Interviewing the Interviewers: Esther Kezia Thorpe

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Esther Kezia Thorpe is the Co-host of Media Voices Podcast, a weekly show about the media and publishing industry, and B2B Content Marketing Manager for Dennis Publishing.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the [media] industry in 2019?

My biggest hope is that enough publishers nail reader revenue to give the rest of us confidence in similar models.

My biggest fear (at the moment) is that they’ll all run towards Apple’s new magazine service, get almost no money, and end up in another vicious platform-publisher loop that’s ended so many businesses in the past five years.

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

Doing our first live episode of Media Voices at the PPA Scotland’s Magfest in September was quite an experience. It’s such a brilliant crowd – intimate, but some great stories of publishers doing really innovative things.

Being able to pull the Radio Times’ Mark Frith and Shortlist’s Mike Soutar up on stage spontaneously to join us just added to it!

Releasing our first written report as the podcast, Media Moments 2018, for What’s New in Publishing, was another highlight.

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

This is honestly quite a tough choice, because I’ve spoken to so many different people from all over the industry doing brilliant things, that it’s hard to quantify who was the most inspirational.

Talking to the Pool’s Sam Baker was a highlight; her approach was so down-to-earth, and she had such a good grasp on what her audience wanted, and it’s what made the closure of the site even more tragic for me. 

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

I’m excited about the companies working on technologies enabling podcasting to take off as a revenue stream. Spotify’s acquisitions show that it believes there’s a lot of growth still to come in the format, and I think this’ll be a good year for realising some of the potential there.

What was your favourite ad or media experience of 2018?

I thought Stylist’s way of celebrating The UN International Day of the Girl Child back in October was great. They invited a bunch of girls aged 5-17 into their offices and let them create the content for that week’s issue of the magazine, covering everything from mental health to education. It was a refreshing issue. 

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?

‘Engagement’.

I wish there was another word used to describe what we’re trying to say when we talk about different types of attention, but people roll up dwell time, clicks and all sorts of other metrics into this vastly overused term. 

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t? 

I’d love to get Mark Zuckerberg on the podcast and really grill him about Facebook’s relationship with the publishing industry, but the UK government almost certainly are ahead of me in the queue for that. 

Recode’s Kara Swisher would be an amazing if not slightly terrifying guest to interview. 

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

If they’ve got an interesting story to tell, a good angle on the media industry or are working on something that will make our industry better, I’m all ears.

On the other hand, if you’re just wanting a bit of free PR, that puts me off. It’s about what I (and by extension the audience) can learn from you.

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