NoW dusts off its crystal ball

News International is exploiting Mystic Meg in its bid to win the magazine wars.
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The Independent Online

NEWS INTERNATIONAL fires a warning shot to Britain's big magazine houses this week when it launches its first spin-off title from its newspaper stable. On Friday, just in time to capture the Halloween mood, it launches Know Your Destiny, a title exploiting the popularity of the News of the World's eccentric prophetess Mystic Meg, known to millions through her column in the NoW's Sunday Magazine, and millions more through appearances on the BBC's National Lottery programme.

NEWS INTERNATIONAL fires a warning shot to Britain's big magazine houses this week when it launches its first spin-off title from its newspaper stable. On Friday, just in time to capture the Halloween mood, it launches Know Your Destiny, a title exploiting the popularity of the News of the World's eccentric prophetess Mystic Meg, known to millions through her column in the NoW's Sunday Magazine, and millions more through appearances on the BBC's National Lottery programme.

With the strapline "Mystic Meg's magazine for the new millennium", Know Your Destiny aims to cash in on a perceived pre-millennial tension suffered by British women. "People are looking at the future and reassessing their lives," says News of the World editor Phil Hall.

The glossy 124-pager, featuring Meg and her crystal ball on the front, will carry the women's titles' staples of fashion, beauty, lifestyle and celebrity coverage, but all with a "self-discovery" bent. There are articles on Feng Shui, I Ching and aromatherapy, as well as a 16-page pull-out of Meg predictions.

Editor Emma Marlin says she is hoping for sales of at least 300,000, and the title to eventually go bi-monthly. The gloves have already come off in the war of newspapers vs magazines. When The Mirror last week launched M, with the tease "the only magazine you'll ever need", magazine executives were furious. Unlike M, though, Know Your Destiny is no supplement, but will stand or fall on the strength of its appeal on the newsstands, where it will sell for £2. With a half-a-million-pound investment in it, including a TV advertising campaign, it is being given every chance of survival. Hall says the magazine is the first in what NI hopes will become a stable of magazines competing with those from the likes of Emap and IPC.

Explaining the rationale behind NI's move, he adds: "We have a large staff here and there are other avenues for them to use their talents. [News International] looked at TV but that wasn't a viable proposition, so then we looked at magazines and that was the most likely success story. There's been this feeling that magazines are very different from newspapers, that the whole culture is different, but we're all journalists with a common aim.

"Producing this magazine has been very hard work but the process has not been hugely different to what we do anyway. We've found it's been fairly easy to adapt to." Having said this, NI has tapped magazine talent for its launch. Know Your Destiny editor-in-chief and Sunday Magazine editor Judy McGuire brought in for the venture editor Marlin, who has worked on New Woman and Cosmopolitan. Andy Cowles, who has a long history of art directing and redesigning Emap titles, as creative director, has also been brought on board. Both Marlin and Cowles say they have found the support from NI, and what Marlin calls its "open-door culture", refreshing.

Cowles says: "I think there are cultural differences between newspapers and magazine publishers, but they are still both trying to produce something which has appeal to advertisers and to create a relationship with readers. There's a desire to get into each other's business. Newspaper publishers look at magazines and want a bit of the action. Magazine publishers look at newspapers and want a bit of their power."

Hall says other possible magazine areas for NI to tap include sport. "Magazines come and go so quickly. It's not so much a sprint with newspapers as a long marathon. We now want to be Olympic athletes and compete in every way we can."

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