Can star columnist appeal save Reveal?

As the cult of celebrity continues unabated, the showbiz world should still be fertile ground for the glut of celebrity weeklies that crowds newsagents' shelves.

However, the recent ABC figures showed a significant dent in circulation for most of these tiles. The drop has been blamed on the growing popularity of instant gossip websites, market saturation and consumers tightening their purse strings as the credit crunch looms. But before the death knell sounds, one of the hardest hit titles has a comeback plan.

Celebrity weekly Reveal suffered a 20 per cent year-on-year drop in circulation, the largest dip since it was launched in 2004. To combat the problem, it has signed up 11 celebrity columnists, positioning itself as 'the celebrity magazine written by celebrities'.

'Celebrity experts' are introducing new sections to the magazine - such as Carol Vorderman on the web or Martin Lewis discussing money tips. Celebrity news is still its raison d'etre, but PROs should take note. The title's expanded content provides increased opportunities to work with the 34-strong team.

'The cast list is shrinking, and this has led to sameness in the market,' explains editor Michael Butcher. 'We wanted to inject more substance.'

Golden Goose PR has worked with the title to secure coverage for Virgin Active in the health pages. Co-founder Miki Watson believes using a raft of celebrity columnists could help address the problem of credibility.

'Increasingly celebrities are going to write, control and edit the information that they give out,' she says. 'Reveal is taking a step forward because it cancels out speculation that what is in these magazine is not true,' she adds.

Taylor Herring co-founder James Herring says the development is a tactic to win over agents, PROs and celebrities. 'It is positioning itself as a safe haven for celebrities to be part of the family,' he explains.

Liz Matthews, founder of Liz Matthews PR, praises the editorial team for 'always having the decency to call and offer the opportunity to set the record straight'.

But having large enough budgets to get exclusives is critical for a celebrity magazine.

Mark Borkowski speculates Reveal 'has not been given the budgets of Closer and Heat to play with'. He believes the new strapline is a good publicity stunt but adds that after the ABC figures, 'the pressure will be on to give the magazine a strong personality'.

But other industry experts remain sceptical about the changes, questioning whether the public will welcome advice from celebrities.

Reveal will be closely watched by other titles. As some industry commentators suggest, this is make or break time.

Quick facts
Publisher: NatMags
Circulation: 277,002
Frequency: Weekly
Contacts: Editor, Michael Butcher, michael.butcher@natmags.co.uk

A minute with ... Michael Butcher, editor, Reveal

- Is your team open to PR pitches?

Very much so. Working with PROs is our lifeblood. Around 70 per cent of our content comes from PROs (including agents).

- What tips do you have for PROs?

Tailor something for our mag. Make it a must-have. Give us good pictures that our competitors don't have. Make our lives easier.

- What are you looking for?

Celebrity news is still our killer content. We are also interested in product launches and new material. Make sure you read the magazine. Don't try to sell us something irrelevant. Like pets, for example.

- When should you be contacted?

We go to press on a Friday on last-minute news. But ideally, the earlier the better. This is particularly important with events. Tell us early then we have time to decide how to cover it.

- Best way to contact?

We print an email address for each columnist on the page. Email is best as we are in and out a lot. Emails will always be looked at.

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