EMAP takes Heat out of niche magazine market

There is nothing new under the sun. And yet EMAP Metro has a reputation for entering a magazine category and turning it on its head.

Look at Q magazine, which revolutionised the music magazine. Or Empire, which moved film discussion away from a peek inside a starlet’s private-life to an in-depth analysis of the director’s career.

On the face of it, Heat sounds like a cross between Radio Times and Time Out. In fact, it’s a totally new UK magazine, more akin to US entertainment titles such as Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly.

Interestingly, it represents a move away from the traditional EMAP Metro strength of producing specialist titles – Q, Mojo, Empire – to a broader-based publication incorporating music, film, video, TV, books, and so on.

Heat allows you to read a critique of the latest Ewan MacGregor film, flick to an analysis of Little Malcolm in the West End and then move on to a review of the Trainspotting three-CD soundtrack album.

Those of you who have visited the new Borders store in London’s Oxford Street will be familiar with the concept of eclectic shopping – and it is a very attractive proposition. It is difficult to go into the shop without buying something. Equally, it is hard to look at Heat without wanting to read something.

So is the publisher’s target of selling 100,000 copies a week a little on the optimistic side? Repeat purchases will depend on the quality of the writing and here EMAP believes it has considerable strength.

Managing director Barry McIlheney – launch editor of Empire – has put together an impressive team under editor Mark Frith (previously of Smash Hits and Sky). The rest of the team also have strong CVs. There are 31 staff, many of them ex-editors of other magazines and all with a reputation in, and a passion for, their specialist subject.

Pass-on readership will also be high, so advertisers will be happy. In any case, they like the product, and the numbers are realistic. Time Out sells 97,000 copies in London; 100,000 for a national Heat sounds conservative.

My only reservation stems from the one area Heat claims is not its raison d’être: listings. The only listings are the week’s TV shows, although they are nicely laid out. We can now plan our TV week using a variety of titles, from weekend newspapers and Time Out to Radio Times and Hello! I don’t want another spread of Sky One peaktime shows on Sunday evening. I would quite like a gig guide telling me where I can send my daughter to see Offspring, but I search in vain.

Heat is immediate; news breaking on Monday can be there on Oxford Street the same day. It is well-written and humorous. I wish I’d had the idea.

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