Northern & Shell is testing its celebrity spin-off Hot Stars as a stand-alone magazine.
The title, which is currently circulated free as an insert in OK! magazine, is being sold separately for £1 in Northern Ireland.
The standalone edition has a better-quality glossy cover and four extra pages than the insert version, taking its total pagination up to 92. Hot Stars editor Martin Smith said: “It’s just a little test. It’s going to happen for a few weeks. Whether it becomes permanent or not I don’t know.”
Industry insiders claim Hot Stars is a copy of Emap’s celebrity weekly Heat. And Emap is understood to have considered legal action over the similarity at its launch.
There have been fears among rival publishers for some time that Northern & Shell would launch Hot Stars as a standalone and undercut direct competitors such as Heat.
Northern & Shell will extend distribution of Hot Stars to mainland Britain if sales are good and it is likely that it would sold at a lower price than Heat (£1.45).
The strategy would mirror Northern & Shell’s recent launch of New! which aimed to replicate the success of Now, owned by IPC, by copying its format and undercutting it with a cover price of 60p.
N&S estmates sales of New! are approaching half a million but there is growing fear in the celebrity market that the sector may not be able to take many more “clones”.
Heat reported a circulation of 554,644 in the latest ABCs up 56.1 per cent year-on-year. Now sold 630,212 copies and showed a rise of 14 per cent year-on-year.
By Ruth Addicott