Associated and Desmond plot new celeb titles

Associated Newspapers and Richard Desmond are hoping to launch two  magazines into the crowded celebrity market this year.

Associated has begun moving staff and equipment into a building in the Gray’s Inn Road area as it prepares to launch against Desmond’s OK!

The plan of Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, to launch a free London newspaper against Associated’s Evening Standard and Metro has provoked Lord Rothermere into guerrilla warfare and Associated will try to outflank him.

Christena Appleyard, editor of The Mail on Sunday’s Night & Day magazine, which is heavily weighted with celebrity stories, is thought likely to be editor of Associated’s as-yet unnamed magazine, according to sources.

Guy Zitter, managing director of the Daily Mail, will be in charge of the whole project.

A distribution system is already in place since Associated distributes Hello!, OK!’s biggest rival, and would use the same network.

But the company is looking beyond OK! at what it sees as a sizeable potential market of readers who can’t get enough of celebs.

The magazine will have all the resources of Associated’s three newspapers to back up content.

Desmond’s project is believed to have a Glamour-style, smaller A5 format and is scheduled to launch in April. Because he already has OK!, it is thought the title will be more of a rival to Now and Closer.

A source close to Desmond said: "It is highly possible. New launches are constantly under review." Now is expected to show the highest news-stand sale in the ABCs next month and staff at IPC suspect Desmond could be planning a direct replica, as he did when basing OK! on Hello! and Hot Stars on Heat. It is already being referred to as "Project Wow".

Insiders fear the market will become squeezed as there is also speculation that Bauer is considering a celebrity title.

Now editor Jane Ennis told Press Gazette her main priority was editing Now. "I am sure there is something afoot, but what it is and when it is happening, I wouldn’t like to say. But I can’t imagine there is room in the market for three more celebrity titles."

By Jean Morgan and Ruth Addicott

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