CV: MIKE SOUTAR Managing director, Kiss FM

`I WENT ON A CAMPAIGN OF TELLING EVERYONE IN THE BUILDING HOW BRILLIANT I'D BE AS EDITOR. I THINK THEY GAVE ME IT IN THE END BECAUSE THEY FELT SORRY FOR ME'
Click to follow
I'd had an idea at school that I wanted to be a PE teacher, but when I went along to the one college in Scotland that offered a course in it I didn't like it that much. But then I saw an advert in the local paper for editorial assistants at DC Thomson in Dundee, and got really fired up about it. What DC Thomson did was to take on six people every three months, and at the end of that time they would get rid of four. I was offered a job, and was one of the two that survived.

The first magazine I worked on there was called Secrets, which was romantic fiction for old ladies. I learnt really quickly how to sub, and then - at the age of 17 - I was made beauty editor. After three months' doing that, I was promoted to working on Patches, a teenage girls' magazine, as fiction editor, and then I became its assistant pop editor.

Later, when the editor of Patches became editor of Jackie, she took me with her to become pop editor there. DC Thomson regularly sent its pop editors down to London to glad-hand people in the press offices, and on one of those trips, in 1987, I got a job working for Virgin Records as a press officer. I took it more because I wanted to be in London than because I wanted to be a press officer, and I did press for a bunch of terrible acts that nobody will ever have heard of, with two exceptions: Johnny Hates Jazz - who I managed to get on the covers of No 1, Smash Hits and Just Seventeen in the same week - and Roy Orbison.

I hated it: I felt being in PR was like being a glorified double-glazing salesman. So after a year I moved back into journalism, and freelanced for about six months before getting in touch with Barry McIlheney, then the editor of Smash Hits - I'd had contact with him when I was at Virgin. He asked me to come in to the office for a couple of days, and I ended up staying at Smash Hits as a junior writer.

After a few months I got a staff writer's job, and then moved up the ranks quite quickly - editing the news section, then becoming the deputy editor, and finally editor. But I inherited a title that was losing readers like nobody's business: we'd gone from selling 880,000 issues at the end of 1988 to just under 500,000 when I took over at the end of 1990, and it took a year to 18 months and a relaunch before it started going up again.

In April 1994, after six years at Smash Hits, I told Emap, the publisher, that I had to move on, and went to work on a dummy for them for a new youth title. But then, in June, Emap bought FHM - not bringing the editor over with it - and I thought, "This is my job." I went on a campaign of telling everyone important in the building that I'd be brilliant at it, and I think in the end they gave it to me because they felt sorry for me.

We spent the first three or four months just finding out about the men's magazine marketplace, and decided we wanted to produce a magazine that was funny, sexy and useful. We targeted the gap in the market between GQ and Loaded - the bloke in his twenties who would still go and paint the town red with his mates, but then would have to get up the next morning and carry on with his career - and it took off, really quickly. In the first two-and-a-half years we took the magazine from a circulation of about 50,000 to market leadership of 365,000, and three out of my last four issues sold in excess of a half a million.

But around about the start of this year I became aware that I was going to have to move on; I'd seen other editors outstay their welcome. I didn't want to move up in management, and there really wasn't another magazine I wanted to edit. But then Gordon McNamee at Kiss FM told me he was looking for a new MD and, although my initial reaction was to say that radio wasn't my thing, I got more excited by the idea over the next couple of days.

I started at Kiss in April, and though I doubted anything would be as much fun and as rewarding as FHM, it's been brilliant. Most radio stations are trying to get as many people as possible between the ages of 10 and 60 within their area to listen to them, but we have the opportunity to say that we want as many of a certain kind of people listening. There's a lot of work to do, but it's a brilliant challenge, and that's what I needn

Interview by Scott Hughes

Comments