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What makes a great idea for a magazine?

Every year, university students from PPA accredited degree and Masters courses compete for the Best Original Concept category in the Magazine Academy Awards. But what makes a winning entry and could it survive in the market? Mary Hogarth finds out…

By Mary Hogarth

In the newsstands, there are numerous lifestyle and specialist titles – all competing for readers. It is a somewhat saturated market, where only an original concept could make an impact on the judges.

Tucked – winner of this year’s Best Original Concept award – aimed at the LGBTQ demographic fits the bill.

It is a concept that emerged from a course assignment by magazine journalism students. Team Tucked’s Alice Freeman, Iga Kozakiewicz-Schlegel, Josie Tague and Aiden Dalby – who have just begun their final year at Southampton Solent University – were delighted by their success.

“The phrase ‘hard work pays off’ is one that accurately fits the way we all as a team felt,” reveals Josie. “We were so overwhelmed to have even been submitted into the awards, let alone be shortlisted. So to win was another level.”

A gap

Avoiding the usual lifestyle ideas, Tucked targets a niche market, which has not yet been tapped into by UK magazine publishers.

Iga explains how their idea evolved: “For a mini project we did in our first year, Alice and myself found a gap in the market for a drag-specific magazine within the LGBTQ community. We couldn't stop thinking about the idea until a year later when we were finally able to take it further in our second-year unit.

“We pitched the idea to our group members Josie and Aiden who thought it would be different, interesting but also fun to explore the culture of drag.”

Market research

Undertaking in-depth research at the initial stage is a must. Not only must you know your demographic, but also ensure the magazine would be well received.

Team Tucked spent a lot of time on research, surveying more than 200 potential readers from the LGBTQ community.

“We conducted a survey through almost every social media platform we could,” says Aiden. “We posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and I went on to several forums for drag queens and shared it there.”

A great idea, backed by in-depth research and a gap in the market were key indicators that it could be successful. Currently there are no drag-specific magazines in print in the UK.

“There was this response of ‘Finally, it’s about time someone did this!’ from many people in the community,” reveals Aiden. “We knew we had something that would work when we were getting tweets from drag queens asking when it would be released.”

Why did their entry stand out? Alice feels it was a combination of points.

“We had tapped into a niche topic and the judges saw the importance of this,” she explains adding that drag is a highly visual culture.

“The cover alone commanded attention. Inside the magazine, we utilised the painted faces, the glitter and the colourful imagery that the queens wear so well. And of course, the name Tucked is a little crude but certainly catchy.”

Design played a key part.

“We knew we could go one of two ways with our design,” explained Josie. “But we decided we wanted it to give a high-end feel, with a clean yet bold design scheme. This way, the photography would have more of an emphasis.”

Sustainable plan

However it took more than a great cover and a gap in the market to scoop the first prize of £500.

The project had the necessary depth to convince judges that this was a sustainable idea and a viable business proposition.

“Once we had caught the judges’ attention with our cover and editorial content / design, we made sure that the business side of the magazine was fully developed,” says Alice.

Their entry included a comprehensive media kit that featured everything from thorough market and rival analysis to plans of digital and social media strategies.

Alice revealed the group had even considered the revenue streams of their hypothetical budget.

What’s next?

So what are the team’s plans following the award? Do they plan to develop the concept?

“Beyond university, we always said there was a future for Tucked,” says Alice. “What better proof is there than this?

“Of course it’s difficult to predict where each of us will be in eight months’ time but once our busy final year is over and we have graduated, we will regroup and discuss the logistics of launching Tucked as a product.

“In the meantime, we will all continue to keep our finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving drag scene.”

Gill Hudson, an award-winning editor and former chair of the PPA, was delighted at Tucked’s success.

"Tucked is one of the best student magazines I've ever seen: focused, original and clever,” said Gill. “A very talented team who deserved to win."

Gill had offered initial feedback on the project during the early stages while attending one of the Magazine Business Development seminars in her capacity as the then Visiting Professor of Magazine Journalism at Southampton Solent University.

This year’s Magazine Academy Awards was hosted by Immediate Media at their offices in London. The Best Original Concept category was sponsored by Redwood Publishing who donated the £500 prize.