What's the future for the magazine industry, and should schools care? Judging by entries to this year's Scottish School Magazine of the Year competition, the future is bright - and, yes, schools should care because the industry offers thousands of jobs for creative young people.
Magazines are one area that is bucking the trend when it comes to the challenge from online rivals. While newspapers struggle to compete, magazines are thriving. Around 100 million customer magazines alone are distributed across the UK every year, according to the PPA, the periodical publishers' association - they're the sort of publication that Orange, or Sky TV or Tesco would send out to their customers. And that's not counting the myriad glossies and famous titles that flourish on the newsstands.
So the hundreds of pupils who entered the 2008 school magazine awards, managed by PPA Scotland and sponsored by The TESS, should be well placed in the jobs market. Sixty magazines were submitted this year and six have come out with top awards that demonstrate creativity, enthusiasm and passion. "It's a good omen for the magazine profession to see such talent coming from Scottish schools," says Ray Perman, chairman of the judging panel.
There were nine categories, covering all aspects of magazine publishing: commercial strategy; design and layout; editorial content and team; best feature article; best magazine cover; online presence; original artwork and photography; outstanding individual - and overall magazine of the year. What these reflected was the range of talents required across the team. So in the commercial award, for example, the judges were looking for a strategy which would make the production and distribution of the magazine viable - or that showed pupils were interacting with businesses in the local community, and they were richly rewarded:
"Some schools simply charged a cover price. Others negotiated deals with an advert in the local paper. Some sold advertising space or came up with other innovative ideas to cover costs or to make a profit."
In the Best Editorial Content and Team category, they were looking for teamwork and leadership: "Editorial should reflect effort and enthusiasm as well as creative skills. There has to be a strong editor who can also manage a team of contributors - and make sure everyone works to deadlines."
And in the Best Design and Layout category, they were looking for a product which combines imagination and readability with the clever use of pictures, type and graphics.
But the top accolade of Scottish School Magazine of the Year went to "a magazine which encapsulates everything that the judges were looking for in a great school magazine: excellent editorial, impressive articles, imaginative design, creativity and, above all, passion and commitment from a pupil-led team of enthusiasts". This year, it went to Rare Beast and the team from Coatbridge High, North Lanarkshire.
Rare Beast also won Best Magazine Cover for its vibrancy and "terrific original images" which would catch the eye and make people want to read it - and Best Editorial Content and Team, for its strong community spirit and "very well planned" editorial.
The Coatbridge publication stood out for its student voice, from the fun "Rare Beast Rap" to the anonymous "Yoldie I got sussed", on the pleasures of being suspended for a day (timetable included!). More serious contributions included Allyson Banford's shortlisted feature, The Internet - Friend or Foe? and an excellent article by Laura Anderson on Genocide. Then there was Boo to Blazers (with a panel of reasons against), Are Geeks really Freaks? and sections on sport, reviews, cartoons and puzzles.
Each of the category award winners will now be given mentoring, skilled presentations, work experience or other magazine-related excursions by publishers and industry suppliers. The overall winners will also be invited to the glitzy Scottish Magazine Awards, for the industry, in November, and can see their magazine professionally printed in York, courtesy of Trader Media Print Group.
Best commercial strategy
St Margaret's High, North Lanarkshire for Download
"The winning team managed a first-class strategy which combined cover price, contra-deals on printing, excellent advertising sales and much more."
Best design and layout
Boclair Academy, East Dunbartonshire for Boclair School Magazine '08
"Clear and simple typography with an exciting layout and brilliant photography."
Best editorial content and team
Coatbridge High, North Lanarkshire for Rare Beast
""Community spirit was strongly emphasised and editorial was very well planned."
Best feature article
Annie Gray, Queensferry Community High, Edinburgh for QHM
"Highly relevant, mature writing with a well-reasoned argument."
Best magazine cover
Coatbridge High, North Lanarkshire for Rare Beast
"Vibrant and really sets the tone with some terrific original images."
Best online presence
Lawside Academy, Dundee for Breakout
"A shining example of how to put interesting and informative magazine content online. All the traditional skills are there, and they are combined with imaginative use of pictures and sound."
Best original artworkphotography
Lauren Craig from Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire, for Say What
"Very clever and creative front cover artwork."
Liam Smith, Lawside Academy, Dundee, for Breakout