Under the Radar with Steve Watson
The founder of Stack, a monthly magazine subscription service focused on independent magazines, talks dealing with negativity while setting up the company, his love of sweet treats and the power of perseverance.
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 the magazine industry?
I've loved magazines since I was reading Game Boy Advance, back when I was like 13 years old. I studied English at university, and always had sort of a guilty love affair with magazines. Like you're supposed to be reading big, serious books, but magazines are just easier, and more fun, with more pictures. So yeah, I guess I've always loved them.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
When I was at university, I edited a section on the student newspaper and in one of the summers at university I did work experience at FHM, in the year 2000. That was my first time in London. I think I was properly bitten by the bug. So, I loved that experience and once I graduated from university, I just took the first job that got me back down into London, doing editorial stuff. Although, that led to a slightly boring job, making in-flight magazines. But, it was while doing that and looking for something a bit more exciting to do, that I ended up finding independent magazines and writing for some of them. Then I got to know the people who made them, and it got me thinking, "Why don't more of my friends know about these magazines?” That really was the first step to starting Stack.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
I guess one of the benefits of running your own business, is that you don't have to adhere to anybody else's dress codes, so I tend to wear jeans and a T-shirt.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
When I'm on a deadline, and I'm in the office and wanting to just be here doing stuff, cups of tea definitely. But I suppose if things get a bit more serious, a coffee somewhere else might provide a bit more of a substantial boost.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
I wish I had an unusual situation through magazines. For a while I did some reporting on Radio 4 and ended up milking a donkey. So, I guess that was unusual, but nothing to do with magazines.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
Probably that we even exist. But most people are not aware of independent magazines, or of Stack generally. So, we've got a lot of work to do to just make sure that people know that we're here, and that these mags are here.
Walk me through your typical day.
I get the boys up in the morning, and take the older one to school, and then head into the office. We work with a very small, tight knit team here, so some days I'll be contributing to the blog, today I've been making video reviews. Other days I'll be meeting up with people and trying to come up with ways for Stack to do interesting new things. But, because of [having] the boys it means that at 5.30pm every day I am out of here. So yeah, I'm working a pretty strict 9:30am to 5:30pm day.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I would read some books. Probably the worst thing about running Stack is that there's always a pile of magazines to read and that means that I don't get a chance to read books anywhere near as much as I'd like to.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
This was taken when we started shortlisting the Stack Awards this year, and it shows some of the magazines entered into the Magazine of the Year category.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
The honest answer is fruit crumble. We've been growing rhubarb in the garden, so I've been making a lot of rhubarb crumble. The thing is, you can't make a small rhubarb crumble, and nobody else in my house really likes it that much, so it means I end up eating vast amounts of the stuff.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I wish I had Boris Johnson’s phone number because then every time I hear Brexit being discussed and I start to feel depressed or worried, I could text Boris and tell him he’s a prat and it would make me feel better.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Back when I started Stack, and this wasn't really a piece of advice but, David Hepworth, who is obviously a magazines man, wrote on his blog at the time, “I bet my house it won't work.” So that was, for someone who read his blog on a regular basis, a bit of a blow, but I took it as a motivating factor.
What/where is your happy place?
At home with my wife and two boys, just having a nice weekend together.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’m proud to say I won the 1985 BP Photo Competition (Under 10s category) and here’s my trophy to prove it.
What would be in your Room 101?
Definitely people using their mobile phones inconsiderately.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film. Watching Killing Eve and The Deuce.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Cringey. I think that it's embarrassing for a man of my age to use emojis.