Community News

Gorkana meets...Londonist

6 August 2015

The tube strikes may be causing misery across London today, but Londonist's editor-in-chief, James Drury, reminds Gorkana why his 1 million "good-looking" monthly readers love the capital and reveals all on what PRs can do to help with content.

Gorkana meets...Londonist

Londonist celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and has been described by the guardian as “clear, eclectic and handsome to behold”. What’s the secret to its success?

Londonist has grown organically from a hobby blog into what it is today; a website with 1 million monthly users, and that’s down to our team. Not only is everyone passionate about London, but they also all have another specialist subject; it could be politics, news, beer, cabaret, cycling, animals, underground spaces, transport and so on.

I guess you could call us geeks; but it’s the level of knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject that really comes across in the content, and that’s why people say nice things about us, and tell their friends, so we keep growing.

Talk us through the content Londonist covers.

Frank Skinner described us as “a what’s on guide for the thinking person” which is a fair summary of about half of what we do — we carry news, reviews, forthcoming events and listings; but we also celebrate the quirks, eccentricities and hidden gems that make up the alternative side of the city, such as a medieval tube map, or translating London place names into emojis.

How big is the team and who covers what?

We're actually a pretty small team, a mix of staff and freelancers, full and part-time, and the way we work is very collaborative. We encourage PRs to send everything to our inbox so we can decide who’s the best person to cover which story.

Matt Brown is our chief London obsessive, Zoe Craig leads on family content and Rachel Holdsworth heads up news and politics coverage, Geoff Marshall is video editor and transport supremo, Stu Black oversees film and theatre coverage, Will Noble is an editor with eclectic interests including outdoor swimming and beer, Tabish Khan is our art critic, Helen Graves is our new food and drink editor and Laura Reynolds is our staff writer. N Quentin Woolf produces our podcast.

I also commission work from a network of brilliant freelancers too numerous to mention.

What news story would tick all the boxes for you?

Our news stories tend to be about things that will have city-wide impact. That said, among the more serious stuff about the housing crisis or who’s going to be the next Mayor of London, we do like it quirky — especially if it tickles our rather dark and sometimes puerile sense of humour.

Describe a Londonist reader.

Educated, curious, passionate and engaged; the type of person who wants to go beyond the everyday London, whether as a local, or a visitor. They want unusual stories, authentic recommendations and new experiences of the capital. They’re also really really good-looking.

Is there much engagement between Londonist and its readers?

We answer to our readers. They’re at the heart of everything we do. So we relish the thriving interaction on social media. We’re especially busy on Twitter (499k followers) and Facebook (485k likes), and have a rapidly-growing following on Instagram. Our readers are quick to let us know if they’re unhappy with what we’re doing and good at giving feedback.

Many of our articles involve crowdsourcing ideas from our readers for their favourite places or experiences — that way we leverage our reach across the capital, out to all 32 boroughs and the City of London.

On average, how much content is produced on a daily basis?

We produce between 12 to 18 pieces of content per day - a broad mix of news, listings, food and drink, art, culture, features, video and audio. It’s all shared on social media and we round-up each day’s content in a newsletter which is sent to around 100,000 people.

How does the team like to work with PRs?

It’s best to email our editorial inbox: hello@londonist.com. Everything that comes there really does get read by at least one person in the team. For exclusives or more unusual, bespoke content, we’re happy to hear from PRs by phone, or email.

Londonist also holds several regular events throughout London, including pub quizzes and guided walks. Is this something PRs could help with?

We have quite particular plans for each of our events, and tend to reach out to the people we specifically want to work with, so it’s unlikely an unsolicited pitch would get very far. If I’m talking to a PR and they mention something I know would fit one of our upcoming events, I’ll mention it.

However, we also produce events for other people, such as a pub quiz on a boat for the Totally Thames Festival, and are happy to talk to PRs about how we can share the skills from our team to help them create unusual experiences.

Top tips for PRs when pitching?

It sounds obvious, but make sure what you’re contacting us is about London. Exclusives are important, of course, and we love something truly original.

Finally, we hear you have a particular passion for the unusual and hidden bits of London. Can you let us in on your latest find?

I’d highly recommend a trip to Severndroog Castle. It’s not actually a castle, but a gothic folly. It was built on Shooters Hill in the 18th century by a heartbroken widow, in memory of her husband. When you climb to the top of the tower there are incredible views across south east London.

James was talking to Gorkana's Richard O'Donnell