Media: Behind the hype - NatMags' Reveal sees room for growth in weeklies

Reveal offers precious little different despite pre-launch research.

Just when you thought there was a weekly magazine to satisfy every woman's gossip and advice needs, along comes The National Magazine Company with a new title.

Reveal went on sale this week following a sample issue last week. It is aiming to grow the £370 million women's celebrity magazine market and muscle its way into the fake Louis Vuitton handbags of the nation's celebrity- and fashion-obsessed females, alongside its established rivals OK!, Hello!, Now, Heat, Closer, New! and Star.

The title, which has a print run of 500,000, has been a long time coming and follows a lengthy research exercise by NatMags, using focus groups to establish if women really want another title. With this in mind, it is somewhat surprising the magazine is not offering anything radically different.

Reveal's offering is based around four sections that women have identified as relevant to them. These are celebrity, lifestyle (including fashion and diet), real-life issues and television listings.

Jessica Burley, NatMags' group publishing director, says the format blends items from the more "traditional" magazines such as Best and Take a Break with those from the celebrity weeklies. However, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Emap's Closer and, in terms of content and production quality, there is little to choose between them.

Emap is presenting an unflustered front. Despite NatMags' £16 million marketing investment over three years through Clemmow Hornby Inge, with £10 million committed to the first 14 months, there are no immediate plans for Closer to launch a counter-offensive.

"We will wait and see," Louise Matthews, the managing director of Emap Entertainment's Heat and Closer titles, says. "As a result of seeing Reveal this week, we are not doing anything."

NatMags, the home of titles such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping, is not a major player in the women's weekly market. Accordingly, it has set up a joint venture with Australian Consolidated Press to publish the title and its sister magazine Best.

Matthews points out that NatMags has chosen a difficult time to launch Reveal, as sales drop off toward Christmas, but she is not dismissing it entirely. "You have to take it seriously because of where it has come from," she says.

Claudine Collins, the press director at MediaCom, says Emap is right not to be too worried about Reveal's impact on Closer because there is still room for growth in the market. "It will take from the weaker celebrity titles," Collins says. She also believes weeklies are becoming more popular because they fit in better with busy lifestyles. "I think weeklies will be the new monthlies. People don't have the time or energy to read or lug around big monthlies any more. Readers get their snippets from the weeklies," she says.

Ian Tournes, the press director at Starcom Mediavest, agrees. He seems to think Closer, which posted a 43.5 per cent year-on-year jump in sales during the first half of 2004, has created a sector of its own that is still growing.

"Closer has posted a couple of strong ABCs and NatMags has realised there is a niche here that isn't too full. As with everything, magazines evolve. It's about what is fashionable at a particular time," Tournes argues.

The biggest criticism that can be levelled at Reveal is that it fails to bring anything fresh to the market. However, the fact that such an experienced publisher as NatMags has chosen to go ahead with the title after a lengthy research period adds credibility to Reveal's launch.

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