Saturday, 25 August 2012

Can you pass it on?

Can I ask you for your help?
Could you tell a couple of other people about our magazine?
Tell them why you read it?
Can you try to let some new people in on the secret that together we might actually be able to change some things for our best friends?
(The Don't Cook Your Dog campaign is a great example of how uniting the dog world can start to actually save lives. Every person who has felt brave enough to intervene is our hero.)
That we can help each other when things do go wrong. (For eg: When Halifax and Lloyds left pet owners in the lurch by suddenly dropping their cover for life pet insurance we formed a group to fight it and against all odds there was a U turn when everyone stood together.)
That we can all celebrate when things go right? (For eg: We've all watched the amazing Allen and Endal story over the last decade and rejoiced at the birth of Hounds for Heroes...)

We've put together a really, really special offer where people can buy the next two magazines and get the next one free - anywhere in the world - and they can pay with just a click by PayPal.

It's never been easier or cheaper.

Plus we'll be picking one person out of those that take up the offer in the next week to win a copy of Kevin Brockbank's much-loved print The Howl - a doggie version of Munch's famous Scream.

Here's the link for the special offer.
Please do pass it on!

We'd love to reach out and find some lovely dog lovers who don't yet regularly buy our magazine.

Can you help spread the word and tell people why you read this magazine?

If it helps to explain why we're different, maybe you can re-tell the story of how we started?

In 1990 I saw an advert in the Guardian for the launch editor of a new magazine aimed at pet dog owners. I applied and had a grueling interview process with many tests (pre-dating the Apprentice, but similarly fierce!).
Despite being pretty young (almost a baby if you're doing the maths...), I got the best job in the world.
The magazine was the brainwave of Viscount Rothermere, the media mogul who owned the Daily Mail empire.
I was a young girl from Liverpool who had no previous experience of press barons, but I did share something very important with the good lord.
We both loved dogs.
He was an Akita man and his dogs obviously meant the world to him.
One day while driving in France he had a terrible car crash. He was injured and one of his dogs died and the other was so traumatised he ran off.
He sent an urgent message to all his staff.
Anyone who could speak French was told to leave their desks immediately and go to France to look for his lost dog.
The very brilliant journalist who tracked down that very scared dog was given the coveted Hollywood reporting job.
Well wouldn't you do the same in his hand-made shoes?
He and I shared a vision.
We both really valued dogs.
It had been a tense first meeting, he obviously tested me.
I'd stood up to him and told him he was wrong and after that we got on very well.
I wasn't being cheeky, but I was confident when it came to dogs.
He didn't ever frighten me, I could see a twinkle where others only saw steel.
Lord R encouraged me to go on crusades, to try to change things and make life better for dogs.
Sadly, not everyone else in his empire thought our voyage was such a worthy one.
There were some who thought he and I were, quite literally, barking.
I was only the editor and Lord R was very far removed from my every day working life.
I did get used to international phone calls in the early hours when he got excited by something he saw that we could report on - or heaven forbid - if we made a mistake. He really did read every single word we wrote!
Sadly, the business-side of the magazine was somewhat chaotic and beyond my remit.
The project made my very many middle managers very nervous.
Having the ultimate boss taking a close interest meant a lot of nervous tummies for 'the suits'.
Just the hint of a rumour that Lord R might drop into our Windsor offices would cause the management to do mad things like paint the car park, order new office chairs, have his favourite brand of bottled water delivered...
Lord R was someone very few people in my management chain had ever had much to do with. He was a very private man.
Grown men, my bosses, would literally go pale and shake in the lift up to his office in Derry Street.
It made people do strange things to try to impress him... TV advertising for a magazine that retailed at 75pence.
I had never edited a magazine before, I didn't know quite how mad that was.
It was incredibly exciting.
We got really very involved in making the adverts and it was thrilling.
But it was soon painfully obvious that it was simply impossible not to make an enormous loss.
For a start, we didn't print enough copies to capitalise on the new demand.
We had given a sampler edition of the mag away with the Daily Mail and it was one of the most successful campaigns for the paper ever - only putting Diana on the cover shifted more copies of the paper.But next month we'd only put a few thousand extra copies on the shelves. We blew our big chance by not being bold enough. We spent a fortune on the ads yet scrimped on the print bill.
We made a shocking £350,000 loss and the shareholders started to tire of Lord R's very expensive pet project.
On the day Windsor Castle almost burned down, I got the news that we were being made redundant and the title was to close.
All the team went to the pub opposite the castle to moan that the Queen had other houses, but we only had one magazine.
That day we vowed not to let Dogs Today die.
It was heart ruling head.
We'd already started so many campaigns, we badly wanted to keep them going.
We were all sure we had to try.
The next day we all turned up for work as if nothing had happened.
All our colleagues on other titles thought we were quite simply mad.
We started working on the next edition of a magazine that had already closed.
Peter Smith was the first person who told me I could do it.
(You might remember him as the first and very genial newsreader on Channel 4's Big Breakfast.)
He had been the genius behind our TV advertising campaign, he had got to know and love the magazine and realised the thing that connected us and our readers was that we would do anything for dogs. Viscount or homeless person, we were all connected by that bond.
We all knew that the love of a dog was worth a lot more than money.
We were part of a secret club of people who knew dogs were special and deserved much better.
Peter taught me to do spread sheets and budgets and to believe in myself.
He got me to look at the business side of the magazine and figure out a way to make it work.
I don't know where the courage came from, but I told my boss I wanted to buy the magazine.
He laughed.
He told his boss - he laughed a lot!
No one said no, they just passed the request up the line.
Some mad, scouse, doggy, slip of a girl, who had no money or experience wanted to buy a magazine that had already lost a fortune...!
My offer got all the way up to Lord Rothermere, who called me in for a meeting.
He had a big grin on his face, but at least he wasn't laughing.
I had nothing to lose, quite literally.
He looked me straight in the eye and said he'd heard I wanted to buy his magazine and he'd had a word with his financial advisor.
The advisor had told Lord Rothermere that he should sell me the magazine and invest in my new company.
I often think back to the moment and wish I could experience that feeling again.
It was the most unexpected news imaginable.
He asked if I'd like to see his financial advisor.
I think I nodded, unable to form words by this point!
He showed me a photo of his Akita.
Lord Rothermere sold me the magazine for £1 and then invested £10,000 in some shares in my new company Pet Subjects Ltd. At the time I thought it was a vast fortune. To me it was.
I didn't know then, but he'd set it up so I couldn't be damaged if it all went horribly wrong.
He really didn't think I stood a hope in hell of making the magazine profitable - his vast army of experts had all failed, so why would a young girl from Liverpool who had never published a magazine turn that massive loss into a profit?
In retrospect, it was a very fair question indeed.
Rosie Peace (our designer then and now) and Sarah Whitehead (then editorial assistant and now famous behaviourist and Dogs Today columnist) took the giant leap of faith with me.
Looking back £10k was nowhere near enough to float a business.
And I didn't bullshit people that it was. I told people when I didn't know what I was doing or couldn't afford something.
Contributors worked for free, subscribers paid us forward and even sent us food parcels and furniture! Our repro house (for these were the days before digital and we needed photos scanned and film running out) gave us a whole edition free, amazingly generous.
Then there was that very starry night at the magazine equivalent of the Oscars.
We'd been given free tickets for the dinner by our distributors as I'd pleaded poverty. I hadn't had a hair cut in months and I was wearing a vintage dress out of frugality not fashion.
I thought I was dreaming when I heard the man on the stage telling the story of how we'd saved our magazine and I realised lots of people were in tears including me!
We won Small Publisher of the Year that night.
The first year we'd even been publishers.
Lord Rothermere heard the news and immediately sent over his chauffeur with Champagne.
He really hadn't thought we could turn his magazine around, but we had somehow done it.
We made it work with pure willpower.
It made him incredibly happy.
Many years later, sadly after Lord R had long since died, I would often meet people who worked in the massive Associated Newspapers empire who could remember him bringing our little magazine into very serious meetings and giving people a roasting about not being passionate enough or committed enough. He'd always tell our story.
He'd forced so many people to read our magazine - stood over them until they did. Most notably the Home Secretary who had produced the god awful Dangerous Dogs Act....!
We really do miss the wonderful Lord Rothermere.
It was wonderful to know he was reading every issue and cheering us on in every campaign.
He saw a spark in us, a way of getting pet people to stick together and change things.
He gave us this chance.
Please can you pass on what Dogs Today is all about and spread the word to a new generation of dog owners?
It's hard to imagine it's already been 22 years since we started.
That we're still battling vile BSL, Puppy farms etc etc.
But there are some battles won, but there's still so much more to do to make the world a better place for dogs.
Please spread the word.
We need you!

Here's that special offer again:

Just before you go, can I tell you about some lovely people who have kept every single edition we've produced since we started out in 1991? We only found this out when a devastating flood destroyed our office. Our precious bound copies of the magazine were destroyed and we lost all our history in a matter of minutes.
But then fantastic readers started coming forward and offering to give us their own complete sets of magazines to replace ours! It still makes me cry... it was such a terrible time, but hearing that so many people had treasured their magazines for all those years gave us all the strength to keep going.
Thank you for reading us - whether it's been for a month or two decades. We really appreciate it.


Sarah Waters said...

What a totally amazing story, thank goodness you had the courage and the tenacity to continue, I buy the magazine, follow on twitter & Facebook and tell everyone to do the same, long may it continue, all the dogs and the worthy causes need you all :0)

Anonymous said...

I buy it by subscription, and take it into my vets when I
have finished with it.

Kazam Media said...

Great article...
"Passion Enables Achievement" I think sums it up.
I hope at least some of the people who read that will gather the courage to do something as brave.
Well done to you all, and long may it continue

DeadlyDogFood said...

What a great story, very inspirational too, will spread the message too