Colin Kennedy: My Life In Media
'I've been snubbed by Schwarzenegger, turned down by Tarantino and called a "pen-arse" in print by Guy Ritchie'
Monday 06 March 2006
Colin Kennedy, 33, is editor of 'Empire' magazine. As a teenager, Colin dreamed of combining the wit of Morrissey with the finishing of Kenny Dalglish. Years later he left college with an idea for the "great American novel" - surprisingly none of these ambitions has been fulfilled. He will, however, be at the Sony Ericsson Empire Awards on 13 March. He lives in north London with his girlfriend Nicola.
So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
"Inspired" is a strong word. I wanted to write; I loved movies, music and magazines; I needed a job; I got lucky. The word I use is "fell". I fell into a media career.
When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
The Guardian - avidly. At 15 I was as precocious and pretentious as my poor spelling would allow - the Grauniad seemed the natural choice.
What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
I always scoured schedules for quality American shows and in the late 1980s that meant Cheers, Moonlighting and Hill Street Blues. Am pretty sure I was one of millions quoting from Blackadder also. As for radio - comedy from daytime Radio 4, music from evening Radio 1.
Describe your job
In my seventh year at Empire I am editor-in-chief and acting publisher, a dual position that gives me a frightening amount of responsibility. I therefore spend my day worrying about the very small ("Is that caption funny?") and the very large ("What digital platform should Empire colonise next?") and trying not to get the too confused.
What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?
Would love to say the Today programme but actually it's Just Shoot Me and Will & Grace on C4.
Do you consult any media sources during the working day?
Although my team is the most invaluable media source I scan all the trades for movies and magazines from Variety to Press Gazette. Also, although I find Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone to be rather shabby consumer propositions these days, they are still invaluable sources.
What is the best thing about your job?
Dreaming up covers that are both truly innovative and very commercial.
And the worst?
Somehow ending up with a tame cover that performs like a dog.
How do you feel you influence the media?
Personally I have zero influence, but occasionally when Empire gets behind a movie that until then is flying under the radar I think we can alert the media and even set the tone for the campaign that follows.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
A happy team.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Well, I've been snubbed by Schwarzenegger, turned down by Tarantino and called a "pen-arse" in print by Guy Ritchie. But the most embarrassing moment was being forced to sing excerpts from the Grease 2 soundtrack by Michelle Pfeiffer in front of a half dozen bemused foreign journalists.
At home, what do you tune in to?
"Tune in to?" How quaint. I Sky+. At the moment 24, Lost, The West Wing, The Wire, House, Deadwood, Peep Show, The IT Crowd and America's Next Top Model.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
The Observer, always. Often complemented by the News of the World, sometimes supplemented with The Sunday Times/Independent on Sunday. Magazines are both my job and my passion so I read everything from Trail to Vanity Fair. If I had to pick one favourite it would probably be The New Yorker. And Wired.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire
To sit beside Jack Nicholson at the Oscars. Wearing sunglasses.
If you didn't work in the media what would you do?
Previous jobs have included propagandist, band manager, medical trial guinea pig, failed novelist and pet food factory oven operator. Of those I'd probably trudge back to failed novelist.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Fred Dellar, and he is the nicest gent you could hope to meet. You'd never guess he spent a quarter century at the NME and hung out with The Beatles. Aged 70 he is still answering obscure music questions for Mojo and compiling the Empire crossword, among others.
1996 Begins career as freelance entertainment journalist with 50-word video review for Smash Hits. Will eventually contribute to Melody Maker, Total Film, NME and FHM among others.
1997 Appointed TV and films editor of Smash Hits. By late 1999 he is commissioning editor.
2000 Joins Empire as features editor.
2002 Appointed editor of Empire. Adds almost 25 per cent to the ABC figure in less than three years, establishing Empire as the biggest entertainment monthly in the UK. Wins the BSME award for Best Entertainment Editor in 2004.
2005 Promoted to editor-in-chief of Empire with a brief to investigate new opportunities for the brand, beginning with overhaul of Empire Online that immediately doubles page impressions. Darth Vader "breathing" cover wins BSME Innovation of the Year.
2006 Made acting publisher, alongside other duties.
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