British movie magazine Empire is about to mark it’s 30th anniversary with a special edition. Editor-in-chief Terri White has previously worked across multiple genres of magazines, but has made her name cementing Empire’s reputation across both the blockbuster and indie film worlds. She is also a strong advocate for magazines and regularly speaks at events and conferences. We spoke to her as Empire’s latest redesign is unveiled ahead of the anniversary celebrations.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I am a very lucky woman in that I live just three tube stops away from the office. So, it goes something like this: I walk the two minutes to the tube, go three stops to Camden Town, get the biggest coffee I can possibly lay my hands on and then I’m at my desk by 9am.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
My desk is a catastrophic bomb site. There are books, galleys, magazines, bottles of booze, cups, hairspray and a bottle of soy sauce. I know there are theories about creativity and chaos and I fully subscribe to all of them. How else would I explain such a mess?
Which magazine do you first remember?
J-17 was the one that first stirred my magazine soul. It made me fall in love with the feel of pages (both in my hands and in my belly).
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Empire. Professional and personally. I can’t really answer anything else. I live it, breathe it, dream it. It’s my life.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
The World’s Greatest.
What’s the role of a printed film magazine in the context of all the online coverage you compete with?
The experience of reading the print magazine couldn’t be more different to the online experience. The latter is fast and reactive. The former is a lean-back, immersive, reflective deep-dive. Storytelling is hugely important to us and particularly the storytelling that only print magazines can pull off; the specific song that they sing. That’s long-form narrative features, sprawling interviews, granular analysis, luxurious use of photography, ambitious design and illustration.
The magazine is given a very deliberate pace and rhythm; one that carries you along for the hours that you’re with us. It complements the dip in and out and quick hits of social and digital.
Your subscriber covers are stunning. Do you ever wish they could be the ones that appear on the newsstand editions?
No. I think it’s about knowing what the audience needs and wants in each place. And I kind of hate the snobbery that is attached to anything commercial, which is what our newsstands covers are. That said, as part of our redesign, we’re pushing the concept of our newsstand executions a little harder. The Joker issue on sale now (above), is definitely bolder and more conceptual than some of our previous covers.
Our job is to stop someone in their tracks and compel them to part with a fiver for the magazine. But while the reality is that the newsstand is still a competitive place, and you still only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention as they go past, it isn’t quite as overcrowded and oversaturated as it once was.
Our subscribers have already bought in – they love Empire, they don’t need convincing. What they do need, is to be shown love and commitment. We commission bespoke illustration and photography for them each month (above) as their loyalty deserves to be rewarded. And we know that, as the most dedicated of film fans, they appreciate something more collectible and often more meta.
Talk us through the latest redesign of the magazine. What was the thinking behind it?
We look at the magazine every year, to work out what could be better – and let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as the perfect magazine, as much as we try and hope. We felt that we could add more pace and dynamism into the magazine, especially the front section and wanted it to feel more modern, more conversational and more fun. I work with the best Creative Director in the business (Chris Lupton) and he tackled the challenge on the table with heart and enthusiasm, as always.
We also added a spoiler section, which was actually inspired by our hugely popular Spoiler Special podcast series. Each episode – which is a discussion of the spoilers in films post-release with Empire staffers and filmmakers – were regularly receiving over 100,000 downloads. It really struck me that there could be a massive opportunity there: to give the readers a place to reflect on the details of films, post their theatrical release – in the pages of the magazine.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
It’s going to be a lively week! We’re going to press on our big 30th anniversary issue. We’ve been celebrating our thirtieth birthday all year – celebrating the work of one filmmaker each issue (so far we’ve featured James Cameron, Jordan Peele (above), Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright among others) – but this issue is the official birthday bonanza and we’re producing some very special covers. The moment every issue that the last page goes is always an emotional one for me. Making Empire every month is a joy and a privilege. And one I never take for granted.
What are you doing after this chat?
I’m going to a screening and then having a nap. I’ve got to save my energy for those press days, after all. And I suppose I should really tidy my desk!