NEW YORK — Don’t say Hello yet. The Spanish-owned weekly magazine, known as Hola on its own turf, is still planning a much-anticipated launch in the U.S., but the debut will be a little later than planned.
Hello’s U.S. launch has been postponed until fall, the second time it has been delayed. Originally, the magazine planned a fall 1993 arrival and was rescheduled for June, before the latest delay.
Hola owner Eduardo Sanchez Junco’s reluctance to have partners is one reason for the postponement, according to sources. Sanchez reportedly had spoken to publishers ranging from Rupert Murdoch to Hearst Corp. to Meigher Communications about a joint venture in the U.S. before he finally decided to go it alone.
Hello, with its deep pockets and breathless, flattering style, is expected to put a new spin on celebrity chasing in the U.S. The magazine has built an addicted international readership with lots of puffy scoops on celebrities, often by paying for exclusive photography and story rights.
Meanwhile, In Style, Time Inc.’s preemptive strike against Hello, will go monthly in June.
Some observers say In Style was created because its sister publication, People, is finding celebrities aren’t as willing to cooperate as they were in the past, because People’s stories don’t shy away from controversy.
In Style, which will take a much softer approach, gives Time a whole new avenue.
“We are not an investigative magazine,” said Martha Nelson, editor of In Style.
“In Style is a pleasurable magazine, a visually delightful magazine, and it’s very much a magazine that allows people to take a break. A lot of magazines produce anxiety,” she said.
Don’t expect to read any dirt in Hello, either.
Its popularity is based on its saccharine approach, its extensive use of color photographs and its timeliness. Hola, which has been publishing in Spain for 50 years, and Hello, which was launched in Great Britain five years ago, ran eight pages of color photographs of Julia Roberts’s wedding before People had any, said Marquesa de Varela, international editor of the weekly Hello and Hola.
While Hello will be a weekly, and In Style a monthly, the question remains whether there’s room for two more publications in the overpopulated celebrity and entertainment field, where magazines such as Vanity Fair, People, Us, Premiere and Entertainment Weekly are already fighting it out.
While some observers pointed out that Us might get squeezed by the two new publications, Us’s editor thinks otherwise.
“I think that the major area Hello and In Style will slug it out is with The Star and The Enquirer,” said James Meigs, editor of Us, published by Wenner Media.
Meigs considers Us’s competition to be magazines such as Premiere, Vanity Fair or its brother publication, Rolling Stone.
“We’ve really focused on major stars and cultural analysis,” said Meigs, adding that Us is positioned as an entertainment magazine. Its rate base is 1.1 million.
“People seem to have an insatiable appetite for that stuff [Hollywood],” noted Steve Klein, partner and media director at Kirshenbaum & Bond, an ad agency here. “Vanity Fair has the very high end; Premiere is for people into movie celebrities. That’s why Hollywood stars make $5 million to $10 million a movie. They’ve proven to be the entertainment product people pay for. In the print world, things are competitive. Is there room for all of them? Probably not.”
In publishing circles here, what Hello is probably best known for is checkbook journalism. In other words, it pays hefty sums to celebrities to appear in its pages.
De Varela admits to paying for stories but says now it’s done less often and is part of the normal business of running a magazine: “I’m very upset when people say we pay. We do if it’s a big story, but not for a normal feature.”
Varela believes Hello will have to pay its subjects less often in the U.S., where celebrities have books, films, plays or other projects they want to promote.
“Maybe Hola sometimes pays more generously than other magazines, but Eduardo [Sanchez Junco] is a very generous man,” she said.
One of Hello’s biggest coups occurred in August 1990 when it got the Duke and Duchess of York to pose at home for 48 pages of photographs, which reportedly cost the magazine anywhere from $375,000 to $510,000.
The magazine denied paying the Yorks, but reports at the time said the money went either to their favorite charities or to the mother of the Duchess, Susan Barrantes.
“We absolutely don’t believe in checkbook journalism,” said In Style’s Nelson.
“There’s no way we’d participate in that. I think it’s bad for the entire profession. The reputable publishers don’t believe in it,” she said.
After three test issues, Time Inc. gave the go-ahead to In Style, which chronicles the lifestyles of celebrities, including how they dress, decorate their homes and entertain. Time’s stable already has the lucrative weekly, People, with a rate base of 3,150,000 million, that deals with breaking news and celebrities. It also has Entertainment Weekly, with a rate base of 1,075,000, that covers entertainment news. In Style is expected to fill an entirely different niche, according to Nelson. Initial circulation rate base is projected at 500,000.
“What I was faced with is how do you go in and do something different. Why should they come to you if they could get the same stuff in Vanity Fair?” says Nelson.
While In Style wants to separate itself from People, it doesn’t plan to forget its People heritage. The June cover will carry the logo “New from People,” said Ann Jackson, publisher of In Style. During the test period, in fact, In Style ads were sold by People’s ad staff. In Style is going after fashion and beauty, automotive, travel, consumer electronics, food and home furnishings advertisers, she said.
As for Hello, the American edition will initially be distributed on the East Coast, where the company already has some readership for Hola among the Hispanic populations in New York City and Florida.
Hello will then be rolled out gradually to the rest of the U.S. The magazine will be satellite-printed in the U.S., De Varela said. Both Hola and the British edition of Hello are printed in Spain.
De Varela insisted that there is room in the U.S. market for Hello and that the launch of the magazine will be easier here than it was in the U.K.
She believes Hello won’t have any problems getting to celebrities in the U.S., despite the entrenched positions of Vanity Fair, People and In Style. “We don’t have to compete with Vanity Fair or the others,” she said. “People is different and is only in black-and-white, and Vanity Fair is a monthly. Hello is always big, color pictures. It’s more like Life magazine used to be.”
The U.S. launch of Hello will follow the bare bones approach of the U.K. edition. There won’t be much of a staff — probably only a New York-based editor and photo researcher — and little spent on promotion or marketing, De Varela said. “Eduardo is not a gambler. He doesn’t believe in big staffs or advertising that much. He believes that if there is a big story, people will buy the magazine.”
Hola is Spain’s biggest-selling weekly magazine with a circulation of 656,410, plus extensive sales throughout Central and South America. Hola reportedly has revenues of $50 million a year.