You don’t need to work in the industry to know that print journalism has dramatically changed in the last decade. Newspapers are changing, websites are being created, and many journalists are having trouble adjusting. However, for the vastly successful and recognized British journalist Richard Bence, the change is welcome.
Bence is a cross-platform media professional with over a decade of experience as an editor, copywriter, vlogger and digital content creator covering culture, design, architecture, fashion, travel and lifestyle. He graduated from the prestigious University of Edinburgh in 1999 with an MA in English Literature and Architectural History, and from there moved straight to London.
“It was an incredibly exciting time, a lifestyle revolution was being spearheaded by Wallpaper* magazine. Bars, hotels and restaurants were the new nightclubs, with hotel king Ian Schrager at the vanguard, and London felt like the centre of the universe,” he recalls.
Bence’s first media job was for Peretti Communications which allowed him to gain a level of expertise with premium brands like Champagne, Argentine wine, and other luxury travel and interiors clients.
“I was hooked, and getting our clients into the glossy magazines and supplements was our one mission in life,” he said.
It didn’t take long for Bence to jump ship and take the helm of the Lifestyle department at the world’s number one gay lifestyle magazine, Attitude, also known as “gay men’s Vogue”.
“I repositioned the lifestyle section creating a more aspirational environment where high-end advertisers could feel more comfortable. I ended up running that section until I made the digital leap in 2011,” he says. Since that time, Bence has proved his skill and versatility by fully venturing into the digital media world.
Bence originally started vlogging for American Idol creator Simon Fuller’s online fashion website, Fashionair.com.
“My job as a travel editor took me all over the world, from Buenos Aires and Brazil to Valencia and the Maldives. With the help of my companion, I recorded value-adding content in the form of a ‘Style Diary’. Poppy Delevingne was the “It Girl” and I was the “It Boy”, it was great fun to see the final cut with a soundtrack. Our task was to celebrate sartorial flair and local flavor while globetrotting. It was from this endeavor that I got asked to be the editor in chief of luxury e-commerce website CoutureLab.com, working for the “fairy godmother of fashion”, Carmen Busquets,” he says.
Carly Temple, who worked with Bence as the content editor of CoutureLab, believes that he transformed the website and his superb online capabilities turned it into a great success.
“Richard breathed a new lease of life into the magazine, bringing all editorial production in-house, creating a fresh look and feel and establishing a more on-brand tone. He brought a massive amount of creative energy to the team and played a pivotal role in the launch of the company’s luxury gifting website GiftLab.com. Setting the tone of voice for all editorial on the new site, he also secured a number of interviews with key people in the industry on the strength of his networking abilities,” she says. “I found Richard to be an inspiration to work with. Not only is he an incredible journalist and editor, he is a true creative innovator, whose work leads rather than follows the trend.”
Bence also worked as the arts & entertainment editor for online newspaper The Positive, and as the managing editor of the Little Book of Wonders website. He has proved his versatility by continuing to write for digital publications such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith as well as Civilian Global.
Bence can offer what many veteran journalists cannot: an aptitude for both print and digital content. He acknowledges that although he has made the transition to primarily digital media, print is still vital to the industry.
“People still care about print. Great magazines still make their subscribers excited. If you look at sites like Net a Porter, they started online and have now expanded their offering to include a print magazine. The truth is that you can’t replicate that emotional connection or sensory experience of leafing through the glossy pages in your palm,” he explains.
However, the transition to digital media is inevitable. News is more often read in the palm of a hand, rather than flipping through the pages of a newspaper.
“Creating a premium e-commerce experience is essential for a luxury brand’s survival. As editor in chief of CoutureLab, I was fortunate enough to work with the world’s most digitally-savvy luxury brands including Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens. Content plays a key role in defining an online experience as something more than just a listing of products. That is where I come in as a digital content strategist,” he explains. “My role is more akin to that of a curator. Video is a powerful tool for brands to connect with customers, and digital lends itself to this form of storytelling.”
Having skilled print journalists like Bence working in the digital arena ensures a certain level of rigor gets passed on, but Bence believes that the immediacy of online publishing is its greatest asset.
“With print magazines you are working three, sometimes four months ahead. It’s impossible to know whether, for example, El Nino will actually hit, until it does, or doesn’t,” he says. “The digital realm is a dream in that regard.”
Bence has relocated from London to California, and has no plans of slowing down.
“At CoutureLab I interviewed curators, opinion-formers, influencers and tastemakers from the worlds of arts, culture, style and luxury. As arts and entertainment editor of The Positive, a start-up digital newspaper project, I was responsible for unearthing and interviewing out-of-the-box visionaries from the entertainment world which is something I am focusing on doing more of now I am in Los Angeles,” he says.
It is an online world. Companies are ditching catalogues for websites. Stores are closing and online shopping is taking over. For journalists, the change is expected, and Bence is already ahead of the curve.
“Magazine e-commerce is today’s Holy Grail of publishing,” he says. “In my view, they already are arbiters of taste, curators of the best products for their readers, guardians of all that is chic and covetable. Why shouldn’t they sell what they show in their pages?”