Media Headliner: NI's real-life enthusiast targets younger readers

Can Love It!'s recipe of unusual real-life stories and semi-clad firemen find a niche in the competitive sector?

Karen Pasquali Jones has spent her life being told and telling stories.

This is immediately obvious from her conversational manner and, when asked about anything, the editor of News International's first real-life weekly, Love It!, replies with a stream of tales and dramas which tumble out breathlessly.

A journalist who has spent her career dealing with the grisly side of people's lives, Pasquali Jones, whose unusual surname comes from her Italian husband, says she knew from an early age that this was the work she wanted to do. "My first word was 'why' and when I was little I used to ask my mum to stop the car so I could see what had happened in road accidents," she says.

And, years on, she has still not tired of hearing about horrendous rapes, murders and the inevitable stories of deception, betrayal and lust. "I'm interested in people," she says.

"I have one of those faces and manners that mean people tell me all their deepest, darkest secrets."

This penchant for the gritty stuff has seen her working at H Bauer on That's Life and Real and most recently at IPC Media on the launch of Pick Me Up. Pasquali Jones has also done her time in the celebrity world and, as the contributing editor at Closer, she had a brush with fame when she auditioned for the TV talent show The X Factor.

However, after Simon Cowell judged she had no star quality whatsoever, Pasquali Jones left aspirations of a pop career behind and has spent the past five months working on the launch of Love It!.

Conceived over a glass of rose with News Magazines' editorial director, Judy McGuire, the new title is the company's first inroad into magazine publishing. Pasquali Jones explains: "News International has been talking about publishing magazines for five years and now the time is right. The newspaper market is declining, but there is organic growth in magazines, so it makes sense to move into this area."

But can a newspaper business really turn into a magazine publisher overnight? Pasquali Jones is of the opinion that if you can publish newspapers, then magazines are only a footstep away.

"News International already publishes books," she points out, suggesting if you can publish one thing, then it is not so difficult to publish another.

She adds: "At News International, they are fresh to the magazine industry, so anything is possible without having to deliberate and fill in forms. There has been masses of marketing spend and research. News International has pushed every button to get us this far."

So, after all that research, what has NI come up with? Love It! is a 68-page, glossy-covered, real-life title with the risky strategy of aiming at a potential new market of 18- to 35-year-old women.

Pasquali Jones explains why she designed Love It! with this younger audience in mind. "We have found there are nine million people who would potentially read real-life titles, but only 2.9 million readers who can actually find a magazine to suit them. Love It! is going to appeal to a new reader, the younger reader who would previously read mum's real-life magazine but not buy their own."

With its glossy front cover, the new title immediately feels more contemporary.

Its fashion and beauty features are younger, although the rationale for using the former TV presenter Cilla Black as an agony aunt is slightly questionable. Pasquali Jones has also got pictures of half-naked firemen into the new title - an ambition of hers, since it was something she previously tried to introduce at Pick Me Up.

The life-blood of the magazine is triumph-over-tragedy stories and Pasquali Jones claims these will be more extreme and told in a more emotional way than in other titles. Readers are promised the tale of how a giant woman fell in love with a dwarf in one of its first issues. "The magazine is designed to be an emotional roller-coaster," she says.

Pasquali Jones also points to the "symmetrical flat-plan" as a point of difference from other real-life titles. This layout means the magazine has the same feel from the front as it does from the back and so can be read in either direction.

Love It! launched on 7 February with a print run of 1.3 million and a circulation target of 400,000. It is not going to be short of competition, with established players such as Bauer's Take A Break and IPC's Chat, as well as newer entrants including Pick Me Up and ACP-Natmag's recently launched title Real People.

But this does not seem to faze Pasquali Jones. "Real life is such a buoyant market. There is room for growth and we are really hopeful that this is the magazine to do it," she says.

Despite circulation growth (the weekly sector was up 8 per cent year on year in the August Audit Bureau of Circulations figures), advertising revenue is still an issue for this market. Since 1990, ad revenues in the weekly market grew by only 1 per cent.

Pasquali Jones argues that because Love It! is the first real-life magazine actively to pursue a younger audience, it will make an appealing package for advertisers. "We are going to have a large audience of twenty- to thirtysomethings who have money to spend on homes and fashion," she concludes optimistically.

THE LOWDOWN Age: 39 Lives: Docklands Family: Married with son Last magazine read: Grazia, Take A Break Favourite film: The Big Blue Interests outside work: Eating, drinking, karaoke, family Motto: "Make it happen" and "Love It! loves you"