Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moving Manchester: real or not?

I’m here to report back, as promised, on Moving Manchester. Some of you may remember I’d made a disparaging comment about it here. Surprisingly, the editorial team at MM responded with a rather peevish 400-word comment taking me to task, which you can read below the original comment. My favourite part is this:

As regards the difference between our magazine and a ‘real’ magazine, we would be interested to understand what, in your view, constitutes a ‘real’ magazine’. As we understand it, a magazine is “A periodical containing a collection of articles, stories, pictures, or other features”.

Congratulations, you know how to use a dictionary. Here’s another word for you to look up: pedantic.

Okay, I’ve gotten that out of my system. I came here not to sharpen my snarkening shears but to take a long and hard look at Moving Manchester in order to determine one thing: Is it a real magazine or not? Let’s open the November issue.

MM seems keen to differentiate itself from a mere property magazine. A property “magazine” should be more rightly called a property brochure. The only reason they call it a magazine is because they hope we might be dumb enough to pick one up thinking it’s a magazine if they call it a magazine and make it look like one on the outside. Then, when we open it up, hey presto! It’s all ads: Aspiration Towers, Gentrifcation Wharf, GenericQuarter.

To be fair, MM has gone to a bit more of an effort than most property magazines to present something that resembles editorial content. But sadly, the resemblance is only a passing one. We have long, byline-free “articles” on property developments in Manchester, with marketing contacts thoughtfully provided. For instance, Macintosh Mills is “a six storey love song to Manchester’s Industrial Legacy,” the piece on page 10 tells us. The only person quoted is Sam Williams, regional sales manager for Bryant Homes. The text reads like ad copy, detailing all of the developments’ assets. No effort is made to provide an objective or alternative viewpoint about this development. I have to conclude that this is not an article. It’s advertising, marketing, promotion, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s not journalism. Worsley View is given the same gushing treatment on page 24. Dandara’s ‘concept’ apartments on Page 28. I’d go on, but you get the idea.

A magazine’s credibility rests entirely upon how readers perceive its independence. A close look at MM’s slick pages reveals a maze of advertorials, sponsored sections, ads made to resemble editorial, promotional contests and dubious page placement of the kind that immediately raises red flags. Even its columnists all seem to come with corporate ties and branding.

Take a look at the spread on page 46 and 47. A full-page ad for Magners Irish Cider placed opposite an “article” titled: Cider Revolution: The ‘New’ Cool Drink? The piece about cider’s remarkable rise in popularity barely mentions Manchester, but the Magners brand name appears five times, in contexts such as this:

“Perhaps there’s something about cider that is innately comforting. It could be that it makes us think of idyllic scenes, unspoilt countryside, trees sagging under the weight of their fruit, the lightly sparkling tang of apples helping you relax and enjoy midsummer sunsets…” Sorry, I can’t go on. I’m feeling a bit queasy. I mean, come on! We’re actually s’posed to believe that a journalist decided to write this ode to cider the wonder drink independently, with no financial encouragement from the gang at Magners? Maybe the piece wouldn’t seem out of place in Over-Poeticised Beverages Monthly, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a Manchester lifestyle magazine. Something smells rotten. And it ain’t cider.

In a feature titled Decadent Delights: The Indulgent Guide to Manchester, we’re encouraged to check into the Moulin Rouge suite at the Malmaison Hotel, the delights of which are enumerated in breathless detail. The one detail they leave out is that Malmaison is listed on MM parent company BBDM’s website as a client. Guess the whole disclosure of conflict of interest thing isn’t a priority for the editorial team at MM. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most basic requirements of journalism, and non-negotiable for real magazines the world over.

I’m not saying that every article in MM is about a BBDM client or paid advertiser. Indeed, in this same issue I was quoted in an article about Manchester bloggers, an article that seems to have arisen out of a genuine sense of trying to communicate current happenings in Manchester. And I’m sure many of the other articles have the same innocent origin. But what are readers to think when they see so much in the publication that calls into question its editorial independence?

Is it a real magazine? No, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not.


Anonymous said...

Too right!

For me, the question as to whether a magazine is 'well-behaved' or not is the motivation behind the writing. If the only motivation is to sell advertising - not to inform, educate, entertain, just to sell ad space - it's not "real".

To me the free magazines in Manchester are full of potential, but they let themselves down. They are to journalism what MLM schemes are to salesmanship.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

- Reasonable This Month/Music/Travel/Culture/For Fellas pages
- Manchester blogging feature

- Everything said by the Manchizzle, particularly about that cringeworthy Magners spread
- No editor's introduction to the issue
- An interview with Warehouse Project man, followed four pages later by a description of what the project actually is
- Editorial content (e.g. Beverley Knight interview) with no byline
- Opinionated, first-person restaurant reviews with no bylines
- Mr Massey's reappearance just a year after he was last featured
- The phrase 'girl about town'

Better than Urban Life (obviously), but plenty of room for improvement

Anonymous said...

Go Manchizzle.
Moving Manchester, however, is the perfect size with which to line cat litter trays, so perhaps you may have been a little harsh after all...

Anonymous said...

See I actually disagree with this. I first found moving manchester about 3 months ago in the corner of tribecca - I was out for a quick drink after work and I got so into reading it that before I knew it, it an hour had gone by!

Thing to remember is its free. Not many good things are these days - you get slapped in the face with a copy of the MEN each day as you walk down the street, but how readable is this paper, actually? I tend to thumb to the horoscopes, then quickly leave it somewhere.
I now tend to swing by tribecca at the start of the month on purpose (if not for a quick drink) to grab a copy.

It's great - I mean, come on, we have a glossy magazine celebrating this beautiful city once a month, and we're complaining? Don't get it!

Anonymous said...

if my memory serves me right, didnt the person who wrote the original blog try and start a magazine and it failed after 1 issue, bitterness is never a sweet thing.

Look through and big magazine and you can see bad handers, paid for editorial hidden away.

News paper tell us the news not magazines, magazines promote a lifestyle.

Kate Feld said...

Hey anonymous, do you work for Moving Manchester? Based on your poor grasp of basic grammar, I'm guessing you do! Your comment was so badly written that it's genuinely hard to understand what you're trying to say.

"Look through and big magazine and you can see bad handers, paid for editorial hidden away."

WHA??? Next time get someone who writes in English to translate for you, honey.

Anonymous said...

Yankunian, is this true? Did you try and do a mag before delving into blogging? Is there someone/something else I don't know about behind this blog (a cat, for example)

You do seem to have a slight distaste for all magazines in Manchester, it would explain a lot.

Although I have to say, out of the millions of blogging sites around, yours is by far the best I have found! In fact, it's sooo good i just have to keep popping back to see what else is going on!!!!

Kate Feld said...

Yeah, anon., I was the editor of a free monthly listings mag called eightytwenty in 2003-04, which folded after six months. Great fun, but we didn't have enough dosh to keep it going.

And, by the way, did I mention I was a cat?

Ah, I don't want to seem like a sourpuss (hee hee) about manchester magazines. I am unsparing in my criticism for things I don't like, but I hope my enthusiasm for good magazines also comes through - see this post
for an example of me writing something positive. In fact, there are many Manchester publications I rate: Bob, RevolveWire, Rant, Flux, Papercut, Transmission - and I thought the sample issue of Time Out Manchester looked great.

Anyway. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

You see I thought Time Out was rubbish as a tester. I have perfect vision yet i needed some right old jam jar glasses to read the text, not to mention i got bored of it after about 20mins.

Also, if a magazine lands on my doorstp then I shall read it, but i wont go out of my wa to find it. I am not going to read it at a pub or coffee shop because i will be with other people (bit rude reading when others are talking to you).

So the mags i get now are moving manchester and THE magazine. MM i think is a great magazine, I dont see many local rag mags with the calibre of music artists and good food and drink reviews. THE mag I gave up reading about 6 months ago.

Where do you get those other mags you mentioned?