It was the question I immediately had in mind: why did the editors of popular entertainment and lifestyle website Fever Avenue suddenly switch to their new upstart Poached Mag, when they had it good there? The site was generating healthy pageviews, was leading the market in terms of followers and likes and had a big team of contributors supplying stellar content. (We say this as friends, not competition.) Well, it seems the last factor was key in the 7 editors of Fever Avenue jumping ship and joining forces together with founder and former Fever Avenue editor, Ngeow Jiawen.
We caught up with founder and business development director Jiawen and editor-in-chief Miranda Chan at their official launch party recently at Cups N Canvas in the heart of Selegie Road over nibbles, drinks and a hip crowd of yuppies and marketing who’s-who’s. Having known them as more than just industry contacts since Popspoken started up, I had to ask the inevitable question: Did Poached Mag, well, poach the Fever Avenue team over to their side? The duo were well prepared to tackle it head-on and gave surprisingly honest answers.
Miranda said, “Firstly, it’s not half the team. It’s the whole team. What happened was the editors wanted to keep working together. Somehow in Fever Avenue, there wasn’t a lack of reason but there wasn’t any specific direction in general. We didn’t feel like there was something there. The editors came on board because they felt this was something better.”
When asked about similar content that FA & Poached Mag has, Jiawen added in, “You see a lot of Fever Avenue in this because FA is a lot of us. To put it bluntly, I started Fever Avenue from Day 1 but I left because I thought it wasn’t working out. For the rest of the team, (I feel they moved) because of a sheer passion to want to write and there was nowhere else. We’ve always been in contact about coming together again one day. FA had contributors but it didn’t feel like family. With Poached, it feels tighter and more intimate. The stars are aligned; this is the best time to do it.”
“The stars are aligned; this is the best time to do it” – Ngeow Jiawen on starting up Poached Mag
Talk about starting up Poached came about last year when Miranda and Jiawen endeavoured to start up an online magazine to build a community and plug the gap in online content for the liberal and literate set. Fever Avenue, at that time, was plugged by a seemingly endless list of contributors and a case that shocked the nation. One of its contributors, Samantha Ann Francis, had been fired from citizen journalist portal STOMP in mid-2012 over forging a fake report over an MRT cabin door left ajar mid-transit. (Also, this, plus what seems to be a hate blog on her.) It is still not known if Samantha was an intern or contract employee in STOMP, neither it is known if she is now writing for Poached Mag.
Despite starting afresh, Jiawen and Miranda are determined to start right from the bottom. “To be fair to Fever Avenue, I was the one who made the decision to leave so I have nothing to do with them nor their fan resources. I wouldn’t want to do that (bring fans over to Poached). FA is doing well in its following but they’ve been around for more than a year, so I like what we are doing in terms of followers and likes. This kind of thing comes with time but I’m not scared. In fact, you can write this: I believe in a year’s time, we will be where Fever Avenue is. Maybe less than a year,” confidently said Jiawen.
“I believe in a year’s time, we will be where Fever Avenue is. Maybe less than a year.” – Ngeow Jiawen, on when will Poached Mag gain the fanbase that Fever Avenue had
The editors have picked up important lessons from their time at Fever Avenue. A New York Times article on quote approval rocked the journalism world (and so was NYT’s decision to ban such a practice) when it was found out that a common journalistic practice would be to send interview quotes to public relations agents to approve and change if deemed necessary, on their own terms. Although it has yet to be discovered if the situation in Singapore media is as such, Miranda spoke openly about a time a PR company requested to vet an article before it was published in Fever Avenue.
“Honestly, I wasn’t very pleased but I understood why they would do it and I wouldn’t block them. If it keeps happening, I will speak to them but they do have a reason for doing so. We understand. I’m editor-in-chief and I’m very clear about this. (Me and Jiawen) work together so business and editorial demands don’t clash. I will not let it happen.”
“You feel that it’s fresh, it’s hot.” – Miranda Chan, on how the name Poached came about
The online magazine and newsblogging market in Singapore was almost non-existent (except for sites such as Spin or Bin Music, Culturepush and Power Of Pop) when Fever Avenue started in 2010. At that time, successful models such as Gawker, Betabeat and even The Hairpin had flourished in the States and filled a gap in the market with news networks and personal blogs on either end of the extremes. Fast-forward to now and the list of competing sites is endless: new ones such as Germz, Radclad, COAL and Bandwagon are providing content for the entertainment market. In the lifestyle and culture spheres, Citynomads, Couture Troopers and Honeycombers join existing sites plussixfive and Superadrianme in diversifying the online media landscape.
Calling other sites “friendly competition”, Jiawen is unfazed by the competition. “The market’s really big. When I started, I wouldn’t go so far as to say Fever Avenue was the pioneer (of newsblogging) but there was a gap of online magazines that caters to people with localised content. Whatever we did at Fever Avenue are lessons learnt to apply today. We are aware that the market is getting saturated but it’s very big. Popspoken reaches out very well to young adults but Poached has a different target audience. It’s just about how you communicate with audiences,” Jiawen compared this site to Poached in explaining how competitive edges differ.
One thing Poached is hoping to diversify itself in is the “Perspectives” column, where editor Vanessa Lee will touch on pertinent social issues and exposit from there, akin to what Thought Catalog does. “Online readers are educated and discerning, so they want to find out if someone else thinks the same way they do. We really get them thinking; it’s not just about entertaining and informing,” Jiawen clarified.
While the team is thinking about a print edition (“but not anytime soon”, said Miranda), there is something special they are doing this November: supporting social cause Movember where men are advised to grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness of men’s health issues. At the launch party, Movember premiums were given out to guests. Miranda told us that Poached will be running related articles during the month such as Perspectives features and menswear fashion. Already, one post has surfaced on Crawford & Sons, the menswear offshoot of cult menswear-based womenswear line AMEN.
So, does anyone in the Poached team have any idea on what plans are in store for Fever Avenue?
“We actually have no idea how FA is doing. All’s fair and we didn’t do anything. We’ll leave it up to whoever’s back in the team,” said Miranda.
Photos courtesy of Poached Mag.