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'Expect rejection, it's part of the process,' RadioTimes.com digital writer Joanna Magill advises aspiring freelancers

Joanna Magill, digital writer at Immediate Media, on her journey into journalism and advice for students aiming to pursue a similar path

Q. How did you venture into journalism? Was it always your ambition to be a journalist?

Joanna: My path into journalism was a bit unconventional because I never formally studied it. After finishing school, I went to the University of Southampton to study French and Spanish linguistics. Thereafter, I got involved in student journalism, and that’s where my love for journalism really began.

I began writing for the university magazine, “Edge,” focusing on music, TV, and pop culture. Additionally, I contributed to the university newspaper, “Wessex Scene,” where I eventually became the sub-editor for travel, opinion, and politics sections.

Q. How did you land your first job in the industry?

Joanna: After graduating in 2020, finding a job in London was tough due to the pandemic. I ended up working in a pub for a while before deciding to move to Belgium. I did a placement with the British Council and taught English for about nine months.

Afterward, I applied for multiple summer internships in journalism and secured a digital journalism internship at Squaremeal, an online food journalism platform, thanks to my university experience. This opportunity familiarized me with the professional realm of digital journalism, where I wrote news articles, features, and restaurant reviews, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Later on, I secured a position at Hitched, an online wedding planning platform, where I covered news, interviews, features, reviews, and newsletters.

Q. Did you face any negative feedback or doubts from the industry about your writing or abilities as a journalist, considering you didn’t have a journalism degree?

Joanna: Not really. I believe it’s all about how you present your current experience, and I’ve found that to be true for myself. I also studied linguistics, so I have a strong grasp of sentence structure and how language works. I don’t think you necessarily need a journalism degree to become a journalist. While a journalism course can be beneficial professionally, it’s not a requirement. If, like me, you never initially planned to pursue journalism, it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it.

Q. How did you come to work for Immediate Media? Is Radio Times your sole focus?

Joanna: I started working for work for Immediate Media in August last year which includes RadioTimes.com, BBC Good Food, GardenersWorld.com, olive and MadeForMums. I do work mostly for Radio Times and I specifically write about live music and books.

Q. What does a typical day look like for you as a digital writer at Immediate Media?

Joanna: I’m part of the commerce team, also known as the trends lab. My role involves writing content related to current trends. It’s fast-paced, and we use tools like Google Trends to identify trending topics. For instance, I recently wrote about David Nicholls’ books – One day, a series based on his work which was google trending. We also create content to generate revenue through affiliate partnerships.

Q. How do you generate article ideas for the Radio Times digital platform? Additionally, could you explain how affiliate partnerships function in the digital realm?

Joanna:  I browse for live music updates, concert tours, and West End theatre news. I also stay active on Twitter to stay updated on current events. Newsletters from Ticketmaster and others also keep me informed.

To illustrate affiliate partnerships, take this example: Recently, I covered comedian Katherine Ryan‘s upcoming tour where we also collaborate with our affiliate partners like Ticketmaster. When readers click on our article, “How to Buy Katherine Ryan Tickets,” and purchase tickets through the links we provide, it generates revenue for us.

Q. Do you have any plans to change or modify your digital content in the coming years?

Joanna: Positioning ourselves as experts in areas like live music can greatly enhance Radio Times; reputation. This boosts our image and improves our ranking on Google, which is essential for SEO. The more we are seen as authorities, the higher we are likely to rank. Expanding into reviews and establishing ourselves as trusted authorities on topics like West End shows is something we are actively pursuing, and its been fun.

Q. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Joanna:  My top piece of advice for students would be to get involved in student journalism. Also, for freelancers, while pitching ideas to magazines, expect rejection as it’s part of the process. Many people experience impostor syndrome, but you must push past it. Remember, if you don’t seize opportunities, someone else will. Lastly, aim to make as many friends as you can. You never know what opportunities might arise from those connections.

Q. Where do you envision yourself in the next five years?

Joanna: Honestly, I don’t have a fixed plan for where I’ll be in the next five years. The journalism industry is always evolving, making it hard to predict the future. However, I do know that I want to remain a journalist. I love writing every day, and I’m passionate about everything related to it.