Heat wilts in face of digital media with 21.7 per cent circulation drop

Last week, Bauer Media appointed Lucie Cave the new editor of Heat. The former executive editor had been standing in since previous editor Sam Delaney left last December.

Feeling the heat: the title is under pressure
Feeling the heat: the title is under pressure

But, according to the latest circulation figures, Cave has a challenge ahead.

Launched on the cusp of the millennium with the reality TV-infused noughties on the horizon, Heat magazine enjoyed a slow-burning journey to become one of the biggest-selling magazines in the UK.

By 2004, it was shifting more than half a million copies a week, targeting a public that was becoming increasingly obsessed with celebrity gossip.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the figures reveal a different story. The most recent ABC results, from January to June 2011, show the magazine has suffered a 21.7 per cent drop in circulation compared with the same period last year.

This has led to speculation about whether the former go-to celebrity gossip title has lost its appeal.

Dan Deacon, The Outside Organisation's head of creative and operations, maintains the magazine is still a key title for celebrity and entertainment PR professionals. But he believes that tension between the two worlds of traditional print media and 'instant fix' online gossip is proving to be Heat's downfall.

'With the changing landscape for celebrity communication, especially Twitter, Heat is under pressure as a weekly to deliver fresh news and exclusive content that grabs the punter's eye,' he says. 'The youth market, which was originally key to Heat, is becoming more reliant on websites and portals for a quick celebrity gossip fix, meaning that waiting a week for each issue of the magazine has become a long time.'

Heat has responded to these changes by launching Heat Radio and the HeatWorld website and mobile version. But EdenCancan creative director Nick Ede believes Heat needs to put more focus on its site.

He argues shifts in media ownership also have a large part to play in the decline of Heat and other celebrity- focused titles.

'When Big Brother was on Channel 4, Heat would have exclusives every week,' he says.

'Now it's on Channel 5, the talent will go to magazines in parent company Northern & Shell's publishing house (such as OK!, New! and Star magazine). In fact, Northern & Shell has done a good job of mopping up all the talent that the public wants to know about.'

Deacon believes the magazine may have to overhaul its brand strategy if it wants to see a resurgence in circulation.

'The Heat culture is very much associated with the noughties, so what is needed now is a repositioning exercise,' says Deacon. 'It should look at developing further partnerships and creating events to renew loyalty with its readers.'

QUICK FACTS
Weekly circulation 326,677 (ABC, January- June 2011)
Price £1.65
Publisher Bauer Media
Website heatworld.com
Contact giselle.wainwright@heatmag.com 020 7859 8657

A MINUTE WITH ... LUCIE CAVE, EDITOR, HEAT

What opportunities are there for PROs to secure coverage in Heat?

Providing the subject is right, there are plenty of opportunities. Heat is obsessed with all things celebrity, or associated with the celebrities our readers love to read about. First port of call is editorial assistant Giselle Wainwright, who can point PROs in the right direction.

What content are you looking for from PROs?

We want access to celebrities, news about celebrities, pictures of celebrities and top exclusive gossip. We want to know what they are eating, wearing and doing and, more importantly from a PR perspective, the products and events they are endorsing. We don't want suggestions of what to buy your dad for Father's Day.

Describe the typical Heat reader

Smart young women who love celebrity, gossip, fashion, television and pop, and who are funnier than the readers of other celebrity magazines.

How does the magazine tie in with the website?

Heatworld.com is our talkative, irrepressible little sister and we co-exist in gossipy harmony with the website. It spends the week following up the big exclusive celebrity stories we carry in the magazine and sniffing out things we might be covering next week.

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