Crystal Chesters, Group Editor for Hospitality titles at BNC Publishing tells TMN about her current role and what she thinks about the media industry in the Middle East…
Name: Crystal Chesters
Current job title: Group Editor for Hospitality titles at BNC Publishing
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
Where did you work prior?
Prior to arriving in Dubai I worked for VisitScotland looking after stakeholder communications and producing its publications for the tourism industry. I later moved to Dubai, where I worked as Editor of Hotelier Middle East at ITP Publishing before joining BNC Publishing.
What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
It’s very fast-paced with small teams looking after large workloads.
Has your opinion changed much?
Not really, but now I’m used to it!
Tell us about your current role…
I oversee BNC Publishing’s hospitality portfolio, which comprises of the events, publications and digital activity of Catering News Middle East and Hotel News Middle East. I am also still the Editor of Catering News Middle East, a role I’ve been doing since January, 2016.
What challenges do you face?
I’d say the biggest challenge of my role is juggling a wide range of responsibilities – from social media to events and awards and of course the monthly magazines. In addition, dealing with a huge volume of emails with interview pitches, events, meeting requests and press releases is time consuming and can be stressful. However, this is part of my role and it’s important to be organised to stay on top of it all.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Getting to try out the latest restaurant openings and travelling to different countries on press trips.
How would you rather be contacted at work?
By email – phone calls can be intrusive, particularly during deadline week. Whatsapp is even more intrusive, unless I know the contact already and that relationship has already been established.
What do you think of publications in the region?
I’d say overall the quality is lower than in more established markets like the United States and Europe. If you look at the teams on international titles here they are far smaller than the teams you’d find in London or New York and with the current economic climate, resources continue to be stretched and this, of course, has an impact on quality. That said, the Middle East is a very young and developing market when it comes to publishing and there are some great titles doing well in the region.
How has print media managed to stay relevant in today’s digital community?
I think it’s currently still relevant, particularly when it comes to B2B magazines. That said, publishing companies are being forced to diversify and move quickly into the digital age to keep up. I think challenging times lie ahead but there will always be a need for quality journalism.
What do you think of media ethics in the region?
I think it’s challenging. You’ve got to be careful when talking about anything culturally sensitive and the defamation laws are very different to what we’re used to in the UK. Working for trade magazines, it’s not a huge issue, but for those journalists working on newspapers I imagine it can be challenging.
What role has digital media played when it comes to reader engagement in the magazine industry?
It’s really important, you’ve got to push content on social media as a lot of your web traffic will come from this. All of our magazines have digital editions and every feature gets published online and in our newsletters, which go out to a large database.
Describe yourself in five words…
Adventurous, kind, open-minded, tenacious and forgetful.
What’s the most exciting thing to happen to you in your career?
Going on a press trip to New York. It was my first time there and I went to see the new Element brand from Starwood.
What’s your most overused saying?
At the end of the day…
Five things you can’t live without?
At the moment, my daily flat white from Costa, The Salad Jar, Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge, Kerastase shampoo and Bojack Horseman.
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I’d be a painter if someone would pay me to do that.
What is your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?
Does Netflix count?
How do you see the media industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?
I think it will get harder for the newspaper industry in particular and we could see more closures and redundancies across the region. I think both newspapers and magazines will continue to diversify into digital and video.