MEDIA: CELEBRITY/YOUTH MAGS - Fresher takes on the celebrity culture. With the cult of celebrity stronger than ever, the BBC has launched a magazine aimed at the teenage market

The BBC's pounds 2 million launch of star magazine this week is a gamble on our obsession with celebrity being if not limitless, then at least having significant unfulfilled potential.

The BBC's pounds 2 million launch of star magazine this week is a gamble on our obsession with celebrity being if not limitless, then at least having significant unfulfilled potential.

Judging by the extent to which celebrity news increasingly dominates both the tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, it may be a sound bet. And the buoyancy of the celebrity magazine sector also suggests that there may be room for more titles.

The weekly triumvirate of Hello!, OK! and Now sell 458,663, 455,162 and 425,087 issues respectively (ABC January - June 2000) in a steady market that is still less than ten years old. The Spanish-owned Hello! pioneered the market with OK! and Now getting started in 1996 to serve the same broadly-based female audience.

The idea of Heat magazine, launched by emap in 1999, was to produce a hipper magazine which sat between this market and the listings magazines.

Heat is more knowing and urban, carries TV listings and is aimed at a mid-20s market. At first it faltered, but it now claims sales of over 200,000, although its last ABC was 95,113 and other sources suggest its recent increases have not taken it beyond 150,000.

Against this backdrop the BBC's strategy seems to be to replicate the success emap has had but with a younger audience. The corporation says it sees no direct competition for a celebrity-hungry 12 to 19 year-old (14-16 core), and is taking its inspiration from US magazines which have succeeded in this niche. Its magazine will be fortnightly and priced at pounds 1.60. It hopes it will sell in excess of 200,000.

BBC's star will look like Hello!,OK! but read more like Heat and have a very US feel with a heavy editorial emphasis on the US stars to whom it hopes to gain access via its LA office. It will mainly feature celebrity news and features but, although there will be no listings, there will be film and TV reviews.

It will focus on young talent eschewing the older celebrities that Hello! et al might feature, and it will also attempt (again like Heat) to be perceived as non-trashy, to the extent that celebrities can feel good about appearing in its pages.

Opinion as to the magazine's chances is mixed.

Lisa Matthewson, a senior media planner/buyer at Initiative Media, says: 'I do not really see much of a gap in the market, you are either into celebrities or not and if you are you buy the mags that exist and read the national press.'

However, others suggest that if pounds 2 million is to be bet on a new magazine, teenagers' obsession with celebrity is about as safe a subject as currently exists.

HEAT - Mark Frith

Position: Editor

Publisher: emap

Circulation: 95,113 (ABC January-June 2000)

'When we launched in February 1999 we thought there was a market there because people are celebrity addicts these days - we are all fascinated by them.

'We wanted to start a magazine that was cooler than the other celebrity mags in the market like OK!, Now and Hello!, and was for a younger market. The other three are older, we are aiming at 23-29 although a lot of readers are outside those ages.

'At Heat we see ourselves as offering a unique proposition, although we are always stocked alongside those other magazines - we call ourselves 'this week's hottest celebrity news' - and with our pictures we cater for entertainment's 'Oh my god did you see that' moments.

'I think there might be room for more magazines in the market if they have a unique angle to them.

'When we started we had poor sales of around 65,000, but our latest issue sold 225,000 - we have more than tripled our sales since launch. In fact we sell more copies per month than any other emap magazine.

'It has evolved since launch - we are giving readers more pages of celebrity photographs and we are read by a lot of stars and so we get the exclusive interviews with the stars. Recently we have had Jamie Theakeston and Posh Spice, for example.

'We are competing for access to the stars with the nationals, but they like to be in the magazine as we are the good guys and we are nice to people, there is positivity about what we do, we love entertainment.

'We sometimes do more scandalous stuff they would not want printed but we prefer to get them to tell us themselves. Our readers are very cool, from all over the county, they watch a lot of TV, go and see a film every two weeks, intelligent, bright people who when they read Heat put their gossip hat on.

'We work very closely with PROs, they have been very supportive all along. We get great reader offers and exclusive stuff from them.'

STAR - Jeremy Mark

Position: Editor

Publisher: BBC Worldwide

Circulation: 200,000 (estimated)

'Our magazine will be fortnightly and is a pounds 2 million launch.

'All the PROs we have spoken to are really excited about this magazine as there is nothing like it now for 14 to 16 year-olds - spanning the gap between Top of the Pops magazine (which is for 12 to13 year-olds) and older celebrity mags like Hello! and OK!. star will be a lot more aspirational and not cheesy. It will be very slick, very American in its feel and very glossy.

'The content will also be very American, focusing heavily on programming like Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and focusing on US celebrities too. There is no magazine at the moment focusing on the explosion of young acting talent there is now in the US with people like Katie Holmes from Dawson's Creek.

'We will feature celebs from the worlds of sports, TV, films, models, music, even young royals.

'We will have stunning photos alongside quite candid interviews, a lot more serious in tone than those in other teenage magazines. There will be interview spreads, news accompanied by pictures, some gossip pages, some style and fashion pages all with a strong celebrity hook. We also have pages where we are promoting up and coming talent, British or American.

'I was in the US earlier this year and I set up an office in LA so they take care of our requests with the publicists there.

'I don't think it will take readers from any one magazine particularly, we have no one big competitor, when you see it you'll wonder why no one has done it before - maybe because the cult of celebrity is bigger now than it has ever been before.

'We would be pleased with a circulation of 200,000, although we are putting out 400,000 issues. The readers will be people who are fascinated by, but not infatuated with, celebrity.

'It is the same size as OK! and Hello!, but the whole feel will be extremely American. It will also be very friendly - we are not a scandal magazine. I want it to be the mag that celebs want to be in.'

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