Jon Birchall | Audience and Content Director for Sport at Reach PLC

Our latest guest is Jon Birchall. Jon is currently the Audience and Content Director for Sport at Reach PLC. We are pleased and thankful to Jon for sharing his experience and insights within his professional career to date.

Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?

Hello! My name is Jon Birchall and I’m the Audience and Content Director for Sport at Reach PLC. I oversee our digital sports strategy for brands such as the Mirror, Manchester Evening News and roughly 30 others at both National and Regional levels.

As Audience and Content Director (Sport) at Reach plc, what does a normal week look like for you?

You’ve heard this before but a great joy of working in sports media is that a normal week doesn’t exist. We operate in a 24/7 live news environment, so for our writers and editors it’s very much working minute-to-minute stories whereas for me and my direct team now it’s more looking at the month-to-month trends, planning and strategy.

What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

The simple answer is people. Firstly, we have a team of roughly 150 digital sports journalists who work into my team, so making sure they are able to do their jobs to the best of their ability is paramount. We also work closely with many other departments, across editorial, commercial and otherwise, so maintaining those relationships is key. This is something I’d make a point of to anyone who is keen to pursue a career in sports media. There are absolutely loads of great people who make what we do possible.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

I have already talked about the importance of people so I’ll try not to repeat myself but I honestly couldn’t reasonably list all of unbelievably talented journalists I’ve been lucky enough to work with after just over a decade in the industry. They have challenged me, made me better and been there when I’ve needed them. Paul Macdonald, Peter Staunton, Sam Lyon, James Goldman, David Higgerson, Alison Gow, Alan Edmunds, Ed Walker, Julie Aberdein and my current team. Knowing them is the enjoyable bit.

What is the most difficult part of your role?

Seeing my colleagues receive abuse on social media for things they have written. I adore football. It’s a pathetically important part of my life. I just can’t get my head around how, for some, that love for a club or a player or whatever else turns into an excuse to say the most unpleasant things to people on the internet. Because they are people and it does matter. Grow up.

I notice you often promote vacancies which open up over at Reach plc, which is great. I’m sure you have received many pitches and CVs in the past. In your opinion, what makes a good pitch? Also, any CV tips that our readers can take away from this would be much appreciated!

Pitch your ideas and explain why you are the best person to tell that story. Come with a fully formed idea of what you can bring, explain why it’s original and — this is key — have a clear idea of who it’s for and who would want to read it, listen to it or watch it. Journalism and media is for the people who consume it, not those who make it. So why should it matter to those people who consume it? Explain that clearly and politely and you’re on to a winner.

What are your thoughts on the freelance market for football content creators, whether that’s writing, design or other forms of content?

I would point to what I said to the previous question, really. It is unbelievably competitive but also incredibly exciting. The industry is now in a place where we can experiment in new ways every day so as an employer we want to hear from people who can help us to do that.

Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?

I want to work in an industry that becomes more diverse in every sense. I want to work with and learn from more people from a variety of backgrounds. It’s the only way we’ll get better. The industry will continue to change for the better and I want to play my part in making that happen.

And finally Jon, where can people find you on social media?

I’m @jonbir90 on Twitter. Apologies in advance. And thanks for letting me chat. I’m on jonathan.birchall@reachplc.com if anyone wants some specific advice.

Connecting freelancers in football (soccer) to paid work.