The way to get rich is to write about the famous

The celebrity gossip sector appears able to absorb new titles without diluting existing magazines’ sales. Adam Crow says there is room for still more growth

The big winners in recent Audit Bureau of Circulations reports have been celebrity magazines, with the majority of titles experiencing impressive circulation gains.

EMAP’s Heat has continued its success story, with a year-on-year gain of just over 56 per cent in the last set of figures. IPC Media’s Now continued its success too, increasing its circulation by 14 per cent to 630,212. The title is within touching distance of Northern & Shell’s OK!, which itself returned an impressive 30 per cent year-on-year increase.

And just when you might think the market is unable to sustain any more titles, enter Northern & Shell proprietor Richard Desmond.

The man who was told that OK! magazine was doomed to failure has done it again, this time with his New! magazine. An unofficial publisher statement suggests that the latest celebrity debutant is selling over 400,000 copies a week. And now, in what must surely be overkill, he is planning to launch Hot Stars – a direct rival to Heat, currently given away inside OK! as a standalone title (MW March 27).

But unlike reality TV, which has died of overkill, the celebrity magazine sector looks set to thrive.

The key point of difference is that it is consumers’ choice on whether they wish to view or not – reality shows seemed to be on every channel for a while, but it’s easy to avoid celebrity magazines. Secondly, buying celebrity magazines is not expensive – the average weekly cost for a basic multi-channel TV package is similar to the price of three celebrity titles.

As a consequence, the sector is becoming so crowded that the combination of titles now almost forms a sentence. The nationwide obsession with the lifestyles of the rich and shameless shows no signs of abating and each new title seems to find thousands of readers, waiting avidly for its gossip and photos.

But when will it all end, if it ever does? There are, as yet, no signs that it ever will, but one should never say never.

Although Northern & Shell’s launch of New! was arguably the worst-kept secret in the industry, IPC was seemingly slow to appreciate the impact the 60p cover price of New! would have on Now.

Instead of tackling New! from launch, IPC held back until the Oscars before publishing a one-off special spoiler issue, priced at 50p. With sales holding up in the face of increased competition, Now is back to &£1.10, demonstrating IPC’s continuing confidence in its product and the sector.

An aggressive cover price war has failed to materialise and the celebrity magazine sector shows no signs of slowing down. The next round of ABCs is eagerly awaited.

Adam Crow is press director at PHD

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