Non-stop action for sports-travel editor
Robert Houston is editor and publisher of Action Asia. Heading up the region's first sports-travel publication requires plenty of meetings and lots of running around the office, which is usually the only exercise he gets himself during the week.
Monday AT 9 AM the decibel level is ridiculous, even by Action Asia standards.
I walk out my door and bump straight into four young men in full scuba gear and a team of girls in lycra aerobics suits. Just as I'm trying to piece together the activities of my weekend to decide whether I'm at last losing it completely, I see our marketing director, Claire Peres, adjusting tanks and fiddling with zips. It's the start of her street promotion to announce the launch of the second edition of the magazine. I leave her to it and head back to my office.
As I walk down the corridor, I glance at a poster someone has put up on the wall. It shows American surfer Brock Little taking off on a monstrous wave that has to be about 30 feet high. Right behind this wave you can see another one that's even bigger. No matter how well this guy surfs, he's inevitably going to get buried under a mountain of water. That seems an appropriate symbol for the week ahead . . .
The first edition of Action Asia magazine came out in August 1992, a new concept in an u Tuesday Tuesday always starts with an editorial review. The editorial team, headed by Joanne (Jo) Bullock, tells me who, among our small army of freelance contributors, has come up with great work, who hasn't, and who needs chasing with an electronic cattle prod.
Fortunately one member of our research team, Susanna, is an ex-policewoman. She's thorough and relentless, and once we put her on a case we know she'll always get her man, woman, photographs or whatever. Today she tells us she's received some great material on an obscure Indonesian surfing destination called Panaitan Island. Definitely Action Asia material, we decided, and sure to be a highlight of one of our next editions.
The afternoon accelerates in speed as I talk to Claire and Candra Canning (marketing manager) about plans to promote the current edition around the region. Lots of ideas and energy here, and we end the meeting convinced we're going to steamroller the world with Action Asia.
In the evening, it's back to editorial, once again with assistance from Jo. She supposedly lives on Lamma Island, but lately seems to spend her life in the office. There wouldn't be an Action Asia without her.
Wednesday Hayde Ho, our circulation controller, is happily telling me the South Korean Government has turned down our application for a circulation licence because we may induce ''excessive, pleasure-seeking consumption'' and upset the national economy! On the positive side, we've received a request from a Brazilian distributor wanting to circulate our magazine there - and it's probably for exactly the same reason the Koreans have just said no.
Later in the afternoon I spend time with office manager Linda Peach who's overhauling our administration systems to incorporate an expanded staff.
More third edition articles have come in, and I spend the evening windsurfing in 40 knot winds at Omazaki, getting face to face with the elusive mola-mola beneath the waters of Bali (Jake Statham, one of our best writers, assures me there is such a thing), and scrabbling up the precarious heights of Mount Araplles in Australia. Unfortunately, since I started running an action sports publication, this is the only exercise I seem to get.
Thursday It's 11 am. The media director picks up his pen and happily signs the contract. Another page sold. Michele Crew, our sales director, is smiling like a terrier who has just gotten the better of a Doberman. This sales presentation was long and technical, the kind of sell that is very hard work for a new publication. In most big agencies, media buying has turned into a numbers game - cpm's (cost to reach 1000 readers), page rates, audited circulation and readership profiles - and media directors are as cynical as accountants in the taxation department. When you're starting a magazine, it takes time to build circulation and get solid information on your readership.
Through the afternoon, another of our research team, Hugh Moss, drops in to my office to run through some ideas that have been suggested by freelancers. First is a guy who specialises in hiking up active volcanoes and taking photographs of them. Then there's Max Dereta, a brilliant aerial sports photographer who's just been filming mass formation jumps for us in Malaysia. As Hugh leaves, I ask Linda to check the liability clauses in our staff insurance policy.
Friday Rob Wilkinson, one of our sales staff, calls in from some exotic Micronesian island, where he's just managed to drink a local resort owner under the table and sold him a full page of advertising as a result. Somewhat different from pitching to an agency media director, but obviously just as effective. Jo and I keep working on the pagination of the next edition as Claire and Candra race out of the office carrying armfulls of banners and brochures for our ''standing divers'', ''bike brigades'' and ''bus dancers''. Hongkong is discovering Action Asia.
Friday afternoon is a time for more reports and updates. My partner, Gordon Oldham, calls to see how everything's going. Gordon, a lawyer by profession, is definitely a big picture person and loves developing great concepts. Gordon also seems to have an unshakable belief that it's possible to sell 150 per cent of your print run several days after publication. I assure him that we're working on it . . .
With the looming deadline of the third edition, there's no partying tonight. But we can see the editorial coming together and the magazine taking shape, and that always makes the work worthwhile.
Saturday This is my favourite working day. Our office is officially closed, though there are usually several staff working. There are few distractions, and it's a time when I can really get down to creating the magazine. Editorial and other deadlines permitting, it's a great time to work on concepts for articles, sketch out ideas for improving the design and check through what we've done in the past to learn from our slip-ups. I get a bit carried away with this and leave the office at 9 pm, running late for dinner. As I walk past the picture of Brock Little on his 30-ft wave, I notice that someone has put a speech balloon on his mouth that says: ''Isn't this great?''