Time Out has become truly international since it launched as Time Out London in 1968, and its magazines can be found on newsstands as far afield as Dubai, Russia, China and India.
The listings bible's next step along the road to world domination is closer to home though, via the publication of a one-off Manchester guide next month with a view to a regular magazine for the city launching in spring 2007. ‘Manchester is an exciting, cosmopolitan, culturally vibrant place - perfect for us,' says editor Gordon Thomson.
For PR people promoting ‘cool' events, Time Out continues to be one of the first phone calls they make.
‘If you want to create buzz around an event in London, you would go to Time Out first,' says Molly Hooper, director of Weber Shandwick's youth division, Slam.
‘Huge amount of caché'
Shine Communications publicist Zac Schwarz says clients are always impressed by coverage in the magazine. ‘It still has a huge amount of caché and is thought of by clients as a magazine that targets cool London,' he says.
This reputation owes much to the weekly's independence. ‘Our listings are not skewed by commercial interests. We set our own agenda and don't want to be swayed by what other people are doing,' Thomson explains.
Since Thomson became editor in the summer of 2004, the magazine has relaunched with a focus on real
Londoners rather than celebs - a policy that has made it difficult for personal publicists to bag coverage for clients.
Film specialist and Premier PR joint CEO Jonathan Rutter says he has less contact with Time Out than he used to: ‘It might still carry a small interview with a film's director, perhaps, but it does not tend to carry feature interviews about film actors any more.'
PR practitioners in other sectors - such as restaurant and food - have benefited of late, because their markets have been given more space.
Sauce Communications director Amy Sargeant says: ‘Time Out devotes a lot of space to food, with a main feature, several restaurant reviews, snippets of food news and listings, providing a variety of opportunities.' For PR people plugging products, opportunities are few and far between. News editor Rebecca Taylor will cover interesting items she hears from Londoners themselves, or from sources such as London councils or campaigning groups, but would hardly ever write about a product launch.
In the title's shopping section, Consume, featured brands tend to be non-mainstream, such as niche companies or vintage shops. To get round this, Mediator Public Relations director Laura Coller tries to win coverage in Time Out's annual Carnival issue in August; it is one of the few times the magazine features fashion.
She says: ‘I think most Time Out readers are more inclined to read music and arts-focused publications regularly, as opposed to fashion magazines, so this edition is a great chance for fashion brands to get in its pages.'
Other themed issues - which tend to be planned six or eight weeks ahead - also provide opportunities for products that would not usually make it in.
Given that Time Out is stuffed with listings, it makes sense for PR professionals to put some effort into making their event stand out from the crowd. As Coller says: ‘I try to ensure events do not get lost among all the other listings by providing some kind of angle. That way they are more likely to be flagged up on the listings page or featured at the front of the magazine.'
Listings editor Omer Ali is responsible for two of the most influential pages in the magazine as far as listings are concerned - the ‘Note to Self' page, featuring Time Out's pick of the best things to do in London, at the front of the magazine; and the title page for listings, Time Off, a full-page picture flagging up one of the events.
Ali says he often has trouble getting hold of hi-res pictures that suit Time Out's style, so PROs could reap benefits from providing strong images.
But whether targeting news, listings or features, one must always be aware of Time Out's quirky agenda. In
Nightlife, for example, Social Club editor Simone Baird's ideal invitation would be to somewhere ‘very different, unusual and never seen before, or something that is the best in genre'.
Similarly, for music editor Eddy Lawrence, events must have a story behind them: ‘We want something that will have an effect on Londoners' lives and get them out of the house and doing something different.'
Crucially, all Time Out staff spoken to by PRWeek urged PR people to approach them with more thought than many seem to employ. Baird says that, rather than complicated explanations or colourful emailed file-attachments: ‘All we want from PROs plugging events is a couple of sentences in an email, clearly telling us what is different about the event.'
With so many different sections and special issues, and a relatively large and busy workforce, navigating Time Out is perhaps trickier than many titles. But PR professionals delivering the right information to the right person at the right time will not be forgotten.
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