BBC Wildlife Magazine is the UK’s bestselling natural history magazine, read each month by around 230,000 people in the UK and abroad. The magazine has close ties to the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol and makes use of knowledge provided by academic experts in universities around the country, as well as naturalists, biologists and ornithologists working for conservation and research organisations at home and abroad.
The magazine covers all aspects of wildlife - anything that might interest, inform, entertain and educate the casual reader, as well as scientists, conservation and wildlife workers. It contains a mix of stories about specific species, wildlife habitats, conservation and travel, book and TV reviews and answers to readers’ wildlife queries.
In every case the magazine seeks to provide an authoritative view of the natural world and to reflect current scientific thinking. A percentage of the magazine’s content reflects the rich natural history documentary programming produced by the BBC, and throughout also features the work of top wildlife photographers and writers.
Contributors to the magazine include some of the world’s leading academic and popular naturalists, with particular input from familiar BBC natural history presenters such as David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Mark Carwardine.
BBC Wildlife Magazine sprang from a publication called Animals, which was founded in the 1980s. It was taken over by the BBC in the 1990s as a vehicle to showcase the broadcaster’s natural history output. It is now owned by Immediate Media and has a remit to uphold the BBC’s principals to provide a top quality product that informs, educates and entertains in an impartial way, backed by acknowledged experts in their fields.
Every month the magazine contains a variety of longer articles on a mix of species from across the globe, and always includes interesting British wildlife. There is a photo feature that extends over eight pages which showcases the work of one wildlife photographer covering one specific topic. Examples of this photo feature have included subjects as varied as wolves in Italy, albatross in the South Atlantic, Scottish winter wildlife, and cave life in Borneo.
In addition, the magazine has a conservation news section, with up-to-the-minute scientific discoveries and an in-depth look at an important issue in the conservation world. There are also two opinion columns that over the years have featured the likes of Richard Mabey and Bill Oddie, and are currently being written by Chris Packham and Mark Carwardine.
Individual spreads cover monthly highlights of animals to see in the UK, a focus on some form of interesting animal behaviour, and a fascinating conservation insight, all illustrated with compelling photography.
A very popular element in the magazine is the reader Q&A, which runs over several pages and where experts are enlisted to answer questions as diverse as ‘can great apes keep secrets’ and 'how is climate change affecting toads’.
There is a monthly Essay that takes a sideways and academic look at something that touches on the world of wildlife, and a back page article that gives an eyewitness account of an amazing animal encounter.
The magazine is regularly audited by the BBC to ensure it meets the corporation’s very high standards. However, there are also legions of academics and professional natural historians who feed back on everything we do and keep us grounded in facts and current opinions.
In its history the magazine has had four editors who have brought a mix of skills and knowledge to the title. The current editor has a strong consumer magazine background coupled with extensive contacts in the natural history world gained from experience on two specialist wildlife-based magazines: Bird Watching and Wild Travel.
How was the magazine founded, and what are some of the most notable features from the earliest years of the publication?
The magazine was launched with the title Animals in the 1980s. It filled a niche in natural history publishing with its populist, consumer-focussed content. It quickly gained a loyal following by giving readers insights into the natural world, backed by solid academic facts and figures. Several years later it was taken over from the original publishers by the BBC, looking for a complementary publication to go with its natural history documentary output.
When did you first get involved, and who were the key figures working for the publication at that time (editors, publishers or contributors)?
I joined the magazine five months ago, having most recently been working on a publication called Wild Travel. The key figures working for the current magazine are nature presenters Chris Packham and Mark Carwardine, but we also call on a wide variety of experts in universities and wildlife institutions, and top wildlife photographers such as Andy Rouse, Laurie Campbell, and David Tipling.
The magazine has always been consistently strong in providing well-informed, beautifully written and photographed articles about animals of all kinds, and in providing top quality information in a widely accessible way. Over the years it has featured some of the top names in natural history – scientists, TV presenters, and filmmakers. It has also played a big part in promoting the work of wildlife photographers through its involvement first with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards working closely with the Natural History Museum, and latterly with the British Wildlife Photographer Awards, a recently instituted but fast-growing competition that reflects this country’s wealth of talented photographers.
Has advertising been an important commercial strut for the magazine? What do we learn from reviewing the commercial sponsors over the years?
Advertising is important for the commercial viability of any consumer magazine, but in the case of BBC Wildlife we have an added responsibility of ensuring that we partner with reputable and relevant advertisers because we know from reader research that they look to us to give them information on commercial operations that can be trusted. They therefore see the adverts as an integral and valuable part of the magazine’s offering.
Which disciplines will be particularly interested in the resource (e.g. Oenology, Agriculture, History)? And why, if it’s not obvious?
Anyone involved in the natural world should find something of interest in the BBC Wildlife pages.