Magazines: You too could be the next Boris Johnson

It's Oscars time, and previous winner Tim de Lisle knows what judges like

The Matt cartoon in Friday's Telegraph showed the editor of Horse & Hound reacting to the hunting ban by telling his secretary, "We're going to have to shoot the staff." It was a good gag but some way from the truth. For one thing, the editor is a woman. For another, Horse & Hound is thriving in adversity, and tomorrow night the editor, Lucy Higginson, will be in her glad rags at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane to see if she has won an award from the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME).

The Matt cartoon in Friday's Telegraph showed the editor of Horse & Hound reacting to the hunting ban by telling his secretary, "We're going to have to shoot the staff." It was a good gag but some way from the truth. For one thing, the editor is a woman. For another, Horse & Hound is thriving in adversity, and tomorrow night the editor, Lucy Higginson, will be in her glad rags at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane to see if she has won an award from the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME).

It's Oscars time in the magazine world and the shortlists reflect the amazing diversity to be found in your local news- agent, encompassing titles as different as FHM and Supply Management, Saga and CosmoGIRL!, Golf Punk and Nursing Standard.

Back in 1991 there were only seven awards. The big one, Editors' Editor of the Year, went to Ian Hislop of Private Eye. These days there are 19 awards, and every editor longs to win one, secretly or otherwise. Here's how it's done, based not so much on the occasion I happened to get one (as my features editor tartly remarked, a lot of planets had to be in alignment) as on the three years I've since spent on the BSME committee.

1 Enter

Only about 250 editors bother, out of some 3,000 in British magazines. Often the winners thought they had no chance and only entered because their publisher nagged them.

2 Have a good designer

These are not awards for art direction, and you can win without being especially handsome, as Private Eye has shown. But the shortlisting committee has three large boxes of mags to plough through. A smart, usable design goes a long way.

3 Be untypical

Last year's winners included a contract mag that's nothing like a contract mag - Carlos, the heroically quirky Virgin Atlantic journal. This year's contenders include a men's mag that's not too male - Men's Health, which has fearlessly moved beyond pecs and abs to tackle issues such as overworking.

4 Shake up a traditional field

Both Horse & Hound and Your Horse are shortlisted this year. If the shortlisterspick up your title expecting to be bored, and then find a breath of fresh air, you're in with a chance.

5 Enter 'General Interest'

It's curiously underpopulated, perhaps because political rags such as the New Statesman see themselves as part of the newspaper world, not magazine-land. So the shortlist is small but distinguished: Time, Saga and Reader's Digest, all mega-sellers, and all recently revamped.

6 Start a new genre

Heat did - weekly gossip with bite. Glamour did - monthly glossy, handbag-sized. Both won several awards. Britain's first broadminded grown-up rock monthly, Word, might have won last year had its owners felt it could afford the £70 entry fee. (Its editor, Mark Ellen, won the Mark Boxer Award, our version of Lifetime Achievement.) Nuts and Zoo bothpioneered the men's weekly in 2004. Both are up for Launch of the Year.

7 Edit 'Take A Break'

The Brits have Robbie Williams; the BSME has John Dale of Take A Break, a vivid, unpretentious, million-selling weekly about real people. Dale has won eight awards, three more than anyone else, and he's shortlisted again. In his path, however, lies Closer's Jane Johnson.

8 Be famous

The reigning Editors' Editor is a man whose magazine is not widely read in the industry, who hasn't changed it dramatically, and who would not claim to be the most hands-on editor. But he's a celebrity, and a highly gifted one - Boris Johnson.

9 Be brilliant

The judges are editors or media people. They wouldn't bother giving their time, unpaid, if they didn't care. Committees can get it wrong, but looking back you can see how often they got it right. Multiple winners, from Emma Soames of Saga to Dylan Jones of GQ, are very good at their jobs.

The winners will be posted at www.BSME.com on Tuesday

Shortlists for the British Society of Magazine Editors' blue-riband awards

Editors' Editor

Jane Bruton ( Eve); Jane Johnson ( Closer); Greg Neale ( BBC History Magazine); Alexandra Shulman ( Vogue); Sue Peart ( You)

Women's Magazines (non-weekly)

Jane Bruton Eve (BBC Worldwide); Louise Chunn In Style (IPC Media); Sara Cremer New Woman (EMAP Consumer Media); Jo Elvin Glamour (Condé Nast Publications); Alison Hall More (Emap Elan); Alexandra Shulman Vogue (Condé Nast Publications); Victoria White Company (National Magazine Company);

Launch of the Year

Christine Hayes Olive (BBC Magazines); Phil Hilton Nuts (right, IPC Media); Paul Merrill Zoo (EMAP Consumer Media); Gareth Ogden Custom PC (Dennis Publishing); Tim Southwell Golf Punk (KYN Publishing); Ceri Thomas BBC Easy Gardening (BBC Magazines)

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