How did Total Politics come to be? Well, back in 2007 it was clear there was something missing in the political publications market. For sure there were some great titles out there, but everything had a partisan slant and all too often the default approach in editorial was to go on the attack. And equally, there were some pretty awful magazines whose survival seemed to owe more to a lack of competition than any inherent value they possessed (titles that sacrificed reader value and advertiser value at the altar of 'let's do anything to shift another page of advertising'). And so, one morning in September of that year Iain Dale walked up to me and said: "What do you think about launching a new monthly political magazine?" My response: "Sounds interesting."
Fast forward a few months and the name Total Politics has been selected, a cross party editorial board has been established to ensure the magazine stays true to its mission of being unflinchingly non-partisan and unremittingly positive about politics, the editorial and advertising teams have been hired, a printer has been contracted and a launch date selected.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all plain sailing. One initial problem might sound silly in retrospect, but at the time it caused more than a couple of puzzled looks: where do you get a barcode from? No, really. But with the stellar team we'd assembled, any challenges we encountered were quickly overcome and in June 2008 the first issue of Total Politics, which included an extensive interview with then prime minister Gordon Brown, hit the shelves.
I can only tip my hat to the efforts of our launch editor Sarah MacKinlay and our current editor Ben Duckworth. With each new issue the ball gets knocked out of the park.
An interview with the prime minister was obviously no small thing for a new magazine, but it also set the bar incredibly high going forward. If we wanted to stay on top of our game, and raise our game, we had to ensure big name interviews came as standard with each new issue of the magazine. And that's exactly what we've achieved. But raising our game means more than securing a big name interview each month, it means delivering consistently brilliant editorial across the board. And in that regard I can only tip my hat to the efforts of our launch editor Sarah MacKinlay and our current editor Ben Duckworth. With each new issue the ball gets knocked out of the park.
And then there's design. Initially, it's fair to say, we got it wrong. The first two issues weren't exactly stunners. But we were prepared to admit it and take action. As Google might say, it's best to fail fast and learn quickly. And that's exactly what we did. The initial design wasn't right so we contracted a new design firm that shared our vision. The result? Issue three put issues one and two to shame.
Ultimately though, design doesn't stand still. And as our needs changed it became clear we needed our own in-house designer leading the creative direction of the magazine. As with everything else, our hiring decisions were determined by our commitment to delivering the best political magazine in the UK. And that meant hiring a designer with serious lifestyle magazine experience. As you can see from issue 33 onwards, our decision to hire Antonello Sticca, formerly the designer on Diva magazine, paid off (and then some). I challenge anyone to show me a political magazine with better design.
One more thing was vitally important to us from the very start; the approach we took with clients. Too often, magazines spend far too much time thinking about what they want out of their commercial relationships. But the truth is that successful commercial relationships are built on two simple principles: one, listening to and identifying your client's needs and objectives, and two, leveraging your organisation to deliver robust and practical solutions which meet those needs and achieve those objectives. To ensure we took this approach to our commercial relationships we needed someone who lived these values and we found that person in our business development director Jeremy Halley.
Almost three years on, we’re committed to the same principles and values we started with. We remain strictly non-partisan, are always unremittingly positive about politics and continue to push ourselves that extra mile to raise the bar with each passing issue. It won't surprise you to hear that I firmly believe Total Politics is the best political magazine in the UK. But thankfully it's clear that our readers agree, with our latest research showing, for example, that MPs consider us more entertaining, informative and readable than our nearest competitors.
I hope you enjoy Total Politics. And, as ever, I’d love to hear what you think about us.