EMAP sneaks ahead of BBC in gossip mag duel

BBC celebrity magazine for kids, It’s Hot!, faces an uphill battle as it launches against the weekly, low-priced charms of EMAP’s Sneak

There is an old publishing adage: if there is a bandwagon, jump on it. The new publishing phenomenon is celebrity gossip mags; this is after all where the circulation increases are to be found.

The BBC and EMAP are both launching magazines in this arena, albeit targeting the younger reader. How will they fare, and is there a gap in the market for new titles in a youth sector that is in significant decline?

The BBC offering will be It’s Hot!, which launches on 16 April and will incorporate the now defunct L&K. The EMAP offering is Sneak, which is a younger version of Heat launching on 30 April.

Both titles seem to be going down separate routes in terms of price. It’s Hot! launches at the market norm of £1.80, but Sneak has an added incentive of costing just 90p.

More importantly, Sneak is going to be a weekly magazine with extremely short lead times which will obviously keep their readers up to date with the latest gossip. By contrast, It’s Hot! will be a monthly and therefore will undoubtedly be behind with the gossip.

The target readerships are also completely different. It’s Hot! will launch into the nineto 13year-old market where the reader is already getting similar information from other monthlies such as TV Hits and CDUK. Sneak will be alone in targeting 12to 16-year-olds with “gossip to go” on a weekly basis.

EMAP seems to be putting serious money behind Sneak’s launch with £3m being bandied about. It has also employed Mother, the agency that brought us ITV’s Monkey.

Both Sneak and It’s Hot! will be sampled with sister titles. In addition It’s Hot! is also being distributed in the Sunday Mirror. There’s tight targeting for you. And if you are still wavering over whether or not to buy the magazine, a free alarm clock cover mount will surely tip the balance.

Some industry critics will point to the BBC’s failure last year with Star as an indication that there is no market for Sneak, however both titles are completely different. Star was more in the mould of Hello! and OK, while Sneak will follow the look and tone of its EMAP sister title Heat. Star missed out because readers were bored with seeing photo shoots of celebrity bedrooms, but would probably be more interested in the latest music, film and relationship gossip.

So in a year’s time who will still be publishing? It’s Hot! appears to brings nothing new to the party whereas Sneak is, at least, targeting new ground, the price is cheap, promotion and cross marketing with other EMAP titles will ensure it is sampled and the short lead times will get it read. Young girls are suckers for an innovative magazine.

Overall, It’s Hot! looks and feels rather tepid while EMAP seems to have sneaked it.

Ian Tournes is associate director at MediaCom

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