Since Gerard Kelly became editor of the Times Educational Supplement in 2008, tes.co.uk has won the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) award for Digital Product of the Year three years in a row. And this month the print edition, which last year switched from newspaper to magazine format, won the PPA's business magazine of the year award. Here, Kelly explains some of the secrets behind the title's success.
Switching to magazine format. Before last year, we were an old- fashioned weekly newspaper, but there aren't many specialist weekly titles around anymore just based solely on newsprint, and we decided to change. Our desire was to be a little more professional and appeal to a more professional audience. Magazines allow you to do that in a way that newspapers can't. They're also far more durable. In schools, they hang around in staff rooms and are read again and again by lots of people. The website. We are pretty unique because we manage to get the web and magazine to complement each other well. To tell the truth, the biggest change has been getting the online and offline strategies right. You have to appeal to different audiences in different ways and over different platforms, and I think Ann Mroz, our online editor, has done very well. It's not just what's in print that's important – our website is key to our success. It basically takes the community, forums, resources and jobs and puts editorial context around them, rather than just trying to replicate what we do in print. I think that's very important. Also, the sheer scale of the website – it has two million members across 197 different countries – makes it unique. I don't deny that there's still a lot more we can do, for example, we're looking increasingly at tablets and what we should do and how we should package it.
Follow the reader. I think it's very important that we follow the reader, rather than lead them. Too often, journalists are really bad at thinking they know what their readers want without listening too closely to what they're telling them. We do proper research. You have to be close to your readers and know what they want. The great thing about our site is it's mainly user-generated. We provide expert advice and we nudge and suggest but actually it's user-generated. They are telling us what they want and we are just facilitating.
Know your audience. Our audience is global now and that gives us opportunities that might not be open to others. We have members in North Korea, Australia and in the Vatican. Trying to create content for them is a challenge but we can do it because you have common denominators. The fact that you are English speaking is an advantage when it comes to a vast section of the globe.