MEDIA PROFILE: Reaching for the stars - Chris Hemblade, editor, Sky

Chris Hemblade is a man who can’t quite believe his luck. He took over at Sky magazine this February faced with the fact that his predecessor had built the magazine’s circulation to a record 186,000, the Ministry of Sound was launching against him with a unisex magazine and Wagadon had decided its next launch was going to be a men’s magazine aimed smack in the middle of his 16- to 25-year-old target readership. For the editor of a unisex title, this wasn’t going to be easy. Some four months later, he’s feeling lucky.

Chris Hemblade is a man who can’t quite believe his luck. He took

over at Sky magazine this February faced with the fact that his

predecessor had built the magazine’s circulation to a record 186,000,

the Ministry of Sound was launching against him with a unisex magazine

and Wagadon had decided its next launch was going to be a men’s magazine

aimed smack in the middle of his 16- to 25-year-old target readership.

For the editor of a unisex title, this wasn’t going to be easy. Some

four months later, he’s feeling lucky.



’I think it’s clear that Ministry and Deluxe haven’t done anywhere near

as well as we had feared,’ he says. ’That’s a worry off my mind. We’ve

also run some great features recently, so the profile of the magazine

has just been increasing and increasing.’



Hemblade says it was a challenge to move from the specific subject

matter of Empire to the range of Sky, but says part of the title’s

strength is its breadth. ’People enjoying being in an environment where

they know the opposite sex is reading it as well.’



He adds that by covering film, music, fashion, television, sport and the

internet Sky creates a lot of opportunities for the PR world. ’We are

not so precious that we need to do something two years before anyone

else, but we do expect some element of exclusivity,’ he says. ’I like

people who take the time to think about the magazine’s approach.’ What

he wants now, of course, is to increase Sky’s circulation beyond the

record set by his predecessor. Although he is very careful about

changing a winning formula, he has got some ideas.



’I want to tweak the front and back sections to change the weight of

the two,’ he says. ’The front needs more regular items and needs to let

readers ’snack’ more. At the back, the review section needs to be

heavier.



We’ll keep sections like Friends Who Sleep Together. That’s really

popular and our readers like sex writing that talks to them, not at

them. Dear Karen is still hugely popular too.’



As for the rest of the magazine, he wants it to continue doing what it

does, only more so.



’What that means is finding the stars of the moment - and making sure

you know who they are for our readership is the hardest thing about this

job - then taking them in to the Sky world. We’ve just done Coronation

Street actor Adam Rickitt, who you might think wouldn’t be cool enough

for Sky, but we did him up as a gangster and put a new spin on him.

That’s what we always want to do with our stars.’



The best way to guarantee this, Hemblade says, is to keep searching for

new writers and photographers - such as Guardian columnist Emma

Forrest.



’Working with young journalists is so exciting,’ he says. ’I remember my

years doing my MA in fashion journalism at St Martin’s, learning under

Sally Brampton. One of my peers is now deputy fashion editor at the

Guardian and one is in charge of the Monitor section on The Face. Sally

was quite the Miss Jean Brodie, as it turns out.’





HIGHLIGHTS

1994: Editor, Time Out guides

1995: Editor, Marie Claire London section and film editor

1996: Assistant editor, Empire

1998: Editor, Sky



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