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Media buyers see Word succeeding as niche title

LONDON - Media buyers are adopting a wait-and-see approach to Word, the new men's entertainment title from Development Hell, the publishing company set up by former Emap directors David Hepworth and Jerry Perkins.

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The magazine, which launches mid-February, is aimed at 30- to 55-year-old men, who are interested in entertainment and with disposable income to spend on it.

Buyers are watching the launch with interest as no publisher has yet succeeded in this market. Face and Arena publisher Wagadon, prior to its sale to Emap, tried with Deluxe in 1998, but this lasted just eight months. Deluxe was modelled on the US magazine Details.

"No one's cracked the 30-plus male market yet, there have been pretenders to the crown, but no one's cracked it," Paul Thomas, managing partner at Mindshare, said.

However, there is a feeling that if anyone can make a magazine work in this market, Hepworth can with the editorial team he has hired from his former employer Emap. The team includes Mark Ellen, former editor of music magazine Q; Andrew Harrison, former editorial director of Emap Performance who launched teenage celebrity title Sneak; former Mojo editor Paul du Noyer; and Keith Andrew, former art director of Q.

"It's got a good editorial team and I think, given that, the magazine should be good content-wise. It depends on whether the team can get that [content] into the right hands," Thomas said.

Development Hell managing director Perkins, a former managing director of Emap Metro, is aiming for an average circulation of 35,000 for the first year.

This, believes Claudine Collins, press director at MediaCom, means that the magazine will be a cutting-edge niche title similar to IPC Media's style bible Wallpaper.

"Look at Wallpaper, that's very niche. It charges around £5,000 for a full page, and that's got a UK circulation of around 45,000," Collins said. "Word will be more of a cult music title, whereas Wallpaper is more of a cult fashion and style title."

She believes that the majority of advertising will be for music and DVDs along with some niche fashion brands.

Perkins says the magazine will attract advertising from two types of advertisers. She sees core advertisers as being music, DVD and books, as well as technology and gadgets.

"[Word's readers] will be 30- to 55-year-old men, who are intelligent and like reading. They're stylish and they're funding the entertainment industry," Perkins said. "He's driving the grow of plasma screens and Apple iPods."

Perkins accepts that the audience Word is aimed at will be difficult to persuade, but that once they have been won over, they will talk about products to their peers and, because of the sort of people they are, they will be listened to. It is this selling point that he believes will draw advertisers to the title, where others have failed.

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