At an exclusive Gorkana media briefing with free weekly health and fitness magazine Coach this week, editor Ed Needham and web editor Jonathan Shannon shed light on the title’s progress since its launch in October, talked about its 80:20 ratio of entertaining and useful content and offered PR pitching tips.

“All men can improve themselves” is idea at the core of free health and fitness magazine Coach, which Dennis Publishing launched last October.

Coach, Dennis first major foray into the ‘freemium’ print market, is part of the new breed of titles, launched in the wake of successful titles like ShortList, Stylist and Sport magazines.

Aimed at men who want to “do something” to feel healthier and fitter – whether long-standing gym enthusiasts or “fitness newbies” – the magazine is targeted at ABC1 men aged between 24 and 55.

Some 300,000 copies of Coach hit the streets each Wednesday. The majority delivered by hand in London, with the rest distributed through selected sports and leisure clubs, gyms, hotels and business.

With 20 years’ experience behind him, its editor Ed Needham has worked on major magazine brands including editor of FHM in the UK and US, managing editor of Rolling Stone and editor of Maxim USA. He joined Coach as launch editor in October 2015.

Web editor Jonathan Shannon has worked as deputy and acting editor at Time Out in New York. He was also acting editor for Brand Republic’s B2B marcomms portal, before joining Coach in January 2016.

The magazine looks to urge readers to find their own “thing.” For Needham, it’s walking (he hopes to one day tackle the 100k walk from London to Brighton). Shannon, on the other hand, likes cycling to work (so long as there isn’t even the merest suggestion of rain).

Neither claim to be fitness fanatics – in fact they find the whole of idea of the “fitness fanatic” wrong for the Coach audience. Health and fitness does not need to be approached with a puritanical zeal, says Needham. “You can be really enthused about fitness and it can be important without having to live some kind of monastically pure life.”

Coach is not about the “Men’s Health definition” of health – “the pursuit of physical perfection”, according to Needham: “It’s about offering something practical and entertaining for young and older men who want to do something about their health and fitness.”

Working on an 80:20 content ratio (80% entertainment, 20% useful) the magazine needs to be commuter-friendly, he insisted. It needs to have cut-through, be engaging and be useful. The team doesn’t make assumptions about what their readers are into, so content needs to be wide-ranging when it comes to health and fitness.

At the same time, looks to answers readers’ questions – most have come in search of an answer to something, whether it’s how to slim down or a recipe for something to eat that evening.

In an exclusive packed out breakfast briefing with Gorkana, hosted at Ketchum PR and chaired by Gorkana‘s head of news and content Philip Smith, Needham and Shannon revealed what they thought PRs needed to know about the magazine:

It’s not just for men

Needham said the team has “accidently” created a gender neutral magazine because the team avoids two main stereotypes; the alpha male obsessed with winning, and, on the other side of the spectrum, the beer-swilling bloke.

It’s a small team

There are seven staff based in the UK. As well as editor and web editor, there is a features editor, picture editor, production editor, health and fitness news lead, entertainment and tech lead and an intern.

Catch the team’s eye with something “interesting”

In the first instance, it needs to appeal to the editor. It doesn’t matter how random something is, Needham added. “Tell me something I didn’t know and make it interesting.”

Exclusivity is important for online

While not a big issue for print, producing content online that has been elsewhere is a big no no for Shannon. If a story also appears elsewhere, search engines like Google will pick it up and penalize the site.

Lead times are short for print

The team closes the magazine on a Friday ready for publication on a Wednesday. Content is planned around two weeks in advance. PRs should get in contact with ideas around a month in advance to be on the safe side.

Email is the best way to get in contact

Email is best for both Needham and Shannon. The team are encouraged to respond to every email that comes in. But, don’t start with a reference to the season (“As the Spring arrives, I wondered if Coach would be interested in) It’s a big bugbear for the editor in particular. And, judging by his reaction at the briefing to an email he received mentioning the festive season in April, it’s not wise to mention Christmas so early on in the year.

More than 100 people from the Gorkana community  turned out for the briefing, describing it as “fantastic”, “interesting”, and “insightful”: