The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Five things you didn’t know about the new Gardens Illustrated website


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Been thinking about whether the Web is going to kill glossy gardening magazines? No? Phil and James and lots of other people have been. But from the looks of the latest Web efforts by the UK’s aspirational Gardens Illustrated magazine, the glossies won’t go down without a fight. A bit of digging this morning turned up the following interesting facts about GI‘s shiny new web self:

  1. Looks nice and it didn’t take long: According to Editor Juliet Roberts, the relaunched site took only four weeks to turn around; granted it has the BBC magazines online team behind it, but still, that’s reassuringly fast.
  2. The magazine’s bloggers want your views: Although not enabled at launch last week, the site’s “Add a comment” feature went live today and, if you’ve seen this magazine in the past, you’ll know that this is a step change for a premium glossy where readers’ voices were previously confined to Letters. Roberts and Deputy Editor Sorrell Everton are already blogging about shows, design and other issues, and are looking for your reaction. Go forth and comment, ye bloggers.
  3. Breaking down the garden walls: If you find Gardens Illustrated stand-offishly highbrow, the editorial team wants to change your mind. “It’s unfortunate that Gardens Illustrated has been seen as unapproachable — as editor I would like to change that,” Roberts said. “I believe we can still deliver the very best, top-notch content and take a more sharing approach with readers. I’ve been working hard to make the magazine more accessible and the new site is edging us further towards that.” On the cards are GI on Twitter, additional podcasts and more chances for readers to contribute content, including potentially users’ own garden images and a discussion forum.
  4. Web exclusives are a feature: Roberts says the site isn’t just a repurposing of print material; Web exclusives will feature in Garden Visits, Plants and other areas. The publication seems to grasp that online readers don’t just want a re-hash of print content anyway.
  5. The US market is in their sights: International gardeners already revelling in the atmospheric Britishness of UK exports like David Austin Roses will be interested to hear that Gardens Illustrated is aiming squarely at global markets, the US in particular. Traditional marketing to those geographies is prohibitively expensive and like other resource-strapped BBC titles, GI will do what it can to use online to reach out to new audiences.

With other parts of the BBC web presence facing as much as 25 percent cuts in staff and talk of reducing its web activity, guarding against a potential money pit is a key priority for GI, which is run by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the Beeb. “A number of magazines were very gung-ho about their websites and these have become great big black holes that people are wheel-barrowing money down,” Roberts said. “We’re going slow and cutting our cloth accordingly.”

How do you think Gardens Illustrated should include readers more in its online activities? Go on, I know you’ve got ideas.

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2 Comments to

“Five things you didn’t know about the new Gardens Illustrated website”

  1. On March 16th, 2010 at 12:31 pm Nigel Says:

    Gardens Illustrated have been looking to the American market for years, haven’t they?

    As for online publication – it IS the future, but I don’t think it will replace the best of the print media publications, even though their share of the market will shrink. (Although if GI shrinks much more, it will disappear!)

    Having done little more than glance at the GI site, initial impressions are that it’s more populist than the mag, appealing and quite pretty – although the picture quality on my monitor is poor and the colours wrong. (And my monitor is correctly, machine calibrated) so there are things to put right, there.

    I think websites need to forget that printed magazines exist and start with a clean slate. That’s a tall order, though, when the brand relates so closely to an existing magazine.

    When we’ve all got iPads, things will take a big leap forward in online media design, I suspect.

  2. On March 16th, 2010 at 3:39 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Hi Nigel,

    Thanks for your comment. Good point – I guess re. ‘didn’t know,’ I was thinking from the US reader’s point of view; the publication is unknown among a lot of that audience, although American subscribers often feature in Letters.

    Populist – yes, the look is more welcoming but the populism will come in the reader participation, if it happens. I think screen fatigue will help guarantee the survival of the best magazines, but embracing readers and bringing them into a dialogue will become a defining feature of “best,” regardless of the title.

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