
student on Bristol listings magazine Venue. ’We went out together for
years and got into some hideous states,’ says John Mitchell, at that
time music editor, and most recently editor, of Venue. ’Scott really
knows the trainspotter side of DJs and producers, but he doesn’t write
like a trainspotter. Having a good time is far more important to
Manson himself cites Mitchell as his mentor. ’I’d written a club review
for him and he took an hour to go through it with me line by line,
teaching me more than I’d learned in two years of college,’ he said.
Nevertheless, after graduating in 1995, Manson didn’t take up the offer
of a job at Venue, deciding instead to move to London and work for a
small magazine company called Square One. He then jumped ship to
Chronos, publisher of the Pink Paper, to launch their fledgling title
Velocity, where he would regularly work until 5.30am on a press day
making sure everything was right.
His advice to those interested in promoting their clients to Ministry is
to think like him. ’I call our reader Dagenham Dave. He’s 19 and a
complete hedonist and I’m interested in anything which interests him.
That’s how we’ve made the magazine sell. It’s that simple.’