Under the Radar with Karen Jones
The Founder and CEO of Jones Publishing, publishers of Citywealth magazine, talks breaking stereotypes, loving London and how to make business fun.
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in publishing?
Absolutely nothing, actually. I studied business, and my father said, "You really have to get job." And I was like, "Oh, do I?”. So, first of all, he applied for a job for me, and I ended up being a receptionist in an accountancy practice. I think they fired me after about three months because I was so useless, and then I saw a job actually being advertised for The Times to bring in staff, and just went to an open day, and was hired on the spot. Now, it's impossible to get a job, isn't it? But then, you just walked into places and they just gave you a job.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I started my career at News International after the Wapping strikes, which changed the whole publishing industry, I think. I spent ten years there, so had a good educational process through them, which I think gave me all the skills that I needed to actually go into publishing later. And then, I spent time in business to business (B2B), legal, financial, financial news, places like that, where I think you learn a more commercial edge to publishing, which is a little more hardcore, than daily broadsheets. Then, I took a career break, because I hit a career wall, where I just thought I couldn't get any further in the industry, and I went to South America for a year. I sold a house for £75,000 and took a year off. When I was there, I thought, it's not that difficult. We're just afraid of risk in the UK, I think, so I came back and set up Citywealth, which was 13 years ago, and here we are today.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Probably shorts and a t-shirt and sneakers. If I'm going out, then I will dress up, but, really in last couple of years, even that will be a pair of leather trousers and a jumper.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
If we're really on a deadline, I think we just tend to get on with it, and then probably once we've finished, we'll all have a class of wine or something. I don’t know if I have go-to, maybe coffee sometimes.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
Probably the weirdest one, which is not particularly funny, but after 9/11, if you were a journalist or had anything like that on your career record, you actually had to apply for a visa to travel to the States. So, actually, I could potentially be stopped at the airport going to the states, so I had to go through a whole process with the American Embassy, and then they gave me a five-year work permit.
Someone had put me down in the States to ask me to come over to speak at a conference or something and because they'd officially put me down, I was then blocked, because I was officially put through all the government agencies as a journalist, and they'd changed all the rules about journalists coming into the country. It was really strange and something which would have affected the whole industry I guess.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
I think that it's quite fun, actually. That you can actually own a company and enjoy yourself. You don't have to go to work and hate it, if you are the boss, you can run things how you want, including having your dog, or saying, "Oh, let's all go home early," or have a big lunch.
It’s about working in a way that fits into everyone's lives rather than the other way around. I think they expect everyone [in wealth management] to be straight laced, and I think, in a way, most of the industry is, but we choose not to be. I think as the industry changes and modernises, actually, people are attracted to that. We're very informal with how we do things.
Walk me through your typical day.
I wake up, go and get coffee, take the dog out, start at 10.00am, and generally, I’ve found at the moment, it's literally just meetings with clients, traveling, lunches, and a little bit of time with the team just to talk to them. The more you grow [as a business], the more staff need to talk to you about stuff, basically, just to get one-on-one time. I find business trips a bit hard going. We really enjoy meeting everyone, which is really fun, but the point of a business trip is to try and get value out of the expense, isn't it? So, if you spend £500, you're trying to somehow say it's a business development marketing trip, and there should be some value from that. The problem is, you tend to put 10 meetings in, come back exhausted and sleep for 48 hours, so I don't know. I can deal with it, and I like [business trips], but not too many of them.
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
It's helped us with processes; going through the awards process, which I think is good for a company to do, to just look at their own benchmarking, but also helped us benchmark against other people in the industry.
The people in the [publishing] industry might not be in the same industry, but still doing the same innovations and still doing the same tech, so we could say, "Look, alright. If other people are winning against us, why are they winning? Let's have a look at their size," there's benchmark against different industry. My staff love it, and for me, I want to keep the tradition of publishing alive and not be so far removed from it that they don't know what publishing is. It’s a great industry but I think now, there's so much pressure to make money or make things work, that people are losing sight of the fact that it's come from a very ethical industry. People should be allowed to work properly and have time to do that, but, I think the pressures of publishing are such that people don't have time to do that anymore. So, I think the membership with the PPA helps people understand better ways to work.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
If I didn't sleep, probably I'd be walking on the beach in Miami on South Beach. I love art galleries, so I'd probably be visiting museums and galleries.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
Of my amazing nails that I got done at Nails On 7th Ave in NYC by Jenny Queen of Bling, Cardi B’s nail artist.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Shopping. It could be perfume, art, fashion, watches, rings, jewellery, you name it.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
Channing Tatum, he's just hot.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
In a way, I think, possibly it was the worst, possibly it was the best, but being told never to have a business partner. From the early stages, because people who'd all started businesses have said, is that they would fall out with them. In many ways, businesses do explode when their partners break up and stuff like that, but, I think it makes a long, lonely journey if you don't have a partner in your business, so just pick the right partner is what I think the message should be.
What/where is your happy place?
Definitely walking with my dog, Benny (pictured). I really like Hyde Park, walking along the Serpentine, that's very nice. You even forget you're in London for a little bit, you just think, it's so gorgeous outside.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I'm quite a tomboy I think, and they think I'm quite girly, but I'm not at all. I grew up with brothers and, we just fought all the time, and so, I'm like a man in girl's clothing, basically.
What would be in your Room 101?
Tourists in London.
Introvert or extrovert?
Really down the middle of both. I don't know what you call it, but I can do parties to the latest, latest hour, laughing with everyone for about three days, but then I have to have two days at home not doing that, just to survive it.
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film, I don't watch box sets. I do love Guillermo del Toro, though. I really loved The Shape of Water, but nobody else does. It's so beautifully shot, it's just one of those old school romances, and that's interesting.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Morning. Although, sometimes I do both.
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Really cool. I love them, especially the poop emoji. I say it all the time to everyone. "Oh my god, that's so poop emoji." And they're like, "So poop emoji."