Media: Double Standards - Creating the 'journal of the funky fiftysomething'

Whether a title's just had a revamp or is chugging along nicely, it's up to the editor to make sure readers have a constant stream of fresh ideas and content.

SARAH SANDS - EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, READER'S DIGEST

- What recent changes have you made to the magazine?

We have just relaunched with something of an editorial transformation, while remaining true to the trusted values of the magazine. The title has been totally redesigned and now has three distinct sections of editorial: Digest, Features and The Good Life. The Digest section contains knowledge-based entertainment, jokes, facts and book reviews. The Features section is made up of human-interest narratives and adventures, which are our biggest selling points and will continue to be. The stories we run are original and compelling, upholding the values of the title. I regard Reader's Digest as the best storyteller in the world, and our reputation stands on this. The Good Life embraces the wonderful worlds of homes, gardens, food and friendship.

- What impact do you hope this will have on readers?

I hope they will be surprised and delighted. Our reason for the relaunch is not to alienate our loyal readers but rather to provide a magazine that the contemporary reader finds engaging. We are also looking to appeal to a broader spectrum of reader in age, interests and lifestyle. I hope the changes will make people curious as to what is to come, and there are lots of treats and exciting contributors in store.

- What does your title offer that is unique for advertisers?

The generational and gender reach of our title is fantastic and, in my opinion, unrivalled. We are a family magazine, which belongs on the kitchen table. It may be a mother buying this magazine knowing that her children will learn from it, or that her husband will love the dramatic narratives. Other magazines are so partial in their appeal, whereas we are inclusive. General-interest magazines promise a much broader impact for advertisers.

- What is the biggest misconception people have about your magazine?

I suppose it is that the magazine is not for them. Reader's Digest projects the spirit of human endeavour and kindness of our times. More young people are volunteering, more people of all ages travel and there is a great thirst for new horizons and second chances. The doctor's surgery, traditionally associated with Reader's Digest, is now as likely to be a Medecins Sans Frontieres field hospital. Anyone looking to experience more, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, will find this magazine speaks to them.

- Which celebrities or people of standing best fit with your title?

Anyone who has appeared in a Richard Curtis film would fit snugly. And anyone with a story to tell or wisdom to impart. Celebrity contributors are an element we've drawn on more with the relaunched title, and the range of authors that we have secured really sums up our values. For a title to include Stephen Fry, Fiona Bruce and Picasso's muse is a beguiling mix that is right for our audience.

- Which section of your magazine best sums up what it stands for?

The narratives, which thrillingly cover the range of human experience.

- What do you offer readers online?

The website is undergoing dramatic change and will soon lead the field. It will be an extension of the Reader's Digest values and will offer the reader the chance to interact with the lifestyle and experiences in a new way.

- What do you most enjoy about editing your title?

When a writer I love says: "I have a story which may interest you ..." - as they so often do. It's how we create the compelling title that we have today.

KATY BRAVERY - EDITOR, SAGA MAGAZINE

- What recent changes have you made to the magazine?

As our circulation has been rising, I was in the fortunate position of not feeling I had to revamp an ailing title. I had been a pretty hands-on deputy for four years before I took over as editor (from April's issue). Saga Magazine's evolution has mirrored, and helped crystallise, the radical changes of attitude to ageing over the past few years. But who'd be so cool that they wouldn't play with a new train-set? Not me. I introduced Esprit - a health, fashion and beauty section - and the art director redesigned the title, replacing Helvetica with more contemporary typefaces and giving it more visual punch. We've also added a lot more humour, and we're involving readers more. You will see further evolution in the next few issues.

- What impact do you hope this will have on readers?

I hope they will better appreciate the quality of what we do. We have stellar features and images from some of the best writers and top-flight photographers around, and I hope the design changes will "sell" these a little more. And I hope they'll appreciate the wit, fun and inclusiveness of our title.

- What does your title offer that is unique for advertisers?

With about two million readers, we are unrivalled at delivering to the UK's wealthiest and fastest-growing demographic. And there's no wastage, either: our subscriptions are 100 per cent actively purchased. The Saga Group has sold more holiday and financial products than ever before to an audience that is also buying more cars, cosmetics, clothes and cruises than ever. Brands are increasingly grabbing a slice of the action.

- What is the biggest misconception people have about your magazine?

From the advertisers' point of view, that it's a customer magazine. Chaps, get over it - we are so not. And from the perception of society at large, the misconception is that it's aimed at a much older audience than those who actually read it. My personal point of view? I've sworn that if anyone mentions that Mick Jagger cover again, I'll scream, though it did rightly put us on the map as the house journal of the funky fiftysomething.

- Which celebrities or people of standing best fit with your title?

It's no secret that famous faces are popular, but the few celebrated people we choose to feature have to have something wise and sharp to say. But as they are generally of baby-boomer age upwards, wit and wisdom rather come with the turf. So we can happily range as wide as Twiggy or Kim Cattrall to, say, Studs Terkel and Tony Blair. A grown-up mix that reflects a grown-up audience.

- Which section of your magazine best sums up what it stands for?

Oddly, perhaps, I think Paul Lewis' financial pages. They have all the hallmarks of authority, trustworthiness and usefulness that underpin all that we do. Our health pages are great too - from beauty, anti-ageing and fitness to pretty tough medical subjects. So, yes, from hip ... to hip ops.

- What do you offer readers online?

Our saga.co.uk/magazine site. It's a great representation of the magazine's mix of entertainment and useful information. And of course, famously, SagaZone - the hugely successful social-networking site for over-50s.

- What do you most enjoy about editing your title?

I've only got 500 words! But I would have to say it's the letters I get from readers. They must be the most smart, lively, daring - and funny - readership in Britain.