Now price cut and celeb boost follows rival launch

Now: strengthening its position

Now magazine has slashed its cover price to 50p and added an extra 16 pages of A-list celebs to strengthen its position in the celebrity sector.

Backed by a major TV advertising campaign, the move also sees the introduction of better quality paper and controversial new columnist Zoe Williams.

The new 16-page A-List section will take Now’s total pagination to 116. It features John Major and Edwina Currie and Woody Allen and Soon-Yi in "the scariest love stories of all time", as well as celebrity diets, a Q&A where readers get to put questions to the stars and the latest paparazzi shots.

Now editor Jane Ennis said: "It is full of stuff I know our readers will like."

Commenting on the addition of Williams, who writes a column in The Guardian, she said: "I have always loved her stuff and I always wanted a columnist, but it was difficult to find one with the right tone and attitude for the magazine. With these extra pages, I can have a bit of fun."

The editorial team has also undergone changes following assistant editor Fergus Kelly’s departure to become deputy editor of Hello!. Paula Jones has stepped up to take his place as assistant editor, while features and showbiz writer Jay Bowers has been promoted to deputy showbiz editor.

The extra pages and one-off trial price come two weeks after the £10m launch of Emap’s celebrity weekly Closer, which has adopted Now’s real-life element and is targeting a similar audience.

Although one million copies of Closer have been given away free in a marketing drive, the title has the same £1 cover price as Now.

Ennis declined to comment on whether there were plans for further price cuts, but claimed it had nothing to do with the launch of Closer. She said it would give Closer "a run for its money", but said: "It was something we were working on in any case. It is just a coincidence. If we had wanted to go up against Closer we might have pulled it forward a week."  Now recorded its eighth consecutive sales increase in the latest ABCs, up 10 per cent year-on-year to 570,279, outselling Hello!, Heat and OK! on the news-stands.

Rival publishers estimate that initial sales of Closer are 270,000-300,000. Ennis would not comment on Closer’s sales, but said: "There  doesn’t seem to be any passion in it – no personality."

The changes also coincide with Bauer’s long-awaited US celebrity launch, In Touch Weekly. Ennis has been offered two editorships of celebrity magazines in the US, but turned them both down because she wanted to remain at IPC.

By Ruth Addicott

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