Journo intel: Christian May, former City A.M. editor on Covid and podcasting
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown journalism into chaos, and whilst online readership might be going up, ad revenue has plummeted, leaving countless journalists furloughed. In this tough environment, we were fortunate to gain some insight on a webinar with Christian May, editor at City A.M., to find out more.
How has the coronavirus affected the paper?
At City A.M., we quickly pivoted to deal with the crisis. We have just over 30 editorial staff including production, a night team, design team, and more. Unfortunately, now that we can’t work in the office we have had to furlough two-thirds of the staff. That left us with a core staff of 10 journalists, all working remotely, while Joe Curtis and Andy Silvester remotely maintain the editorial presence.
On the upside, two or three million people a week are visiting the site, which is fantastic, and it goes to show the popularity of the organisation. All of those years we have invested in building trust with the people of England are truly paying off.
The money online isn’t quite what it is for print advertising money, however, I reckon that we will be ok once things get back on track. In the meantime, the ad market will wait in high anticipation of the return!
How are you managing?
I escaped London before the lockdown with my pregnant wife and 3-year-old to a small flat in Devon. My wife works full time too, so we divide the day, and only really have time to catch up when we pass on the stairs and at the end of the day.
I come online at 10 AM and sign off 12 hours later. We have an editorial call in the morning, usually around 11 AM, where people talk about what they’re working on. After that, the team stay in close contact on WhatsApp to make sure we’re juggling everything. Putting an entire newspaper together remotely like this is certainly possible, but I wouldn’t want to do it forever!
What have you been working on?
I recently launched the daily City AM podcast. After thinking about it for two years, I finally have the time to do it, and it’s always great to chat with someone interesting. So far, it’s doing very well with huge demand. If you’re interested in listening, it’s available through all major podcast apps.
This month is already all booked up, but we’re looking for future guests. We have a high standard for the podcast, and we look for confident, senior, and experienced guests with strong opinions that they’re ready to back up. I expect to continue the podcast beyond the crisis, so we’ll need new people to talk with.
What stories are getting traction?
The biggest stories coming through are about the way people work, both now and as we reopen. Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan have said they won’t be going back to the way things were, for instance. Similarly, one law firm CEO was paying hundreds of thousands to rent office space, but now that everybody is working remotely, he has determined he doesn’t need to anymore: Why spend millions a year on property he doesn’t need? I expect to see a massive impact on the commercial property market.
We have reporters on shift from 7 AM until and some work as late as 11 PM. Our reporter in the lobby in Westminster has been extremely busy, and our markets and economics reporter has never been busier! There is a significant interest in tech, media, marketing, and banking. On a positive note, we’re always keen to hear about businesses that are doing alright and finding success in these turbulent times. Anything about how companies are responding and adapting to the crisis is popular. However, there is no shortage of news, and unfortunately, the team doesn’t have the resources to notice absolutely everything that is interesting.
How do you like to be pitched?
I’m pleased to report that I haven’t noticed a deterioration of comms and media relations! Everything has been good, and if anything, it has reminded us that effective communications are particularly important in times of uncertainty and change.
Submitting news stories with lead time is always welcome. Two or three days in advance is really excellent, and we appreciate it. We respect embargoes at City A.M. Please don’t be disheartened if you get a fairly abrupt ‘no,’ there was a time when I could talk to 20 people to hear pitches, but it’s just not possible now.
If you’re up early and ready to pitch on a time-sensitive story, Joe Curtis is the earliest on shift, so reach out to him. From the beginning of the month, people from the comments and features desk will return, and this will give Andy – who has been single-handedly manning those responsibilities – some much-needed breathing space!
That’s it from Christian for now. His second child is due in five or six weeks, and we wish him and his wife all the best.
We’re always happy to talk digital PR strategies and advise on how you can overcome communications challenges during the crisis and beyond. Find out what we can do for your business by contacting us today – and keep an eye out for our future interviews with more leading journalists.