Industry Voices

Alison Kirker | Editor | Platinum magazine, DC Thomson

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

12 Feb 2020

Last September, DC Thomson Media launched a new glossy, monthly magazine, aimed at women over 55. This marked the biggest women's magazine launch in over a decade, and it is Ali Kirker who sits at the helm as Editor. Since getting her first job at Jackie magazine when she was 17, Kirker worked across the industry, in both newspapers and magazines, with a little detour into finance, before returning to magazines to edit Platinum.

What made you want to work in publishing?

I always loved comics and magazines as a child and that’s what I spent my pocket money on. I was forever making up my own magazines and “selling” them to friends and family. When I was a teenager, the high spot of my week was getting to read Jackie magazine. It honestly felt as if it was written only for me. That passion never left me and I knew I wanted to write – but as a youngster I never dreamed of working on Jackie. The thought of it was too unbelievably glamorous to even entertain.

Chart your career from the start to where you are now.

By the time I was leaving school at 17, I knew I wanted to work in publishing. My sister spotted a tiny ad in a local paper for an “editorial assistant” with DC Thomson Ltd and I applied. Within weeks I was working on Jackie – a dream job for me as it had been my essential read for so many years. It was my foot in the door and such a good grounding in important basics. I stayed with the company for nine years, then left to freelance. I worked for lots of different newspapers and magazines and had a spell working in PR and doing contract work for the NHS. I even had an ill-fated six weeks in a bank. Let’s not discuss that one. Then I got asked to return to DC Thomson Media for six months to cover maternity leave. That was more than 10 years ago. I ended up working for The Sunday Post, one of Scotland’s most famous and much-loved newspapers. The experience I gained there really helps me in the job I’m doing today. Then I came back to magazines to work on Platinum. It has been so great to return to the department I worked in as a teenager and it’s been a joy to have worked on a launch. Sadly not many of us get to do that these days.

What were the reasons behind launching Platinum?

There was a lot of research done by a really passionate team before I came on board. They had long felt there was a gap in the market for a monthly glossy for 55+ women who were still living life on full power and not “winding down”. The research backed this up – the women we spoke to while we were developing Platinum became as enthusiastic as we were and most of them are now our brand ambassadors. DC Thomson Media has decades of experience of writing for the mature magazine market and a team was brought together to make Platinum happen. DC Thomson Media is a champion of women over 55, who are an underserved consumer group.

What is the biggest challenge Platinum has faced since launching?

Before launch, some famous faces were interested in talking to us but wouldn’t fully commit until they could see the first couple of issues. They wanted to see exactly what we were about and I understood that because they needed to make sure we were right for them but at times it could be frustrating. I will always be immensely thankful to Twiggy and Shirley Ballas and their teams, who showed faith in us and were the first to sign up. We got two fantastic covers and interviews from them and then it became a lot easier.

What feedback have you received since the launch of the magazine?

We’ve had lots of great feedback from the industry – not many people are launching mags these days, so there has been a lot of enthusiasm for it. People working in magazines want to see them survive and thrive. For me, the loveliest feedback has been from actual readers and new subscribers. So many women have taken the time to contact us and tell us they love Platinum. They’re still arriving. I got one at the end of last week which said: “It’s wonderful to have a magazine for my generation of women. It’s a long time since I read a magazine that seemed to be talking to me.” Every time I get an email like that it makes my day.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Can I choose two? Getting that first job on Jackie when I was a teenager. And becoming editor of Platinum. It’s been the best job I’ve had and launching and developing a magazine with a passionate, committed team has been amazing.

What would people be surprised to know about your job?

It’s much less glamorous than they would imagine! My friends who don’t work in the industry tease me about going to launches, meeting famous people and the fun that you can have in our industry. They never believe me that there’s a lot of work involved, too and seem to imagine I spend my days quaffing champagne. I wish!

What would be in your Room 101?

Gin and tonic “stuff”. Just pass me a chilled G&T and I’ll be fine, thanks. I don’t want to bathe in it. And butter substitutes.

What magazine would you take on a long train journey?

Vanity Fair, Grazia and Empire and I love Red. I sometimes buy independents, too – most recently The Gentlewoman and The Face. It’s great to see it back.